Washington, D.C. 150 Years After the Civil War


If Abraham Lincoln does indeed walk at midnight, the byways of Springfield, Illinois as the poet Vachel Lindsay suggested in 1914, he surely walks the streets of the nation’s capitol where he knew such troubled dreams. For Lincoln, one of the most brilliant politicians in American history, knew well the fatal consequences of political disputes in this republic.

A Harvest of Death. Gettysburg, July 1863. Timothy O'Sullivan. (War Dept.) Exact Date Shot Unknown NARA FILE #: 165-SB-36 WAR & CONFLICT BOOK #:  253

A Harvest of Death. Gettysburg, July 1863. Timothy O’Sullivan. (War Dept.)
Exact Date Shot Unknown
NARA FILE #: 165-SB-36

He grew to manhood in an era when such arguments routinely ended in gunfights at dawn (or later) and walked battlefields (Bull Run, Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, Petersburg and Antietam) where the blood-drenched crops of war left almost no room for a man to set his feet on solid ground.

LincolnatgettysburgLincoln spoke eloquently of his concerns at Gettysburg when he resolved “that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth,” describing that battlefield as testing “whether this nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.” Yet 150 years after he urged his fellow countrymen and women to “finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds,” some wounds are yet to heal and many politicians divisively open new ones to further their agendas; something which tragically is neither new to human history nor unique to the U.S.

Washington has changed in ways that Lincoln could not have imagined but he would still find familiar places within walking distance of the White House, in great part due to his legacy.  The exterior of the people’s house is little changed since the photograph below was taken in the 1860s.


Blair House, which he visited for consultations with editor, Frank Blair still stands out the back door and just across Lafayette Park. Although Blair and his son Montgomery, who Lincoln appointed Postmaster General of the United States are long gone, the latter buried in St. Louis’ Bellefontaine Cemetery, not far from the grave site of Edward Bates, the president’s first Attorney General; both men serving in President Lincoln’s Cabinet.


The Custis-Lee Mansion continues to overlook the White House from a rise across the Potomac River but the number of graves has vastly risen since Civil War dead began to buried beneath Robert E. and Mary Custis Lee’s elegant lawn. And the number of foreign wars that followed the War Between the States would surely give Lincoln pause.


Ford’s Theater, where Lincoln enjoyed brief respites from the burdens of politics and war remains a mere six block walk from the White House, barely far enough for President Lincoln to stretch his long legs.

20150706_152922Daylight finds an unending stream of visitors to the Peterson House across the road where Lincoln breathed his last, never opening his eyes to see the interior.

2015 marks the 150th anniversary of not only the end of the deadliest man-made disaster in the history of the United States but of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

Although the city of his death bears George Washington’s name it is Lincoln who looms over it larger than life. Perhaps because what began so idealistically yet imperfectly with Washington could have ended so disastrously here with Lincoln. Yet didn’t.


One cannot miss the slender elegance of  President Washington’s Monument but it’s the Lincoln Memorial that every American feels he or she must visit. And once visited it’s never forgotten. Daniel Chester French sculpted the arduous, exhaustive struggles for justice and peace so splendidly in Abraham Lincoln’s visage. His sculpture is both a revelation and a challenge. It represents what at best it means to be an American and it suggests that the work may be endless.


If a spectral Abe Lincoln does restlessly walk the streets of Washington, I hope that he sometimes pauses for pleasure to wander the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum, or Museum of Natural History, or the National Gallery of Art, for they are worlds of wonder and beauty unto themselves with the power to inspire one’s hope for humanity.



Washington, D.C. is in 2015 a large and bustling American city, far more densely populated and cosmopolitan than the Washington of Lincoln’s day, where Pennsylvania and Maryland avenues were still dirt roads.

PennsylvaniaAvenue_DC_1860 It’s made up of miles and miles of row houses and sprawling suburbs of almost every description; a world capitol where much of the world comes to parlay and negotiate, and where immigrants from many nations have made their home and diversified the culture.


But in ways that are both suitable and haunting the Civil War and our nation’s wisest statesman seem ever-present here, reminding us how critical civil discourse is to the preservation of this republic for which so much has been sacrificed.

References: wikipedia.com; http://www.blairhouse.org; http://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil.

20150706_154107Illustration: Pennsylvania Avenue, DC – 1860 – in the public domain at wikimediacommons.org.

Photo Credits: A Harvest of Death, Gettysburg 1863 – Timothy H. O’Sullivan, President Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, Close-up of  The Lincoln Memorial, South Entrance of The White House in the 1860s and Arlington National Cemetery – all in the public domain at wikimediacommons.org.

20150709_123754Blair House daylight.jpeg. – author: Ben Schumin, 2006 at wikimediacommons.org – Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike -2.5 License; Exterior of Ford’s Theater, The Presidential Box in Ford’s Theater, The Peterson House in Washington, D.C. and Long-Shot of the Lincoln Memorial – Tom Kavanaugh, Sr.; Robert Gould Shaw Memorial by Augustus Saint- Gaudens, Alexander (Sandy) Calder Mobile in the West Building of the National Gallery of Art, Entrance to China Town in Washington, D.C. and Starbucks Coffee China Town, Washington, D.C. – Maureen Kavanaugh, author of this blog.

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Christmas in St. Louis 1764 – 2014

New Year’s Eve 2014, the 7th Day of Christmas. Exterior work continues steadily on the Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France, the oldest man-made structure on the downtown riverfront, and in the crypt and museum area underground. But the interior body of the basilica was beautifully completed in time for this, the 250th celebration of Christmas since our founding.


Evergreen trees and poinsettias fill the sanctuary which stood in stark simplicity throughout the Advent season, dominated by Charles Quest’s monumental reproduction of Diego Velasquez’ Cristo Crucificado. 

The crosses that hung from the vertical posts of the first two Churches of Saint Louis on this site, would have been far smaller, much like that in Holy Family Log Church in Cahokia, Illinois.

IMAG0086 The first of these churches was a very simple structure raised in 1770. The second, erected in 1776 was modeled more closely on Holy Family Log Church in scale and quality, with a fine Norman truss, stuccoed walls between the vertical posts, and mullioned windows lit by the rising sun. They faced the Mississippi on La Rue de l’Eglise (Church Street).


In December of 1764 La Poste de Saint Louis, Laclede’s fur trading post was not quite a year old. The closest church, Holy Family (pictured above) stood roughly six miles southeast of the bluffs on which Laclede and his stepson, Auguste Chouteau laid out and built the village, across the waters of the Mississippi River, made treacherous by ice.

IMAG0144With neither a church nor a resident priest, St. Louis’ earliest celebrations took place in the homes of the settlers. They centered around a treasured Christmas Creche (Manger Scene) where prayers were said, and before which the children placed their shoes in anticipation of finding them filled with treats when they awoke on Christmas morning.

800px-julaftonen_av_carl_larsson_1904_2Following Midnight Mass a beautiful supper was served with special foods that had been in preparation for days, then a day of great festivity with many visits – house to house – among friends and family members.

Everyday clothes were set aside as St. Louisans put on their finery, the silks and satins and laces saved for special occasions.

When the first churches were built and Masses said, homilies were given in French and then an Indian dialect.


