My Ancestors Lived Next to St. Louis Courthouse in 1866!

Genealogy is fun for me, but it is more fun to share. For this image, it is my Mom's side of the family.

This image is where my ancestors lived and worked in 1866 in downtown St. Louis! See the proximity to the courthouse? (and most likely before, but that was the directory date where I found the fact of their location.) The American Civil War was from 1861 to 1865, so we can imagine that the family was living and working right in the midst of the Civil War events in St. Louis. I have been enjoying time reading history books for this time period in St. Louis. I can imagine my ancestors being there when the slaves were sold on the courthouse steps, watching from their home and wagonmaker business! Being German, they would have been against slavery. Also, in 1849 there was the great fire in St. Louis and I can imagine this location was destroyed by fire and would have been a newer construction. I need to look at the map to see if this location was just close or was effected. Also, living in this prime location had to have been good for business. In addition, they would have had a straight view down to the river watching all the comings and goings on the river. There are a lot of images of the river front at this time. This location alone brings so much to the imagination of their life.

I've been looking for a photo of this location in the background of the old courthouse photos, but every photo I've seen so far has been taken standing about in this location (with the location behind the camera lens). I do have the hand drawing of this location though.

Four years later, in 1870, the location moved from Ward 5 to Ward 6, so either the ward had moved or they had moved. I need to check that out, but I think they moved. So I can imagine they wanted to move away because of all the drama and fear of violence near the courthouse during the civil war era. In 1876 I have them with certainty having moved down Market street where they lived the rest of their lives. It was fun for me to see that the two locations on Market Street sandwiched the civil courts building (which was not there of course in the 1800's, but which my Great-Grandpa Finlay, also on my Mom's side, was the head carpenter in construction.)

I am working on my website pages today to add some photos of St. Louis locations where family lived. Hubby and I took a trip to St. Louis a few weeks ago and went to the history museum and then had a genealogy day downtown. I will be adding my thoughts and notes to their biography page (and another ancestor's page on my Dad's side). We had a great time because it is fun for me to imagine their life and "bring it to life" again. There were some amazing-to-us revelations that we only saw by being on location.

For instance, on my Dad's side, his grandparents were split up and to see how nice of a place the father was living in compared to where his wife and children were living a few blocks away only confirmed my Grandma's negative feelings about him not taking care of her and her sisters in her youth. Another was seeing the location which is now under a highway and remembering my Grandpa always talking about it. I think that's where they went their first night after they were married. Back to my mom's side, another example is seeing how close their church was to the Soulard Market and realizing they must have shopped there in horse and buggy. Another is seeing the distance the first daughter moved away when married and imagining them traveling to visit each other by horse and buggy.

I just am excited about it and would love for others to share in my excitement and interest. My Mom honestly told me she does not care about history/genealogy and that's okay. We all have different interests. When I share with her I can see it going to that blank space in the mind much like when I try to listen to my husband talk about cars! Ah! I really do not care about history either. It's never been my thing. However, when I can relate it to family ancestors, I seem to dive right in!

I will share my page again when I get it updated.


Peggy said…
Wow, so exciting, its like going back in time. Like you, I've always thought that genealogy was interesting, but I've never researched it like you. You are amazing and I enjoy reading about your family!
anitab said…
What a wonderful opportunity, to be able to see where your family was living - it stirs the imagination, doesn't it - and, you're right - I am now VERY interested in history, as it relates to the history of my family - it helps me to picture their lives!
You are doing a wonderful job of writing about all of this. I'm still trying to finish my heritage album for Daddy's side - wouldn't it be nice if we could focus on this? At least that's how I feel...
I would listen to your stories with avid interest, but I know how it is when you try to tell family about their history, and their eyes glaze over...

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