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The Rigsby Homeplace

My daughter and her partner are looking for a house. It's a difficult task right now, but hopefully they'll find something they like, a place to spend many happy years together.

Her search got me thinking about my own home. We've been living in the same place since Halloween, 1992. The day we moved in, I was 38 weeks pregnant with my third daughter. The other two girls were just 3 and 1. I didn't want my kids to miss Halloween. As my husband carried in boxes, I decorated our new house for the holiday. The neighbors thought that was pretty awesome and invited them to trick-or-treat with the neighbor kids. That's when I learned about how Halloween works in a 17-home subdivision. The kids are close, they travel in one big pack, and the doorbell rings exactly once.

A lot has happened over the past 30 years. My youngest daughter has moved to Orlando with her husband. She always told me she was going, but I never believed her. It's a great place to visit (Thanks, Disney World!), but I miss her every day. My middle daughter is not allowed to move, at least until her kids don't want to hang out with their Granny as much. I haven't told her this rule, and I hope I never need to. My oldest daughter is the one looking for a house, and I hope they can find a nice place to call home that isn't too far from the place she grew up.

While researching my ancestors, I notice that many moved around a lot. Perhaps they never found the perfect spot with enough land, or a safe enough environment. Some never lived in their home for as long as we have. This 1/4 acre of land in a typical suburban subdivision in south St. Louis County, Missouri is ours. The Rigsby Homeplace. We have a 4-bedroom two story with a deck and garden out back. We used to have a trampoline when the kids were young. Now every warm weekend we blow up a pool for the grandkids. There is a small patch of woods behind our house. In the past we've seen groundhogs and even a coyote once. The little forested patch hides more deer than there should be in such a small place, and the deer love to eat food from my garden, and then get a drink from my neighbor's bird bath. They do not like the jalapeno peppers. They eat the plants and leave the peppers on the ground.

I've often wondered who lived here before. I knew it was a farm, but I never did any further research. This week I decided to look up some information. First, I found an old Plat Map from 1878. At that time, John Specht owned 24.77 acres of land, including our little piece.

This little "point" of land is between the Mississippi and Meramec rivers. Now called Oakville, it used to be part of Carondelet Township. Carondelet was settled originally by the French, followed a few decades later by German immigrants. The first kindergarten in the United States was in Carondelet, and an old cemetery near Oakville High School is full of the original German settlers of "the point," and our roads are named for many of them.

My children attended Point Elementary School. Most of the homes in this part of the county are under 40 years old, so we tend to forget how old our community really is. Point Elementary School was founded in 1840 in the farmhouse of Mrs. Katherine Burg. The first school building was erected in 1870. The school bell from that original building sits out in front of the current school. The photo below is from the Point Elementary School website.

According to the 1880 US Federal Census, John Specht was living here with his wife, Theresa at that time. Two farmhands lived with them. No children were listed. I was hoping to find that his children were living here and could have attended the same school as my children, but after reviewing the census records from 1870 and 1860, it appears they had no children.

I was able to find that John was born in 1832 in "Bavaria" or "Prussia." HIs wife, Theresa, was seven years younger than her husband and was born in Switzerland. When John arrived, he worked as a butcher. The couple married between 1858 and 1860.

I mentioned before that I have a garden. I wondered what John grew on his farm. From the 1880 Agricultural Census, I discovered that he didn't grow much. For the year 1879, he had 26 acres, with a land value of $1700. The value of his livestock was $150. He paid his farm laborers a total of $175 for that year, including board. The estimated value of all farm production was $1100 which included 10 tons of hay, 190 bushels of Indian corn, 30 bushels of cereal crops, 600 bushels of wheat, 40 bushels of Irish potatoes, and 100 bushels of apples. They had 3 horses, a milk cow, and 5 hogs. They must have had chickens, too, because they produced 10 eggs in 1879. I hope that was a mistake. I hope they had more eggs than that if they had chickens. I find it interesting that the census tallied how many pounds of butter were made. John said they made 100 pounds of butter. Everyone made a lot of butter. I suppose they sold some, because I don't know how anyone could use that much butter.

By 1900, John and Theresa and left the farm and were living in St. Louis City.

This has been my first foray into the history of my land. Starting with one little map, I was able to find out quite a bit. I have plans to figure out when John sold his land and who owned it next. That will be the subject of a future post.


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