Christmas night ushered in the first of the nightly balls that led up to Epiphany/Three Kings Day and 12th Night. Epiphany (which the Irish called Little Christmas) was a day of gift-giving in the tradition of the Three Kings/The Magi who brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the Christ Child in Bethlehem. In much of the Christian world it did (and still does) mark the official end to Christmastide. King Cakes were baked with little trinkets inside and the last of the carols sung.

1024px-Greuze-gâteau_des_rois French carols – Pat-a-Pan, Les Anges dans Nos Campagnes (Angels We Have Heard on High) and in time the lovely Huron Carol composed by French Jesuit missionary, St. Jean de Brebeuf, Canada’s oldest Christmas song. For there were far more French Canadians in Colonial St. Louis than there were native French.


After arriving in Canada Fr. Jean de Brebeuf lived and worked among the Huron people in whose native language he composed the carol. He was later captured by Iroquois warriors and ritually martyred.

Written in Wyandot, the Huron Carol was later translated into French and English.

‘Twas in the moon of winter-time
When all the birds had fled,
That mighty Gitchi Manitou
Sent angel choirs instead;
Before their light the stars grew dim,
And wandering hunters heard the hymn:
“Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria.”

Within a lodge of broken bark
The tender Babe was found,
A ragged robe of rabbit skin
Enwrapp’d His beauty round;
But as the hunter braves drew nigh,
The angel song rang loud and high…
“Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria.”

The earliest moon of wintertime
Is not so round and fair
As was the ring of glory
On the helpless infant there.
The chiefs from far before him knelt
With gifts of fox and beaver pelt.
Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria.

O children of the forest free,
O sons of Manitou,
The Holy Child of earth and heaven
Is born today for you.
Come kneel before the radiant Boy
Who brings you beauty, peace and joy.
“Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria.”

Unlike the personal manger scenes that St. Louisans had in their homes, the Christmas Creche in the Basilica of Saint Louis is nearly life-size, the figures cast in iron by the P. Serf company of New York and shipped to St. Louis in time for Midnight Mass in 1866.

The priest offering Mass, Fr. Egidius Smulders, CSsR “appealed to those present to contribute to paying for the Nativity Scene, as an expression of their gratitude for loved ones having returned home from the Civil War, or simply as a gesture of their gratefulness for an end to the bitter fighting that had torn our nation apart.”*


According to the sign at the creche “the better part of the $800 needed to pay for the crib scene” was collected that Christmas Day. By the Civil War Era the carols being sung in St. Louis included Spanish, English, German, and many other languages along with African-American Spirituals like “Go Tell It on the Mountain.”


A tremendous restoration/renovation of St. Louis’ Old Cathedral has been underway for many months. It will continue for many more. But if you visit during the last of the Twelve Days of Christmas and any time after, you will find beautiful surprises. Especially if you are a native St. Louisan! From color palette to artwork it’s quite a transformation back into the 19th century.

In addition to the painting of the Coronation of Saint Louis of France, a gift from one of his descendants, Louis XVIII of France to Bishop Louis DuBourg, four other paintings now hang in the basilica.


Situated on the only piece of land in St. Louis that has never been bought or sold, the Basilica of Saint Louis stands within the original church block mapped out by city founder Pierre Laclede in the winter of 1764; the only piece of Colonial St. Louis in the downtown area still being used for its original purpose. However the present church stands in the upper left corner of the church block illustrated below and it faces south.


It remains as it was always intended to be – a place of refuge and peace and reverence – central to and apart from, the world around it. Firstchristmascard-1 20140918_115526

References: *Poster description of The Christmas Creche in the Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France.

Illustrations: All illustrations used above – Julaftone, Twelfth Night Merry Making in Farmer Shakeshaft’s Barn, Greuze Gateau, Adoration of the Magi, Three Chiefs of the Huron,  First Catholic Church in St. Louis, and The First Christmas Card – are in the public domain at wikipedia.com.

Photo credits: all photos inside and outside the Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France were taken by me, Maureen Kavanaugh, author of this blog, with my cell phone

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The Shaw Art Fair: Neighborhood Crucible for Creativity

20141005_135517 There will be very little history in this blog post which is instead a celebration of the arts as supported and engendered by a St. Louis neighborhood which has its origin in a British immigrant with an eye for beauty and the soul of a botanist . . . 640px-1909_-_Henry_Shaw_-_portrait_in_nightcap_-_MoBOT_GPN_1982-0180 . . . and the work of 135-something artists who exhibited this past weekend at the Shaw Art Fair along the park in Flora Place, directly east of The Missouri Botanical Garden. 20141005_135904 Henry Shaw, for whom the neighborhood is named, arrived in St. Louis in 1818, at the age of eighteen, seizing the opportunity to expand the family steel business back in Sheffield, England. For what he found when he stepped off the steamship Maid of Orleans and onto the St. Louis Levee was a flourishing inland river port brimming with prospective customers – residents as well as thousands of pioneers headed west. 1024px-Ruins_of_Sheffield_Manor_1819_1 He set up shop on Main Street, offering essentials such as flour and sugar along with some of the finest steel cutlery in the world and made himself a fortune. Strolling the town at his leisure (St. Louis wouldn’t be incorporated as a city until December of 1822) Shaw became intrigued with the remarkable garden of Dr. Antoine Saugrain. Lemonnier_-_Antoine-François_de_FourcroyEducated in Paris as a physician and chemist under Antoine Fourcroy (depicted on the left), Saugrain grew numerous medicinal herbs that he introduced to St. Louis, along with others native to the Mississippi River Valley. Henry Shaw would be inspired by Saugrain to create a botanical garden of his own and to endow medical research related to botany at Washington University in St. Louis. The Shaw Neighborhood website includes cartographer Camille Dry’s rendering of Henry Shaw’s (extensive) Garden in 1875 (http://www.shawstlouis.org/all-about-shaw/history/). 1024px-Shaw_house_tg If you click on the above link you will see that Shaw’s country estate was a part of and  surrounded by prairie, specifically the Prairie des Noyers which had been platted in St. Louis’ French Colonial Period. Part of that estate (which Shaw purchased in 1840) is known today as Tower Grove Park and the rest as The Missouri Botanical Garden. IMG_20121024_110906 An astute businessman, Shaw invested in elegant residential developments adjacent to his estate that spawned what is today much of the Shaw Neighborhood. 20141005_135400 The Shaw Neighborhood Improvement Association (SNIA) launched its now famous art fair in 1993, making this their 21st annual event. 20141005_134047 On two perfect autumn days in the first weekend of October 2014, thousands strolled Flora Place to view a wide spectrum of art, many to take some of it home with them. 20141005_135618 In addition to the exhibit spaces an area was set aside for young people to create art. 20141005_131209 And student artists from neighborhood schools like The Grand Center Arts Academy, a charter school founded in 2010 in the former Carter Carburetor Complex, 20141005_131449 and St. Margaret of Scotland School were on hand to talk about their exhibited art work, 20141005_131257 and proudly point it out to family members and friends. Providing children with the opportunity to view their work in the context of professional artists – of jewelers, painters, printmakers, sculptors, and photographers who have devoted their lives to a daring and precarious profession can be inspiring. 20141005_132551 As is being able to watch an artist like Robert Powell work on a mahogany carving. Founder of The Portfolio Gallery and Education Center (http://www.portfoliogallerystl.org/) at 3514 Delmar Blvd. in the Grand Arts Center, Powell is a former industrial arts instructor who’s devoted the past twenty-five years to providing a showcase for African-American artists and “putting art in daily conversation.” 20141005_132916 There were artists from Michigan – Latvian artist, Marina Terauds, who produces her elegantly, whimsical prints using traditional methods faithfully preserved for more than four hundred years in her homeland (http://www.marinaterauds.com/) 20141005_130022 –  and Wisconsin, sculptor Thomas Wargin (http://www.wargin.com/index_bio.php) whose fascinating marriage of man and machine took 1st Place in the Fine Arts Category – 20141005_134451 – alongside St. Louis artists like Jay Thompson of Kirkwood, whose hilarious and marvelously rendered Cat Works (http://thompson-catworks.com/) brought smiles and laughter from viewers. 20141005_134806 20141005_132259

What a wonderful, autumnal, neighborhood event this is!

