NIU Libraries Digitization Projects
Lincoln/Net Prairie Fire Illinois During the Civil War Illinois During the Gilded Age Mark Twain's Mississippi Back to Digitization Projects Contact Us
BACK

Edwards, Richard; Hopewell, M.; Ashley, William; Barry, James G.; Belt and Priest; Casey, John; Hall, W.; Labaum, Louis A.; Leduc, Mary Philip; Lisa, Manuel; O'Fallon, Benjamin; Piernas; Port Folio; Risley, W.; Stoddard, Amos; Williams, Henry W.; Yore, John E. Edwards's Great West and Her Commercial Metropolis, Embracing a General View of the West, and a Complete History of St. Louis, from the Landing of Ligueste, in 1764, to the Present Time; with Portraits and Biographies of Some of the Old Settlers, and Many of the Most Prominent Buisiness Men . St. Louis: Office of Edwards's Monthly, A Journal of Progress, 1860. [format: book], [genre: biography; history; letter; narrative]. Permission: St. Louis Mercantile Library
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=edwards.html


Previous section

Next section

Chapter VII.

Laying of the corner-stone of the Centenary Church. — Death of General Atkinson. — Of Judge Lucas. — Opening of the Glascow House. — Execution on Duncan's Island. — Arrival of Audubon at St. Louis. — Arrival of Richard M. Johnson, of Kentucky. — Death of Major John Pilcher. — Death of Judge Engle. — Arrival of Macready. — His dramatic popularity. — Forrest. — Hackett. — Arrival of Professor Silliman. — Of Josiah Quincy, Jr. — Briskness of trade in St. Louis. — Unparalleled rise in the Mississippi. — The waters overflow the levee, and fill the first stories of the buildings. — Consternation of the inhabitants. — Reports from the Illinois and Missouri rivers. — More than five hundred destitute families quartered in the city. — Philanthropy of the citizens. — The three great floods. — Buildings put up in 1844. — Death of Colonel Sublette. — Constitution revised. — Mercantile Library. — Death of Mrs. Biddle. — Her monument. — Her charities. — Harbor obstructions. — War with Mexico. — Great excitement. — St. Louis Legion. — Patriotic feeling and actions of the citizens. — Consecration of Odd Fellows' Hall. — Pork-packing.

1842. — It was on May 10th of this year that the corner-stone of the Centenary Church, corner of Fifth and Pine streets, where it still stands, was laid, in the presence of a large concourse of persons who had assembled to be present at the important and solemn occasion. A large procession was formed at the Methodist church, in Fourth street, which was composed of many citizens, officiating clergymen, ladies of the Centenary Society, and the Masonic fraternity. Bishop Roberts, at the laying of the stone, offered an appropriate and zealous prayer, and a hymn was sung, in which many voices participated. The address was most eloquent, and was delivered by the Rev. E. R. Ames.

On the following month (June), the funeral obsequies of General Henry Atkinson were performed by the Rev. Mr. Hedges, the chaplain of Jefferson Barracks, of which military post the deceased was the superior officer. General Atkinson had efficiently served his country during the war of 1813 and the Black Hawk war. He gathered military laurels at both of these trying periods, and possessing, in addition to his martial fame, the civic virtues, he was endeared not only to his brother officers, but to a large class of the citizens of St. Louis.

Five months had scarcely elapsed after the demise of General Atkinson, when the bier of Judge John B. C. Lucas was followed to its last resting place by a large concourse of citizens. He was one of the earliest settlers of Missouri, when it was the District of Louisiana, having received from President Jefferson the appointment of the office of judge of the highest court of the newly-acquired territory. He continued in that high and responsible office during the administrations of Messrs. Madison and Monroe. He also received from Mr. Jefferson the appointment of commissioner for the adjustment of land-claims of Upper Louisiana, and continued in that office until 1812. He was a man of untiring industry, and studiously faithful to the responsible trusts which had been committed to him.

1843. — In May a large number of invited guests sat down to dinner in the spacious salle à manger of the Glascow House, located on the corner

-- 379 --

of Olive and Second streets. It was on the occasion of the first opening of the new hotel, and Messrs. Wiley and Scollay, the enterprising lessees, had a dinner prepared that would have satisfied the requirements of royalty. It was an occasion of conviviality, and the guests entered with spirit upon their undertaking. The smoking viands, exhaling their incense, were attacked with hungry vigor, and the wine-cups, sparkling and dancing with the vitality of the luscious fluid, were pressed to lips that knew how to appreciate their contents. Then, as the conversation gradually flowed in the warm channels of convivial discourse, and the blood quickened to and fro from hearts pulsating with the friendly emotions, reserve, cold indifference, and worldly policy took flight from the festive scene, and left for a brief season hearts and minds undisturbed, and consecrated wholly to convivial enjoyment. Each mind poured forth its tribute to the occasion. There was droll humor, Attic wit and wisdom, with its useful axioms, and shorn of all austerity.

On the next day, March 3d, what a contrast to the festive scene was presented. At an early hour in the morning, there was a small crowd collected in the neighborhood of the jail, which rapidly increased, until about eleven o'clock the street in that vicinity was almost impassable. At that hour, companies of military marched to the jail, and then the prison doors were thrown open, and, attended by the officers of the prison and a clergyman, a youth of nineteen years, pale and emaciated from long confinement, walked with feeble step again under the broad, bright canopy of heaven. The name of the youth was Henry Johnson, who had been sentenced to death for the murder of Major Floyd, who was a resident of St. Louis county. In the dead of night, this gentleman's house was visited by five men, who wantonly beat him to death, terrified his wife almost to distraction, and robbed his house of a large sum of money. Two of the supposed murderers had been fairly tried, and found guilty, and both sentenced to death; from some informality in the law, the sentence of one of them had been staid. [65] In Johnson's case there was nothing interposed to prevent the execution of the law.

There was an awe pervading even the heterogeneous and immoral multitude who had assembled to witness the dying struggles of a fellow-being. As the military took up the line of march to Duncan's Island, where the gallows was erected, one muffled drum alone emitted a dolorous sound.

