Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mudd Grove

watercolor by Joe McGauley

This is a bit of stretch but work with me. In our continuing exploration of Civil War era St. Louis Mrs. T and I visited Mudd Grove, an early 1850's pile in one of the area's first suburbs, home to one Henry Mudd.

An 1848 a cholera epidemic wiped out nearly 10% of the population of St. Louis. In 1849 a fire destroyed 400 buildings and boats along the riverfront. In reaction to the epidemic, cemeteries were closed, slums were torn down, laws were passed outlawing epidemics.

The fire brought changes to the local building code. The mayor owned a brick foundry and passed legislation banning wooden buildings, which not only changed the landscape of STL, but the influx of Italian brick workers changed local cuisine forever.

Those that could, made tracks to join the wagon trains heading west, or made arrangements to move to the newly planned suburbs. Local planter, politician and opportunist Henry Mudd saw the chance of a lifetime. Along with a consortium of swells, the ingenious Mudd plotted along with the Pacific Railway to buy up excess land along the RR's planned route west out of St. Louis. It didn't hurt that Mudd was county assessor at the time. The swells bought the land from the railroad, saved the best for themselves, and hired Scottish engineer James Kirkwood to plat what is now the city of Kirkwood, Mo.. The railroad offered new suburbanites an easy commute to their downtown offices. Their plan worked like a charm.

James Kirkwood came recommended by the Pacific. His claim to fame was having designed the Starruca Viaduct in eastern Pennsylvania, at the time the largest and most expensive stone viaduct railroad bridge in the world. Kirkwood liked it here, and stayed, later to become chief engineer for the City of St. Louis, eventually being replaced by poet Walt Whitman's brother, Thomas Jefferson Whitman.

Starruca Viaduct

Here comes the Civil War connection.

Our Mudd had a Maryland cousin, Dr. Sam Mudd.

Dr Sam Mudd

The good doctor was most likely a co-conspirator with one of his patients, actor John Wilkes Booth, the man who killed President Lincoln. Booth broke his leg in a fall during his escape after the assassination. Dr. Mudd set Booth's leg and provided help navigating the swamps around Chesapeake Bay to presumed safety in Virginia. 146 years ago today Booth was killed by US Cavalry troops while on the run.

In June 1865, Mudd was tried as a co-conspirator to the assassination, found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment in the Dry Tortuga's, south of Key West. In 1869, President Johnson overturned Mudd's sentence, who then returned to Maryland, practiced medicine, farmed and ran for political office unsuccessfully several times. He died in 1883.



James said...

I believe newsman Roger Mudd was a desendant.

Barbara said...

I knew what the connection was when I read the name Mudd.
Really liked this post and the watercolor is lovely.

Jg. for FatScribe said...

his name really was Mudd. another great post, Toad. looking forward to your civil war (or wahr of nawthin awgression) adventures when you get to the old dominion.

btw, when i was signing clients this past year in nashville, tn, my business partner and i took a day off and played a round of golf, and then visited a great civil war site called battle of stones river. recommend it, sir.