Hiram Wheeler Leffingwell

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About Hiram Wheeler Leffingwell

Hiram Wheeler Leffingwell” (May 3, 1809 – August 28, 1897) was a civil engineer and pioneer real estate developer known for his development of the City of St. Louis Missouri, its suburb Kirkwood Missouri, and the town of Ellenton, Florida.

Early Life

Hiram Wheeler Leffingwell was born on 3 May 1809 in Norwich, Massachusetts (today known as Huntington). He was the son of Andrew Leffingwell and Prudence Wheeler. He was a pioneer real estate surveyor and developer who was responsible for developing the City of St. Louis Missouri (including the construction of Grand Boulevard and the establishment of Forest Park), its suburb Kirkwood Missouri, and the town of Ellenton Florida. Leffingwell Avenues in St. Louis, Kirkwood and Ellenton are named after him.

Hiram spent the first ten years of his life on a farm in western Massachusetts. In 1818, his father Andrew left his family and set out on foot for Meadville, Pennsylvania, where he had friends. Soon after his arrival in Meadville, Andrew was appointed principal of the Meadville Academy. He soon sent for his family, who made the 500 mile trip in a two-horse wagon, in the winter, arriving in February 1819. His father purchased a farm in Woodcock a few miles from Meadville and began clearing the land, first building a cabin. Hiram was educated at Meadville Academy and subsequently attended Allegheny College in Meadville.

Personal Life

On 21 April 1833, at age 23, Hiram married Laura Simons and had two sons, Andrew Cady (b 1835, died infant) and Hiram Simons (b 1837). Hiram’s wife Laura died on 28 May 1849 at age 40. A week earlier on 17 May 1829 a large fire broke out in the City. That same year a cholera epidemic killed over 4,500 people, one-tenth of the population of the city.

In August 1850, at age 41, Hiram married Susan Miles Brooks in Columbus, Ohio and had seven more children, four of whom died very young: Joseph Ridgway (b 1851, died at 1), Charles Hunt (b 1853), John Brooks (b 1854), Susan Brooks (b 1857, died at 3), Laura Grace (b 1860, died infant), Phebe Perkins (b 1862, died at 1), and Nellie June (b 1864). Susan also had a son from her previous marriage, William Buchanan Swan (b 1843), who was associated with the H. W. Leffingwell & Company, and presumably was influenced by Hiram due to his involvement with the development of Forest Park in 1869. Swan Avenue in St. Louis and Kirkwood are named after him, and he once owned the historic Swan Cottage in Kirkwood.

His mother Prudence likely moved from her Woodcook farm to St. Louis after her husband’s death on 17 August 1852 at the age of 80. She died 22 June 1879 at age 88 from cholera morbus and is buried in Forever Oak Hill Cemetery in Kirkwood, Missouri.


Hiram began his career as a school teacher like his father, then studied medicine, but in the spring of 1838 he decided to seek success in the Far West. After stopping briefly in Cincinnati Ohio, and a few other places, he settled finally in St. Louis Missouri, where he was employed as a recorder of deeds in General John Ruland’s office. Later that year, Hiram moved to northern Illinois and tried farming, growing wheat in Rock River and then selling it in Chicago. He took part of a large body of land which had been assigned to the exiled Poles. In 1840, Hiram signed a petition in the state of Illinois about number of settlers on land reserved for Polish exiles. Hiram then moved his family to Rockford, and began the study of the law in the office of Hon. Anson S. Miller and his brother. He remained about two years in the office of the Messrs. Miller; then returned to St. Louis to finish his studies in the office of Messrs. Taylor & Mason, and was examined and licensed to practice by Hon. John M. Krum in the fall of 1843.

Hiram returned to St. Louis in 1843 and became the deputy county surveyor. At the same time he was was chosen to be a deputy U.S. Marshal. This same year, Hiram started a surveying and engineering business with partner Napoleon Koscialowski and called the company Leffingwell & Koscialowski located at 42 N 4th Street (Koscialowski ended up leaving to volunteer for service when the Mexican-American War broke out in 1846). In 1845, his real estate business is in the City directory called McCamant & Leffingwell located at 43 Pine Street.