References: shawstlouis.org website and wikipedia. org.

Illustration Credits: Ruin of Sheffield Manor and Antoine Fourcroy – in the public domain at wikimedia.org.

Photography Credits: Henry Shaw at 85 and Henry Shaw’s Tower Grove House – in the public domain at wikimedia.org; Family Sculpture in The Missouri Botanical Garden – Maureen Kavanaugh. All other photos used with the kind permission of Thomas Kavanaugh, Sr.

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Re-Visiting History: The Battle of Pilot Knob, Missouri


At the invitation of good friends who live in Farmington, my husband and I took a scenic drive this past weekend out of St. Louis, over the Ozark Plateau and into the beautiful Arcadia Valley to attend a 150th Anniversary Re-Enactment of the Civil War Battle of Pilot Knob, Missouri/ aka The Battle of Fort Davidson (http://missouricivilwar.net/fort-davidson/index.htm).

IMG_20110616_143539It’s difficult to get a sense of the Civil War Era in St. Louis outside of specific landmarks – the Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion, The Campbell House and Eugene Field House Museums, the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site at White Haven or The Old Courthouse (pictured at the left), where in some respects time stands still. St. Louis has changed so greatly since that time.

We were eager to view this re-eanactment on the actual battle field where it took place, which is preserved by the State of Missouri as The Fort Davidson Historic Site, in a mountainous area little changed since 1864.


Every third year The Battle of Pilot Knob is staged where Confederate and Union soldiers lie buried in a common grave, in what had been the fort’s long rifle pit.


Fort Davidson is a hexagonal earthwork constructed by the Union  Army three hundred yards from the base of Pilot Knob Mountain,* adjacent to what was during the Civil War the southern terminus of the Iron Mountain Railroad; its purposes to protect the rail line and defend the City of St. Louis from attack by the Confederate Army.

Pilot Knob is part of the Saint Francois Mountain Range in southeast Missouri, which takes its name from the river originating in the mountains. Granite from these mountains was used in the manufacture of cobblestones on the St. Louis Levee and the piers James Eads sunk to bedrock when he constructed the first bridge across the Mississippi at St. Louis; granite shipped from Iron County on board the Iron Mountain Railroad.**


Although Pilot Knob, Missouri is located eighty miles south of St. Louis, incidents in both places related to the Civil War, impacted the other greatly.

601px-St-louis-riot1Chief among these were an event that took place in St. Louis in May of 1861 that inflamed thousands of rural Missourians to enlist in the Army of the Confederacy, and Maj. Gen. Sterling Price’s failure in September of 1864 to capture arms and ammunition from Fort Davidson at Pilot Knob, which would have enabled him to lay siege to St. Louis with an army of 12,000.

When the Civil War broke out in 1861 St. Louis was the only city in the State of Missouri.

The Federal Arsenal of the West, which produced an enormous amount of ammunition was located here on the west bank of the Mississippi River. After the war Ulysses Grant wrote that had the Federal Arsenal at St. Louis fallen to secessionists in the spring of 1861 the Union could not have won the war.

Nathaniel_Lyon_on_horseback_1General Nathaniel Lyon, a Connecticut native and graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, is the Union officer credited with preventing that from happening. Two monuments dedicated to him stand in Lyon Park, immediately east of the St. Louis Arsenal grounds.

The riot that broke out as the Federal troops ordered by Lyon to surround the Missouri Militia at Camp Jackson, resulted in the wounding and killing of not only soldiers but many civilians including children.

The Camp Jackson Affair was sensationalized by newspapers around the nation as The Massacre at Lindell’s Grove, fueling enlistment in the Confederate Army.


Nathaniel Lyon was killed in the first major battle of the Civil War in Missouri, the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, on August 10, 1861 precisely three months to the day since the incident at Camp Jackson.


There remains to this day, a haunting sense in the mountainous areas of southern Missouri, where a Trail of Tears was forged by thousands of the Cherokee Nation in 1830.


And where thousands of American soldiers and Missouri residents lost their lives during the guerrilla warfare that racked this part of the state between 1861 and 1864.

71D1+HjD47LPaulette Jiles’ novel, Enemy Women, is one of the most lyrically powerful tellings of the Civil War in Missouri that I’ve ever read.

Her story takes place between Doniphan County (a little south of Pilot Knob) and the City of St. Louis, where main character, Adair Colley is imprisoned for months with other women refugees from various parts of Missouri.

As shocking as this was to me while reading the novel, more shocking still was confirmation that women were indeed imprisoned at Gratiot Street and later in what became known as the Chestnut Street Womens Prison.

Watching the battle re-enactment at Pilot Knob and observing re-enactors (some who live in the area and many others from around the U.S.) walking to and fro in period dress, chatting over campfires or interpreting history from numerous stations like that of the Women’s Aid is a moving experience.

20140927_134634 - Version 2

Such historic re-enactments are curious and important events. There is something surreal and unforgettable about having the past and present flow concurrently around you, as you sit on a plastic chair capturing a 19th century battle scene with a camera or cell phone.


Events that dramatically shape history like the Civil War, the deadliest man-made disaster in the history of this nation, should never be forgotten. Lest they be repeated.





Whatever it is that inspires individuals (over 1,400 in this event) to re-enact history as a spectacle for others to experience, engage in and learn from, is truly marvelous.



Over this two-day Re-Enactment of the Battle of Pilot Knob (http://battleofpilotknob.org/reenactment.html) spectators were estimated to exceed 40,000 in number. Twenty-five thousand saw the Saturday event alone.****



Confederate Maj. Gen. Sterling Price’s plot to seize weapons and ammunition from the Federals at Fort Davidson in southeast Missouri failed.

20140927_142155Although his army of 12,000 won a victory over the 1,450 Federal troops stationed there under the command of Gen. Thomas Ewing, Jr., it was a hollow one. All but twenty-eight of Ewing’s force escaped, the last blowing up the Powder Magazine on their way out, while a thousand of Price’s troops were killed or wounded.

Price left Missouri for the final time during the Civil War after his army’s defeat in the Battle of Westport (today Kansas City) on October 23, 1864. There 30,000 men engaged in the largest battle fought west of the Mississipppi River with the Union Army carrying the day. Maj. Gen. Sterling Price is buried in Bellefontaine Cemetery, St. Louis.


Special thanks to Tiffany and Allan, Christian and Cameron Smith, for their warm and generous hospitality, and for luring us to the Arcadia Valley for this momentous event.


