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History of Ballwin

Ballwin is a unique name for a City. In fact, it is the only City in the United States with its spelling (BALLWIN, NOT BALDWIN). The City was founded by John Ball, son of James Ball and Mary Bray Ball of Virginia and Kentucky. His father, James, who came to America from Dublin, Ireland, served in the 4th and 8th Virginia Regiments during the Revolutionary War. Because of his military service, he was given a military land warrant and moved to this new land in Kentucky after the war. Reportedly, James was a friend of Daniel Boone.

Around 1797 or 1798, our founder, John Ball, moved to the West St. Louis County area, possibly at the same time as the Daniel Boone party moved to and settled in the St. Charles, Warren County areas. Records now preserved in Jefferson City show the transfer of title of about 400 acres of land along Grande Glaize Creek to John Ball in February, 1800. This is the first official record of John Ball in the West County area.

Since John Ball's property claim was derived originally from a Spanish land grant, and was land that was at the time under Spanish rule, the Louisiana Purchase raised doubts about property ownership. It took ten years of hearings and appeals for John Ball to clear his claim to the land that would eventually become the town of Ballwin.

In 1826, Missouri moved its capital to Jefferson City. Soon, there was a need for an overland mail route between St. Louis and the new capital. As luck would have it, this new road was established along a route that passed by John Ball's property. After the road, known at times as Jefferson Road, Market Road, and Manchester Road, became established, John Ball decided to capitalize on the accessibility it provided for his property, and laid out a town.

The town was originally recorded as "Ballshow", but two days later, on February 9, 1837, Ball amended the recorded plat to be named Ballwin. No one knows for sure why the name was changed, but one of John Ball's great-grandsons says it was the result of a rivalry with neighboring Manchester. Ball saw great things ahead for his new town and was confident that it would "win out" in reputation and growth over its older and more prominent neighbor, two miles to the east. Hence the "win" was incorporated into the name.

In the years that followed, Ballwin has grown from the town Ball knew, with only a few homes and businesses, to a small village of 750 people when it was incorporated on December 29, 1950, to a thriving City of 32,000 today. John Ball's vision of Ballwin as the leading City in the West County area has been realized. If you would like to learn more about John Ball and other stories of Ballwin's past, Ballwin history books may be purchased at The Pointe at Ballwin Commons (#1 Ballwin Commons Dr. Ballwin, MO 63021).

New Ballwin History Book

With nearly 200 historic photographs from Ballwin's earliest days up to the present, the Ballwin History book will be treasured for years to come.

Check out photos of a two-lane Manchester Road and of Ballwin Days from years gone by. See a young Mark McGwire playing baseball in Ballwin in a warm-up game to the 1984 Olympics. Enjoy seeing how prominent city landmarks, schools, and other buildings looked "once upon a time."

The book, called Ballwin, costs $21.99, and is available online through the publisher, Arcadia. 

Regular meetings of the Commission are held at 2:30 p.m. the second Tuesday of every month at the Old Ballwin School House on Jefferson Street next to the current Ballwin Elementary School. All meetings are open to the public and include coffee and cookies.

The Commissions primary function is to promote, educate, and illustrate the history of Ballwin, its exploration, settlement, development, and activities.

The Barn at Lucerne

A landmark of yesterdays rural countryside has become a landmark of today's booming suburban life in the Barn at Lucerne at Clayton and Kehr's Mill Roads.

First known as the Blue Grass Stock Farm, the property was owned by Henry Bopp, who built two brick barns on it in 1906, reportedly using bricks salvaged from the 1904 World's Fair. Bopp sold the property to Will Schisler in 1915. In 1916, Schisler established the Calla Lily Dairy Farm and erected the main dairy barn, office, and silos. The 50,000 sq. ft. barn was a modern marvel, with running water and electric lights.

It was purchased by John Ganahl in 1923. In 1941, St. Louis Dairy took over. The operation was eventually absorbed by Sealtest before its use as a dairy barn came to an end. It sat idle except for a time when it was used as an antique auto museum.

In 1968, a fire of undetermined cause damaged the barn extensively. Recognizing the potential in the site and structure, Paul Londe ( known to St. Louisans for his design of the Climatron at the Missouri Botanical Gardens) led a redevelopment effort, renovating the building inside and out. The building reopened in 1974, hosting retail and entertainment destinations.

