Historical Society Revives in Town and Country
The Historical Society, legally formed in 2000, officially starts unveiling Town and Country's past.
Right off Interstate 270 and Clayton Road, Cedar Valley Road leads through a winding path of trees, tall homes, Drace Park and a no-outlet subdivision called Windmoor Place. A block before the road turns into a circle drive, there is a small, fenced in square lot of land, with weeds growing tall, the grass untrimmed and a small sign a few feet off the ground that reads, "German Evangelical Protestant Cemetery, 1849."
In that lot are the bodies of nearly 216 people, most buried there in the late 1800s. Only two headstones and two benches made of cement accompany the dead in this seemingly forgotten place in Town and Country.
With the help of the board of aldermen and other members of the community, former Town and Country mayor Skip Mange has revived the Town and Country Historical Society in hopes places like the Windmoore Cemetery are not forgotten by residents.
"It is important to have a historical society in order to preserve the history of the city and the area," Mange said.
Although legally formed in 2000, it's taken until now to pull the Historical Society together.
"The Historical Society was legally formed in September 2000. The bylaws were written and approved in September 2004. About all we did during this time period was get the society legally organized and identify some things we wanted to do," Mange explained. "The process to reactivate began early this year mainly due to the availability of the house in Longview Farm Park, and the pushing of Alderman Al Gerber, Chairman of the Town & Country Municipal Conservation and Historical Preservation Commission."
Mange said many places around Town and Country are of high historical value, yet few residents notice or even know of them. The Parkway United Church of Christ, for example, dates back to 1871 with a German immigrant congregation dating back to 1838. The church also owns the civil war cemetery in the Windmoor Place subdivision.
"The church mows the lawn of the cemetery at least two or three times a year," said Naomi Runtz, the church's historian, apologizing for the state of the cemetery. "Some people forget about it. There was a church on that property... We did research as best as we could, but the records are lost. We could figure out about 216 people are buried there."
Runtz keeps a file of all 216 names, which she and other staff members sorted through and separated from the names of others buried on the church's main cemetery along Ballas Road. It took them three years to complete the task.
Keeping the records of the history of the church in Town and Country can be a tedious job, Runtz said, but she is glad to do it.
"I think it’s always important to know where we came from," Runtz said.
There are other important historical places in Town and Country, such as the city's first first volunteer firehouse, also along Clayton Road, which has been remodeled and made into a small office building.
"My favorite historical place in Town and County is the Longview Farm Park and the house that is part of the park," said Mange, who, along with members of the historical society, hopes to restore the records of all historical places and archive them for public access. "The house contains a log cabin that was added onto many times. It sits on Clayton Road, one the oldest roads in West County, and was a working farm for a very long time."
Ward 2 Alderman Alan Gerber, the historical society's treasurer, said knowing a place's history will help develop a sense of community.
"I think that when you have a sense of community you are trying to build, part of that is knowing the history of your community," Gerber said. "While it's true Town and Country goes back 50 years, the history of the area goes back a lot further."
Indeed, there are even records of the area from thousands of years ago.
Town and Country resident Michael Fuller is an archeology professor at St. Louis Community College at Meramec. Fuller said archaeological digs around the West County area have been able to show what life was like around 9500 BC.
"This is during the end of the Ice Age," Fuller said. "Missouri looked really different during that time period, and Town and Country looked very different during that time period. People were up in that area, and Clayton Road was probably a hunting trail."
Fuller said archaeological information belonging to the Osage tribe has been found in municipalities such as Chesterfield and Creve Coeur. Unfortunately, he said, construction of new businesses and land developing has erased much of that archaeological history in Town and Country.
"Every time there is a big construction project, I sneak," Fuller said. "I would walk out there to look. Occasionally I would see a few tools, but most of the times the property had been so badly turned up that we can't really see much."
Fuller said he supports the city starting a historical society because it's important for residents of Town and Country to know they were not the first, nor the last to live there.
"The idea is to understand the continuity of humanity in the location and to realize that there are more stories than just the story that we bring with us when we moved in a year or two ago," Fuller said.
The historical society meets every fourth Tuesday of the month at the Longview Farm House. Those interested in participating should contact Skip Mange at firstname.lastname@example.org.