History by Esley Hamilton and Joe Bartels

by Esley Hamilton and Joe Bartels

Spanish Lake was called Spanish Pond until the late nineteenth century when an image more appropriate to suburban development was sought. It was divided between two Spanish land grants that were both confirmed by the United States in 1809. The southeast part of the pond, including about two thirds of the total, was confirmed on January 26, 1809, to “James St. Vrain under Maria Joseph, widow Rigoche.” It was designated Survey Number 155 and encompassed 400 arpents in an irregularly shaped area. The rectangular tract of 400 arpents immediately to the northwest was confirmed on March 28 to John Lard. Lard was said to have come to Spanish Lake in 1798. Ezekiah (also written Ezekial or Hezekia) Lard, who was his son, was reported to have built a gristmill and a sawmill in the vicinity in that year. He was the original grantee of the land later occupied by Fort Bellefontaine. The inventory made at John Lard’s death in 1825 showed that Lard owned an additional 100 acres in the Spanish Pond area as well as 160 acres in Ralls County and 160 acres in Arkansas. Some of the Spanish Lake tract had actually been distributed before his death to his children, who included John, Jr., and Daniel (who died in 1848). John’s wife Lydia survived until 1843. Their daughter, also named Lydia, married first William Piggot and second William Delaney.

James St. Vrain was born Jacques Marcelin Ceran DeHault DeLassus, son of Pierre DeHault DeLassus de Luziere, who was the first commandant of Nouvelle Bourbon, a village established near Ste. Genevieve in 1793. Jacques took the name St. Vrain to distinguish himself from his younger brother Charles (Don Carlos) DeLassus, who was the lieutenant governor under the Spanish regime beginning in 1799 and in effect the last colonial governor. He was born at Bouchaine in Hainault (modern Belgium) about 1770 and came to the Louisiana Territory a year after his father. He served in the French navy prior to the French Revolution and as captain of the militia after his move here. For the Spanish colonial government he also commanded successively the galliots or galleys La Flecha (“The Arrow”) and Phebe. At the time of the transfer of Louisiana from Spanish to American control, Charles DeLassus wrote to Amos Stoddard, the first U.S. civil commandant of Upper Louisiana, regarding Jacques de St. Vrain’s qualifications. “He has made several voyages or campaigns with his galliot, in which he always carried out his instructions with sagacity and prudence. In his last campaign to Prairie du Chien he obtained a little paraclete (comfort or consolation) of forty dollars pay, forty-five dollars of bounty, and one and one-half reals [a Spanish monetary unit] a day rations, together ninety dollars a month. He is my brother, and I confine myself to expressing his desire to be useful to the new government under which he is to live.”

St. Vrain had many claims to land under the Spanish government, most of which were not confirmed by the U.S. commissioners. The ultimate extent of his holdings is not difficult to determine because the inventory made at his death (along with the rest of his probate papers is missing). We do know that he had two other surveys confirmed nearby. Survey 1840, encompassing 765.63 acres, was located adjacent and northeast of Survey 155, approached from Spanish Pond Road by St. Vrain Road and extending across Columbia Bottom Road to the river. Survey 1958 included the whole arc of land lying above Destrehan Road and bounded north and east by the Missouri River at its merger with the Mississippi. St. Vrain had a special arrangement with Antoine Soulard regarding this property dating from1805, but the two were not able to get their claim confirmed until April 8, 1824, when the Attorney General of the U.S. issued a special decision on it. According to the Spanish survey, the tract contained 3250 arpents or 2764.75 acres, but the shifting waters have greatly enlarged the tract on the Mississippi side since then. Apart from the grants, St. Vrain seems to have purchased little in St. Louis. In 1807 he bought a lot 100 by 300-ft. fronting on Second Street from John Mullanphy, and in 1813 he bought 40 arpents in Survey 395, east of 155 and south of 1840.

On April 30, 1796 he married at St. Louis Marie Felicite, the daughter of Louis Chauvet Dubreuil. She had been born there in 1776. They had 10 or 11 children, whose histories may be relevant to the land at Spanish Pond.

The eldest was Charles Emmanuel, born 1797. He married Eulalie Bouis in 1818 and died October 16, 1834, as a result, it was said, of drunkenness. She died in 1876, age 78.
Ceran, born in 1798, became a partner of Charles Bent in the trade along Santa Fe Trail and was recognized as an outstanding figure of his era. Felix Auguste Antoine, born 1799, became an Indian agent. He married Mary, the daughter of Charles Gregoire, Sr. at Ste. Genevieve on October 30, 1822. He was murdered by Indians May 22, 1832. Odille Felicite was born 1802 and died 1829. Elizabeth was born 1803 and died 1817. Caroline Ysabel was born 1804.