References: *http://mostateparks.com/page/54963/general-information, gleaned from The Missouri Department of Natural Resources; **http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Francois_Mountains#wikipedia, U.S. Geological Survey,*** Enemy Women by Paulette Jiles, William Morrow Publisher, an Imprint of Harper Collins, 2002; ****Sept. 13, 20014 article by Tim O’Neil in the St. Louis Post- Dispatch: http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/metro/events-recall-th-anniversary-of-last-major-civil-war-battles/article_bedde314-c634-5f9f-b694-ddb95434bde1.html.

Illustration Credits: Book Illustration of Union General Nathaniel Lyon, St. Louis Riot at Lindell’s Grove/Camp Jackson in St. LouisThe Battle of Wilson’s Creek Mural and The Battle of Westport Mural – from the State Capital Building of Missouri, and 1863 Map of Pilot Knob, MO and Vicinity – all in the public domain at wikimedia.org. Cell phone captures of the Diagram of Fort Davidson in the Missouri State Park Museum at Pilot Knob, and Exhibit Depicting Maj. Gen. Sterling Price – Maureen Kavanaugh.

PilotKnob03 - Version 2

Photo Credits: Rotunda of The Old Courthouse at St. Louis Hung with Replica of the U.S. Flag Flying Over the Courthouse When the Civil War Broke Out in 1861 – used with the kind permission of John Powel Walsh; View towards the Saint Francois Mountains of the Missouri Ozarks from the top of Knob Lick Mountain -“Knob lick view-26aug06” by Wikipedian Kbh3rd – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Knob_lick_view-26aug06.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Knob_lick_view-26aug06.jpg.;two vintage black & white images: Civil War Hospital and Camp Life – in the public domain – Shmoop Editorial Team, “The Civil War,” Shmoop University, Inc. , 11 November 2008, http://www.shmoop.com/civil-war/ (accessed October 1, 2014).

PilotKnob12Above contemporary photos (excepting those taken with my cell phone) – the 4th, 8th and 10th – by Maureen Kavanaugh, author of this blog.

All other photos generously taken and shared by Thomas Kavanaugh, Sr.

Just click on a photo to enlarge.




Posted in American Civil War, Books, Civil War, Civil War St. Louis, Happenings, History, Missouri in the Civil War | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Piecing a City Together: Recreating St. Louis


Great old cities, like great quilts fray and fall to pieces. In order to remain vibrant they have to be revitalized.


Cahokia, the first city on the landscape that became St. Louis, defined by archaeologists as the first city north of Mexico, confirms this. For while Mississippian Mounds survive in great numbers and scale – the homes, the language, the beliefs and the nature of the people who constructed them are lost to history.


St. Louis is made up of seventy-nine city neighborhoods that form an irregular quilt-like pattern which wraps itself around a broad bend of the Mississippi River.

In St. Louis, within the downtown neighborhood alone, bits and pieces of the urban landscape are being revitalized by individuals, civic groups, businesses, and municipal, state and federal governments committed to saving them.


The land lid under construction over I55 between Market and Chestnut Streets replaces a center section of Rue des Granges (aka Third Street/aka Memorial Drive). The Street of Barns formed the western perimeter of the Colonial Village of Saint Louis proper. It was the narrow street along which St. Louisans built their barns, between their homes and the Common Fields in which they grew their crops.*


Walnut Street, originally Rue de la Tour (named for the Spanish Tower of Fort San Carlos which was located one block west of here and from which St. Louis was defended the only time it was attacked in May 1780) has been widened into a two-way street with a covered walkway on the north side of the bridge. The newly installed street sign in French is an STL250 initiative of French heritage group, Les Amis.


Walnut Street ends at The Basilica of St. Louis, King, the first Catholic cathedral west of the Mississippi, which stands on the only piece of land in St. Louis never been bought or sold. A complete restoration/renovation of the oldest man-man structure on the downtown riverfront is nearing completion, from the gold-leafed ball atop the steeple, to the lettering on the facade in French, English, Latin and Hebrew, to the underground museum and crypt where Bishop Rosati lies buried.

20140918_123649The interior of the basilica is full of surprises from the color palette, to the detailed stenciling on columns, the beautifully-restored maple flooring in the body of the church, and the mosaic flooring with its fleur-de-lis pattern in the sanctuary. Fleur-de-lis formed the coat of arms of Louis IX of France.

No building in St. Louis has offered a more continuous view of the city’s dramatic evolution from a frontier capital when covered wagons lined 3rd Street to a frontier of human exploration – of the west, of aviation, of outer space – encapsulated in Eero Saarinen’s steel arch. Where the former interior design was tranquil and serene, the restoration resonates a reverent 19th century elegance.

The entire spectrum of Judeo-Christian architecture20140918_120501 is embodied in this Greek-Revival worship space, first cathedral of the West, constructed primarily of native limestone.

It replaced three earlier structures – the third of brick; the first two, vertical-post (poteaux-en-terre) churches of timber and stucco, particular to the Mississippi River Valley with their origin in Normandy, France. They faced the Mississippi River on Rue de L’Eglise (Church Street).

Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, the little boy born to Sacagawea near the start of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, was christened in the second of these in late December of 1809.**

Four blocks west and six blocks north of The Old Cathedral the last pieces of a broken landscape along North 8th Street between St. Charles and Locust Streets have been restored or replaced.


The handsome, boutique Mayfair Hotel has been by re-envisioned by Magnolia Hotels, a company that specializes in transforming historic architectural structures into state of the art inns – first in Denver, then Dallas, Houston, Omaha, now St. Louis.


They’ve restored the Mayfair’s signature features – beautiful plaster and brass work, and  jewel-toned, art glass windows, and lit a marquee at the entrance to The Magnolia St. Louis (http://www.magnoliahotels.com/magnolia-stlouis/about-hotel.php) that adds a bit of Manhattan pizzaz to North 8th Street.

UnknownIn her wonderfully nostalgic The Grand Hotels of St. Louis, St. Louis author Patricia Treacy writes that four thousand invited guests filled the lobby of The Mayfair on August 29, 1925 for the hotel’s grand opening.

“The hotel, designed by Preston Bradshaw, was built of mat-faced brick with terra cotta trim in the Italian Renaissance style, which was carried into the foyer and lobby with its handsome hand-painted ceiling.”***The world-famous Mayfair Dressing was created here, KMOX Radio was launched in 1925 from a studio on the mezzanine and matinee idol Cary Grant began the tradition of leaving a chocolate on the pillow.

Due south at 411 North 8th Street, The Tower at OPOP  (http://apartments.naproperties.com/missouri/st-louis/the-tower-at-opop/photo-gallery) quite literally towers over, what was first the Mercantile/now U.S. Bank, which has been a neighborhood anchor for decades.


Rounding the corner we enter Post Office Square and Roberts Plaza, the open courtyard facing St. Louis’ magnificent Old Post Office (officially the U.S. Custom House and Post Office at St. Louis) designed by Alfred B. Mullett (first official architect of the U.S. Treasury Department) and across the street, Henry Ives Cobb’s ruddy, charmingly upstart Chemical Bank Building, with its undulating banks of windows and cast-iron storefront; the oldest, extant, design of its kind in the U.S.