When the procession arrived at the gallows, the young prisoner ascended with a firm step, and cast his wistful eyes upon the city that stood with its thousands of buildings on the western bank of the Father of Waters. What thoughts were rushing rapidly through the mysterious mechanism of mind 'twere vain to say; but his forlorn and lingering lifted that it was a farewell view, and that it was a struggle for his youthful spirit to sever itself from the ties of life, which were woven of the blooms of an April existence. He was awakened from a longer indulgence in his half-dreamy, half-waking meditations by the marshal asking him if he wished to say any thing to the multitude. The young man then spoke in a voice tremulous at first, but gathering strength as he proceeded, swelled at times in full volume, and reverberated with the

-- 380 --

strains of genuine eloquence. He solemnly protested his innocence, and a total ignorance of the crime for which he was about to suffer. His accents bore the impress of truth, and carried conviction to many minds; but the stern mandate of the law must be obeyed, and the marshal proceeded to adjust the fatal cord to his neck. For a moment the young man gave way to a sensation of weakness, and the warm tears rolled copiously down his blanched cheeks. It was but a moment, and the tears were staid, his gaze upon the crowd was firm and unwavering, and so remained until the cap was drawn over his eyes, and then the spring was touched, and the young man's spirit returned to the heavenly source from whence it emanated, there to be judged by an unerring Justice, whose edicts are palliated by infinite mercy.

One of the known murderers of Major Floyd, some time afterward, in making a confession, declared that Johnson died an innocent man. If such should be the case, which is strongly supported by his declaration of innocence upon the scaffold, it affords another argument in favor of the abolition of capital punishment, and is another unfortunate instance of an innocent life being offered as a victim to a barbarous code, which, strange to say, civilization and religion in their progressive and merciful changes have not as yet nullified.

The very day of the execution, an individual stopped at the Glascow House, and immediately that his name was registered, there was almost instantaneously a buzz of excitement in the hotel, which gradually spread throughout that locality. He upon whom the gaze of all rested appeared to be unconscious that he was the "observed of all observers;" and indeed there was nothing in his attire and demeanor that would prompt inquiry or excite attention — there was no "glass of fashion or no mould of form." On the contrary, the individual was plainly clad, and looked much like an honest farmer from the country. He wore the livery of age, for his hair was thin and blanched; yet there was freshness in his complexion, a sparkle in his eye, and an elasticity in his step that showed that his was a "green old age," and that the vital currents had not become chilled and sluggish in their circulation. It was Audubon, the great naturalist, and hence the talisman of that name which was known throughout the civilized world, had drawn universal attention to him. He was then on a journey from the East to the Yellowstone, in pursuit of his favorite science, that he might add new specimens to his rare collection. In a few days he took passage in one of the boats of the American Fur Company, and after several months of absence, during which he went above the mouth of the Yellowstone, and having enriched, by further discoveries, his department of science, he returned to St. Louis on his way home, without being at all worsted by his long travel.

A few weeks after the departure of Audubon, Colonel Richard M. Johnson, of Kentucky, visited St. Louis. The old hero beneath whose hand Tecumseh fell, could not complain of the want of public attention. Had he had any vanity of that kind, it must have been amply gratified. He was feasted, toasted, and probably bored, by his officious friends and admirers, and, no doubt, departed from St. Louis with the satisfaction of knowing that hero-worship was in furore among its inhabitants.

Early in the summer, Major John Pilcher, one of the oldest citizens of St. Louis, died. He was one of the most enterprising inhabitants,

-- 381 --

and had been extensively engaged in the Indian trade, and identified with all the great measures tending to the welfare and advancement of his native city.

1844. — In February of this year, Judge P. Hill Engle, for some years judge of the Court of Common Pleas, died, after a lingering illness. He was a man of ability, and so amiable in his conduct of life, that he had the good fortutie to make no enemies, and to disarm all prejudice. There was a universal mourning at his death.

At this time, so much had the growth of the southern portion of the city increased, that the inhabitants resolved to build a place of worship for their accommodation; and the corner-stone of a Catholic church was laid with much ceremony in Soulard's Addition.

In June, the people of St. Louis were thrown into rapturous excitement by the arrival of Macready, then in the zenith of his genius, and the most finished actor of his time that trod the dramatic boards. He first played the character of Macbeth, and invested him with the genuine characteristics intended by the great dramatic author. The Scottish hero was brave and ambitious, and, according to the spirit of his age, there was in his character a leaning to the dark doctrines of superstition. Hence the predictions of the "Weird Sisters" were looked upon with favor, and when the first prophecy was accomplished by the munificence of his sovereign, he began to think how he could assist Fate in its intentions toward him. Though ambitious and longing to realize the golden dreams which possessed him, he shuddered from the commission of any direct crime, and when his wife urged him to murder, so as to seize the crown, he shuddered with instinctive horror at the shedding of blood; but when his dagger was imbrued with the life-blood of his sovereign, and the Rubicon of virtue was passed, there was no more shuddering — he went with all of his native boldness for removing by assassination all whom he suspected of loyalty to his departed king. The phantoms of those he had murdered caused but a momentary horror, and the fierce promptings of his nature were not all subdued even during the presence of the apparitions. Then his faith, still in the predictions of the "Weird Sisters," though shut up in a small castle, believed it to be impregnable — it could not be taken "till Birnam do come to Dunsinane," and when the wood came against his fortress, by that device with which every schoolboy is familiar, even then he believed himself safe — he hugged still the prophetic delusion that "None of woman born shall harm Macduff." At his meeting with Macduff, when the hope of the last prophecy was dispelled, he gathered all of his terrors around him, and died, fighting to the last as befitting a Scottish hero. Macready in Macbeth is Macbeth living and breathing again, or, by the metempsychosis theory, the the departed chieftain had entered the corporal nature of the actor, and waved and directed his movements. The people of St. Louis were enraptured by the finished and chaste acting of Macready in Macbeth, and his first night before the curtain more than equalled their expectation.

