GLENCOE

From the Beginning

Al Foster

May 15, 1983

 

GLENCOE is, in 1983, a small village on the banks of the Meramec River in St. Louis County.  Its residents live in dwellings that were once summer resort cottages.  A few remain from the period when Glencoe was a bustling railroad and mining community.  But at a time, there was no village of Glencoe.

 

What lay there, prior to the coming of any man, was a break in the limestone bluffs that border the northern and western side of the river.  The break was the result of eons of cutting down of the lands by the small stream that is shown on modern maps as Carr or Hamilton Creek.

 

The continuing flow of this tributary stream, seldom wider than a boy could jump, has been insured by a group of springs along and near what is now Highway 109.  Several of these springs begin in Rockwoods Reservation.  Over countless centuries the waters from the hillside runoff, and later the springs, have cut as deeply and as rapidly as the Meramec River has deepened its own channel.

 

As to the first inhabitants of this area, no record exists.  Certainly the springs, the easy access to the river, and the relatively wide valley made the Glencoe location a stopping place for the pre-historic Indians who had crossed the land bridge between Alaska and Siberia and, over generations, had migrated to the south.

 

Pre-historic Indians of the Woodland culture probably used the area.  To the knowledge of this writer, no specific sites have been designated.

 

There is a connection between this area and the mound city of the Mississippian Culture across the Mississippi from St. Louis.  This, the largest prehistoric city on the North American Continent above Mexico, began about 700 AD in the rich bottoms and marshland of the Mississippi River.  At its peak, it is possible that as many as 40,000 people lived there.  Marked by the many mounds, the central city had a number of suburbs, among which was the future site of the City of St. Louis.  It is probable that the Meramec River and its surrounding forests was one of the areas heavily relied upon to-provide fish, maize, meat and other supplies to this large community.  Mounds have been found at Fenton and petroglyphs (rock carvings) were found along the Meramec and the Big River.

 

Possibly more important were the Crescent Quarries.  These flint quarries were probably known to the earliest Indians.  Flint was mined for use in scrapers, weapon points, and other stone tools.  The quarries lie along a ridge system that runs southeast from present day West Tyson Park into Jefferson County.  These quarries were a major source of flint for local use and for the extensive trading carried on by the Mississippian Indians from the central city.  There is no reason not to expect that travelers to and from the quarries stopped at the site of Glencoe.

 

About 1500 AD, shortly after the first Europeans came to the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippian Culture rapidly declined and disappeared.  No reasons are known.  Nor is there any record of where the people went or which later tribes they formed.

 

Of the historic Indians, the Osage were most prominent in this region.  Although their homes were on the Western fringe of the Ozarks on the Osage River, this tribe made seasonal hunting trips into the Meramec region.  They may also have used the Crescent Quarries and may have sought the lead and iron ores for a base for their paints. The Osage retained control of the region until the pressures for land from European and American settlers forced them west into Kansas and then the Indian territories.

 

The Missouri Indians may have passed through the area, but they were few in number and were principally living along the Missouri River. 

 

The Shawnee were definitely present in the area.  This tribe had been invited into the Louisiana area by the Spanish Governor.  They were established on Apple Creek near Cape Girardeau to serve as a buffer between the settlers and the Osage.  Later, a group settled on the Bourbeuse River in what came to be known as Shawneetown.  This tribe, or its members, frequently visited St. Louis and were, for a time, major suppliers of game to the St. Louis settlement.  A family at what is now Times Beach reported frequent visits from Shawnees. The Shawnee, as a group, moved further west in 1812. 

 

Many other tribes probably passed through the area as they were pushed further from their original lands to the east. Though no record exists of their stopping at Glencoe, it is logical because this location was a pivot point for travelers, Indian and settler.  The earliest white settler in this area was Ninian Hamilton.  Scharff in his 1883 History of St. Louis City and County records:

 

NINIAN HAMILTON was born in Kentucky in 1783, and in 1803 settled on Survey seven hundred and sixty-six where the Old State Road crossed the valley. He built a house and was one of the most enterprising men of the times.  He died about 1834.  Ninian (2) was born in 1809 and died in 1856.  His grandmother died in 1851, aged one hundred and four...

