Then Hitler tried to take over Europe and Japan ran amok in the Pacific.
And TNT was needed for the war effort and a location close to St Louis was needed that also had access to rail lines and roads.
The property was found just across the Missouri River from St Louis County.
But three tiny villages stood in the way.
But what the government needed, wasn't to be denied.
Smarter people than I have argued the waste in the destruction. And I am sure people in the government could argue that it was necessary.
The were many families displaced, and homes lost and businesses closed down. Communities that most people in St Charles County now aren't even aware existed. Some of the homes were small and simple. Many large and would now be considered historical. Many log structures were lost.
The whole story of the area can be found here, The TNT Story.
For all the destruction of homes, there was some good to come out of it. To the people that lost their homes, I am sure it is not enough.
I am one of the many people who have benefited from the TNT Story. Although it must be said I would have loved to have seen these old buildings.
Once the War Department was done with the property much of it was sold to the University of Missouri as a research area for agriculture. And in the end, it all ended up in the hands of the very capable Missouri Conservation Dept. Thankfully private developers never had the chance to acquire this wonderful land.
While the University owned the property the local St. Charles County Boy Scouts were able to use much of the land for camp sites and activities. This is how I came to know the area.
Our troop spent many weekends camping in the area. And later on I would hike and explore most of the area that was once these villages.
On the property the scouts were able to use set a beautiful old building we called 'The Lodge'.
Large and built of stone, for most of the year it was home to the man who looked after the area for the scouts. His job was to mow and generally keep the place up for camping and hiking. Over the years he spent a lot of his own money making the place better by building camping shelters and keeping the swimming hole deep and usable. (It included a long wood bridge with a great swinging rope.)
I knew little about the history of the building other than we were told it was officers quarters when the army owned the property. It is with reading the TNT Story that I found the rest of the history.
In 1980 I did a painting of the old lodge. It was soon to be torn down. A few of us tried to save it, but it was not meant to be. It would have been almost 80 years old now.
I first started experiencing the place in about 1965. It would have only been about 26 years old by then. It already seemed older than that.
Here is the painting I did just a few years before it came down.
Although it mostly served as the residence of the caretaker, it also had two bunk rooms that each slept about eight boys (and sometimes girl scouts, but not at the same time!). The three windows on the left would have been the front bunk room. The three to the right of the front door would have been the caretakers work shop.The center room where the raised roof is was above a large main living room with a very large fire- place. The ceiling was so high (How high was it?) that during winter outings at the lodge we could set a trampoline up inside and never have to worry about hitting our heads.
Another bunk room was also on the left, but at the back of the building.
This small building at the left in the painting was the water pump house and shower.
This next building on the right in the painting was a summer sleeping porch that the caretaker built above the old stone cellar and gas shed.
When I stayed down and helped the caretaker for a week or so one summer I slept in the summer porch. And to show how things stick in ones mind; It was the week Louis Armstrong died in 1971.
(I know where I was when Elvis and JFK died also.)
Us unknowing Scouts always believed the please was built for officers involved with the TNT plant. Although we were wrong, it was partly true.
The following are photos from the TNT Story of how the place looked before the government got it, and a little about the history of it.
Above is the same view as the painting, approximately. Imagine having this almost new home taken away from you for what the government thought was an important reason.
This next photo is a back and side view, also showing in the foreground the pump house. A really good view of the high center ceiling and the location of the fireplace in that room.
The next picture is the cave like cellar that the summer sleeping porch was built above. (On the hillside above the old cellar the care-taker had built a zip-line that ran down the hill and across the road and a small creek before stopping on another hillside.)
Also on the property was this caretakers house, which we used as a bunk house for the scouts . .
The next photo is of this long building which was a barn and stable. In our scouting days it was a bunk house and workshop. It was across the creek near the swimming hole.
Here is what the Kaut's said of the place when trying not to lose it; "In testimony in United States Circuit Court in 1942, William Kaut described this property as follows: "[It was] a park, not a farm. We worked that [acreage] for seven years to put it in shape. The residence was a ranch type house of logs, ten rooms, air-conditioned, had three baths, very fine baths; lavatory and toilet off the game room; slab floor all . . . a ten-room house. Also a barn one hundred feet long and twenty-seven feet wide. It was all rock. The water-works there was also a rock building, with built-in laundry and shower, and also an underground room 14 by 16 for storage, with a two thousand gallon oil tank and filling station and water pipe."
Although the buildings survived the war, and served as an Officers Club (which seems really unfair to me). . . .
. . .it was eventually taken down in the early 80's when the Missouri Conservation Dept. took over the property.
Very little of the land lost in these three villages was actually used by the War Dept.
The TNT plant, although large, was never very near to many of the buildings. I guess the government wanted a large secure zone around the plant
149 families were moved. The plant did not even last till the end of the war, closing in Jan. 1944.
I tried to find a purpose for the building for the conservation Dept. but they thought the need and expense made it impossible. I disagree.
Many of the people who lost their homes were paid very little, and some took a long time to be paid. I doubt if any ever had the chance to get the land back. Why none of the homes couldn't have served as homes for people at the plant I don't know. But some of the photos on the TNT site show nice active communities. A way of life was lost.
Go to the site TNT Story and look at the homes and villages lost. It is sad.
Although lost to these families it was a great benefit for many years to local Boy Scouts. And it now serves as protected land for wildlife and nature. So, you see, it's not all bad news.
I have the swimming hole swinging rope and several other items saved before the building was taken down. And many good memories.
But still, was it necessary.
Additional comments from the buy out:
Large payments to individual landowners included $42,288 to Mr. and Mrs. William Kaut for their 74 acres, assessed at $5000. Kaut is general superintendent for the Brown Shoe Company. Kaut, who was ill yesterday, could not comment but his son, William Kaut Jr., said there were extensive improvements on the grounds including a nine-room stone house with four baths.
Quickly Agrees TNT No Place for Home
Living near an explosives plant is nothing new to William Kaut, general superintendent of the Brown Shoe Company here, but he thinks so little of the idea that he was among the first to agree with the War Department option-buyers on the price at which he would yield his new St. Charles County home to the proposed TNT plant.
Built three years ago as a “home for the rest of my life,” Kaut’s 75-acre tract contains a stone 10-room residence, a barn and a cottage. The grounds have been carefully landscaped.
Twenty years ago Kaut had his first experience with powder plant explosions when he lived in Carthage, Mo. Twelve miles away was the Hercules Powder plant, which he said blew up several times without extensive near-by damage.
“While they didn’t hurt my place, I don’t have any desire to live near another explosives plant,” he said. “I have already signed an option to sell my property to the government for the St. Charles County plant. There’s no other way out of it and I believe all landowners affected would do better to work with the government on the job than against.”