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In 1858, as Stephen A. Douglas was running for reelection as a United States senator from Illinois against a gangly country lawyer, a group of Southern Methodist preachers were holding a camp meeting near a spring at a place called Camp Hollow in western St. Louis County, Missouri. Camp meetings were weekend gatherings of people for religious purposes in rural areas, but the social, economical and political benefits also were great. It was at this particular 1858 camp meeting that Bethel United Methodist Church credits with its start. A year later, a stone church called Rock Bethel in at least one early history book was dedicated on Wild Horse Creek Road. Camp Hollow is located near the junction of Hardt and Wild Horse Creek Roads. Bethel, which means “House of God” in Hebrew, survived the bitterness of the Civil War, although membership was untrusting between the Unionist Germans of the region and the members and especially the preachers of the then-Southern Methodist Church. The pastors covered circuits, which changed from time to time, but the church survived. After the Civil War, the church was moved from the rock church into a log building in Gaehle’s Grove, at the junction of Wild Horse Creek and Hardt Roads. There are two traditional stories told to give the reason for this move: one that the church had outgrown the rock building; and a second that the church never held and could not get ownership of the land on which it was built. Bethel had 29 members in 1873, so there is some doubt the first tradition is correct. The log church supposedly was built for the Sunday School and a temporary place for preaching until a better church could be built. It never was formally dedicated. By 1872, the membership announced it was looking for a suitable site for a new building. Dr. William F. Leftwich, Presiding Elder (an earlier term for district superintendent) appointed a building committee and the effort began. In March, 1873, the St. Louis Marble Company donated two acres on Manchester Road, which was accepted. Additional land was purchased from that company for a cemetery. By mid-May, 1873, the solicitation of funds to build a church to be used by the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and the congregation of Bethel were made. By April 27, 1874, a contractor named Mr. Turner of Carondelet presented a list of specifications and a price of $2,500 to the church’s building committee. Extras were added and the final price for the church was $5,342.30, which church historians believe may have included furnishings (but no one is sure). The new church was dedicated in April, 1875. People came, some by horse-drawn buggies and wagons, others on foot. The congregation was never large, especially by modern West St. Louis County standards. However, the warmth of Christian friendship and commitment kept Bethel what it was meant to be: “God’s House.” By 1918, as people celebrated the end of World War I-“the war to end wars”-revivals were playing an important role at Bethel as well as at other churches. Revivals were the local entertainment because there was no formal entertainment and folks certainly did not have television sets at home. Church leaders would make the rounds of the congregation, usually by horse and buggy, to collect the money for the pastor’s salary. During these years, the first women’s organization was founded-the Ladies Helping Hand Society. The women made quilts to sell and did many other things to raise funds to keep the church operating. By 1924, the kerosene lamps were replaced with electric lights, the church had a new roof and “the Aid” (the Ladies Aid) embarked upon one of the lasting traditions of Bethel Church-the Chicken Supper. The first was a cold supper, with each of the ladies preparing a large picnic basket and bringing it to church. By the second year, a Manchester tinner had made a vat for deep frying and Bethel’s Chicken Dinner had become an annual event that reaches far across the community. A good meal was and continues to be sold to raise money for Bethel’s annual United Methodist Conference contribution. The next 25 years brought a depression, unemployment, World War II and the Cold War. On April 30, 1950, Bethel Church celebrated its Diamond Jubilee, which was attended by 250 people according to a newspaper article of the day. Growth had been considerable, from 48 members in 1925 to 190 by 1950. And by 1960, the membership had grown to 311. The early ’60s also saw the construction of a brick extension on the east side of the now-familiar white frame church to provide space for a church school and fellowship hall. In 1968, the stained glass window over the altar in the sanctuary was donated. This window depicts the Cross and the Star of David, symbolizing the Old and New Covenants that God made with his people. In 1952, the south wall of the sanctuary was removed and an addition attached to the structure. The addition now holds the altar, choir and organ. The United Methodist Men of Bethel organized and met for the first time on May 25, 1954. The men have provided the labor on the church buildings, have been involved in missionary projects and have created a couple of major Bethel traditions-the annual wild game dinner which started in 1975 and the annual Men’s Club Pancake and Sausage Supper held in February. Both reach far beyond the membership of the church to the community. With the westward population movement filling many of the far corners of St. Louis County and beyond, Bethel’s membership continues to grow. Current membership is nearly 250 families. Still, the early rural beginnings and attitudes of Bethel United Methodist Church carry forward in many ways. Visitors and new members constantly comment about the warmth and friendliness, the genuine reflection of God’s Love, which is so much a part of its congregation. Source:

The Big Chief Roadhouse has a celebrated history dating back to 1929. Located near historic Pond, MO, the existing facility was originally built as part of the Big Chief Highway Hotel to serve transcontinental travelers on the now famous Route 66. The Big Chief was erected along the roadway that had served as a main east-west route since the early 1800s. The Big Chief Highway Hotel was reportedly one of the largest tourist cottage courts in Missouri. The complex originally included sixty-two cabins, a gas station, the large restaurant, and an office. The unique architecture is a "Mission Revival" style. The Big Chief Restaurant's role as a "Highway Destination", especially for St. Louis residents, strengthened its contribution to the tourist court business. The common "destination" defining characteristics include distinctive interior decorations, a dance floor, and, after prohibition, a full bar. The Big Chief differed from average cottage courts of the time in that it offered relatively elaborate and elegant dining. The interior of the first floor retains its original open layout. The Big Chief Roadhouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The U.S. Department of the Interior called the Big Chief "a highly significant link with the early days of commerce and travel on Missouri's first federal highways." Today, the Big Chief Roadhouse is one of the last remaining full service restaurants on the original Route 66 roadway.

The Wildwood Historical Society was founded in 1999 to continue the work of the Wildwood Historical Preservation Committee. The Society meets at 7:00 p.m. on the third Tuesday of each month in the Chicken Coop at the Hencken House Museum property located at 18750 Highway 100 in Wildwood, Missouri. Purchased in 2009, WHS began to renovate the former Damhorst Toy Factory into a museum to display historical artifacts and ephemera related to the history of Wildwood. In the 1970’s, the Damhorsts added to the existing barn to expand their growing wooden toy business, but eventually Wildwood zoning restrictions forced them to relocate about 1989. This 40 ft. by 60 ft 2-story barn is large enough to serve as both our Museum and Archival Storage. Over the years patrons have donated larger historical objects which we have kept in the facility thanks to its larger size. The original Route 66 roadbed is located directly behind the house and museum. You can still see the remains of the bridge embankment approaching Fox Creek. The purpose of the Wildwood Historical Society is to discover, memorialize and disseminate the prehistory and history of the City of Wildwood, Missouri by: - Searching for and procuring written and photographic documentation (including, but not limited to, personal writings or photographs, newspaper articles, relics, memorabilia, and/or other similar documents, items, or objects relating to the history and prehistory of Wildwood. - Preserving, displaying, and making available to the public theses documents, items, and objects by placing them in a museum/library/research center and in exhibits strategically located throughout Wildwood. - Identifying and helping to maintain and preserve historic and prehistoric homes, buildings, and/or other structures and/or sites. - Maintaining an active outreach and education program for Society members and the general public. - Accepting donations of money, real property, and/or other property as appropriate to accomplish the above. Source:

The history of the building, in which we now call ‘The Old Pond School’, is one of unique interest and encompasses the entire 20th Century. The Old Pond School was built on land originally donated by the Dreinhofer Family who were one of Wildwood's earliest pioneering families emigrating here from Germany. The Dreinhofer Family had originally reserved this one-acre tract of land in the latter 1800s for the purpose of building a school for the children of the area. At that time, the acre of land was located near the southeast corner of their farm field next to Manchester Road that was also known as Market Street. The Old Pond School is actually the third of four Pond Schools. The first known Pond School was built near the intersection of Pond Road and Manchester Road. From all estimates, sometime possibly around 1880, the second Pond School was constructed on the land that the Dreinhofers had donated where the current Old Pond School now sits. This wooden schoolhouse caught fire sometime just after the turn of the century and burn to the ground. It was after this disaster that plans were made by community leaders to construct a new 'modern' Pond School on the same property. Obviously this was accomplished with the permission of the Dreinhofer Family again to utilize their land for the school. Several accounts place the date of the construction of this new Pond School sometime around 1914. Built by the Seithel Construction Company of Manchester, Missouri, this new school featured many modern improvements from the original wooden schoolhouse such as the extensive use of fire resistant materials. While constructing the new school, the builders obviously kept in mind the fire that had destroyed the original Pond School and planned ways to prevent another fire from occurring. The new schoolhouse was constructed directly in front of the site that the original school had been. It was constructed primarily of concrete, clay, and stucco, three components known for their strength and fire proofing capabilities. Even the school's new roof was constructed with clay tile shingles again to add to its fire proofing characteristics and its longevity. The Pond School was active as a school throughout much of the 20th Century. Classes were being held at the school during World War I in 1918 and Prohibition during the 1920s. The Old Pond School was operational when Manchester Road was improved and designated Route 66 in 1926. It was in session during The Great Depression Era of the 1930s, World War II in the 1940s, the happy days of the 1950s and even the turbulent times of the 1960s. With the reorganization and consolidation of the area school districts in the 1950s, a decision was made to construct a new more modern fourth Pond School just west and within sight distance of the old school. It is this Pond School that is still in operation as an elementary school today and operated by the Rockwood School District. After the children from The Old Pond School were transferred into this new school, the school district utilized the old schoolhouse as a school for children with special needs. This "Special School" would last for over a decade at which time the school district constructed administrative offices in the old schoolhouse around 1970. These administrative offices would occupy The Old Pond School for some years to come at which time the school began to fall into serious disrepair from maintenance neglect and was used only for equipment storage. Around 1998, a group of concerned citizens approached the Rockwood School District with the idea of obtaining the building in an attempt to save it by renovating and restoring it for the purpose of converting it to a small meeting and museum facility for possibly a local historical group. While investigating this possibility, the school district learned that the school property had a deed restriction placed upon it by the Dreinhofer Family which prevent them from selling or transferring ownership of the property to someone other than the Dreinhofer Family. This restriction was placed on the property by the Dreinhofers when they originally gave the property up for the original school to be built before 1900 and remained legally binding. In 1999, the school property was finally returned to Ms. Loraine Conreux by the Rockwood School District since the school district was no longer utilizing the property for educational purposes. Ms. Conreux is a descendant and legal heir to the Dreinhofer Family. For the next three years, officials from the City of Wildwood negotiated with Ms. Conreux in an attempt to possibly purchase the property from her in order to save and preserve the school since it was one of Wildwood's last remaining unaltered turn of the century schoolhouses left in the City. In 2001, Ms. Conreux through her generosity and devotion to the original concerns and commitment that her ancestors had made in establishing the earlier Pond Schools, she decided to donate the property to the City of Wildwood. The City made a commitment to her and the family that the school would be renovated and restored as it had once appeared and it would be eventually opened to the public as a meeting facility and small museum. The surrounding outdoor property would also ultimately become a public park operated and maintained by the City for everyone to enjoy. The building's renovation and restoration is now complete.

Stovall's Grove opened its doors in 1946. George Stovall, a farmer at the time, and his wife, Mollie, used the building for a small tavern, dance hall, general store, and post office. They operated at this location, with their three sons and daughters-in-law for 40 years. Before being Stovall's Grove, it was believed to be the site of a wagon train and stage coach stop on the "highway" running from St. Louis to Jefferson City, a stop for watering horses during the Civil War, and a grocery store, with the welcoming hitching post outside. The original tavern was destroyed by fire in 1958, over 100 years old that time. After the fire, a larger bar was added to the dance hall, and a number of other additions and improvements were made throughout the next few decades, including the addition of indoor plumbing. Stovall's was famous for its bar-be-cue and music and their loyal clientele. The great country music, dancing, and good times continue today under the current owners, the Elze Family. Stovall's Grove is listed on the City of Wildwood's Historic Register.

This historic building is located in the village of Grover and was originally used as a general store. Between 1870 and 1878 Frederick Rettker bought 3.92 acres from Margaret Brown for $1,700.00, which was a large sum of money for this amount of farmland. Then Rettker probably built the first general store on this site. In 1883, Rettker ran into financial difficulty and the property was purchased by C. Frederick Ossenfort, a farmer in the area, who sold it two weeks later to Lorenzo Redman of Ballwin. Redman was a native of Maine who settled in Grover after serving the Union in the Civil War. He was also married to Emma, the daughter of William M. Eatherton. In 1890, Louis C. Fick purchased the property, and still owned it in 1911, when it was reported that he also managed a switchboard for the Grover Mutual Telephone Company in the small building across the street. However, Elmer Funk took ownership of the property in 1921 and operated Funk's General Store. The store, and adjacent Funk's Grove, was used for various social gatherings, including picnics and end of school year celebrations for Pond School students. The Grove was an important community gathering place. The original building was expanded to the west in 1995 to occupy the City of Wildwood's first City Hall building. City Hall was located in this historic element from 1995 - 2009. It is now soon to be occupied by a bakery and physical therapy office.

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