 

Historian Louis Houck placed Hamilton at this location in 1800.

 

Hamilton was a trader and farmer.  His location on this tract coincided with the influx of American settlers from the east.  Earlier, neither French nor Spanish governors welcomed non-Catholic settlers officially, though the Spanish were more liberal.

 

Hamilton settled this location prior to the official transfer of Louisiana from France to the United States.

 

Ninian Hamilton settled on what would become Survey 766 (included LaSalle Fathers’ land to Hwy 109 and Yeatman-Carr-McMahon land to the south but none in Rockwoods Reservation) after the United States survey was made in 1818.  Records of the Missouri Land Survey indicate that this was a settler's grant of 640 acres.  It was not a French or Spanish land grant, though we can be sure that the Spanish governors knew of his location at thius point.  This 640 acres equals one section of land under the United States' method of surveying.

 

Andrew Hamilton obtained a settlers' grant of 400 arpens (340.28 acres) directly west of Ninian's grant (Survey 2032.)

 

A much larger land grant, either French or Spanish, adjoined the Hamilton tract to the south.  This was the Louis Courtois, Junior grant of 7056 arpens, or 6,002.50 acres which included the present town site of Glencoe, the land along the bluffs of the Meramec and much of what is now the town of Eureka (Survey 3206.)  There is no record of any Courtois settling in the area.

 

The slight population of the area at the time of Hamilton's arrival can be seen from these figures quoted by Scharff:

 

1799 Census

 

St. Louis and Carondolet, including whites, mulattos, free negroes, and slaves.…...1,109

 

Meramec Post.................………………………………………………………………….115

 

(No mulattos are listed at Meramec Post, which a short lived settlement at the mouth of the Meramec.)

 

Hamilton settled in 1803.  By 1810 the population of the city and county had grown to 10,000 persons. 

 

Reference has been made earlier to the Glencoe site's being a pivotal-point.  In those early times, the Meramec River bottoms were heavily, forested, as were the steep hills. The river flooded frequently and what fords existed were usable only in times of low water.  No bridges or ferries crossed the river at any point. The sole exception being a ferry operated near the mouth of the river at what is now Telegraph Road.  This ferry, initially operated by a Mr. Gamache, was part of the Kings Highway connecting Ste. Genevieve and other early settlements on the Mississippi River.

 

Both early Indians and the later traders and trappers would walk or travel by horseback along the ridge route that later became Manchester Road.  The route came west from St. Louis in order to skirt the Meramec River.  It was not only more level, it was not subject to flooding.

 

In Hamilton's time, the road appears to have followed the route of present day Old State Road, down the steep hill to Hamilton Greek, and thence over present day Alt Road to Eureka.

 

This old State Road ran in behind St. Paul past the Ninian Hamilton Place, now the Catholic Protectorate, north of Eureka, Allenton and Doziers to Mary and Mac's and then far beyond...

 

Scharff

 

Mary and Mac's was a legendary trading post situated near present day Pacific, taking its name from its owners.

 

Being adjacent to a well-used trail, with abundant spring water and fish and game nearby, Hamilton's trading post prospered.

 

At an unknown date Ninian Hamilton built the first of several grist mills to operate in the area.  The exact location of this mill is unknown.  In recent years the LaSalle Fathers found two old millstones on their property and moved them to their cemetery for safekeeping.  However, they are probably from a later mill.  There is also a flat stone with markings, which have not been deciphered, bearing the date 1774, found by the Brothers and placed in the cemetery.

 

Hamilton's mill was horse operated and served a large area. C.F. Jeffries, in a letter circa 1876, quoted in Goodspeed's History of Franklin County, 1888, dealt with the early days of Labadie, the first permanent settlement on the Missouri River.