St. Louis has been enormously gifted by skilled artisans and craftspeople over ten generations, many of them immigrants who came to the city with expertise in various trades, and many who came from other parts of the U.S. to make St. Louis home.


Their work has left a treasure trove of beautifully designed and decorated buildings, masterfully engineered by local companies capable of not only conversion for contemporary use but inspiration with their artistry.


Continuing south to the intersection of North 8th and Olive Streets we find a huge renovation underway on the soaring Arcade-Wright Building (Tom Barnett-Eames & Young) crowned with its splendid, cathedral-style windows. One of the nation’s earliest experiments in an indoor shopping mall and the most daring Gothic-Revival confection downtown, the Arcade-Wright Building was abandoned in the 1980s.


Once designated the city’s “most visible emblem of decay”****(http://www.builtstlouis.net/arcade0.html), when Minneapolis-based Dominium Development (who’ve rescued it) meets their target opening date of 2016, The Arcade-Wright Building will be a stunner to compare with its mythical neighbors, allowing St. Louis architect Tom Barnett to once more stand gloriously shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Henry Ives Cobb, Louis Sullivan and Alfred B. Mullett in a two-block area.

According to Kevin Killeen of KMOX Radio “the 16-story historic building at 810 Olive will soon house three stories of Webster University and, above that, loft apartments.”***** Webster University plans to open an art gallery at street level and a campus for a thousand students.

Meanwhile in a south side corner of St. Louis, smaller but no less beautiful dreams are taking shape in yet other distinctive old buildings, including a vintage Standard Station.


What catches your eye? Charming building details? Handsome brick and terra cotta?


Sumptuous Parisian pastries? A cozy tea room in which to spend a leisurely hour with friends? (http://www.simonefaure.com/)


Airy cotton camisoles is a sunny storefront window that beg trying on? Or maybe a shop where your children can play while you browse?


All of these you will find a few blocks north of The Missouri Botanical Garden on Tower Grove Avenue in the Botanical Heights Neighborhood.

Union Studio (https://www.facebook.com/StlUnionStudio) at 1605 Tower Grove Avenue is one such a place. Co-owned by Mary Beth Bussen and Maggie Wheelock, Union Studio is a place for creative activity – art classes of many kinds, some for adults, some for children – weaving, perfumery, painting – even theater improv.


Mary Beth designs and sews beautiful children’s clothing and accessories for women.


Maggie Wheelock is a freelance designer and fine artist whose work encompasses several genres. She exhibits her work for sale in this homey studio. She is also the owner of Magpie Design Studio (http://magpiedesignstudio.com/about.html).


The afternoon I shopped for baby gifts I found a beautiful wooden sailboat made by Mary Beth’s dad, a vintage top and reversible cap, and a Onesie imprinted with one of Maggie’s delightful birds. I also found water color notecards and kitchen towels printed in original designs. Union Studio has a wonderful ambience. A studio/shop flooded with light where patrons are warmly welcomed and invited back to create art of their own.

This four block area of McCree Town with its design studios, pastry shop and restaurants highlights the enormous progress made in an area of the city formerly plagued by absentee landlords, drug trafficking and gang violence.

IMG_20121024_111301A substantial involvement by the Missouri Botanical Garden enabled area residents, business owners, developers and a pro-active neighborhood organization to recreate this fractured part of the city.******

Whether in downtown St. Louis, where hotelier Charles Drury rescued the International Fur Exchange and American Zinc Buildings connecting existing structures with a new expansion and breathing new life into them, or within the seventy-eight other widely variegated neighborhoods of the city, it takes concerted effort and collaboration on many levels to repair the frays and stitch the pieces back together. But we’re doing it.


St. Louisans are hard at work in this 250th Anniversary Year – identifying and preserving our historic past, investing in new vision, and boldly recreating places in need of renewal. It’s a process that will never end while the city lives.

References: *Colonial St. Louis, Building a Creole Capital – Charles Peterson, The Patrice Press, 2001; **Bob Moore, Jr. nps.gov website related to St. Louis Circa 1804;***The Grand Hotels of St. Louis – Patricia Treacy, Arcadia Publishing, 2005;****Jeff Vander Lou, buitstlouis*****Kevin Killeen at stlouis.cbslocal.com, 6/4/2014;******http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/media/fact-pages/botanical-heights.aspx.

20140918_123717Photos: Westward View of St. Louis Skyline, Sept. 2008 -Capt. Timothy Reinhart, USAF – in the public domain at wikipedia.org. All other photos by Maureen Kavanaugh, author of this blog.

Illustrations: Camille Dry’s drawing of James Eads Bridge for Pictorial St. Louis 1875 – in the public domain at wikipedia.org; Webster University Logo – in the public domain; Representation of 13th Century Cahokia – by Varing, own work, uploaded april 18, 2014, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license at wikimedia.org.

Posted in Happenings, History, Neighborhoods, St. Louis | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Expanding the Mosaic of St. Louis

1200px-Harmony_Day_(5475651018) Immigrants have proven to be the life-blood of the world’s great cities, infusing them not only with workers but a rich diversity of culture, talent and ways of thinking. For much of its 250 year history St. Louis was very much an immigrant city,  each new group bringing with it their recipes, their skills, their music and dance, their stories, their history. And in the sharing of these St. Louis became a richer and deeper place. irish-1856 The first to arrive in large numbers were the Irish, forced to emigrate by political oppression and famine. By 1850 Irish made up nearly sixteen per cent of St. Louis’ population, by 1860 they were close to 39,000 in number.*

John Mullanphy, who emigrated from County Fermanagh to the U.S. in 1792, and made his way to St. Louis after reaping a fortune in the cotton trade following the War of 1812, was the first to have a major impact on St. Louis. The first millionaire west of the Alleghenies,**he is remembered as the city’s first philanthropist. John Mullanphy knew what poverty looked and felt like and he never forgot it.

Among his many endowments SistersHospital_ca1854_largewas the first hospital west of the Mississippi River in 1828 – a three-room log cabin, which he invited four Sisters of Charity from the east to staff. The needs for medical care were so great that he replaced it with a three-story brick hospital in 1832 at Third and Spruce Streets downtown.This was the first Catholic hospital in the nation.

As with other immigrant groups – Italian, Scan 9Bohemian, Polish, Syrian, Russian, German, Czech, Chinese – the Irish sent some of their wages home to enable other family members to emigrate.

When my husband’s father, Jack Kavanaugh arrived in St. Louis from County Galway at the age of eighteen, he already had cousins here to welcome him. He began work as a laborer, carrying the hod and worked his way up to police officer, later security guard.

Adolphus_busch2German immigrants had a considerable impact on St. Louis. But none left a more dramatic impression than an enterprising young man from Kastel Germany, named Adolphus Busch, who arrived in St. Louis shortly before the Civil War broke out, enlisted in the Union Army, served briefly under Ulysses S. Grant, married Lilly Anheuser (daughter of another German immigrant) and grew a fledgling brewery into a powerhouse (for decades the largest brewery in the world). Together they created a family dynasty that gave the city Cardinals Baseball.

The quotation (borrowed from Caesar) which Lilly Anheuser Busch had engraved on the miniature, cathedral-styled mausoleum in which she buried her husband in Bellefontaine Cemetery, pretty much said it all.