This was the first visit of the great tragedian to the growing and thriving city on the west bank of the Mississippi. He made many friends, and added to his fame. When it was announced that he was to play Byron's Warner, the jammed house was not more than one-fourth of the multitude that was desirous of hearing him in that play, which he has immortalized

-- 382 --

more than the great bard who created it. Werner without Macready would never have had a fame.

Sixteen years have elapsed since that period, and the thirty-four thousand inhabitants have increased six-fold, and the young city has become of mammoth proportions; yet there is no theatre reared which corresponds with the extent, wealth, and wants of the great metropolis. This should not be; for the legitimate classic drama is the most elevating of all amusements. It pleases and instructs, and prevents the introducing of low and depraved taste in the community.

After the departure of Macready, Forrest visited St. Louis, and his fine acting, so much assisted with his splendid physical efforts, created a division in public sentiment as to whom should belong the bay wreath. Should it encircle the brow of Macready or Forest? This was the second advent of Mr. Forest in St. Louis, and he was followed by the inimitable Hackett, then, too, in his palmy days, and his Falstaff became the talk of the city.

In May were assembled at St. Louis, at one time, several of the distinguished men of the day — Professor Silliman, who was on a scientific visit to Missouri and Illinois, Josiah Quincy, Jr., afterward president of Harvard College, and Charles F. Adams, son of John Quincy Adams, ex-president of the United States.

The spring trade had opened most auspiciously for St. Louis. Her levee was crowded with boats unloading and receiving all kinds of merchandise; country merchants from every western locality had flocked to the city, and purchased liberally of the wholesale merchants; buildings were putting up in every direction; there was a great demand for labor at enormous prices; property was increasing in value at an unprecedented ratio; and there was a briskness and vitality in every department of business which had never before been witnessed.

Nature has its clouds and its sunshine, and the world its seasons of prosperity and misfortune. The prospects of St. Louis received a check and a blight which will ever be a marked event in its history. It had been prophesied by several old Indians and hunters in the preceding autumn that there would be a great rise in the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. They had grown wise in the philosophy of observation, and had observed that the bears and some other animals made their holes higher by several feet in the banks of the river than they had ever done before. Hence these seers pronounced that the waters would rise to an extraordinary height the corning spring, which the instinct of the animals had led them to foresee, and they consequently built their holes at a greater height from the water's edge than usual. Late in the spring, there was a considerable rise in the rivers, but nothing indicating the height that had been predicted. June came, and about the 10th of the month, rumors reached St. Louis that the Illinois and Missouri rivers were rapidly rising, and at many points had overflowed their banks. The Mississippi, too, had commenced to swell, and was gradually verging toward the curbstones in Front street, and was forming small lakes in the American bottom, on the opposite shore. On the next day none of the levee was seen, and the Father of Waters swept in his angry course the eastern pavement of the city. The inhabitants had now become somewhat alarmed, and the merchants, on Front street in particular, seemed nervous and anxious, and commenced

-- 383 --

to remove some of their goods from the first floor to the upper stories of the building. By the 16th of the month, the curbstones of Front street were covered, and the water was running in the lower stories of Battle Row and Laurel street.

In Illinoistown and Brooklyn, the first stories of the houses were submerged and the inhabitants took refuge in the upper apartments. Boats ran direct from St. Louis to the Pap House, situated a mile from Illinoistown, and the American bottom was covered with a sheet of water.

There was then a universal alarm, and the rise of the Missisippi was the theme of every conversation. Many thought that it would rise no higher; but those who were in the sunset of life shook their heads ominously and said "the worst had not come yet." They spoke the truth. On the 17th the sidewalks on Front street were entirely covered in the neighborhood of Locust street, and above Vine the first stories of the stores commenced to fill. Then a panic spread not only throughout Front street, but the merchants even in Main street felt alarmed at the increasing flood, which was continually rising and with fearful rapidity.

At this time the Mississippi presented a grand but awful appearance. Its current was turbid, and, as it rushed along, it emitted that howling fretful volume of sound peculiar to angry waters. It was filled with driftwood; rails, and stacks of straw and hay were seen hurrying upon its current, and carcasses of horses, cattle, sheep, and swine showed the fearful destruction it had been making. Now and then, too, fragments of a barn or house were borne swiftly to the south, which was evidence that human habitations had been encroached upon, and that the inhabitants had either become a prey to the angry waters or had been compelled to abandon their homes to save their lives. Joined with the evidences of destruction and alarm rumor was busy with her thousand tongues in exaggerating every fact, increasing the general panic, and making the murky prospects still murkier. It was stated that the Missouri was rising at the rate of seven feet in twenty-four hours. That the whole country between Weston and Glascow was submerged, and that the tops of the highest trees in the bottoms only stuck out like sea-weed in this great sea of waters. That houses and barns had been swept away, and in many instances human lives had been lost. Whole acres of soil had been torn away and melted in a moment by the rushing flood. In many instances human beings were seen clinging to immense piles of drift, and some of whom were saved by the passing boats, but most of them were lost as the fragments of drift gave way and left them to the eddying current, which in a moment swallowed them in its vortex. It was stated also that the Illinois River was rising pari passu with the Missouri, and was higher than was ever known before. The town of Naples was said to be so completely inundated that boats could ply in the streets, and the inhabitants had entirely forsaken it and gone to the bluffs, where they lived in tents. It was reported also that Beardstown too was fast being submerged and was deserted, and many of the river towns were in the same deplorable condition.

It is true that many of these reports were swelled much beyond the measure of truth, but all the fiction had its foundation in fact. The Missouri and Illinois rivers had risen each to a height never witnessed before. They had overflowed all of the vast bottoms through which they coursed, and had in many instances overflowed the streets of the towns that bordered

-- 384 --

their banks, and swept away stock of every description, some merchandise, household furniture, and barns and houses; some few lives had also been lost.