 

The most of the Labadie settlers had their milling done at or near Glencoe, On Hamilton Creek, at a mill owned by Ninian Hamilton, one of the best men that God ever made.

 

Jeffries was relating life in Labadie after 1819, dating Hamilton's mill before that.

 

There are local legends that annual gatherings of trappers and traders were held at Hamilton's place.  No records exist, but for a time Hamilton's place was the last leaving St. Louis and the first returning.  They may well have occurred.

 

Ninian Hamilton set up a horse mill on Survey 766, which was supplanted by a water mill and bark mill for tanning by Henry McCullough, who carried on along with his tannery shoemaking business establishment that not only supplied the surrounding, but enabled him to ship large quantities to a brother in the South, often employing eight men.

 

Scharff

 

McCullough, another Kentuckian, bought a fractional 40 acres from N. Hamilton for the millsite.  Henry McCullough was Justice of the Peace for about thirty years and Judge of the County Court from 1849 to 1852.  He was married to a sister of Ninian Hamilton's

wife.  He married three times before he died July 6, 1853.  His last wife, nee Della Hamilton, was killed by a "car on the Glencoe Valley Road, opposite her own door" in 1876.

 

This was obviously a railroad car on the spur line that led to quarrying operations in what is now Rockwoods Reservation.

 

Beginning in 1851 the Pacific Railroad, first west of the Mississippi River, began its journey west from a point near the, now drained, Chouteau's Pond near present day Union Station.

 

Three routes for the rails had been debated, with most attention given to one that would have gone to Creve Coeur Lake and then upstream near the Missouri toward Jefferson City and to the route that would follow the valley of the River Des Peres and thence

along the Meramec to Franklin (renamed Pacific.).  The destination was Jefferson City and, in the minds of the railroad promoters, the Pacific Ocean.

 

The Meramec route, though longer and more expensive and requiring two tunnels, was chosen because the Missouri River, itself, was a traffic artery and the rails were needed to open areas further from the Missouri.

 

July 19, 1853, a group of passengers was drawn in passenger coaches and on flat cars by the steam locomotive "St. Louis" to the station at Franklin.  The "St. Louis" was the first locomotive built in St. Louis.  Franklin was little more that a station building in the wilderness, but bands played and the passengers cheered when the station was arrived at.

 

Earlier than this, locomotives and cars had come to what is now Glencoe as the tracks. were extended alongside the river. Probably Glencoe received its name from the Scottish railroad engineer James P. Kirkwood, who laid out the route.  The name is divisible into two words of Old English or Welsh origin.  Glen: a narrow valley.  Coe: grass.  Literally translated, it is grassy valley.

 

Only a few remnants of the original railroad can be found today.  There are two bridge abutments of stone at the mouth of Carr Creek. These abutments were laid on a mattress of logs to prevent sinking into the soft ground.  The butts of these logs are exposed at times of low water as the creek continues to deepen.

 

The buildings at the present miniature steam railroad (Wabash, Frisco & Pacific) may include an early station, but not the original station.  The railroad right-of-way was elevated about 1929 after several floods had stopped traffic on the line.  A cement cap with a date tops the present abutments.

 

A short distance away, where Clifty Creek enters the Meramec, opposite the Eureka High School, is a stone home and outbuildings, which was the residence of the supervisor of construction for this section of the line.  It has been preserved and is occupied.

 

James E. Yeatman may have been among the passengers on the first official run to Franklin.  He was one of the leading citizens of St., Louis.  Yeatman was a founder of the Mercantile Library, president of the Merchants Bank, and an early proponent of the

railroad west of the Mississippi.  James E. Yeatman was active in both business and charitable affairs in St. Louis.  He was a major force behind the Western Sanitary Commission during the Civil War.  This large volunteer group provided hospital boats, medical services and looked to other needs of the wounded on both sides of the conflict.  The world's first hospital railroad car is attributed to this group.