The Ballwin Bus Line

In the early part of the 20th century, traveling around the West County area was not as easy as walking out to your car in the garage and driving down the street to the destination you desired. This was an area of poor roads and a lack of public or private transportation options. Coming forward to provide a public transportation option was John F. Bopp, who ran the livery stable and Ballwin's first bus line.

His bus line carried mail, as well as passengers, beginning around the turn of the century. At first, he transported passengers from Ballwin to Barrett's Station, and the mail from Ballwin and Manchester to Barrett's Station, making two round trips daily. This connected Ballwin and Manchester residents with the Missouri Pacific Railway at Barrett's Station. Later he extended his route to the Meramec Highlands, which enabled his passengers to commute to St. Louis via the street car. His first horseless bus was an International.

When the street car ceased running to Meramec Highlands in the 1920's, he extended his route to Maplewood. He continued the daily run to Maplewood until his death in 1934, and his daughter, Helen, continued with the service car to Maplewood until she died in 1961.

The Ballwin Volunteer Fire Department

When the Ballwin Volunteer Fire Department was in its early years back in the '30s, it used a very efficient method of directing late arriving volunteer firemen to the scene of the fire. When the fire truck went out on a call, the men would drop little bags of lime out onto the road just before and just after making a turn. The volunteers following, as soon as they could, would follow the trail made by the broken bags of lime. The volunteer Fire Department was organized in 1933 and was the forerunner of the current Metro West Fire District.

The Ballwin Hotel

In the later part of the 19th century, Ballwin had an assortment of businesses along Manchester Road. The number and variety were not comparable to today's Highway 100, but for the times, it was a very prosperous stretch of road. One of the businesses was the Ballwin Hotel (also known as the Western Hotel or the Kling Hotel). The hotel was originally owned by Mr. Charles Busch, and later by his wife, Anne Elizabeth Busch Kling, after his death. The hotel was a very impressive structure with a veranda across the front and west side, and was located at the southeast corner of Manchester and Fremont St. At the turn of the century, cycling groups would bike out from the city and spend Saturday night at the hotel. After spending a pleasant night at the hotel, the groups would return to St. Louis on Sunday. At times during its existence, the Ballwin Hotel included a dry goods/grocery/hardware store within its walls.

Mr. Edward Blinne

In this age of specialization when people depend on the Yellow Pages and the telephone to find someone skilled in a particular field, every time a need arises, it's almost beyond our comprehension to find how self reliant and talented our forefathers were.

Ballwin, of course, is no exception with many very talented individuals who seemingly could handle any problem or fill any role that needed filling. One of these individuals was Ballwin businessman Edward Blinne. Mr. Blinne was the son of a Gasconade County farmer, who, with his wife, Dorothea, ran a general store in Ballwin, beginning in 1903. When his store burned down in 1912, with the help of many friends, he rebuilt.

In addition to his business and construction skills, Mr. Blinne, who had attended Central Wesleyan College in Warrenton, was elected and served as Justice of the Peace of Bonhomme Township three times. It was said of him that he was an excellent gardener and cabinet maker. He also ran a gasket manufacturing business in the basement of the store. Other talents included playing cornet in a German band and photography. Where he and Dorthea found the time to raise a family (two children - Rora and Oliver) is definitely a mystery. Next time your life seems a little hectic and out of control, remember Ed Blinne.

Ballwin Baseball

The City of Ballwin and the game of baseball have been synonymous in St. Louis County for the past sixty odd years. From the day the first ball diamond was laid out in the 1920s to today, Ballwin natives have played and watched amateur baseball with enthusiasm. The first ball diamond was located behind the Schrader Funeral Home. Later sportsmen played baseball at the end of Lincoln St. where Ballwin Elementary School is. When that ground became needed, ball players moved their field of endeavor to the lot where Southwestern Bell now has a building on New Ballwin Road. The move to the modern-day site at Jefferson Road and Lyons Street occurred in 1946, when the Ballwin Athletic Association paid $500 an acre for the then 10-acre site. Four years later, lights were added at the ball field making it the first lighted field in St. Louis County. Ballwin has always fielded strong baseball teams. In the 1950s, the Ballwin team won the St. Louis County League Championship five times. From these teams, two Ballwin players went on to play professional baseballm - Hank Arft with the old St. Louis Browns and Don "Red" Loehr with the St. Louis Cardinal organization. Yes, this is the same Red Loehr who was Ballwin's Chief of Police for over 30 years. In 1972, the Ballwin Post 611 American Legion team won the American Legion National Championship. Players from this team also went on to play professional baseball. Baseball has always played a part in Ballwin's community pride and history.