The elements which compose human nature frequently develop themselves in strange inconsistencies under certain circumstances. It is stated that when the plague raged with its frightful mortality in London, Constantinople, and other eastern cities, that the inhabitants gave a license to all their desires, and endeavored to follow to the utmost the old maxim, dum vivimus, vivamus. Not knowing how soon they might be swept off by the awful malady, they endeavored to make the most of the moments of life which hung by so precarious a tenure. The places of amusement were filled to their utmost capacity, strains of music floated upon the wings of the breeze that were laden with the poison of the pest; and the sounds of revelry were heard in the streets and dwellings mingled with the groans and shrieks of the dying, and the rattling of the dead-carts hurrying the dead bodies to their burial-place. In St. Louis, when the report of the vast destruction of property and of human life on the Missouri and the Illinois rivers was the universal theme of conversation, and was believed, and when the stores all along Front street were filling with water, and the flood still rising higher and higher, and when there was almost a total suspension of business, and, together with the loss of time and profit, it was apparent that business would be crippled materially for many months, the theatre was crowded nightly. Forrest was playing his series of characters, which he has so happily chosen, and which he has perfectly mastered.

It was the evening of June 18th that he appeared as the Gladiator, a character peculiarly adapted to his superb physical excellence. Every portion of the theatre was packed, and the immense crowd, many of whom were suffering from the presence of the flood upon their property and from the suspension of business, and whose prospects were all ominous of evil, cheered and cheered the great actor again and again, and seemed, in the wild excitement, intent on forgetting that the angry waters of the Mississippi were rising higher and higher, and consequently the desolation would become greater and more extensive; and when the great tragedian in the chef-d'oeuvre of his acting as the dying gladiator, in every attitude, and in every lineament, in his gasping breath and dying resignation, looked as if he might have been the prototype of that splendid creation of Puget's from the chiselled marble, a heartier burst of applause never greeted him in any city. However, when the curtain fell and the wild excitement was over, a large portion of the audience rushed from the theatre towards the levee to see and hear if the river was still rising. As yet there was no relief to mental suffering, for the news obtained from those whom they met was, that the river was still rising.

On the morning of the 18th the levee was early visited by a number of the anxious inhabitants, and their gloom was still increased to witness further encroachments on the town by the high-waters. For the greater part of the day a large crowd stood in the upper stories of the houses on Front street, watching the destructive flood sweeping by, carrying, in its resistless course, carcasses of animals, ruins of buildings, and whole trees of mammoth proportions, which had been rent from the soil. Nearly all of the inhabitants of the American bottom had fled their homes and taken

-- 385 --

refuge on the bluffs, where most of them were in a state of suffering and destitution. There were some, too, who, loth to quit their homes, and hoping day by day that the flood would subside, had remained in their dwellings until they were so surrounded by the high-water that they could not leave them, and were threatened to be swept away momentarily by the swollen water. Immediately that their precarious condition was known in St. Louis, sympathy was at once enlisted in their behalf, and boats went to their rescue, and many families, in this way, were snatched from impending fate.

On the morning of the 19th, the river was found still advancing. Boats plied between St. Louis and the bluffs, and when the necessities of the sufferers there encamped were fully understood, they received from private charity many donations.

On the 20th, the river still rose, but not with the former rapidity. By the report of the city engineer, the flood was three feet four inches above the city directrix (the curb-stone on Front street, south side). The news was still gloomy. The Kansas River was reported to be still rising, though the Missouri was stationary. Some contended that it was the June rise, which proceeded from the melting of the snows in the mountains, which always swell to a great magnitude the streams which flow from them. Others declared, that if it were the June rise, the water would be of a colder temperature. Each steamboat that came from the Missouri and Illinois rivers had on board families that had been rescued from their homes, which had become surrounded and partially submerged by the water. Each of them had the same tale of sorrow — their all was lost by the flood.

On the morning of the 21st it was fondly hoped that the river would be found not so much risen during the night, and at early dawn there was many an anxious step that approached the levee, but there was disappointment again, the river was still rising. In the southern part of the city nearly all the land between Second and Front streets was submerged, and all the low portions of ground between Second and Third, and Third and Fifth streets, were under water. Many of the inhabitants of St. Louis took oar boats and rowed across the American bottom, which a few weeks before had promised a most abundant yield of oats, and on which the corn had just commenced its summer growth. They described the rushing of the swollen torrent through the forest as terrific; and the current was filled with the remnants of destroyed property.

On the morning of the 22d, friends greeted each other with the same dolorous exclamation — the river is rising. So great was the reported distress and danger of the inhabitants up the river that General Bernard Pratte, the efficient mayor of St. Louis, took the responsibility of sending boats to their relief. Many of the inhabitants who had doubtless remained in Brooklyn and Venice, thinking daily that the flood would subside, were rescued from impending fate. The boats found many families five or six miles back in the interior living in the upper stories of their isolated dwellings, having no means of escape. In one instance, the cattle and horses were standing on the most elevated spot up to their flanks merged in the water.

It was truly a time for the sympathies of the truly noble natures to develop themselves, and it is a bright record to leave to posterity to say that

-- 386 --

sympathy was not wanting. The captains of the steamboats were indefatigable in their exertions to save life and property, and were prodigal in their sacrifice of time and labor to effect their laudable intentions. A report was in circulation, that several of the inhabitants of the town of Madison, Illinois, were suffering and in danger of being swept off by the flood, and immediately Captain W. W. Green, W. J. Austin, and others, acting under the influence of generous feelings, determined, if possible, to start instantly to their assistance. They communicated with Captain Edward Saltmarsh of the Monona, and he at once offered to start with his boat, without compensation, to assist them in their philanthropic object. He was seconded by Captain E. H. Gleim, of the steamboat Sarah Ann, who offered a supply of wood for the voyage. More than thirty citizens volunteered for the occasion, and several inhabitants were rescued from perilous situations.

So sensible were the citizens who accompanied Captain Saltmarsh, of the generous sacrifice which prompted him to put in use his boat, without any hope of reward, for the object of relieving suffering humanity, that they organized a meeting on the Monona, of which Archibald Carr was president, and Isaac B. Thomas was secretary; William J. Austin then, in an appropriate manner, stated the object of the meeting, and it was resolved, that a committee should be selected, who would draft resolutions suitable to the occasion. The gentlemen forming the committee were, A. O. Bowen, W. W. Green, William J. Austin, F. E. Robertson, and James McKown. The resolutions were as follow:

"Resolved, That we hereby tender our thanks to Captain Edward Saltmarsh, for the generous, humane, and prompt manner in which he has employed his boat, the Monona, in efforts to relieve the sufferers by the flood in our sister state of Illinois.

