Written by Taylor252 on 17 Sep, 2003
Some don’t realize it, but St. Louis is a very old settlement -- primarily because of the Spanish and then the French trappers. As a result many of the little towns around St. Louis were first settled in pre-revolution times. It is believed that the…Read More
Some don’t realize it, but St. Louis is a very old settlement -- primarily because of the Spanish and then the French trappers. As a result many of the little towns around St. Louis were first settled in pre-revolution times. It is believed that the first white settler in the area of what is now Kimmswick was a fellow named Thomas Jones. He actually set up a salt manufacturing operation in 1770 and called the place Crystal Springs. It seems likely that this was the first industry established in what is now Jefferson County. There is not a whole lot known about the town until 1859 when Theodore Kimm officially filed a town plat, gathered the community he would name Kimmswick. Mr. Kimm built a number of the buildings and sold them as trust deeds -- and he established the first Post Office.
It’s easy to forget what Missouri must have been like in this time. Rumors of succession and war abounded. Missouri was caught up in the battle of how many states would be "free" states and how many would be "slave" states. One little known fact that created a lot of conflict in Missouri is that the interior regions especially in the north tended to be "free" areas. While along the rivers (Mississippi and Missouri particularly) it was solid "slave holding" area. That means in all likelihood Kimmswick was a "slave state" sympathizing area. At any rate, it was during the 1860’s that several of the buildings you see today in Kimmswick where built. The Arnold House (Traditions and Treasures shop) in 1865 and the Maul House in 1869 (The Kimmswick Visitor’s Center) are two examples of the building that went on at this time.
In the time period between the 1860’s and 1900, Kimmswick prospered. It was on a major Railroad line, the Iron Mountain Railroad and close to the river. At one point there was brewery, grist mill, greenhouses for a thriving floral business in St. Louis and a resort industry to support the lively Mississippi Riverboats that stopped here. Lastly, a recreational park went in just north of town where amusement rides were offered. Kimmswick was the place to be!
Then automobiles were invented. The riverboat trade went away. Commercial ventures didn’t need either river or rail transportation so they moved on and gradually, Kimmswick was passed by . . . Then in the 1970’s a single patron stepped up and began buying up the old properties. Her name was Mrs. Lucianna Ross and she almost single handedly restored the village of Kimmswick. Slowly things began to change. Old historic buildings were brought in from other places so they might be saved. Quaint shops and restaurants were opened. Everything was redone in period style and given a renaissance of purpose. From a personal note, I can tell you this was amazing. I graduated from high school in the St. Louis area in 1970. At that point there wasn’t a destination called Kimmswick. By the time my profession brought me back to St. Louis in 1986, everyone was talking about a trip to wonderful Kimmswick, and I didn’t even know where it was! Such was the determination of Mrs. Ross and the other residents of Kimmswick. The preserved, persevered and made it happen!
One last note on the history of this town. In 1993, as many people know, there was an historic flood in the Mississippi River Valley. Kimmswick was one of the towns endangered. The town sits probably 30 feet or so higher than the normal river level. Well, the river just kept rising . . . Then the volunteers started to arrive! 1000’s of people and National Guardsmen . . . people to fill sand bags and make a dike. They built it to withstand a 50 foot crest . . . and on Aug. 4th about 10am the river crested at 49 feet 9 inches. Kimmswick would survive to continue it’s growth and preservation of life as it was in the mid 1800’s -- and we are all the better for it!
All this information and more is documented in the Kimmswick Historical Society Museum open weekends 1-4pm.