The Historic Community of Westland Acres
Westland Acres in northeast Wildwood is a predominantly black community, whose history is inextricably linked to that of the Union Baptist Church and the families of former slaves who settled in the area and formed the church.
In 1797, Daniel Boone came to the area from Kentucky with about fifty families, most of who settled across the Missouri River in today’s St. Charles County. One of those settlers, Lawrence Long, instead chose to settle in the Bonhomme Creek area east of the river. Long and other pioneers settled in the area which now includes Westland Acres. The Long and Frazier families (not the current Frazier family associated with Westland Acres) were white slave owners. One of the Long family slaves was William West. Another was Polly Ellis. Somewhat uncommon for the times, two black men, James Ellis and Philip Winston, purchased 88 ½ acres of land from Andrew Stevens, a slave owner, in about 1868. One of Stevens’ former slaves was Polly, James Ellis’ wife. The Ellis’ and Winston’s eventually donated or sold a small plot for use as a burial ground for former slaves and their family members. Area slaves, who typically were buried on their owners’ plantations before emancipation, now needed to be interred elsewhere and not all families owned land yet.
The Antioch Baptist Church was formally established along Wild Horse Creek Road near Eatherton Road in 1841 by white Baptist planters, mainly from Virginia (although worship may have occurred for years prior). Included among the founders of this area were the Coleman and Tyler families, who owned many slaves and had large plantation holdings in today’s Wild Horse Creek Valley and Babler State Park areas. Many of their slaves were also baptized into that original church. After the Civil War, the plantation owners, whose slaves were then newly free, deeded the old church and grounds to several of the freed slaves and constructed the current Antioch Baptist Church and Cemetery further east on Wild Horse Creek Road. The “colored” church became Mt. Pleasant Colored Baptist Church in 1872 (also known as the “African Free Colored Church”) with its associated burial ground for black members. The congregation of Mt. Pleasant died out or moved on during the first quarter of the twentieth century, and the building was abandoned. The roots of the present Union Baptist Church in Westland Acres include those which extend westward to former slaves of the Tylers and Colemans and the membership of Mt. Pleasant Colored Baptist Church.
One year after James Ellis and Philip Winston purchased their land in about 1868, they donated or sold one acre to the “Colored African Baptist Church”. Maps and Deeds show such a church, its cemetery, and a black community in the current general area of Westland Acres as early as 1868. The Colored African Baptist Church was the forerunner of the Union Baptist Church. Apparently, the site of the original church and cemetery was sold at some point in time.
One of the Coleman slaves and a member of that original church was Matilda Webster, later to become Mrs. William West. Mr. West, himself, was a slave of the Long family. In 1879, he purchased about 133 acres of land from John Long and Joel Frazier and donated part of it as another burial ground for family members of freed slaves. The 133 acres was next to the land originally transferred to the Colored African Baptist Church. Matilda and William West settled on the land and raised their five children plus two of William’s from an earlier marriage. Prior to 1906, William West began dividing his land among his children. Surrounding land was also divided and sold at various times. Eventually, two acres including a piece of the original West holdings became the property of the Union Baptist Church.
The first church was a one room log cabin, possibly located on the West property or the land he donated. Apparently, it was also loosely referred to as “Orrville Church” for a time. That building also served as a school house and a meeting hall. Its exact location is unclear. Another log structure was also subsequently used as a church, and that was considered a “family church” with a small membership. From those beginnings, the present Union Baptist Church was formally established in 1921 and officially recognized in 1922. The first church edifice was erected in 1925. With common beliefs, heritage, and family ties, members of Mt. Pleasant Colored Baptist Church also “migrated” to Union Baptist, as the former faded into obsolescence.
Tragically, the Union Baptist Church building burned in 1977. With considerable difficulty and tireless effort, led by Clifford Frazier, a descendant of the original slave families, and several others in the community, the church was rebuilt by 1984.
The name “Westland Acres” originated decades ago and became commonly known in the early 1990s when Clifford Frazier and others attempted to assure the heritage of the area in planning discussions with the new City of Chesterfield (having a boundary running through part of the area) and St. Louis County. The name recalls William West and his family, who were integral to the development and fabric of the community and the church since about the 1860s. With the incorporation of Wildwood in 1995, Westland Acres and its rich history are now shared by two cities, but its future is far from certain amid the pressure of surrounding development and evolution of the families who have been its residents. Westland Acres was designated as a “Wildwood Historic District” in 2005.
Judy Mashan, Cynthia Sutton, Members of Union Baptist Church
1987 - 1993 “From Whence We Came…”
Letter to Doris Frazier