Taken from Lemay Comprehensive Plan 2006 Housing Partnership, St. Louis County Department of Planning
Historic 1880s photo
The French were the first European inhabitants in what is now Lemay. In 1700, the French Jesuits established a mission and small settlement near the mouth of the River Des Peres. Three years later, however, the mission was transferred to Kaskaskia, Illinois and the settlement was soon abandoned. Development in the area did not resume until the second half of the 18th century as a result of the growth of Carondelet. Carondelet was a French settlement established in 1767. The Lemay portion of Carondelet, known formally as Carondelet Commons, was located south of the River Des Peres and used primarily for agricultural purposes. By 1770, the residents of Carondelet were using the land to the south of the River Des Peres as part of their common field, harvesting timber there for use as fuel, fencing, and for sale in local markets. While vital to Carondelet’s development in present-day St. Louis, the use of the commons hampered private settlement and development in what became Lemay. Due to its status as a municipal common ground, land titles for the area were disputed well into the 19th century. Lemay’s identity as a community separate from Carondelet began to materialize between the Civil War and the Great Depression. Settlement progressed in the final decades of the 19th century by the resolution of land disputes and from a surge of immigrants from St. Louis and Europe, especially the Germanic areas. The immigrants established several small communities in the area south of the River Des Peres such as Luxemburg, Ivory, Bismark Heights, Longwood, and Bobringville. Development continued between 1880 and 1920 with the start of industrial development such as The National Brick and Quarry Company and Stupp Brothers; new streetcar service to St. Louis; the formation of various civic improvement associations; the creation of volunteer fire departments; and the establishment of a local bank. Community awareness was also enhanced by the establishment of local schools and churches during these years. Lemay is named for a pioneer family from Carondelet – Lemai or Lemais – who operated a ferry service across the Meramec River in the 1800s. As far as is known, the first time “Lemay” was used, as a place name was when St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad built a Lemay station, completed by 1909. As late as 1930, Luxemburg, Dewey Heights, Lemay Comprehensive Plan Longwood, and Point Breeze were still primarily used for local identification. It was in that year that the Naborhood Link News was established with the purpose of linking these scattered neighborhoods, and others, into one community. However, it was not until 1936, with the opening of the Lemay Branch of the U.S. Post Office, that “Lemay” was officially applied to the entire community. By the turn of the 20th century, various industries and businesses began to serve the local population, and community services were established to transform Lemay into a functional, modern settlement.