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Henry Prehn settled in Webster in 1858. He is purported to be the 61st settler to the town. He first worked as a laborer staying at the Webster College. He opened a modest, little-of-everything store in 1867. It became one of the largest, best stocked and most reliable stores in the county.

In 1880, because of an explosion of gasoline, both original buildings burned, and Mr. Prehn, without any funds on hand, the insurance having expired a few days previous and had not been renewed; and with a growing family to provide for, felt very downcast. But the faith that a number of friends and patrons had in him and the generous and warmhearted way in which it was expressed, gave him courage to start business again, immediately, in a temporary structure, while the brick building which still stands was erected on the old site.

From 1884 to 1892 he was the postmaster and the post office was located in his store.

Here is an account of early Webster from Mr. Prehn (taken from the History of St. Louis County, 1911, William L. Thomas):



A vivid idea of the Webster of the 1860's to the 1870s is conveyed in a communication which was prepared for this book by Mr. Henry Prehn and his accomplished daughter Miss Carrie J Prehn.  Mr. Prehn - but the sketch tells it all and here it is:


Mr. Henry Prehn one of the early settlers of St. Louis county was born in a village ten miles south of the city of Bremen in the province of Hanover Germany January 21 1833. In 1857 he left Germany for the New World spending eight weeks on the ocean and landing in New Orleans. He came direct from that city to St. Louis arriving there in May. In September through the persuasion of a friend living in Webster at that time he came out here to live and with the exception of a year in the early sixties spent in Kirkwood he has made Webster Groves his home ever since.


In those early days nearly the whole of Webster was a vast woods.  There were just about a half dozen houses there and only three families when Mr. Prehn arrived. They were the Gore, the Avery and the Dimond families. The Gores built and lived in the house later owned by Dr. B.J. Bristol, the Averys had rooms in the Webster College of which Mr. Avery was president while the Rev Mr. Dimond and his family occupied a cottage near the college he preaching in the Rock Hill Presbyterian church on Sundays and teaching Latin in the college during the week. These buildings are still standing the college being used as a Soldiers Orphans Home during the war and afterwards given over to the Protestants Orphans Home. This building was badly damaged by fire last November but will be repaired. There were no roads through the little settlement at that time. The only nearby highways on which vehicles could pass were the Jefferson Barracks and the Rock Hill roads both of which were only rough dirt roads. Mr. Prehn, then a young man of 24 or 25 and unable to speak any English, engaged himself to work for Mr. Avery and for a while a kind of deaf and dumb language had to be carried on between them. In 1858 Mr. Avery bought twenty acres of land on what is now Gray and Lockwood avenues and he put the young man to work chopping down trees setting out an orchard and putting what was then called a worm fence around the whole tract.


But people kept coming to the little village attracted to a great extent no doubt by the beautiful forest trees for which Webster Groves still is famous and the settlement grew. Among the early and influential families were the Helfenstiens the Studleys the William M and Alfred Plants. It was chiefly through the efforts of Mr Studley and Mr. William M Plant that roads were made a public school started and the First Congregational church organized. For a number of years the Rock Hill church was the only one for miles around and on Sunday mornings people could be seen coming from all directions cutting across fields some along well beaten paths through the woods some came on horseback while others came in farm wagons all to attend service there and to take part in the social meeting which always followed the church service.


Rock Hill was then the nearest post office also. During the war Mr. Prehn was sergeant of the militia for home protection. In 1865 he bought the tract of land reaching from what is now Pacific to Kirkham avenues for five hundred dollars and two years later he put up a small frame building on the corner and there he opened a little country store which contained a little of everything. A second building a dwelling stood near the store for Mr. Prehn had recently married Miss Johanna Leue also a native of Germany. Those were the days before either telephone or delivery wagons when people did their marketing in person and often on Saturday nights the little store was jammed.

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