Savinien married Virginia, the daughter of Major H. Menard, in Kaskaskia about March 2, 1830.
Domitille was born 1808. He married Nancy Carrico in 1834. He and Felix are the only St. Vrain sons to have probate records in the St. Louis city probate office; Domitille’s are dated February 8, 1868. Emma, born 1812, married Augustin Charles Fremon Delaurier in 1834. His father, Fremon or Fremont de L’Auriere, was married to Felicité St. Vrain’s sister, and in 1836 all of them were living at the Fremon farm on the River des Peres. Marcelin or Marcellin was born at Spanish Pond October 14, 1815 and married Elizabeth Jane Murphy in 1849. Marie Emilie married Edmond W. Paul in 1836.

The Missouri Gazette of June 26, 1818 reported “Died - at his farm in this county on Monday evening last, at an advanced age, Captain Jacques Dehault Delassus St. Vrain, formerly an officer in the French marine and last in the Spanish marine.” This county farm was described in 1886 by Frederic L. Billon as “at the Spanish Pond, twelve miles north of the city on the road to the old Bellefontaine Fort, which he handsomely improved.” Survey 155 does not actually touch Bellefontaine Road, but it was described in deeds as lying twelve miles north of St. Louis, and it has been associated with St. Vrain’s estate. Survey 155 was confirmed in the name of St. Vrain, but he was neither the original grantee nor the owner at the time of confirmation. He purchased the tract from Marie Josephe Rigauche, a widow, on July 28, 1807, and sold it to Rudolph Tillier the same day. It was Tillier who actually obtained confirmation, as was recognized in several later deeds. St. Vrain’s home is more likely to have been located on Survey 1840, the only part of his North County holding that was still owned by members of his family in 1862.

Rudolph Tillier was commissioned “as Factor or Agent for the U.S. Factory, established at St. Louis” on May 24, 1805, when he was a resident in New York. As Fort Bellefontaine was intended at its founding in 1806 to be a center for trade with the Indians, the Spanish Pond property would have been conveniently located for Tillier. He was a generation older than St. Vrain, married to the former Sarah Biddle, whose sister was the wife of General James Wilkinson. Sarah Tillier had been married first to James Penrose and had a son, Clement Biddle Penrose, born 1771. Penrose was one of the three members of the Board of Commissioners appointed by Thomas Jefferson in 1805 to settle land claims in the territory. This relationship no doubt facilitated the confirmation of Tillier’s claim.

Tillier died in 1810, leaving a curious will witnessed by Vincent Carrico and John Lard, both landowners in the Spanish Lake area, and leaving his livestock and furniture to members of the Patterson family. Although not mentioned by name in the will, Clement B. Penrose was appointed executor, and he and his uncle Clement Biddle were coheirs to Tillier’s real estate. Houck reported that Penrose “was a man of considerable property when he came to St. Louis and invested his means in town lots and lands, but these investments proving unprofitable he gradually became … reduced in circumstances.” Among these financial setbacks was the loss of his one half undivided interest in the 400 arpents of Survey 155, sold by the sheriff in 1820 for $925 to satisfy creditors.

The purchaser, Philip Millaudon, had to go to the circuit court to obtain a partition of the tract between himself and Clement Biddle. The case was brought in the August 1821 session, and the commissioners appointed made their report in 1822. They granted 160 acres to Millaudon and 225 acres to Biddle. This total of 385 acres corresponds to 481 arpents rather than the 400 arpents said to be contained in the original grant, but perhaps this reflects accurate surveying.

In 1825 Millaudon extended his property in the area by purchasing two tracts of 9.5 acres and 400 arpents from John Lard, Sr. and John Lard, Jr., respectively, and by purchasing from the U.S. government the southwest fractional quarter of Section 22, lying across Parker Road on the west side of Bellefontaine Road, on the west edge of John Lard’s Survey 209. These purchases suggest that Millaudon was living on and farming the property. By 1847, however, he and his wife Clarisse were living in Marseilles, France. There, through the agency of the U.S. Consul, they sold all their Spanish Road property to John O’Fallon for $4,000.

That same month, August 1847, O’Fallon acquired the remainder of Survey 155 from the heirs of Clement Biddle, who lived in Philadelphia and New York. For their 225 acres he paid $2700. Within the next few months, he acquired additional property nearby: from Daniel Matilda Lard 107 acres in Survey 209, including the northwest shore of the pond; from William and Levi Piggott and Lucy Delaney, the three children of Lydia Lard, Jr., 25 arpents (20 acres) in Survey 209; and from Daniel Quick 70 acres in Survey 398, bringing his total in the area to over 600 acres. In spite of these purchases, O’Fallon continued to make his home at his estate on Bellefontaine Road 7 miles closer to town, encompassing the present O’Fallon Park and the south half of Bellefontaine Cemetery.

