Historic Leclaire Books Found

Mike and Cindy Reinhardt serve on the Friends of Leclaire Board of Trustees, but also organize a quarterly used book fair for St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. The combined interests recently
led to an interesting find. 

A box of books was donated to the Reinhardts by Dennis Pluta and his wife, Carol Van Gieson, who found them in a Troy Road house where they lived in the 1970s-
1990s. Although none of the books were of great monetary value, they were priceless to the right person. 

Some of the books have notations that they were used at the “Leclaire Institute” and “Leclaire Academy” and one book has a label inside the front cover (at right) from the Leclaire Public Library. 

Thanks to news articles about a donation of books by Leclaire founder, N. O. Nelson, we know that Leclaire had a library from its earliest times until the village was annexed by Edwardsville in 1934 and it is possible that this book was purchased by Mr. Nelson himself. The above mentioned books were donated to the Madison County Historical Society because they are of historical significance.

The remainder of the books were inscribed by members of the Held and Geers families who lived at 814 and 816 Troy Road. William and Anna (Beucler) Held and their young children, Louise, Aline and Frederick, relocated to Leclaire from St. Louis in the mid-1890s when William was hired as superintendent of the Marble Works. They moved into the home at 816 Troy Road and would eventually purchase the house. 

Their oldest daughter, Louise, married a local attorney, Cyrus Geers, in 1905. They lived with her parents and siblings for a number of years before moving to a home of their own in Edwardsville. Although Cyrus’s family didn’t live in Leclaire, Cyrus and his brother, M. Lester Geers, were well known in Leclaire. Both were attorneys  who attended the short-lived Leclaire College and were active in Leclaire athletics as young men.

The younger Held daughter, Aline, married Robert Sinclair in 1917 and built a house next door to her parents at 814 Troy Road. After Aline and her husband divorced in 1924, she moved with her daughter to St. Louis and leased her house at 814 Troy Road to Cyrus and Louise
Geers. This was about the same time that William and Anna Held also returned to St. Louis where they joined their son, Frederick, who made St. Louis his home after returning from WW I.

In the early 1930s, Cyrus and Louis Geers also moved to St. Louis, but the family retained their property in  Leclaire, renting the house at 816 Troy Road until 1944 when Anna passed away and the house at 814 Troy Road until Aline’s daughter sold it in 1973. 

Imagine the number of renters over the years at 814 Troy Road, yet the box of books with the names of Held and Geers family members remained in the house until it was found by Carol Van Geison, when she purchased 814 Troy Road in 1974.

The oldest of the books had the inscription “Anna Beucler, Athens, MO, 1868” written inside the front cover. Athens was Anna’s childhood home. Two books were military related and belonged to Cyrus Geers during WW I. Others were school books or novels with the names of “Aline Held,” “Ferguson Geers (Cyrus and Louise’s son who liked to doodle),” “Emily Durer (M. Lester Geers’ wife),” and other family members. These books have now found a home with Jane Sheaffer of La Center, Washington. The books belonged to Jane’s father, grandparents,
great-grandparents and other relatives. She was excited to receive them and in return sent a generous donation to the St. Andrew’s Book Fair. 

It’s nice to know these Leclaire books are back where they belong.