Visitors Guide to
Monroe County, Illinois

"A Historic 19th Century German Village"

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The quaint village of Maeystown is situated in the hills just above the bluff line that separates the American Bottom and the interior uplands. The village’s history traces back to the 1780s when Revolutionary War veterans began claiming 100-acre land grants as payment for their military service. James McRoberts staked a claim on a hilly, wooded tract of land containing three streams and a large spring. After several owners, Jacob Maeys, an immigrant from Bavaria, purchased this tract in 1848 because the waterpower from the large spring could be used to run a sawmill.

A large number of immigrants who were escaping the political turmoil in Germany began arriving in the region in 1848. In 1852 Maeys sold his sawmill and laid out part of the 100 acres in lots and called the village Maeysville (the name was changed to Maeystown when the Post Office was opened in 1860.) These immigrants, called Forty-Eighters, bought up the lots and a village reminiscent of old world Germany quickly sprang up. These immigrants brought with them the knowledge of masonry and building construction and with the abundance of local limestone soon erected the stone structures including houses, the arched bridge, the church, the flourmill, and the numerous retaining walls that visitors can still see today. They also brought with them a diversity of job skills and Maeystown quickly became a self-supporting community able to get all its needs from local resources despite its proximity to St. Louis. Although many communities in Monroe County have large German populations, Maeystown was distinctive in that it was exclusively German and remained so for decades.

The entire village of Maeystown was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, one of only a handful of communities in the country to have this distinction. Although limestone was used to build the oldest and most notable structures, frame and locally produced brick structures are also well represented. Maeystown was laid out on a single slope on the left bank of the middle stream and the slopes were not graded level for building placement. By incorporating the design of the building into the landscape, Maeystown offers a splendid example of where man lives in harmony with nature.

The well-maintained historic structures, the isolation the community experienced, and its pride in its German heritage have combined to create an ambience that makes Maeystown a popular stop for visitors. Although the historic enterprises are long gone, there are several local shops, a B&B, and a tavern that continue to operate. A museum in the Rock Mill (photo left) with exhibits on the village's history is open on weekends. A variety of special events occur throughout the year that celebrates Maeystown’s German heritage including the pre-Lent celebration of Fastnacht and the tradition of Oktoberfest in the fall. Food historians generally credit people of German descent for introducing fruit butters to our country. On the last Friday and Saturday of September members from the Maeystown community make apple butter at the Old Rock Mill. The public is invited to come by and watch this old time tradition of cooking apples in a copper kettle while being stirred almost constantly by a wooden paddle, until the apples are turn into a smooth paste, which is then seasoned with spices and put up into jars.
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