John O’Fallon (1791-1865) was a nephew of George Rogers Clark and of William Clark, Missouri’s Territorial Governor, and came to St. Louis in 1818 after a distinguished career in the Army. In his later life he was characterized as “beyond all doubt, the most open, candid and liberal man the city of St. Louis ever produced, the leader in every noble undertaking, and the foremost and largest contributor in every public enterprise.”

Following O’Fallon’s death, his Spanish Lake property was sold. Atlases of 1870 and 1878 show Caspar Frederick A. Becker owning the major portion of Survey 155. The Survey 209 property was owned in 1870 by Samuel B. Wiggins and in 1878 by William Jacobsmeyer. Beginning in 1890 the land passed from these farmers through a series of speculators to the Spanish Lake Realty Company. Beckers had his land surveyed in August, 1890; this survey, recorded in County Plat Book 4, page 3, shows two buildings on the property, one in the center between Spanish Pond and the present Sunfish Lake, and a larger one toward the south edge of the property. Since Beckers, like O’Fallon, seems to have lived in the city, these two buildings likely dated from before 1850.

Beckers sold the “Spanish Lake Tract” to Robert J. Hill on September 1, 1890, for $30,000. Hill represented a consortium of six investors. On October 21, he sold the same 199.42 acres to Richard C. Miller for $35,000. Miller paid William Jacobsmeyer another $20,000 for 115.86 acres in Survey 209 on October 27. That same day he sold both tracts to the St. Louis Stamping Company for the same amounts. This company, founded in 1866 by Frederick G. and William Niedringhaus, invented “granite ironware” in 1874 and later founded Granite City, Illinois. On June 9, 1893 the Stamping Company sold the property to G.W. Locke, trustee for another group of investors, and the next year, May 17, 1984, he sold it to the Spanish Lake Realty Company. Most of the tract remained “Spanish Lake Park” at the beginning of 1897.
Esley Hamilton

A few people bought lots from the Spanish Lake Realty Company towards the turn of the century, but the subdivision remained largely undeveloped and the company seems to have dissolved in 1903. The company did not, though, release its land holdings upon dissolution, and in 1920, the sheriff put some of its real estate up for auction because of unpaid taxes. Frederick Pitzman bought almost 50 acres from the auction for $3000.

Pitzman was not the only person to acquire land in the area. William Heckmann (later spelled Heckman) bought and subdivided a large section of land around Spanish Lake probably in 1928. He developed five neighborhoods next to Spanish Lake; three were platted in 1928, and two more were developed in 1929.

Heckmann platted his first three subdivisions, El Dorado #’s 1-3, on land south west of the current site of Spanish Lake Park. A year later, on land east of the earlier three developments and adjacent to the west bank of Spanish Lake, Heckmann platted out the subdivisions of El Dorado Lakeview and El Dorado Park. The original indenture for the developments names Heckmann, Edward D’Arcy, Lawrence E. Mahan, Earl Mills, and William J. Zellmann as the trustees of El Dorado, presumably consisting of all five sites.

Heckmann et al never developed the land beyond laying out the subdivision plats, it appears. No houses, at least, were constructed in the period immediately following the original subdividing. The Depression likely stifled land sales in that area and effectively kept the El Dorado subdivision from development.

By 1955, however, the economy had regained its pre-Depression momentum, and Mary Louise Heckmann (now spelled Heckman) called a meeting of El Dorado property owners at the house of William L. Heckmann, to discuss re-forming the now defunct Spanish Lake Home Association. The lot owners elected her, along with William L. and William Guy Heckmann to serve as the three trustees for the association. The day after the meeting, on November 11, 1955, the trustees moved to expedite road and services construction in the five subdivisions in an effort to encourage prospective builders and homeowners to the area. They authorized the Joyce company of surveyors and engineers to make engineering plans for building and improvement of streets, sewers, and other amenities for the potential community. Additionally, the Heckmanns gave land in the El Dorado subdivisions to B-D Development Corporation. Constructing streets apparently enticed people to move to the area, as several houses were built in the late 50’s and during the decade of the 60’s.

The streets did not reach every lot, though, and in 1971, three new trustees, Theodore Dellavalle, Walter E. Braeckel and John Dowling met at the Ramada Inn North on 1351 Dunn Road to discuss vacating unused land in El Dorado Lakeview and El Dorado Park in order to give the land to St. Louis County. Mr. Dowling, the secretary of the B-D Development Corporation, announced to the trustees that the company had entered into contract with St. Louis County, which desired the land to develop a park in the area. The trustees granted land in the westernmost section of El Dorado Lakeview, directly adjacent to the lake, to the county as well as land north of the Lakeview and Park subdivisions. They abolished the restrictions on the land that the two indentures imposed and quit their claims to the land that the county bought.

