St. Louis' Great Divorce: A complete history of the city and county separation and attempts to get back together

When and how St. Louis City and County split—and why it was never legal in the first place.

We’ve been wasting our breath arguing. This whole city-county arrangement was never legal in the first place. First, the Scheme to divide the city of St. Louis from the county was submitted after midnight on July 3, 1875—on a national holiday, when legal documents cannot be filed.

Second, the vote to separate the city from the county failed. City residents just barely voted yes (11,878 to 11,525), and county residents voted no (2,617 to 848).

Then there was a recount—after a judge in the Missouri Court of Appeals threw out ballots that showed partially erased yes votes replaced with nos. According to the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, election officials admitted they’d “stuffed in bogus votes by the handful, swore to false returns and by every device of perjury, corruption and rascality did all that lay in their power to convert the election into a shameless farce.” They said they’d been directed to falsify the count by politicians (in both city and county) who feared they’d lose power if the measure passed. The politicians at fault were not indicted, but the court did direct that the ballots be recounted. The new tally flipped the outcome to victory by a margin of 1,253.

And with that inauspicious beginning, city and county separated.




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