"Resolved, That the crew of the Monona on her this day, having volunteered their services, are worthy American citizens, with hearts to feel and hands to labor for the unfortunate and the suffering; and such are the men to sail under the stars and stripes of our land.

"Resolved, That we also express our thanks to Captain E. H. Gleim, of the steamboat Sarah Ann, for his generous supply of wood from his boat, for the Monona, and also for his own exertions on board the Monona as one of our party.

"Resolved, That the secretary of this meeting present a copy of these resolutions to Captain Saltmarsh and Captain Gleim, and also publish the same in the city papers."

In St. Louis there were more than five hundred persons who had been driven from their homes by the flood, and nearly all of them were dependent upon the charity of the citizens for their support. It was fortunate that it was summer, and that inferior lodgings were no great deprivation. The new tobacco warehouse, which had been erected the preceding year by Colonel Brant, was occupied by many of the sufferers, and many barns and outhouses on the outskirts of the city were likewise filled. It should be borne in mind, that even before the flood, there were not near dwellings sufficient in St. Louis for the demand of the population, and this new accession to the number of inhabitants brought every old tenement and vacant outhouse into requisition.

So as properly to attend to the wants of the sufferers, a meeting of the

-- 387 --

citizens was held in front of the court-house, and, on motion of A. B. Chambers Bernard Pratte was called to the chair, and Henry B. Belt was appointed secretary. It was then resolved that a committee of twenty should be appointed to carry out the objects of the meeting, and the following gentlemen were appointed for the purpose, viz., John M. Wimer, John Sefton, W. Glasgow, John Simonds, Ferdinand Kennett, T. B. Targee, Asa Wilgus, René Paul, A. Gamble, Charles C. Whittlesey, Dr. Simmons, A. B. Chambers, Frederick Kretschmar, W. Furness, Dr. Adreon, William Lowe, T. Polk, W. C. Jewett, W. R. Dawson, and Henry Singleton.

The committee, after consultation, recommended that application should be made to the city council to appropriate some funds for the relief of the sufferers, and that a committee of five should be appointed to solicit subscriptions in each ward. The suggestions of the committee were acted upon, and the following gentlemen were nominated to collect gratuities:

For 1st ward, Matthias Steitz, H. G. Soulard, John Dunn, William Horine, and John Withnell. For 2d ward, Hiram Shaw, S. M. Sill, J. G. Barry, George Morton, and John J. Anderson. For 3d ward, John B. Sarpy, J. B. Brua, A. L. Mills, T. B. Targee, and Gibson Corthron. For 4th ward, George A. Hyde, Colonel George Mead, Robert P. Clark, J. B. Camden, and Jacob Hawkins. For 5th ward, N. Aldrich, A. Carr, John Leach, John Whitehill, and J. G. Shands. For 6th ward, Dennis Marks, W. Field, James Gordon, and T. O. Duncan. There was also a committee appointed to distribute among the sufferers the sums collected from private bounty.

It is proper in this place to state that the necessities of the great number who had sought refuge in St Louis, and had been forced by the flood to abandon their homes, were relieved with almost unparalleled generosity. In their hour of tribulation they also received that balm so grateful to the unfortunate, the consolation distilled by noble and generous sympathy. Nearly all contributed according to their means, and by little attentions, which alone are generated by feeling hearts in visiting the distressed, tried to call up again upon their features the warm gleams of hope and happiness.

On the morning of the 22d news came to St. Louis, by the boats, that the water in the Upper Missouri was falling, as was also the Illinois, and other tributaries of the Mississippi. This was joyful news, but the Mississippi at St. Louis did not attain its greatest elevation until the 24th about noon, when it was seven feet seven inches above the city directrix. It had reached the top of the directrix on the 17th of June, and it was on the 14th of July that the retreating waters again reached its top.

It becomes a matter connected with this history to state, that previous to this time, St. Louis had been visited by three great floods, one in 1785 one in 1811, and another in 1826. Of these, the one in 1785, known as l'année des grands eaux, was the highest; but none of them attained the elevation of the flood of 1844, of which we have given a minute description, as it forms an era in the description of the city.

The number of buildings erected in the city in 1844 was one thousand hundred and forty-six. Even the ruinous consequences of the great could not arrest the onward progress of St. Louis, or retard, in any material degree, its prosperity.

1845. — This year witnessed the organization of St. George's Church, of

-- 388 --

the Episcopal persuasion, and the congregation was placed under the charge of the Rev. E. C. Hutchinson, a man of great learning, high moral worth, and of meek and exemplary piety.

In the summer of this year, the news reached St. Louis of the death of Colonel William L. Sublette, who had died at Pittsburgh on his way to Cape May, where he was proceeding to effect the restoration of his health. He belonged to one of the ancient families of the place, and was one of the companions of General Ashley in his perilous expedition across the Rocky Mountains, for the purpose of trading with the Indians, in 1820. When General Ashley retired, Colonel Sublette, who was one of his partners, still continued the trapping business in connection with Mr. Campbell, and, employing a great many men in their expeditions, amassed a large fortune. In political life he was a Democrat, and, in 1844, was the Polk and Dallas elector from his district. His remains were brought on to St. Louis and interred in a private cemetery upon his farm on the Manchester road. He was a man of fine feeling, and his death was much regretted.