By the time St. Louis played host to the world at The Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904 it was itself, to some extent, a microcosm of the world. While only twenty percent of St. Louisans were foreign-born, forty-two per cent of the population had foreign-born parents. Immigrants now came in great numbers from outside the British Isles and Europe – Central America, India and Pacific Islands.****



David Francis, one-time Mayor of St. Louis, Governor of Missouri and U.S. Secretary of the Interior, was then President of the 1904 World’s Fair. 1904summerolympicsposterFrancis was instrumental in getting the first Olympic Games held in the United States situated in St. Louis concurrent with the fair. A natural diplomat, with a deep interest in foreign relations, Francis helped to organize the world’s first International Peace Conference during the fair. He later served as U.S. Ambassador to Russia during the Russian Revolution.

St. Louis has become home to as many refugees as it has immigrants. Kate Howell of the International Institute, differentiates between the two groups in this way. Immigrants are non-nationals who freely choose to leave their homelands and are “pulled to another country for a variety of reasons, whereas refugees are pushed out of their homes by war or persecution.”

Crowd2011 Founded in 1919 to help refugees from the First World War, the International Institute of St. Louis (http://www.iistl.org/) is a non-profit organization that provides services to more than 7,500 immigrants and refugees from seventy-five countries residing in St. Louis City and County. Services include instruction in English, computer and citizenship, refugee resettlement, economic development through small business opportunities, and a host of health-related, social services.

Their website states that they “have had a hand in the resettlement and integration of every new immigrant population in St. Louis for almost ninety-five years.” 20140902_122207 The International Institute is currently at located at 3654 South Grand Blvd. in one of the city’s most diverse areas of foreign-born residents and business people, home to people from many areas of Asia, Africa and Latin America.When I was a girl one of my Irish grandmothers lived two blocks from this location.

20140902_122331 It was a bustling neighborhood of Europeans, Mediterraneans and first generation Americans where many languages could be heard on a streetcar ride. Ethnic bakeries,  butcher shops and markets have been replaced by Middle-Eastern cafes, Persian, Thai, Chinese and Ethiopian restaurants.

The smells are still alluring but more exotic. 20140902_121741An STL250 Birthday Cake stands outside of Jay International Food Corp. at 3172 South Grand signifying one of the city’s first international grocery stores and Suchin Prapaisilp, one of the most successful, non-national St. Louis entrepreneurs of the late 2oth century. Named for Suchin’s brother Jay, who later returned to Thailand, Jay International is managed by their sisters who have made St. Louis home.

Suchin emigrated to St. Louis in 1970, a trip made possible by a gift from his mother, a modest savings of several hundred dollars, that offered him the opportunity for a better future in America. He worked three jobs until he had the money to open his own business in a small storefront “with one light bulb” on South Grand, bringing his sisters to the U.S. 20140902_121809 Business flourished with the arrival of Vietnamese refugees who attended St. Pius Church up the street, followed by Laotians and Cambodians. He expanded his stock gradually to provide whatever new residents wanted to eat, moving to his much larger, current location (also on South Grand Blvd.), importing foodstuffs eventually from Italy, India, Nigeria, Eritrea, Congo, Israel, the Phillipines, Uzbekistan, Brazil and Mexico.


The list just kept growing, to more than ten thousand items from around the world. Prapaisilp’s various businesses now include The King and I Restaurant on South Grand, Oishi Sushi & Steakhouse in Chesterfield, Global Foods (http://www.globalfoodsmarket.com/) in Kirkwood and the new Global Foods he’s opening in collaboration with Washington University – a 15,000 square foot, international market in The Lofts of Washington University in the Delmar Loop, which will also sell prepared foods. The Delmar Loop is to St. Louis County what South Grand Boulevard is to the city – a rich, multicultural mix of peoples. 20140902_114843

A little further south and east of Grand Blvd., Cherokee Street between Gravois and Jefferson Avenue evolved into a vibrant Hispanic, cultural center. Though many more Latino immigrants have settled in the Maryland Heights area of St. Louis County, they come to south city to shop for specialty items like soccer equipment at Minerva Lopez’s Gooolll! and imported foods, fresh meats and sundries at Carlos Dominguez’s Carniceria Latino Americana La Mexican. 20140902_115130 Dominguez was one of the early, foreign-born, business people of this Hispanic center, opening his market in 1985. Immigrants from many areas of Central America come to shop where someone speaks their language and understands their needs. 20140902_115007His business is thriving. In 2010 he expanded, opening Don Carlos’ Restaurant alongside the grocery store. The vivid colors of the patio furniture give this once-German enclave an exuberant twist reminiscent of his native Mexico.

Flyer independencia This weekend the neighborhood business association is hosting a family-oriented Fiesta on Cherokee. Minerva Lopez, San Diego native and descendant of Spanish and American- Indian parents, says that unlike Cinco De Mayo, drinking will not be a focus of this event. “There will be amusements for the children, toy vendors among the crafts people selling their wares, great music, and lots of delicious food.”

Unlike the 19th century when non-English-speaking, immigrant groups and refugees arrived in such large numbers that they formed enclaves – Chinatown, Dutchtown  (Deutsche Town) and La Montagna/The Hill – recent immigrants and refugees have arrived in small enough numbers to be assimilated into many different neighborhoods.

20140902_130900Named “The Hill” by Italian immigrants who built homes and businesses above the huge caves in which many of them were mining clay, this proudly ethnic neighborhood within a generation spawned doctors, religious, politicians, professional athletes, chefs, entrepreneurs who learned to speak English but kept Italian close enough to their hearts that succeeding generations still understood if not spoke it fluently.


The Hill is where you must come to eat at least once while you’re a tourist in St. Louis and love to shop if you live here, for pasta and wine, bread and scrumptious, Italian pastries like Cannoli or Missouri Baking Company’s Amaretto Macaroons. Scan 4

Most of the businesses on The Hill began as (and many remain) family businesses whether you’re talking about contractors or grocers. Where else but The Hill would you be handed a business card featuring a wedding photo of the company’s founding parents?

A wedding photo of John and Angela Viviano, who married in November of 1929 is also prominently displayed near the entrance to the store along with another of the couple in their later years.

The memories of immigrant ancestors are precious. In this neighborhood they have a prominent place.

Decades ago a huge area of south St. Louis took on the nickname Dutchtown. August A. Busch, Sr. constructed a five-story windmill approximately half-way between his family’s brewery and their country estate, in the heart of Dutchtown, as a salute to the Old World from which his father had come. Bevo Mill immediately became identifiable with St. Louis’ distinctive German community. 20140902_113638 Much of that same area has, in the last twenty

years, become home to the largest refugee group in St. Louis, some referring to it as Little Bosnia. Within sight of Bevo Mill the Bosnian community, proud of their own heritage, have erected an exact replica of the Sebilj Fountain that stands in Sarajevo, in their homeland, Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The original public fountain was designed in 1753 by Mehmed-pasha-Kukavica. In this neigborhood as in others it’s fascinating to see how new St. Louisans are adapting to and re-inventing architectural styles and detailing with their own distinctive and beautiful craftsmanship; introducing their old world to St Louis. 20140902_112610 At sixty thousand strong, St. Louis contains the largest Bosnian population outside of Sarajevo. The Sabah Bosnian Amer Newspaper is published in this southside neighborhood and distributed nationally. The very first newspaper in St. Louis was published in French and English by Irish immigrant, Joseph Charless. 20140902_112846

The day that I took these photos Ahmetkavic Mirsad excitedly showed me a painting that he had made of Sarajevo where he lived for many years. He conveyed with his expressiveness the energy and passion with which so many Bosnians are shaping St. Louis and making it their own.