 

Considerable has been written about this out standing man.  Comments here are restricted to his association with Glencoe.

 

As noted earlier, Ninian Hamilton (2) died in 1856.

 

The heirs sold to A.S. Mitchell, who in turn sold to James E. Yeatman. He (Yeatman) erected the fine concrete house, the first in the neighborhood, about 1856.

 

There is an error here.  The 1856 Yeatman home was frame.  There was a concrete basement and concrete was used around the house, but the two story house was of frame construction with a wide front porch.  Pictures of this building are kept by family members.

 

There may have been another dwelling on the property prior to the 1856 Yeatman house.  A two-story structure of stone set in a sand mortar stood east of the 1856 structure.  It was utilized as a guesthouse for many years.  The origins of this building are not known.  Family members speculate that it predated the 1856 home because of the stone construction, (not unlike the stone construction of the Hamilton home which stood in the valley), lack of a concrete type mortar and because the date "1830" has been found incised into one of the stones.

 

The 1856 Yeatman house burned during the daytime in July 1920.  A letter signed by "Gellic" Carr in the manuscript collection of the Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis (undated) comments on the fire.  The letter is to a friend.

 

I have just received your letter and know you would feel as I do.  How sad it was the burning of Glencoe Park - but in one way it was fortunate it happened as it did, for there was a defective flue in the kitchen chimney, which may have caused a fire at any time, if at night, it could have been terrible, possibly death may have resulted - so I cannot help saying truly it was best as it was as long as it had to be.

 

"Gellic" was Angelica Yeatman Carr, the daughter of James E. Yeatman.  She had married Alfred Carr at some date prior to 1870.  At that time Edwards City Directory lists Alfred Carr as residing at Glencoe, with business offices in downtown St. Louis.

 

Mrs. Carr moved into the stone guesthouse.  That building burned in 1954, but was rebuilt by Alfred Carr, Jr.  It was added to and restored by the John Sheehan family (Ann Carr), who currently reside there.

 

Remaining of the circa 1856 home construction is a concrete and stone arbor or gazebo which stood across a driveway from the main house.  The village of Glencoe was laid out about 1854 by Woods, Christy & Co.  In 1883 Scharff described it as "containing a few houses and small store, but for about a year has had no post office."  About this same time, Woods, Christy & Co. also erected a grist and saw mill at Glencoe which operated until about 1868.

 

Woods, Christy & Co. had been a large dry goods concern in St. Louis.  There is a family tradition in the Christy family that land was traded for goods and materials by early settlers.  This firm ceased operation as a dry goods company about 1856.

 

While it is possible that some lands near Glencoe were the result of trading for supplies, the firm appears to have gone into a large lumbering operation in the Glencoe area.  Large blocks of land on the north, east and south of the Yeatman Farm, nearly surrounding it on three sides, are shown in land surveys made in 1859.

 

It is more probable that Christy & Woods purchased land for the purpose of lumbering the white oak and other timber.  The firm later became involved in the production of clay products, particularly firebrick, in the city of St. Louis.  Members of the Christy family continue in this business today.

 

In 1859 the original Ninian Hamilton tract, now owned by James E. Yeatman, had been added to by acquisition of land directly south of the Hamilton grant, bringing the total at that date to 738.11 acres.  Later, date unknown, land was obtained to the east, possibly from Christy & Woods, a portion of which held the home of Peyton Carr and is now Marycliffe.  This land was part of the Courtois grant.

 

In 1868 the Glencoe Marble Company was formed to utilize limestone deposits in present-day Rockwoods Reservation.  A side track was laid from Glencoe and followed Carr reek alongside present Missouri 109 to that location.  This crossed the property of James E. Yeatman who, no doubt, watched the construction from his home.

 

The side track from the Pacific Railroad switched off the main line at Yeatman Junction.  This junction, or switch, was in the property now owned by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (Parks).

