The long-awaited day is almost here. The Schlafly brewpub in Highland, IL will be opening soon. While we don’t yet know the precise date, we have chosen a name: Schlafly Highland Square. The rationale for this name is simple. We’ll be in a former bank building on Main Street on the north side of the Town Square in Downtown Highland.
As some alert readers (ARs) may recall, Highland is where the Schlafly family’s American dream began in 1854. As was the case with millions of immigrants before and afterwards, their journey was not easy. According to some accounts, it was the upheaval caused by the Sonderbund Civil War, a sectarian conflict between Catholic cantons and the Federal Diet of Switzerland, that led to their emigration. But, according to one of my distant cousins in Steinhof, the village where my great grandfather August was born in 1850, it was in fact extreme poverty that prompted their decision to leave. According to this man, whose name I forget, the villagers cut down a grove of trees and sold the lumber to finance the emigration of several families, thereby leaving fewer mouths to feed.
In 1854 Johann and Helena Schlafly set sail from Le Havre, France along with their six children on The Roger Stewart. They were among 585 passengers in steerage in a relatively small sailing vessel whose main purpose was transporting cotton from New Orleans back to Europe. One of their children, six month-old Adolf, died aboard the ship on May 4, 1854, three weeks before The Roger Stewart docked in New Orleans. It was in New Orleans that Johann contracted cholera, from which he died three months later in Highland, leaving his widow with five surviving children and pregnant with a sixth. In 1858 the family relocated to Carlyle, IL, where members of the Know-Nothing Party (bigoted nativists) prevented August from attending the public school because he was a foreign-born Catholic.
These memories of family lore were very much on my mind in August when the Taliban overran Kabul and The United States began preparing for an influx of tens of thousands of refugees from Afghanistan. Like my ancestors and those of tens of millions of other Americans, these Afghans were forced by desperate circumstances to flee with little more than the clothes on their backs. Immediately after reading the news, my wife and I began gathering boxes of household items and delivered two carloads to The International Institute, at 3401 Arsenal Street. It was gratifying to see that we were not alone and hundreds of other St. Louisans had already donated enough to fill a former high school gymnasium. I’m positive that the Afghans coming to St. Louis and their descendants will do the same for future refugees from wars, natural disasters and poverty.
By the time Schlafly Highland Square is officially open, the 2021-22 hockey season will have started. One of the names generating a lot of excitement among St. Louis Blues fans is that of Zachary Bolduc. Although he is very unlikely to play in the NHL this season, Bolduc, a first round draft pick from Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, is widely regarded as a prospect with enormous potential. What some ARs, including avid Blues fans, may not realize, is that he has a familial link with the St. Louis area. I am not making this up.
One of the important historic structures in Ste. Genevieve is the Louis Bolduc House, at 123 South Main Street, which was built in 1792 and was owned by members of the Bolduc family until the 1940s. I do not know if Zachary is aware that he is almost certainly a collateral descendant of Louis Bolduc, but I’m sure he’d receive a warm welcome if he were to visit Ste. Genevieve the next time he’s in St. Louis.
Louis Bolduc was born in Saint-Joachim, Quebec (not far from Trois-Rivieres) on Christmas Eve, 1734. On August 23, 1759, during the Seven Years War, British troops destroyed the village and killed many of its inhabitants in what came to be called The Massacre at Saint-Joachim. Like many others before and since, Louis became a war refugee. He emigrated from Canada and eventually settled in Ste. Genevieve, where he was a successful fur trader and built one of the finest houses in town.. Like the Schlaflys in the 1850s and Afghans in 2021, he had been uprooted by a catastrophe and realized his American dream near the banks of the Mississippi.
Chairman – The Saint Louis Brewery