Also in 1971 the B-D Development Corporation sold the land they had earlier acquired from the Heckmanns to a partnership of John T. Maloney and E. B. Joyce. Each had, it seems, a half an interest in the land they bought, which included some 201 building lots, “more or less.” When John T. Maloney died in 1979, he named John Dowling and Theodore Dallavalle as his executors. The two trustees gained interest in all of the land that Maloney and Joyce had purchased, and, along with the trustees of the Elizabeth Joyce, they have retained control of the lots until today.

Currently, Spanish Lake County Park borders the northern lots of El Dorado Lakeview, Park, and #1 as well as a currently vacant strip of lots on the western edge of El Dorado Lakview. Though no streets exist in either Lakeview or Park, Theodore Dellavalle and the other two trustees retain possession of most of the undeveloped lots still available for development.

Esley Hamilton
Joseph Bartels
June, 2001


American State Papers Class VIII, Public Lands, (Washington, D.C.: Gales and Seaton, 1834), Vol. II, p. 567
American State Papers Class VIII, p. 569
Louis Houck, A History of Missouri, (Chicago: R. R. Donnelly, 1908) Vol. II, p. 55
American State Papers, Vol. II, p. 503
St. Louis City Probate Court, estate 700
St. Louis City Recorder of Deeds, book P4, page 65 refers to Daniel Lard as devisee of John Lard, his father, Hezekia Lard, his brother, and Lydia Lard, his mother.
Probate, estate 1782
Recorder of Deeds, Book R4, page 102
Houck, Vol. I, pp. 363-364
Louis Houck, ed., The Spanish Regime in Missouri (Chicago, 1909), p. 298
J. Thomas Scharf; A History of St. Louis City and county (Philadelphia: Louis Everts & Co., 1883), p. 266
Referred to in Louis Hutawa, Atlas of St. Louis County (1847), Township 47 and 48 North, Range 7 East
Recorder of Deeds, Book A, page 460; Book D, page 416. Books A and B are lost; information from them comes from Oscar W. Collet’s index cards located in the basement of the Recorder of Deeds’ office.
This information comes from the files of the Missouri Historical Society, including the Necrology index and notes by John Francis McDermott in the Charles Van Ravenswaay file
John Francis McDermott, ed., “The Diary of Charles DeHault DeLassus from New Orleans to St. Louis 1836,” Louisiana History Quarterly, April 1947, pp. 387-389.
This information comes from Oscar W. Collet’s index and is not found in John Francis McDermott’s notes
Quoted by Charles Van Ravenswaay in his notes at the Missouri Historical Society
Frederic L. Billon, Annals of St. Louis in Its Early Days (St. Louis: author, 1886), p. 470
Recorder of Deeds, Book A, pages 477 and 479; Book B, page 282. Reference to these records (originals lot) is found in Collet’s index
Hutawa, Atlas of St. Louis County (1862)
Territorial Papers of the U.S. (1948), p. 131; note 11, p. 115
Houck, History of Missouri, Vol. III, p. 43
Probate, estate 79
Recorder of Deeds, Book I, page 335
Recorder of Deeds, Book P4, p. 280; P4, p. 61
Recorder of Deeds, Book M, p. 270; M, p. 271; O, p. 338; P4, p. 280; the tract from the U.S. government was certificate 936
Recorder of Deeds, Book P4, p. 280
Recorder of Deeds, Book P4, p. 61
Recorder of Deeds, Book P4, p. 65; H5, p. 531; R4, p. 102; Q4, p. 60
William Hyde and Howard L. Conard, Encyclopedia of the History of St. Louis (St. Louis: Southern History Co., 1899), pp. 1663-1664, quoting mayor John. F. Darby
St. Louis County Recorder of Deeds, Book 53, p. 189
St. Louis County Recorder of Deeds, Book 55, page 69
St. Louis County Recorder of Deeds, Book 56, page 98
St. Louis County Recorder of Deeds, Book 50, page 271; book 55, page 158
Hyde & Conard, pp. 1643-1644
St. Louis County Recorder of Deeds, Book 74, page 1; book 73, page 521
Plat book 3, page 55, January 19, 1897
According to a Sheriff’s sale recorded in Recorder of Deeds, Book 474, p. 577
Recorder of Deeds, Book 474, page 577
Recorder of Deeds, (El Dorado #’s 1, 2, 3) Plat Book 27, pages 14, 16, and 35, respectively; (El Dorado Park and El Dorado Lakeview) Plat Book, pages 24, and 26-27, respectively
Recorder of Deeds, Book 1024, page 22
Recorder of Deeds, Book 3525, page 488
Recorder of Deeds, Book 6500, page 753, plat book 137, pages 26 and 27
Recorder of Deeds, Book 6535, page 960