 

At this same location, Lawler Ford Road terminated at the Meramec River.  This writer has no knowledge of the Lawler named, but a ford did cross the river at this point into the lands of the Lewis family.  At times a boat was used to ferry people across from the farms and one of the Lewis family members was the first station agent at Glencoe, paddling back and forth across the river to work and home.

 

During the Civil War the Home Guards watched roads leading from St. Louis with instructions to turn back Southern sympathizers.

 

As a result many of the young men whose sympathies were with the Confederate states had to do so (leave the area) with the utmost secrecy in order to get past the Home Guard Troops of the Enrolled Militia who patrolled the Missouri River as well as the Meramec River, particularly in the area of what is now Crescent, Missouri (dubbed Rebel Bend).

 

Thomas, Vol. 1, 97-101

quoted by June Dahl in

A History of Kirkwood

 

Crescent is a town, once called Bunkum, across the Meramec and some two miles away, opposite Glencoe.

 

The Glencoe Marble Co. was not the first to utilize the local limestone.  Scharff comments:

 

To aid in the construction of the house (Yeatman's) a lime kiln was erected by the creek, and fine lime made, which was the inception of the extensive lime-works in the valley.

 

A part of the original Hamilton tract was given by Yeatman to the Orphan Protectorate, which was operated by the Christian Brothers.  Scharff cites the opening of the Protectorate as 1872.  Yeatman also provided other assistance, as Scharff reports:

 

The buildings consist of offices, reading-room, dormitories, dining room, etc., in a concrete building erected by James E. Yeatman.

 

Further, in 1883 it is noted:

 

The old Hamilton rock house, the fine concrete dairy-house and large barns are apart from the principal buildings.

 

The Hamilton rock house was demolished about 1945 by the Christian Brothers, who were apparently, unaware of its historic significance.  The Protectorate occupied the north portion of the original Hamilton tract and some of the south portion, having about three hundred and twenty acres.

 

The property and buildings, in 1983, have been used as a retreat house for some years.  The tract also contains the Ninian Hamilton family cemetery, and a cemetery for deceased members of the Christian Brothers.  A large portion of the original acreage was sold for housing developments in the 1970's.

 

The date of James E. Yeatman's death has not been determined.  As noted, Alfred Carr's residence is listed in Edward's City Directory, 1870 as Glencoe.

 

Scharff in 1883 states:

 

There are some fine residences in the immediate neighborhood. "Glencoe Heights" northeast of the depot was built by Robert K. Woods about 1855...it is a fine frame pavilion.

 

(This may be the frame residence on Old State Road.)

 

Northwest of it (depot) is the fine concrete residence of Alfred Carr, with a stately lawn and fine meadows.  It has one of the finest orchards in the county...

 

Still farther south is "River Craig," the imposing concrete home built by A.W. Alexander, from which a magnificent view is obtained.

 

(River Craig remains in excellent condition.)

 

Descendants of Angelica Yeatman and Alfred Carr have, continuously, occupied homes on the original Ninian Hamilton grant lands.  As late as 1945 a member of the Carr family listed Glencoe as her residence in the St. Louis Social Register.

 

In large part, this was due to access to the Missouri-Pacific Railroad, which ran regular commuter trains from Pacific to Union Station.  The last of the Pacific Eagles ran in December, 1961.

 

Commuting to Glencoe, either from work or shopping, or as a guest at one of the homes was a common practice.  Glass plate negatives in the possession of the Carr family descendants show, and identify, many well-known St. Louisans posed on the steps of Glencoe Park.

 

One visitor to Glencoe Park was Winston Churchill, the American author who was a "best seller" of romantic novels at the turn of the century.

 

His widely read novel The Crisis is set partially in St. Louis and partially at Glencoe.  The novel, which Churchill acknowledged was based on the activities of James E. Yeatman, depicts the struggles and conflicts in St. Louis during the critical years of the Civil War.  It is believed that Angelica Yeatman Carr was his model for the heroine, Miss Virginia Carvel.

