- Telephone exchange: 543-xxxx
- Zip code: 63673
- Township: Beauvais
- Population: 377
- Previously Known as: Saint Marie’s Landing, St. Mary’s Landing, St. Mary’s (or St. Marys), Iron Mountain City, Yankeetown, Camp Rowdy
- St. Mary’s United Methodist Church
- Immaculate Conception Catholic Church & Cemetery
- Trinity Baptist Church
History of St. Mary
In early references the town is listed as Saint Marie’s Landing. A map made in 1799 shows the landing near the St. Laurent River. This tract of land bordered the Mississippi River on the east and extended as far north as the Saline. In 1809, August St. Mary came from St. Louis and established a woodyard there. Later the property was acquired by Timothy Davis. In 1837, John Livingston Van Doren secured the land and laid out a settlement to be known as Iron Mountain City. The company could not pay its taxes, so the land went back to Timothy Davis. The town has been known as Iron Mountain City, Yankeetown, Camp Rowdy, and finally St. Mary.
Miles A. Gilbert heard about this land being auctioned at the courthouse in Ste. Genevieve. On December 2, 1839, he bought the land in two tracts. One contained 1,485 acres, and he paid $810.00 for it. This tract contained the landing for boats. He had the idea that his land would develop into a great river port, so he laid out lots and streets, and he named it St. Mary.
In 1876, the Missouri Gazetteer states that the town had 500 inhabitants, a stage to Perryville daily and daily mail. There were four general stores, four hotels, three boot and shoemakers, two physicians, two butchers, one barber, one cabinet maker, one wagon maker, one tinner, one agricultural implements dealer, one flouring mill, and one cigar manufacturer. In 1879, the Gazetteer reads, "two brick stores, a two-story school house, and about a dozen dwelling houses were erected."
But just as Gilbert’s dream seemed to be coming true, the Mississippi River channel changed. In 1881, a new channel was carved, leaving a 15,000 acre island between the town and river. The town continued to struggle, and in spite of the river change, businesses continued to grow. In 1901, the Bank of St. Mary opened for business. In 1907, a new public school was completed. The town supported two churches. During the war years, the town continued to do a thriving business. In 1951, Prince Gardner announced the selection of St. Mary’s as the site for one of its factories. It provided jobs for about 750, before its closing in the early 1980’s. At this time, the economy declining.
As education progressed at a fast pace, more space was needed for the high school students. In 1965, the high school was closed, and later the grade school. In 1973, the worst flood in history covered Kaskaskia and St. Mary’s. people were left homeless; homes and businesses were destroyed. [Of course, since this was written, we have experienced the Flood of 1993, which topped all others.]
Today the census shows the population of our town at 565 [I think this was written around 1987]. Throughout its history, St. Mary’s has always been blessed by having interested individuals serve as community leaders. Our children continue to excel in academics and sports. We are always interested in our young people and our future.1
From The Ste. Genevieve Herald, April 9, 2003:
122 Years With the Ste. Genevieve Herald
100 Years Ago – 1903
On the night of Thursday, June 11th, the levee protecting Bois Brule Bottom below St. Marys broke, and the onrushing water flooded about 20,000 acres of the most productive wheat and corn land. The growing crops are, of course, ruined and the only blessing is that no lives were lost. Among the flood sufferers were our former fellow citizens, Louis Hoog and Joseph Lorch.
St. Mary’s United Methodist Church
The earliest Methodist church in Ste. Genevieve county was built in 1835 along the River Aux Vases near Staabtown. It was called the "Stone Building Church." At one time, there also stood the Lead Station Methodist Church, which was constructed along Highway N on the old Louis Houck Railroad line. In addition, Methodists once met in a garden at the "old Will Roth place," located at the junction of Highways Z and N.
The only Methodist church to be built in the town of Ste. Genevieve itself was constructed during the period of 1902-1906 by "gandy dancers," railroad workers who were building the Frisco line at the time. It stood at the Northwest corner of Fifth and Jefferson Streets, across from Memorial Cemetery. After railroad work was completed, Max Okenfuss bought the building, tore it down, and constructed his home, which is still standing.
A house built in 1886 at the present location of the church in St. Marys served as the first meeting place for Methodists in the town. During the time it was being torn town and a new church was being constructed, services were held over a saloon, which would close its business until services were over. The lumber for the church was hauled from Minnith, where Mr. Dillard worked at the sawmill. The first ministers were circuit preachers. Early pastors were Rev. Gale and Rev Hodkins. The building now looks much different than it once did. In 1975, carpet was laid on the aisle and on the altar. In 1979, paneling was put up on the walls, and new stained glass windows were installed in 1981.
The St. Mary’s church is presently the only active United Methodist in Ste. Genevieve County.1
—note from the webmaster: the St. Mary United Methodist Church no longer meets and the building is now a private residence.
Immaculate Conception Parish
On October 13, 1853, St. Mary’s Seminary bought six acres of ground from Miles Gilbert for one hundred dollars. A great deal of wisdom and foresight went into securing this most desirable site. A small frame church was built in 1855. On September 29, 1874, St. Mary’s Seminary deeded this land, which was used for parish purposed to Archbishop Peter Richard Kenrick.
Since 1871, dioceasan priests have been assigned there, and gradually Immaculate Conception parish changed from mission status to an independent parish. At this time, there were about one hundred seventy-five parishioners. The parochial school was laid September 11, 1887 by Monsignor P.P. Brady. The beautiful brick structure was erected while Rev. E.J. Wynne was pastor. He was pastor from 1887-1893. The parish church served the Catholics in St. Mary and the people living on surrounding farms.
Later Mr. John Tlapek, with other interested members of the parish, arranged for the beautiful terraced hillside. Steps were made down the hill, which consist of nine sets of steps with nine steps in each group. The cross on top of the steeple was donated in 1913 by Mr. and Mrs. Charles R. Bartels. The pipe organ was donated in 1924 by John Tlapek and Walter L. Schaaf.
The present rectory was planned and built while Rev. O’Toole was pastor. In 1972, under the direction of Father Hrdlicka, a very useful addition was made to the parish property. A fully equipped, air-conditioned sixty by sixty foot hall was added. In 1974, the parish celebrated its centennial with a celebration at the parish. Since 1874, the parish has served well the spiritual needs of St. Mary, and takes pride and rejoices in the long history of service.1