It was in August that an election was held in St. Louis for members to the convention to revise the constitution, and Miron Leslie and Trusten Polk were the only Democrats elected from St. Louis county for that honorable and responsible task, the remaining four being Native American candidates. Their names were as follows: — William M. Campbell, Uriel Wright, Frederick Hyatt, and William W. Bassett. We here append the list of the elected delegates from the state to meet in convention to revise the constitution: — Corbin Alexander, of Saint Francois county; Lisbon Applegate, of Chariton; Jonathan M. Bassett, of Clinton county; Edwin D. Bevitt, of St. Charles county; Jas. O. Broadhead, of Pike county; Rowland Brown, of Platte county; John Buford, of Reynolds county; Samuel H. Bunch, of Polk county; William Massilon Campbell, of St. Louis county; John David Coalter, of St. Charles county; William McDaniel Davies, of Osage county; James Farquar, of Washington county; A. Finch, of Dade county; Asbury O. Forshey, of Montgomery county; James M. Fulkerson, of Nodaway county; Joshua Gentry, of Monroe county; Robert Giboney, of Stoddard county; James S. Green, of Lewis county; David M. Hickman, of Boone county; Thomas Maddin Horine, seventeenth district; Ezra Hunt, of Pike county; Abraham Hunter, nineteenth district and of Scott county; Frederick Hyatt, of St. Louis county; C. F. Jackson, of Howard county; H. Jackson, of Randolph county; B. A. James, of Greene county; Charles Jones, of Franklin county; William Claude Jones, of Newton county; James L. Jones, of Scotland county; Elias Kincheloe, of Shelby county; M. M. Marmaduke, of Saline county; B. F. Massey, of Lawrence county; John McHenry, of Bates county; N. C. Mitchell, of Lafayette county; James William Morrow, of Cole county; Thomas B. Neaves, of Greene county; Joseph B. Nickel, of Andrew county; William Benjamin Pannell, of Gasconade county; Philip Pipkin, of Jefferson county; Jno. E. Pitt, of Platte county; David Porter, of Wayne county; William Shields, twenty-sixth district; M. H. Simonds, fifth district; Duke W. Simpson, of Jackson county; William Y. Slack, of Livingston county; Robert M. Stewart, of Buchanan county; John F. Stone, of Boone county; Theodore F. Tong, of Madison county; Thomson Ward, of Platte county; Joseph B. Wells, of Warren county;

-- 389 --

Hiram Wilcoxsin, of Carroll county; Uriel Wright, of St. Louis county; and Benjamin Young, of Galloway county, thirteenth district. This year also Lucas Market and the City Hospital were commenced.

1846. — We have before alluded to the formation of a mercantile library which first took place when St. Louis was but a good-sized village. For me years it existed, such as it was, consisting of a few hundred books of a miscellaneous character, contributed by the citizens, and but few of them of any intrinsic value. The little town had not physically expanded efficiently for mental growth, and in a few years the library died for want of public spirit to sustain it. Some years afterward it was again resuscitated, and an effort was made by some worthy and enterprising citizens to give it a permanent existence. Liberal donations in funds and books were given to it, and it promised for a time to answer the sanguine wishes of its friends; but the financial storm which swept over the whole Union in 1837 totally ruined the business of many of those who had nurtured it in prosperity, and, deprived of their succor, it became so involved in pecuniary embarrassments, that the books were levied upon by legal process, and would have been sold, had not some noble and generous spirits satisfied the demands against it.

The library then ceased to exist, and the books were piled away until, under more fortunate stars, it might again start into existence.

For many years the necessity of a library where particularly the young of both sexes could resort to read, or could find books sufficient to satisfy the cravings of inquiring minds, became manifest. The little town had now advanced to a great city, and commenced to teem with all the indications of wealth and prosperity. Hundreds of boats discharging or receiving freights upon the levee showed the extent of the commerce; colossal buildings were everywhere being erected, overtopping far the older residences, and in every feature there was increasing taste and luxury; schools had become established throughout the city, and a taste for mental culture had become predominant. The want of a public library was then felt to such a degree that measures were resolved to be taken by some of the leading citizens to supply it.

The citizens who took an active and leading part in the creation of the Mercantile Library, which is now one of the boasted institutions of our city, should have their name recorded in the history of St. Louis for assisting in so laudable a project. The following-named gentlemen appear to have been most efficient in bringing about an organization to accomplish the resuscitation of the Mercantile Library: — Messrs. Peter Powell, R. P. Perry, J. S. McCune, Wayman Crow, A. B. Chambers, J. E. Yeatman, Luther M. Kennett, John C. Tevis, George K. Budd, James H. Lucas, R. K. Woods, F. H. Morgan, Edward Walsh, John Simonds, William M. Morrison, Morris Collins, John Leach, Taylor Blow, W. H. Belcher, Roberth Barth, John A. Dougherty, Alfred Chadwick, Walter Carr, Alexander Peterson, E. Y. Wall, W. L. Kidd, S. A. Ranlett, N. Valle, Junius Hall, John Carson, A. Peterson, J. S. Thomas, I. W. Clark, A. Ricketson, J. F. Franklin, and Henry D. Bacon. From the number of these gentlemen, the board of officers and directors were chosen, which was as follows: — James E. Yeatman, president; L. M. Kennett, vice-president; S. A. Ranlett, corresponding secretary; John A. Dougherty, recording secretary; R. K. Woods, treasurer. Directors-Robert Barth,

-- 390 --

William M. Morrison, John C. Tevis, Peter Powell, J. F. Franklin, G. K. Budd, and A. Peterson.

Whoever has walked in the vicinity of Tenth and Biddle streets may have observed a monument in an open space, on which is this simple inscription: "Pray for the souls of Thomas and Ann Biddle." Some little items connected with this monument will be of interest to the reader, and are intimately blended with some important features of our history.

On the 10th of January, 1846, it became rumored in the city that Mrs. Ann Biddle was dead. Her great wealth, her high social position, and, withal, her well-known charities and benevolence, had made her name familiar with all classes of society, and her death served to create inquiry and remark. She was the daughter of John Mullanphy, of immense wealth, at whose instigation the Sisters of Charity, four in number, first visited St. Louis. He purchased the land on which is situated the Convent of the Sacred Heart, and established and endowed the male department of the Mullanphy Orphan Asylum. She was also the consort of Major Thomas Biddle, whose untimely and unfortunate death in a duel we have before alluded to.