 

The first edition of this novel came from the presses in 1901 and was followed by subsequent editions.  A special edition was printed in 1902.  The James K. Hackett Edition is illustrated with scenes from the stage adaptation of The Crisis.  Where the original editions contained engravings to illustrate dramatic scenes in the novel, the Hackett edition contains photographs of Hackett, as Stephen Brice, and Charlotte Walker, in the role of Virginia Carvel.  Mr. Yeatman is there as Mr. Brinsmade. This edition also includes a biography of James K. Hackett.

 

Less esoteric, but equally important is the probability that the first large scale gravel operations on the Meramec River began at what would become Yeatman junction.  Gravel was taken from the "banks" of the Meramec and moved on rail cars into St. Louis. The first record of this operation is in the mid-1850's.  Later, steam dredges were used, to be supplanted by diesel or gasoline dredges in extracting gravel from the channel and from artificial lakes dug into the south bank.  This continued, apparently without interruption, until the 1970's.

 

Meramec River gravel is considered the standard for the industry, nationwide, and is used for roads, construction and for decorative work.  More than 50 percent of all gravel mined in Missouri is taken from the lower Meramec River.

 

The last railroad track was removed from the Glencoe area when the spur line into the gravel plant was lifted in the 1970's. 

 

The proximity of Glencoe to the river made it the destination point for railroad ties floated down the Big and Meramec Rivers.  Tie hackers worked in the upland forests and, when water levels were right, rafted them to Glencoe.  This continued until some time in this century.

 

Sharp bends in the track at Glencoe and Clifty Creek (upstream) were the site of frequent derailments.  Because of this, the Meramec was bridged at Sherman and Diecke and service discontinued around the crescent formed by the river.

 

Obviously, derailments caused excitement among local residents.  The Carr family photograph collection contains glass negatives showing one or more.

 

Another excitement was The Great Glencoe Train Robbery.  Accounts are found in two books in the Missouri Historical Society collection: A Review of Famous Crimes Solved by St. Louis Policemen and Fifty Years a Detective, the latter by a "private eye" of that era.

 

Two masked and armed men, one with his hand in a bandage, boarded the passenger train No. 8 at a water tank near Eureka.  This occurred on either January 21st or February 21, 1910 (depending on which book one believes.)  Hidden between the tender and the mail car, the armed desperadoes took over the locomotive at Glencoe, fired a fusillade of shots at the conductor and curious passengers, disconnected locomotive, tender and mail car from the rest of the train and, with engineer and fireman under gunpoint, piloted the steam locomotive down the tracks a mile or two.

 

There they gathered up the mail sacks of registered mail, rifled some until they had $600 in cash, then, releasing the engineer and fireman (who steamed hastily back to Glencoe) they stashed the remaining registered mail sacks amidst corn shock in a field, boarded a hidden rowboat and escaped down the Meramec.

 

Depending upon which account is read, diligent work by the private detective, or by the St. Louis police, led to the apprehension of both culprits.  George Ebberling was taken in Hot  Springs, Arkansas, where he was "taking the baths."  William W. Lowe, identified by the boils on his right hand which had required the bandage and forced him to shoot left-handed, was arrested in his bogus brokerage office in downtown St. Louis.  The registered mail sacks were retrieved from the corn shocks and both men were sent up the river to the penitentiary at Jefferson City.

 

From about 1900 until about 1945, Glencoe was one of the resort communities of the Meramec River's clubhouse era.  Many of the homes were summer clubhouses, later converted to year round residences.

 

Of all the land holdings in the Glencoe area, none have greater historical significance than Glencoe Park.  No others have remained in the hands of one family for so long a time.  Glencoe has, from the beginning, attracted a special kind of person.

 

On Saturday, May 28, 1983 Caroline Ann McMahon was married to Paul John Fullerton, Jr. beside Carr Creek, which has flowed past this place since the beginning.