Sunday, August 23, 2015


The city of St. Louis, by American standards, has been around quite a long time. In 1764, a wandering fur trapper named Pierre Laclede stood at the foot of today’s Walnut Street and made this proclamation: “I have found a situation where I intend establishing a settlement which in the future shall become one of the finest cities in America.” He was accompanied by his stepson Auguste Chouteau, who would oversee much of the construction of the new village.

Auguste Chouteau's Rendering of St. Louis
St. Louis, named for King Louis IV, technically lay within Spanish territory. It thrived as a trading post due to its location at the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers and proximity to fur-rich lands to the west. 

Beginning in 1800, there were a whole lot of land switcheroos going on. France whipped out the secret Treaty of St. Ildefonse, which gave them immediate claim to the entire Louisiana Territory. They named St. Louis its capital. Four years later, a battle-weary and cash-strapped Napolean cut a package land deal–the Louisiana Purchase–with President Thomas Jefferson, thereby doubling the size of the United States. (As a native of the state of Louisiana, I take great pride in pointing out that our boundaries once encompassed all or part of fifteen modern states!)

Missouri River Water Trail
St. Louis grew into an important outfitting post for travelers heading west. After months of preparation, the Lewis and Clark Expedition officially launched their keelboat and pirogues onto the river at nearby St. Charles in 1804. Their Corps of Discovery would return to the same riverfront two and a half years later. 

Two mailbags marked “The Butterfield Overland Mail Company” left St. Louis on September 16, 1858, marking the inaugural trip of BOMC’s three-year run as a postal carrier. Countless settlers streamed through the city, stuffing their wagons with supplies for a long trek to the newly opened frontier.

Riverboats sidled up to the docks at old Laclede’s Landing, a number of them piloted by an upriver boy named Samuel Clemens. The famous 1870 race between the Robert E. Lee and the Natchez ended here on the Fourth of July, with the Lee more than six hours ahead.

The Robert E. Lee and the Natchez, roaring upriver

Two brewers named Anheuser and Busch became “buds” in 1879. Industry and railroads moved in. At the time of the World’s Fair in 1904, the host city of St. Louis was the fourth largest metropolis in America. 

If you thought that Charles Lindbergh named his plane “The Spirit of St. Louis” out of fondness for the city, you would be mistaken. That was the home base of…his investors.

On St. Louis’s riverbank–framing the setting sun–stands its most famous modern icon, the Gateway Arch. It is the centerpiece of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, and was dedicated in 1968. If you’ve never visited, be sure to check out the Museum of Westward Expansion at the base of the Arch. Take the enclosed tram (unless you’re claustrophobic) to the observation deck for stunning views of the city to the west and the sprawling farmlands of Illinois to the east. Finnish architect Eero Saarinen designed the curve of the aluminum structure to resemble a length of hanging chain. I’m told that the technical term is a weighted catenary

And just where does this St. Louis timeline lead us? To the first annual Western Fictioneers Convention, of course! It seemed only right that we should meet in the city known as  “The Gateway to the West” to celebrate the literature and history of the American Frontier.

Old Pierre Laclede would be pleased to know that "one of the finest cities in America" will be hosting a talented group of writers who continue to keep the spirit of the frontier alive.

The Western Fictioneers convention runs from 1:00 PM on Friday, October 30, through 11:00 AM on Sunday, November 1, 2015. Registration info can be found HERE.

All the best,

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(2015 SPUR Award Finalist,
Best Short Fiction
(2015 PEACEMAKER Award Finalist,
Best Short Fiction)


  1. I'm so excited about the convention, and meeting so many fellow Western Fictioneers in person. I just hope the rabble-rousers don't destroy the city before we get there.

    1. Jim, I think the hotel staff is as excited as we are. They don't usually get such an unusual, creative group. :D

    2. That's great, because the facility staff can make or break a convention. Perhaps, if it's not too expensive, we could get the ones most involved with helping you put this together Western Fictioneers Tshirts.... or coffee mugs, or whatever WF merchandise we still have available

  2. Vonn McKee,

    A very good article.

    Of course there were darker sides to this city, but we won't discuss them.

    Wish everyone the very best.

    1. There are darker sides to every city, of course.

    2. Thanks, Charlie. I used to live in St. Louis years ago and I've always loved its history and architecture.

      Jim is right. There's trouble on every side.

      Peace, love and western fiction!

  3. This convention is going to be so much fun! Thanks for all your hard work putting it together. I'll be hitting a few museums in St. Louis and hope to see museums throughout the southern part of Missouri, plus visit Ava, where my grandfather was born. It'll be my first visit to this state. Very excited!

  4. Forest Park is the place to be. Missouri History Museum, the McDonnell Planetarium, the Jewel Box Conservatory, and the St. Louis Zoo are all located within the park.

    Can't wait to meet you, Jacquie, and all other WF friends.

  5. I am really looking forward to re-visiting St Louis. It was the first stop after Chicago on Route 66 last year. I enjoyed the Gateway Arch and learned a lot about the history just walking about by the river. It is worth the perambulation.

    It is a great place for our first convention.

    Micki, you have done a great job!

    Thank you!


    PS. I am intrigued about and looking forward to the entertainment that you have arranged.

    1. Many of us will be perambulating to your session, "The Doctor's Bag: Medicine and Surgery of Yesteryear."

      Yes, big surprises on the entertainment bill!


    2. Ooo! Entertainment. Dancing girls, I hope. And snake charmers. (Oil sales taken from any snakes that fail to cooperate?) And perhaps a trombone ensemble. Sounds perfect.

    3. Dancing girls, snake charmers and trombones. How did you GUESS, Frank?

  6. Great post, Vonn. Sadly the closest I actually got was staying in the little town of Red Bud across the river in Illinois. My friend got her first teaching job at the tiny Lutheran school there and we went to check it out right after graduation. I have seen the arch from an airplane, though, on a layover. I think that counts. Supposedly my ancestors arrived in SL about 1832. Have a wonderful time at the convention!

    1. The Gateway Arch is gorgeous, even from the air. How cool that you have a family connection to the city! I think we'll have another convention down the road. Maybe you can join us next time.

  7. Looking forward to seeing everyone at the convention! Got my replica six-gun and everything...

    1. I'll be cutting a wide berth around you. See y'all in two months!