Mrs. Biddle, after the death of her husband, established the Female Orphan Asylum, and even gave up her fine residence on Broadway as an occupancy, and entirely supported it during the two years previous to her demise. Her charities did not cease at her dissolution; for in her will she left an appropriation for a widows' asylum, and to her testamentary munificence are the city of St. Louis and humanity indebted for the Biddle Infant Asylum and Asylum of Indigent Widows and Lying-in Hospital. Not yet is the catalogue of this noble-minded Christian exhausted. She left to St. Louis the ground on which Biddle Market stands, for the purpose of a market; and her charitable donations in every-day life it would be impossible to enumerate.

We have now to revert to the monument, with its meek and solemn invocation, which served as an introduction to the honorable name of Mrs. Ann Biddle. She left the piece of land on which the monument stands as a burial-place for herself and husband, and bequeathed eight thousand dollars to enclose it, build a vault, and to erect a monument. The meek inscription it bears is evidence of her conception of celestial purity; for though her life had been spent in the practice of those holy precepts inculcated by religion and virtue, she felt that sin and stain were inseparable from earthly existence, and the soul once linked to corporal life must be cleansed by some propitiation before it is fitted for the skies. The charitable institutions she has founded will make her name more imperishable than the marble mausoleum on which her name is inscribed. On one side of the plat of ground on which the vault is built is the Orphan Asylum; on the other, the Lying-in Asylum.

The harbor of St. Louis had always been a source of uneasiness and annoyance to the inhabitants. The currents of the Mississippi, in their eddying and wayward motion, continually changed the channel of the river, and as fast as obstructions were removed at one point they would form in another location, and seriously impede navigation. As has been before observed, both the city and general government had contributed to render it adequate to the wants of the growing city, and thousands of dollars had been spent upon it, apparently all in vain; for in this year a

-- 391 --

sand-bar formed in the river directly in front of the landing, extending from Duncan's Island up to Cherry street. The island was no longer a proper name, for the slough in many places had become partially filled up, and persons could pass over to the main part of the island without water interference. Along the levee, south of Oak street, navigation was entirely suspended, and the accumulation of sand was gradually forming toward the north. The inhabitants became much alarmed, and the necessities of urgent measures became so apparent that Congress and the city fathers at once contributed liberally toward clearing the harbor, and it was done in years afterward in so efficient a manner that it was of final benefit.

The commerce of St. Louis, at this time, had reached an extent truly surprising, and not only involved the welfare of St. Louis, but that of the most fertile localities on the Missouri, Illinois, and Mississippi rivers, of which the great "Metropolis of the West" had become the market. Hence, directly it became apparent that the obstructions of the harbor presented truly a serious aspect, pecuniary relief was at once offered. In 1845, there were two thousand and fifty steamboats in the harbor of St. Louis, with an aggregate tonnage of three hundred and fifty-eight thousand and forty-five tons; and the number of keel and flatboats was three hundred and forty-six.

This year Peter G. Camden was elected mayor, succeeding Bernard Pratte, who had proved a most efficient municipal executive.

The news which reached St. Louis of war actually existing between the United States and Mexico created the wildest excitement, mingled at one time with the greatest solicitude, when it was rumored that General Taylor, with his handful of troops, was surrounded by an overpowering force of the enemy. Immediately the martial and patriotic spirit of the inhabitants evinced itself, and companies were organized almost at a moment's warning.

The St. Louis Legion, which had long been one of the most popular military organizations in the city, began immediately to prepare for the regions west of the Rio Grande. They had their camp at a little distance from the city, and military tactics and discipline were at once commenced. Some of the volunteers not being properly prepared for the campaign, Judge Bryan Mullanphy made an effort to get five thousand dollars from the State Bank of Missouri, on his individual note for four months, pledging valuable stocks as security; but the length of time, and the manner of his offered negotiation with the bank, proved an objection, and his patriotic efforts were fruitless. However, the citizens of St. Louis determined that the volunteers in the service of their country should not leave for a foreign land without their proper supplies, and at a meeting to take into consideration the subject, a subscription was started, and nearly six thousand dollars were subscribed on the spot. Colonel J. B. Brant started the subscription with one thousand dollars. The following named gentlemen contributed also most liberally: J. & E. Walsh, J. H. Lucas, B. Mullanphy, Robert Campbell, E. A. Filley, J. B. Sarpy, Alfred Vinton, William Milburn, K. Mackenzie, James Glasgow, Benjamin Stickney, A. Meier & Co., D. D. Mitchell, F. Kennett, Woods, Christy & Co., Loker, Renick & Co., Abbott & Peake, and I. Walker. By this opportune advance of money, the volunteers were provided with clothing suitable

-- 392 --

to the warm climate of the Mexican country. Each man was supplied with a blanket, which was essentially necessary as a campaign article of service.

Our difficulty with Mexico dates back less than a score of years, and though Time has been busy garnering his harvest in the field of human life, yet it is in the recollection of both the young and old, how great was the martial excitement over the land at the time, and how many thousands of patriotic youths claimed the precedence of rushing to the battle-field, and in a foreign land. The fire of patriotism is of so pure and vestal a nature that it can kindle even in the sensitive heart of woman, and many a soft musical voice cheered the enthusiastic soldier, and caused the blood to gush warmer through the veins of the soldiers in their longing desire to prove in bloody strife their devotion to their country.

In St. Louis, the Legion was presented with a banner by Mrs. J. M. White and her daughter, Mrs. F. Kennett. The flag bore on one side the armorial bearings of the state of Missouri, and on the other side was the bird of our Union and of Jove, with the motto, "Success to the brave — may your trust be in God." Colonel Easton, the commanding officer of the Legion, received the flag, and when he had returned thanks in an appropriate and expressive manner, three hearty cheers to the fair donors, that made the welkin ring, burst from the lungs of the patriotic soldiers. Colonel Davenport, of the United States army, who was the presiding officer at Jefferson Barracks, also made a stirring address, which was received with exulting shouts. In a few days afterward, the St. Louis Legion took their departure for New Orleans, in a boat provided for that purpose, and hundreds of the population of St. Louis and the surrounding country stood on the bank of the "Father of Waters," watching the boat until it was no longer visible, freighted with young and gallant spirits. [66]

The officers composing the regiment were as follows: A. R. Easton, colonel; F. Kennett, lieutenant-colonel; G. Shoenthaller, major; H. Almstedt, adjutant; George Johnson, surgeon; R. H. Stevens, assistant-surgeon; and George Knapp, lieutenant and acting-commander of sub.

