Jefferson County History - Crystal City and Festus

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On the "El Camino Real" five miles south of Herculaneum, are the twin cities of Festus and Crystal City. Crystal City was established as a settlement along a roadway which was cut through the forests from St. Louis to Ste. Genevieve. After it had been an actual settlement for many years, a party of scientists and surveyors came along to inspect the district. One of them noted the peculiar type of sand which was around the site and sent two casks of it to England to be analyzed. It was returned and the analysis showed that the sand was especially adapted for glass manufacture. As a result, a company was formed by Captain Ebenezer B. Ward of Detroit and called American Plate Glass Company. In May, 1872, building began and workmen were recruited from surrounding farms. A town began to grow around the factory and though it was named "New Detroit", the people called it Crystal City, which is its present name. Despite the sand's high promise, the enterprise failed, and in 1877 the factory and land were sold to a new corporation, the Crystal Plate Glass Company of St. Louis. Eighteen years later the factory, town, and holdings were purchased by the plant's present owner, the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company. Crystal City was, until 1906, a real "company town", but after that date, lots and other properties were sold by the company to private individuals for residences and business houses. The town was incorporated in 1912.

Festus was settled shortly after the establishment of "New Detroit" or Crystal City. After the establishment in 1878 by W. J. Adams, it was named "Tanglefoot" because of the fact that several of its first businesses were saloons. The reason for this was that the officials of the glass company, whose plant was in "New Detroit", ruled that no drinking would be permitted nearer than one mile to the business. In later years, the nearby city was called "Limitville", but when it grew larger, a more dignified name was sought. The name "Festus" is claimed to have been chosen to honor a St. Louis banker, Festus J. Wade. Others say the town's name was chosen by an itinerate preacher who opened his Bible blindly and pointed to the name "Festus" in the Book of Acts. The City of Festus was incorporated in 1888 and grew to be one of the largest towns in the county.

Built in 1890, this steamboat, named after Crystal City, served for nearly thirty years on the Mississippi River. She sank twice early in her career:

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from Historic Sites of Jefferson County, Missouri (Eschbach, Walter L.)

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