The land that now comprises the City of Maplewood was once mostly divided between two farms. The farm lying west of Big Bend belonging to Charles Rannells was assembled from separately bought parcels beginning in 1848. I’ll post more about this family later.
The farm lying east of Big Bend belonged to James Sutton. Sutton left New Jersey in 1818 at the age of 21. He headed for St. Louis where his brother John had established a successful blacksmith shop. Waylaid by illness and according to family legend, the need to repay those who nursed him back to health, it took him a year to get here.
James and his brother manufactured nails, iron tires for wagon wheels, plows, locks for the jail, printer’s sticks and even iron railing for the State Bank in downtown St. Louis. By 1826, James had made enough money to buy the southwest section of land that had earlier been granted to the Swiss immigrant Charles Gratiot by the Spanish government. The price was a dollar and a bit for each of the 334 acres. A bit was 1/8 of a Spanish coin dollar. In 1848, he acquired 50 more acres; this time paying $7.50 per acre. That same year Charles Rannells became his neighbor by purchasing 320 acres just west of Sutton’s property.
Sutton chose a fine place indeed. His farm was eventually bounded on the west by Big Bend, the south by the Missouri Pacific railroad after 1853 and lay on both sides of the Ozark Trail. The Ozark Trail was the main route to Jefferson City. Called Manchester today, it was once an extension of Market Street downtown.
James married Ann Wells and they constructed a log cabin located near present day Greenwood and Commonwealth avenues. I speculate this spot was chosen as a large cave is known to exist very close by. A spring was also near. The couple prospered and in 1832 they built a beautiful mansion at what is today 7453 Manchester.
After the county was separated from the City of St. Louis, the first meetings of the fledgling county government were held at the Sutton mansion. James’ son Henry was appointed as first presiding justice of the county court.
James Sutton and Charles Rannells both passed away in 1877.