St. Louis Grays — S. O. Coleman, captain; George W. West, first lieutenant; George Knapp, second lieutenant; Charles E. Allen, first sergeant; J. B. Shepherd, second sergeant; Edward Colston, third sergeant; S. F. Spalding, fourth sergeant; James Parker, first corporal; Samuel Roland, second corporal; A. T. Trysdale, third corporal; — Kingsley, fourth corporal.

Native American Rangers — Philander Salisbury, captain; William A. Barnes, first lieutenant; Henry L. Ross, second lieutenant; James Spore, first sergeant; David Bayles, second sergeant; John P. Shannon, third sergeant; Charles L. Smith, fourth sergeant; A. B. Vanerson, first corporal; J. F. Brooks, second corporal; John W. Yates, third corporal; J. B. Chesley, fourth corporal.

Boone Guards — John Knapp, captain; Thomas H. McVicker, first lieutenant; James Brown, second lieutenant; C. H. Merritt, first sergeant; D. S. Perry, second sergeant; G. W. Paul, third sergeant; Thomas D.

-- 393 --

Vandewenter, fourth sergeant; P. H. Erambert, first corporal; Benjamin Boone, second corporal; William A. Patterson, third corporal; Thaddeus Boone, fourth corporal. [67]

Montgomery Guards — John Watson, jr., captain; Patrick Deegan first lieutenant; Thomas Mara, second lieutenant; William Grumley, first sergeant; Thomas Nugent, second sergeant; Martin Dryer, third sergeant; Patrick Lawler, fourth sergeant; C. A. Rose, first corporal; G. O'Brien, second corporal; William Flynn, third corporal; N. N. Watson, fourth corporal.

Morgan Riflemen — Henry J. B. McKellops, captain; James T. Moore, first lieutenant; George N. Miller, second lieutenant; A. L. Whitley, first sergeant; Tilden Reed, second sergeant; William Coody, third sergeant; Joseph Langley, fourth sergeant; Hiram Ogden, first corporal; Charles Hammond, second corporal; Victor L. Benton, third corporal; Joseph Lawrence, fourth corporal.

Colonel Thornton Grimsby, with Mr. Charles Bent, an enterprising Indian trader, in a few days raised a mounted company of nearly a thousand efficient soldiers, but the governor of Missouri appointed another officer to command them. There was also the Laclede Rangers, under the command of Captain Thomas B. Hudson, a horse-artillery company, under the command of Captain Weightman, a company of mounted dragoons, under Captain Fischer, and an artillery company, commanded by Captain Renick. These mounted companies were to join Colonel Kearney at Fort Leavenworth and proceed across the plains to New Mexico. R. L. Clarke was elected major of an artillery battalion formed out of a portion of the companies we have named, and Colonel Robert Campbell was inspector-general of the mounted companies as they were forming. Colonel Bogg of the sixty-fourth regiment was very efficient in promoting the organization of the volunteer companies, and adding to their ardor by patriotic addresses. The pen, if moved alone by the volition of the author, would like to linger longer over this time, hallowed by patriotic feeling, and would wish to swell the narration, by recording the names of other officers, who were ready to offer their services and their lives, if required, for their country's good; but other topics connected with the history demand their share of attention.

October 26th witnessed the ceremony of the dedication of Odd Fellows' Hall. The building had been more than a year in the course of erection, the corner-stone having been laid April 26th, 1845, and the edifice being so splendid, and the occasion so replete with interest, the consecration was witnessed by a large assembly of the people, and there was a universal attendance of the order. On one of the tablets is inscribed, "Instituted June 13th, 1838 — Incorporated Feb. 22d, 1843." On the eastern wall, engraved in gold, are the words, so rich in moral precept and so

-- 394 --

typical of the institution of the order, "We command you to visit the sick, relieve the distressed;" and immediately opposite, on the western wall, are the words, likewise dressed in gold, "Bury the dead, and educate the orphan."

The ladies of the Centenary Church presented the order, through the Rev. John Hogan, with a magnificent banner, bordered with the mystical symbols of the order, the centre occupied by a female form, representing Charity, and above, looking down upon all, was the All-seeing Eye. The banner was received, in behalf of the order, by Dr. John S. Moore, with elegant and appropriate remarks. In conclusion of the ceremonies on the interesting occasion, an oration was delivered by the Rev. Charles B. Parsons, showing the principles of morality and religion in which the institution of Odd Fellows was radicated, and from which it sprung. The address was delivered in an impressive manner, and was replete with classical and rhetorical beauties.

The pork trade in St. Louis, at this time, occupied considerable attention, employed much capital, and formed a large stern of the trade of the city. The most extensive establishments in the city were those owned by Messrs. Sigerson, Waddington, Swearingen, Conn, Amelung, Ames, Risley, Barber & Taylor, Butler & McCorkell, and Bachelder & Runyan. Some of these mammoth establishments could slaughter a thousand of hogs daily. Mr. Risler was the first pork packer in Missouri.

-- 395 --

Previous section

Next section


Edwards, Richard; Hopewell, M.; Ashley, William; Barry, James G.; Belt and Priest; Casey, John; Hall, W.; Labaum, Louis A.; Leduc, Mary Philip; Lisa, Manuel; O'Fallon, Benjamin; Piernas; Port Folio; Risley, W.; Stoddard, Amos; Williams, Henry W.; Yore, John E. Edwards's Great West and Her Commercial Metropolis, Embracing a General View of the West, and a Complete History of St. Louis, from the Landing of Ligueste, in 1764, to the Present Time; with Portraits and Biographies of Some of the Old Settlers, and Many of the Most Prominent Buisiness Men . St. Louis: Office of Edwards's Monthly, A Journal of Progress, 1860. [format: book], [genre: biography; history; letter; narrative]. Permission: St. Louis Mercantile Library
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=edwards.html
Powered by PhiloLogic