John Ball-Our City's Founding Father

Most Ballwin residents are probably unaware that our City's founding Father, John Ball, is not buried within the boundaries of the City he founded back in 1837.

On the night of August 31, 1859, John Ball passed away after a long illness. He was buried in Block 16 of the Community Burial Grounds that he had set aside for such purposes when he laid out the town of Ballwin, twenty-two years earlier.

But, as we all know, nothing gets in the way of progress, especially during that time in our county's history. Several years later, the path of Missouri Highway 100 (Manchester Road) was changed, taking up part of Block 16 and the monuments and remains of those buried there were moved to other cemeteries. Highway 100, the Masonic Hall and several homes now occupy Block 16. The markers and remains of John Ball and his wife, Mary, were moved to the Methodist cemetery in Manchester next to Woods Mill Road, thus completing the final chapter in the story of John Ball of Ballwin.

Founder's Father A Patriot

James Ball, the Father of Ballwin's founder John Ball, was born in 1749 in Dublin, Ireland. As a young man, he emigrated to America and settled in Virginia in an area that is now West Virginia. In 1776, James Ball joined the patriot forces, enlisting from Hampshire County, Virginia, and first served in the 4th Virginia Regiment, commanded by Col. James Wood. He was later transferred to the 8th Virginia Regiment under Capt. Robert Gamele and Col. William Vauses company. James Ball was wounded in the Battle of Brandywine and also saw action at Germantown and Stoney Point, as he fought for our country's independence.

Manchester Road Established 1826

In 1826, the Missouri State Legislature moved to Jefferson City, making it the new state capital. One of the first orders of business after the move was to supplement the Missouri River access to the capital with an overland route. Soon an overland mail route between St. Louis and Jefferson City was established. At first the post road was a narrow bridle trail, and perhaps originally was an Indian trail. After successive improvements, in 1836, the State Legislature upgraded the road's designation to a coach road, and it was known for a time as "Old State Road," but later as Manchester Road. By 1837, Manchester Road was a well traveled passage, and the mail route from St. Louis was along it through such Post Office stops as Manchester, Point Labadie, and Union.

What is the significance of all this discussion of Manchester Road? The significance is that this new road happened to pass by John Ball's property, and because of this accessibility, Ball laid out a town in 1836 - 1837. It consisted of 17 lots with 4 lots per block. The town was recorded in St. Louis on February 9, 1837, and was the beginning of Ballwin as we know it today.

Would Ballwin exist today if Manchester Road had not been established as an overland route by the Missouri legislature? It's only a guess, but without a road to provide access, it's unlikely that John Ball would have founded Ballwin, and the history of West St. Louis County would be different.

Manchester Road History

When people from other areas of St. Louis County think of the City of Ballwin, they naturally picture busy Manchester Road, with its seemingly endless number of retail stores and businesses. Manchester Road truly is the lifeline of the City of Ballwin, as it has been since our very beginning. The road itself has a very long and interesting history. It first was called Rue Bonhomme during French control of the area. At that time, it was an extension of a street in St. Louis platted Market Street, which farmers used to carry produce to market on the St. Louis riverfront. This old Market Street was located about one-fourth mile north of the present road.

In 1835, the St. Louis County Court approved an act to lay out Manchester Road, and in 1839, Manchester road had its establishment provided for by the Missouri General Assembly. The General Assembly made Manchester Road the first official State road in St. Louis County in order to provide an overland medium between Jefferson City and St. Louis. This is probably why it is shown on some early maps of the area as Jefferson Road.

John Ball, Ballwin's founder, built his home on Manchester Road and laid out his town around it. From that time until today, Manchester Road has become Ballwin's lifeline.

Manchester Road Expanded

Manchester Road's expansion to four lanes in 1963 was marked by a mammoth ribbon cutting at the eastern city limits of Manchester. Then mayors of Ellisville, Manchester, and Ballwin - Larry Sadler, Sid Johnson and Walter Smith, respectively - are the three men with the large scissors.

Love the History of Ballwin? 

Join the Ballwin Historical Commission!

Meetings are held on the second Tuesday of every month at 6 p.m. in the Ballwin Schoolhouse, 308 Jefferson Avenue.  

All meetings are open to the public. The society's primary function is to promote, educate, and illustrate the history of Ballwin, its exploration, settlement, development, and activities. Please call (636) 227-8950 to learn more about the Historical Commission or email