Visitors Guide to
Monroe County, Illinois
"A Historic 19th Century German
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.