By Ann Chrissos
The Stemme family has helped to shape Chesterfield history for five generations. In 1878, Hermann Stemme (1862-1926) left his parents and two of his siblings in Prussia and traveled to the United States to join his sister Minnie and brother Charles. Minnie met Herman in New York City and discovered that her brother had only four cents in his possession. She purchased a railway ticket to St. Louis, Missouri for him, where Hermann planned to join his brother in Lake, Missouri (area of Olive Boulevard and Hog Hollow Road). Herman was determined to become successful in his new country, so he worked hard to learn English and American customs. He had no difficulty securing employment from Chesterfield area farmers and he carefully set aside money to eventually buy his own farm. His first purchase was 170 acres in Bellefontaine, Missouri (area of Olive Boulevard and Chesterfield Parkway) to which he gradually added adjacent acreage. He also became a vocal advocate for progressive farming techniques by buying stock in the Creve Coeur Farmers’ Club and by serving as an active member. After establishing his own farm raising corn and wheat, Herman married his former employer’s daughter, Emma Kuhlmann (1864-1944) on January 15, 1886. They had five children: Henry, William, Clarence, Ella and Freida. In 1911, Hermann built a lovely home for his family on Olive Street Road where Hilltown Village is today. At a cost of $4000, it was the most attractive house in the area and was furnished with all of the modern conveniences. The house was located next to the Hoch-Rinkel Market where Charlie Gitto’s is today and the Henry Seiler family lived across the street where the Shell Station currently stands.
Besides being a successful farmer and a farming advocate, Stemme was also active in education, church affairs and politics. He served as the clerk for Bellefontaine School along with George Burkhardt, the president and Henry Seiler, the director. The school was located on Conway Road. He was also one of the seventeen original founders of St John’s Evangelical & Reform Church located on Olive Street Road in Bellefontaine and he helped raise $1,644.97 for the construction of a parsonage for the church. He remained an active member and a generous supporter of St. John’s until his death. He became politically active when August Kasebaum ran for St. Louis County Collector of Revenue. Stemme, along with thirteen other men, provided financial backing for Kasebaum’s campaign which ended in a successful election on November 8, 1910.
Herman Stemme retired from farming after he achieved his goal of financial independence. He is buried at St. John’s United Church of Christ Cemetery along with his wife Emma and many of their children and grandchildren. Stemme Drive off of Swingley Ridge Road was named for the Stemme family and the Herman Stemme Office Park on Conway and Swingley Ridge Roads pays special homage to Herman Stemme. Today the Stemme families are recognized by Chesterfield residents for their contributions to the community.
Herman Stemme as a young man. Courtesy of Arland Stemme
Arland Stemme provided the Chesterfield Historical Commission with information on the Stemme family in the fall of 1991.
Mertz, Marcella. Chesterfield, Missouri: Cemeteries, 2000.
The Stemme Family Tree from the Chesterfield Historic & Landmarks Preservation Committee archives.
Thomas, William. History of St. Louis County, 1911.