A case in point is the Bosnian-owned Pizzeria Tivoli at 5861 South Kingshighway whose owners have transformed a formerly non-descript, office storefront into a charming corner restaurant.

In his 2012 study for the St. Louis Mosaic Project, Regional Prosperity Through Immigration and Innovation, St. Louis University Economics Professor, Jack Strauss stated that “St. Louis (had) 126,500 immigrants, comprising 4.5% of the area’s population” (in contrast to) other metro areas in the top twenty of the nation which averaged four to five times that number of foreign-born residents.”

He went on to explain how “the region’s relative scarcity of immigrants largely explains our poor economic growth” and loss of stature among other metro areas, and how critical it is for St. Louis to attract more immigrants to reverse that trend. child making straw doll horizontal It’s the goal of the St.

Louis Mosaic Project (http://www.stlmosaicproject.org/) to attract foeign-born entrepreneurs and to welcome newcomers from around the world to increase the St. Louis Metro area’s population, to invigorate the community, create jobs and to expand our cultural diversity. PIC MediumMember Susanne Evens, a native of Germany, was drawn to St. Louis in 1992 “by its European feel, its beautiful architectural designs, the openness of the landscape with all of the parks, especially Forest Park, the Botanical Garden, the zoo and the Mississippi River.”

“Germans love reading Huckleberry Finn,” she told me. “So I grew grew up reading that and when I first saw the Mississippi the story resurfaced in my mind. Nostalgia!” Susanne opened a German language communications company in 1994, expanding to 150 languages as AAA Translation (http://www.aaatranslation.com/) in 2000. Her company is located in Chesterfield.

When she first moved to St. Louis Susanne missed the international feel she’d known in Germany. But she took that as an opportunity to get involved with local international groups: Sister Cities, World Trade Center and now Mosaic, which she thinks “offers St. Louis a huge window on being international.”

Dennis Machado’s story is different. He grew up in extreme poverty in Honduras, starting work as a boy after the death of his father, to help his mother who was raising  seven other children. As a teenager he literally walked to the U.S. Over time, with lots of hard work, he was able to send for his brothers. Together they built a house for their mother in Honduras. Recently Dennis has realized the dream of opening his own restaurant.

facebook_1410486790941(2) Machado co-owns Smoking Barrels BBQ (http://www.smokingbarrels.net/) at 5641 S. Kingshighway with Fernando Ordonez, where they are both pit masters. The saying on their website reads “Follow our smoke;” something more and more area residents are doing because it is so tempting! And delicioso!

St. Louis is indeed a mosaic. And there’s so much room for it to expand! New ideas, new energies, new ventures, new frontiers are welcome here. Along with the kind of daring and tolerance that rooted us here on the cusp of the west and made of us a gateway.

20140902_131002References: *Historic St. Louis – 250 Years of Exploring New Frontiers by J. Frederick Fausz, PhD, a publication of the University of Missouri St. Louis, HPNbooks; **Robert Campbell in From Mountain Man to Millionaire by William R. Nester, published by the University of Missouri; ***The Civil War in St. Louis – A Guided Tour by William C. Winter;****www.stlouis-mo.gov.

Illustration Credits: Hospital of the Sisters of Charity St. Louis ca 1854 – used with the permission of the Becker Medical Library, Washington University School of Medicine; Irish Immigrants – Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper 1856 – in the public domain.

Photo Credits: Harmony Day – “Harmony Day (5475651018)” by DIAC images – Harmony Day Uploaded by russavia. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons #mediaviewer/File:Harmony_Day_(5475651018).jpg; Adolphus Busch -“Adolphus busch2” by Unknown Original uploader was DavidOaks at en.wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia; transferred to Commons by User:Sreejithk2000 using CommonsHelper. (Original text : Library of Congress). Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons -http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Adolphus_busch2.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Adolphus_busch2.jpg Prapaislip; Two Photos from the International Festival of Nations, St. Louis, MO – used with the kind permission of The International Institute of St. Louis; Dennis Machado of Smoking Barrels BBQ, St. Louis – provided by Dennis Machado;  Susanne Evens – provided by Susanne Evens. Fiesta on Cherokee Poster – provided by Minerva LopezAll other photos are by Maureen Kavanaugh, author of this blog.

Posted in Happenings, History, Immigration in St. Louis, Neighborhoods, St. Louis | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Wah-Zah-Zhi, People of the Middle Waters

Efmo_View_from_Fire_PointBefore the arrival of Europeans more than 560 tribal nations peopled the continental United States. There were no state boundaries or mapped delineations between them. The territorial distinctions between their ancestral lands were fluid, the inland waterways their highways.

Their sages sang their histories in words that were powerful and imagistic, drawing their spirituality from nature, the world about them; and their words became sacred repositories for ancestors, traditions and wisdom.

Into the Earth my grandfathers dug,

In the palm of their hands they rubbed its soil.

Into the Sacred One, the Aged One they dug;

In the palm of their hands they rubbed its soil.

Into the Earth my grandfathers dug;

Upon their foreheads they put its soil.

from The Osage Story of Creation*

osageWhen Pierre Laclede chose the site for his fur trading post below the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers in 1763, the Osage was the most powerful tribal nation in the area.

These Wah-Zah-Zhi (pronounced Wah-Sha-She) People of the Middle Waters, established hunting and trade routes far beyond their villages, from what became St. Louis, west and south to Santa Fe.

By 1750 the Osage controlled large areas of Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Kansas** and Laclede and his business partners were anxious to establish exclusive trade relations with them.


In a tradition pre-dating Laclede’s birth, the French in North America were intermarrying with women of the tribal nations. The young bride represented in the painting below, the mural of Fort Orleans, Missouri (from the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City) was part of a tribal delegation that visited Paris in 1725.

This custom would be adopted by Laclede’s common-law and natural sons, Auguste and Jean Pierre Chouteau, who spent months living among their Osage trading partners, establishing familial ties of their own.


“Legend traces Osage and other Dhegiha Sioux (Kaw, Omaha, Ponca and Quapaw) origins to Indian Knoll near the mouth of the Green River in Kentucky. In paleolithic times they ranged from the fork of the Ohio River to the Mississippi and beyond. Once peace-loving, the Osage became warlike in the face of invasion by the Iroquois who had dominated much of the Northeast. By A.D. 1200 both the Osage and the invading Iroquois (had) left the ‘dark and bloody’ ground of Kentucky.”**

The Osage Bear Clan story of creation has “the Four Winds gathering all of the flood waters on earth and draining them into great rivers at a place they called Ni-U-Kon-Ska (The Middle Waters); today the junction of the Missouri, Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, Wabash, Arkansas, and Illinois rivers.”**

p013489 Left to right front: Mary Nora Lookout Standingbear Escue, #594, Fred Lookout, #590, Henry Lookout (Pa-hu-kah-sha, #596), Julia Lookout (Mo-se-che-he, #591). Back: Frederick Lookout, allottee #593, Charles Lookout, #592.