Then in 1849, Hiram formed a partnership in the real estate business with attorney Richard Smith Elliott and opened the first real estate office west of the Mississippi River. Their company was named Leffingwell & Elliott and they began a monthly publication Real Estate Register listing land for sale. Their office was on Chestnut Street which came to be known as Real Estate Row. Hiram and Richard were considered visionary in their views, as they both believed there would be massive growth in the City and moving west. That same year a very large fire broke out in the City and destroyed most of the business district. Business slowed down tremendously, but the City began to rebuild and a convention was held later that year to discuss the arrival of the Pacific Railroad.

Kirkwood Project

In 1850, with people beginning to move out of the City because of the cholera epidemic and crowding, and knowing the arrival of the Pacific Railroad was imminent, Hiram and Richard investigated buying land along the route of the Pacific Railroad for their new suburb. Their idea was to develop and build a suburb for people who were moving out of St. Louis. They hoped to promote their development as an escape from the noise and disease of the city. Hiram and Richard bought three small farms on Dry Ridge, 13 miles west of St. Louis and they named it Kirkwood. On 8 February 1853, the Missouri Legislature passed an act incorporating the Kirkwood Association. Kirkwood is the first planned suburban community west of the Mississippi. Hiram served on the City Council as Chairman for the Town of Kirkwood from 1865 to 1866, along with Richard S. Elliott and Albert Gallatin Edwards, Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury under President of the United States Abraham Lincoln and founder of brokerage firm A. G. Edwards. Hiram’s granddaughter Susan married Albert Gallatin Edwards’s son, Albert Ninian Edwards.

Grand Boulevard Project

Hiram had a simultaneous project. In 1850, Hiram platted and named Grand Boulevard, originally called Lindell Avenue. He envisioned a broad parklike thoroughfare extending from Carondelet to Bremen, along a high ridge line. Grand Boulevard was laid out along a high ridge west of the City in 1850 by Hiram and Richard, pioneer civil engineers and real estate men. The street was intended to be 120 feet wide, but was reduced to the present 80 feet by the County Court in a moment lacking in civic foresight. Such an idea was too advanced for the County Court, which limited the street to its existing width of eighty feet. Kingshighway is so-called from the custom of naming the public roads giving access to the ends of the common fields, as the Rue Royale or King's Road. It remained relatively unimportant until 1903 when the City's Kingshighway Boulevard Commission planned it as part of the fifteen mile Kingshighway Parkway system. http://stlouis.missouri.org/neighborhoods/history/shaw/text28.htm. Today, it’s a north-south thoroughfare runs through the center of St. Louis.

Stoddard Addition Project

Most property west of the St. Louis city lines was in acres so the next step was having it subdivided into lots. In 1851, a large tract of land owned by Henry Stoddard and others was subdivided known as Stoddard's Addition. Hiram and Richard surveyed and platted the land, then conducted the auction sale of lots in the subdivision in September 1851. It was the first auction sale of St. Louis realty. "The Stoddard sale, conducted by Leffingwell & Elliott, was closed yesterday, the gross amount being $701,676."

Richard left the business in 1855 and Hiram continued his business as H. W. Leffingwell & Company at 93 Chestnut Street. He was at 417 Chestnut Street in 1866. In 1875, he was at 320 Chestnut Street. Hiram continued to sell real estate at auction and plat new towns in the area including Stanton Missouri in 1868.

Forest Park Project

Likely considered Hiram’s biggest venture and accomplishment is the development of Forest Park which began in 1869. Hiram had a vision for a grand park in St. Louis west of Kingshighway. Hiram assumed that the direction of the City's growth would be westward and that his proposed park would ultimately be surrounded by an urbanized area as it is today. In 1870, he prepared a plan for a 2,754 acre park, secured aid and other state legislators to back the idea in the legislature. On January 19, 1871, Hiram presented his plans for Forest Park to the St. Louis delegates to the state legislation. Lawmakers approved his plan and passed the Forest Park Act in March 1872 and a preliminary opening occurred on June 29, 1872. But landowners filed suit seeking to have the law declared unconstitutional. The Missouri Supreme Court ruled on April 30, 1873 that the Forest Park Act was unconstitutional because of the special tax district.

