Tuesday, March 24, 2009

St. Charles: Les Petites Cotes by Dianna and Don Graveman

Today's forecast for St. Peters, MO: Thunderstorms predicted; there's a 100% chance of precipitation today, high 71 degrees.

Today I'm honored and excited to be reviewing a book released yesterday by Arcadia Publishing as part of the Images of America series--St. Charles: Les Petites Cotes; in French Les Petites Cotes means The Little Hills.

The book is co-authored by Dianna and Don Graveman, of St. Charles, with the Foreword written by St. Charles Mayor Patti York.

I received my review copy from Arcadia a couple weeks ago and have been savoring it ever since. The Gravemans have done a great service to our area by writing this book. Personally, I wish it would've been available more than ten years ago when I wrote a chapter of the history of All Saints parish in St. Peters. The Graveman's book truly is a historic gem, rich in detail, full of surprises, and pleasing to the eye.

Most Missouri residents are aware of what a charming and historic city St. Charles is and will no doubt be thrilled to read the book and enjoy the remarkable photos. For out-of-staters and beyond, the Graveman's book is a lovely introduction into the past and present of the Missouri River town settled in 1769 by French Canadian Louis Blanchette in what was then Spanish territory.

In the Foreword, Mayor York writes about the rich history of St. Charles as being the place where Meriwether Lewis and William Clark rendezvoused in 1804 before beginning their exploration of the Louisiana Purchase and the new frontier to the West. Mayor York also comments about the significance of the book's release in 2009 coinciding with the 200th anniversary celebration of the city's incorporation.

On the Acknowledgements page, the Gravemans recognize and thank the many people who assisted them along their research and publication journey, notably Bill Popp, the archivist at the St. Charles County Historical Society.

The book's Introduction briefly chronicles the history of St. Charles, and through carefully arranged and thoughtfully organized photos with accompanying captions, the Gravemans have captured the essence of the quaint Missouri River town of St. Charles.

The Graveman's book is not arrayed in chronological order. It is divided into ten chapters: In the Beginning; Many Firsts; Life on the River; Churches and Schools; Defending Town and Country; Business as Usual; Life and Times in St. Charles; Disaster Strikes; Main Street, U.S.A; and St. Charles Today. Those ten chapters are followed by the Bibliography and a section about the St. Charles County Historical Society.

One chapter that has stayed with me is Defending Town and Country, which includes a photo from 1879 of the "first lawful hanging" in St. Charles. The photos from the chapter on Disaster Strikes, especially the images of the train and bridge accidents and the tornado damage, are also compelling.

With so many photos and so many powerful images, it's hard to pick a favorite section, much less a favorite photo, but that's exactly what I asked the Gravemans to do.

On Thursday, I will share my interview with the Gravemans about their book, in which they will not only discuss their favorite photos, but also their plans for another book.

You can meet the authors on Saturday, March 28 from 1-3 p.m. at Main Street Books in St. Charles. They will be signing books again on Saturday, April 4 from 1-3 p.m. at Barnes and Noble in St. Peters, where Mayor York will also be attending from 1-2 p.m.

You can also order through Amazon.com, but last time I checked the books were temporarily out of stock and you will need to place an order. Guess that's good news because it means the book is selling a lot of copies!

Congratulations, best wishes, and thanks to the Gravemans for producing such a remarkable book!


  1. Donna, thanks for the wonderful review! We're glad you are enjoying the book.

  2. Hi Dianna,
    It's such a lovely pictoral history of St. Charles--definitely a keeper on my book shelf. Congratulations to you and Don!

  3. I am allured by the approach and the product. Normally "St. Charles" cojures up issues of tax base, exburbs, and the like.

    How refreshing to get a glimpse into the city's history--and into the passion and working relationship of the married couple as co-authors.

    For those of us who appreciate writing and publishing, how "romantic" that you spent your silver anniversary immersed in the effort to bring this book to prit.

  4. Sound like a compelling book; I am allured by the approach. How "romantic" -- for those of us in writing and publishing -- to know that you as a couple spent your wedding anniversary immersed in the joy/challenge to bring this book to birth.


Mysteries of the Ozarks, Volume V - Interviews with Lonnie Whitaker and Dr. Barri Bumgarner

Here is the second installment of interviews with contributors who have stories in Mysteries of the Ozarks, Volume V , from Ozark Writers, I...