Here they settled in great numbers, dividing themselves into diverse bands and clans, into Earth People and Sky People.

We had come down from the starry heavens into this holy land,

and we met here the mighty Middle Waters, rolling evermore,

the Waters who come down from the Mountains of the West

and the Mountains of the East

and the Great Lakes of the North,

who move continually into the great Waters of the South:

we met them here, the waters who make clean this Middle Earth,

the moving waters at their priest-like task

of pure ablution round earth’s human shores . . .

Carter Revard – Living in the Holy Land


April of 2014 was an especially rich month commemorating, in the words of the Rev. John Padberg, S.J. “the 250th Anniversary of the Founding of St. Louis in the land of the Osage.”

IMG_20140402_111323It began April 2nd with an Osage Mass at St. Francis Xavier Church (the College Church at St. Louis University), an Osage incantation leading the Processional.

The First Reading from Genesis was read in Osage by Principal Chief Scott BigHorse and then in English. Descendants of the French & Creole founding family of St. Louis were present.

Following a luncheon reception, Carter Revard gave a reading of his poetry and the 2,229 Exhibit opened at St. Louis University Museum of Art on Lindell Blvd.

A descendant of Osage, Ponca, French-Canadian, Irish and Scots-Irish ancestors, Revard grew up on the Osage reservation in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

51UlJO8cJFL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_After earning Bachelor Degrees at the University of Tulsa and Oxford University in England (where he was a Rhodes Scholar) Carter Revard completed a PhD in English Literature at Yale University, taught at Amherst College and is currently a professor emeritus at Washington University, St. Louis.

He is the author of several books of poetry and prose:  (http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/carter-revard).

IMG_20140417_132323On loan from The Osage Tribal Museum in Pawhuska, Oklahoma (http://www.osagetribalmuseum.com/) the 2,229 Exhibit at St. Louis University Museum of Art commemorates a spiritual relationship that began with Jesuit missionaries ministering to the Osage Nation from the 17th century.

By virtue of the missionaries’ very careful registration of Osage marriages and baptisms, the U.S. Government in 1906 recognized for land and natural resources allotment 2,229 men, women and children whose descendants continue to benefit from deeds related to those records.***

The Osage people were forced to move three times in forty-six years by the U.S. Government, finally arriving back in Oklahoma from which they had earlier been removed.


Pawhuska, Oklahoma is the capital of the Osage Nation. The 2,229 Exhibit contains traditional clothing, Osage genealogical records and scores of photographs depicting original allottees and their family members. (http://www.slu.edu/sluma.xml)


Left to right front: Josephine Watson (Wah-hrah-lum-pah #226, Joseph Cox (Wah-tsa-ah-tah, #167), Jennie Spencer Red Eagle Long, #155. Back: Amanda Claremore, allottee #308, Celia Cox Pryor (A-non-to-op-pe, #166).

Begun in 1999, The Osage Tribal Museum Allottee Collection is now sixty per cent complete.

pierre-jean_de_smet_-_evamgelizadorA third floor gallery adjacent to the 2,229 Exhibit contains photographs of the most powerful Jesuit advocate western tribal nations had in the United States, the great Belgian missionary, Fr. Pierre Jean De Smet; along with the black robe by which he became famous, and the beautifully hand-made, Plains Indian coat that Fr. De Smet so proudly and humbly wore.

A short, three block walk north of St. Louis University, an exhibit titled Imagining the Founding of St. Louis was (and continues ongoing through summer) on the second floor of the Sheldon Galleries  at 3648 Washington Blvd.


Culled from private collections and collections of The St. Louis Mercantile Library, The St. Louis Art  Museum, The St. Louis Science Center, and The Osage Tribal Museum in Pawhuska, it provides a powerful context for the evolution of St. Louis from an ancient tribal capital to “The First City of the New West,”**** as a result of mutual friendship and partnership among native people and the French and Creoles of Saint Louis.

IMG_20140417_141401The exhibit in The Sheldon Galleries (http://www.thesheldon.org/current-exhibits.php) includes pottery, early maps, artifacts, sculpture, textiles, oil and watercolor paintings, and the hand-colored lithograph on the left by Thomas L. McKenney after Charles Bird King’s painting of Mo-han-go, an Osage woman with her child, first published in History of the Indian Tribes of North America, 1838.

From trade beads to bear claw collars they leave a splendid impression of the transcultural relations that made early St. Louis such a rich and diverse settlement.

On Thursday, April 3rd the Chatillon-DeMenil Foundation (http://www.demenil.org/) hosted an overflow crowd in the Carriage House.

Osage Principal Chief Scott BigHorse delineated some of the family ties between the Osage and French in early St. Louis, including the Chatillon and DeMenil families, and the impact his nation had on the founding and rise of St. Louis.

p013161Chief Bighorse explained the Osage approach to change, and how their ability to adapt to and assimilate aspects of other cultures, coupled with their determination to be agents of change themselves allowed the Osage not only to survive but to flourish.

This adaptability may have been impacted by their habitation of the Middle Waters where rivers converged and so many different people and cultures intersected.

The garden beyond the Cafe DeMenil was transformed with celebratory lights on April 3rd that lent the Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion’s STL250 Birthday Cake a silvery glow.

Standing: Marion Coshehe, allottee. Seated: unknown girl and Hope Coshehe (Wah-kon-tah-he-um-pah, allottee #573).


As tornado sirens went off all over St. Louis, Osage guests from Oklahoma and the large crowd of St. Louisans there to welcome them, hurriedly retired to the mansion to finish their wine, secure in the knowledge that if tornadic winds circled DeMenil Place they could all take refuge in the cave below; some things in St. Louis not having changed appreciably since well over the 250 years we’re celebrating in 2014.

Special thanks to Kathryn Redcorn of The Osage Tribal Museum in Pawhuska, OK for permission to publish the three photos above from the museum’s 2,229 Allottees Collection. 


References: * Osage Life and Legends – author: Bob Liebert; ** Louis F. Burns -http://digital.library.okstate.edu/encyclopedia/entries/O/OS001.html; ND ***Osage Chief Scott BigHorse;****Frederick Fausz – Founding St. Louis, First City of the New West; and Imagining the Founding of St. Louis – exhibit book published by the Sheldon Art Galleries St. Louis.

IMG_20140417_131959Illustration Credits: Tal-lee and Fort Clark – Karl Bodmer – in the public domain; Map of the Great Osage Trail/Sante Fe Trail – in the public domain at wikipedia.org; Fort Orleans Missouri Mural from the Missouri State Capital Building – in the public domain at wikipedia.org; Book Cover of Winning the Dust Bowl by Carter Revard, University of Arkansas Press.

Photography Credits: Mississippi River – Efmo_View_from_Fire_Point -in the public domain at wikipedia.org; 3 Allottee Photographs from The Osage Tribal Museum Archives, Pawhuska, OK; Garden of the Chatillon-De Menil Mansion – Thomas Kavanaugh, Sr., Cell Phone Photographs of the 2,229 Exhibit at St. Louis University Museum of Art, Fr. De Smet’s Coat at St. Louis University Museum of Art, and Imagining the Founding of St. Louis Exhibit at The Sheldon Art Galleries – Maureen Kavanaugh, author of this blog.

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