The park was actually established in 1874 when the Missouri Legislature passed ordinances to establish three parks in St. Louis County including Forest Park. The act allowed the county to purchase the same land for Forest Park as designated in the 1872 Forest Park Act. Forest Park finally won approval and the General Assembly passed the Forest Park Act in 1874 to authorize a tax for acquiring the land. Forest Park was dedicated on June 24, 1876, coinciding with the centenary of the United States Declaration of Independence. Hiram was a member of the first Board of Forest Park Commissions. The development of Forest Park played a major role in the history of the West End of St. Louis.Today, each year the Women’s Committee of Forest Park Forever hosts a luncheon in honor of Leffingwell to honor individuals and corporations that have made significant contributions to the restoration of the Park.

Relationship with President U.S. Grant

It’s only speculative that Ulysses S. Grant and Hiram knew each other well. But it’s very possible they crossed paths in St. Louis and Galena Illinois. From 1854 to 1859, the Grants lived outside St. Louis in Grantwood Village, Missouri and Ulysses wife’s family lived nearby too. In 1859 they lived in St. Louis where Ulysses worked as a bill collector. Grant’s father offered Ulysses a job at the family's tannery and leather goods business in prosperous Galena, Illinois, where they moved in 1860. Hiram had connections in Galena too from when he used to live nearby.

On August 18, 1875, Hiram wrote to President Ulysses S. Grant. "I respectfully make application for the position of U.S. Marshal of this district in case change is meditated. I have resided in this state since 1838...” Hiram was then appointed by President Grant to be a United States Marshal for the Eastern District of Missouri from January 12, 1876 to June 2, 1880. His son John served as a U.S. Marshal under him. The U.S. Marshals Service is the enforcement arm of the federal courts, and as such, it is involved in virtually every federal law enforcement initiative. U.S. Marshals served as the main source of day-to-day law enforcement in areas that had no local government of their own and were instrumental in keeping law and order in the "Old West" era.

It was rumored that President Grant gave a bed to Hiram’s son, Dr. John Brooks Leffingwell, as a wedding present in 1880 before he moved to Florida. John was Grant’s nephew through marriage (John’s wife was Jennie Barnard. Jennie’s aunt Mary Shurlds was married to George Dent who was Julia Dent’s brother. President Grant was married to Julia Dent). The bed is on display at the South Florida Museum.

Later life

Around 1881, at age 72, Hiram and his wife Susan moved to Bradenton Florida with daughter Nellie, along with their son John Brooks Leffingwell and his family. John became Bradenton’s first physician, opened Bradenton’s first pharmacy, and then began the town’s telephone system in 1893. Hiram purchased 200 acres of the old Gamble plantation (owned by the Patten family) north of Bradenton, Florida and built a house west of the Gamble mansion (the site of the present-day EarthBox Garden Center). Hiram's wife Susan died there on 2 August 1882 at age 59.

About four years later, Hiram married Mary "Ellen" Patten on 22 April 1886, at age 76 (Ellen was 43), at the Presbyterian Church in Tampa, Florida (Officiant was George J. Griffiths, Pastor) and named his newly subdivided land "Ellenton". The name stuck and he further developed the town of Ellenton.

Ellenton United Methodist Church held its first services in 1884 in a house built on land donated by Hiram. Hiram donated the bell the church used for years. The bell is still there, according to Steve Bruns, pastor at the church, but the chimes now come from a computerized carillon system. Charms of Leffingwell Antiques store in Ellenton, Florida is named after Hiram Leffingwell: http://www.charmsofleffingwell.com

Hiram died at age 88 on 28 August 1897 in Ellenton, Florida. His burial is unknown (he is not buried at Mansion Memorial Park in Ellenton where Ellen is buried).


