Leonard Matthews, Farmer, ‘49er, Merchant, Banker and Gardner
Gardened at St. Francisville, Mo. in 1841 and 42 when 13 years old.
Was a farmer in Ralls County, Mo. in 1848.
In the spring of 1849 went to California in a prairie schooner during the gold rush.
Returned from California via Panama & New York City in 1851, reaching St. Louis in August of that year.
Operated a retail drug store on 3rd & Market St. until the fall of 1852 when he and his brothers, with C. W. Levering started in the wholesale drug business between Main & 2nd Sts., afterward moving to 2nd & Locust Sts., in where he sold out to Meyer Bros. & Co. in 1865 – retiring to a farm on Collins and Kirkham Roads that year.
In Dec. ’65 he and my mother made a trip to the Holy Land and Europe, retuning to St. Louis Co. in the late fall of 1866, continuing to farm until 1870.
In 1869 he bought 15 acres in the Missouri Pacific R.R. at Holmes Ave., east of Kirkwood, where it may be said he commenced gardening in earnest. His first effort was to construct two ponds, one of which was devoted to raising gold-fish, the other to game fish and aquatic plants, and shrubs and trees liking water.
This place was laid out in fruit and vegetable gardens and landscaped so as to give the best display effect to various shrubs and flowers.
Surrounding the gold-fish pond was a rock garden, built very elaborately of cavernous stone, both land or fossil, and sea coral, fossils of various kinds and odd-shaped rocks gathered by my father from the four quarters of the globe, both nearby and far. Many of these rocks, corals, etc. he secured in New Orleans where they were brought in as ballast on ships sailing the seven seas.
This rock garden was an elaborate affair over 100 feet long and 40 or 50 feet wide and was built up in places 10 and 15 feet above the level of the pond. It had slopes and levels, sink-holes and caves in it, with walls for ferns and arid places for dry-loving plants and bogs for moisture loving ones.
Here might be found all the native flowers from the Meramec Hills and many from the Rocky Mountains and other places.