Books, magazines, journals, newspapers: Baker, Martha K. (December 27, 2007). 100 People Who Shaped St. Louis. St. Louis Magazine. Eaton, David Wolfe (1918). How Missouri Counties, Towns and Streams Were Named. The State Historical Society of Missouri. p. 360 Elliott, Richard Smith (1883). Notes Taken in Sixty Years. Elliott, Richard Smith (1997). The Mexican War Correspondence of Richard Smith Elliott. Erwin, Vicki Berger (Jul 15, 2013). Kirkwood. Lodesky, James D (2010). Polish Pioneers in Illinois 1818-1850. Grant, Ulysses Simpson; Simon, John Y; et al (1994). The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant: November 1, 1869-October 31, 1870. Grant, Ulysses Simpson; Simon, John Y; et al (2003). The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant: 1875. Green, James (1845). Green's St. Louis Directory. Green, James (1847). Green's St. Louis Directory. Sutherland & McEvoy (1860). The Missouri State Gazetteer and Business Directory. Hunter, Julius K; Pettus, Robert C; Lujan, Leonard (1988). Westmoreland and Portland Places: The History and Architecture of America's Premier Private Streets. p. 26 Hyde, William (1899). Encyclopedia of the History of St. Louis: A Compendium of History and Biography for Ready Reference, Volume 3. Leffingwell, Albert (1897). Leffingwell record: a genealogy of the descendants of Lieut. Thomas Leffingwell, one of the founders of Norwich, Conn. Mahoney, Timothy R (1999). Provincial Lives: Middle-Class Experience in the Antebellum Middle West. Primm, James Neal (1998). Lion of the Valley: St. Louis, Missouri, 1764-1980. p. 306 Puleo, P.A (2010). Forest Park and the Separation of City and County. Ravenswaay, Charles Van (1991). St. Louis: An Informal History of the City and Its People, 1764-1865. Reavis, L. U (1876). Saint Louis: The Future Great City of the World and here. Scharf, J. Thomas (1883). History of Saint Louis City and County, From the Earliest Periods to the Present Day: Including Biographical Sketches of Representative Men. In Two Volumes, Illustrated. Volume II and here. Stevens, Walter Barlow (1911). St. Louis: The Fourth City, 1764-1911, Volume 2. U.S. Census Records: 1860, Kirkwood Missouri U.S. Census Records: 1870, Bonhomme Township Missouri (Kirkwood) U.S. Census Records: 1880, Kirkwood Missouri U.S. Government Printing Office (1841). Congressional Series of United States Public Documents, Volume 378 Watson, Irving Allison (1896). Physicians and Surgeons of America: A Collection of Biographical Sketches of the Regular Medical Profession. Wiggins, Jim (2007). Manatee County.

Online: City of Kirkwood, History of City Councils: http://www.kirkwoodmo.org/content/City-Departments/2037/history-of-city-councils.aspx Dahle, Wendy. Bradenton Herald, Roots Run Deep. March 21, 2009: http://www.bradenton.com/2009/03/21/1308317/roots-run-deep.html History of Forest Park: https://www.stlouis-mo.gov/archive/history-forest-park/early.html Reed, Sylvia. Sarasota Magazine, Ellenton evolves: once the home of agriculture and southern history, this Manatee community is becoming much, much more. January 1, 2004 http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Ellenton+evolves%3A+once+the+home+of+agriculture+and+southern+history,...-a0112907042 U.S. Marshals Service, History of Eastern District of Missouri: http://www.usmarshals.gov/district/mo-e/general/history.htm South Florida Museum: http://www.southfloridamuseum.org/TheMuseum/BradentonsWunderkammer/tabid/81/post/grant-s-bed-the-leffingwell-family/Default.aspx Photo from Northern Illinois University: http://lincoln-live.lib.niu.edu/islandora/object/niu-twain:9461 St. Louis Historic Preservation: http://stlcin.missouri.org/history/peopledetail.cfm

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Hiram Wheeler Leffingwell's Timeline

May 3, 1809
Huntington, MA, United States
June 11, 1835
Age 26
August 10, 1837
Age 28
Meadville, PA, United States
May 20, 1851
Age 42
January 25, 1853
Age 43
St. Louis, Missouri
November 4, 1854
Age 45
Kirkwood, St. Louis County, Missouri, United States
September 4, 1857
Age 48
May 21, 1860
Age 51