Should I call Mabel by the name on her death certificate? The one left by her late husband Norman , or maybe after her first husband Jennings, who was a legend, so much so that she kept his things even after marrying again. George Gittens, her father left a strong name and she remained proud of that heritage. The Gittens name carries weight in Dogtown with a deep history in the area long before the “dogs” and the Irish. This the history of the Gittens family.
Discovering history is like looking at a shadow and trying to see the object. What can we say about a person when what remains are just their possessions, family records and many mysteries. George Gittens was a busy man the year his daughter was born, as he was a mere 10 min walk from the greatest show at the time, the 1904 St Louis World’s Fair. George’s family made a fortune during those years having a saloon, hotel and grocer.
The Gittins family had come to this country in a sailing vessel from Wales, a trip that took 93 days. After landing in Florida they proceeded to the Mississippi River up to St. Louis on a steamboat where an ox cart was bought to take them out to what is now Forest Park. To forge the money they needed in the new world, they built a cabin and established a coal mine.
Several Gittins were born in that cabin at the very spot where the St Louis Zoo is now situated. Mr. Gittins, his son, and his brother, James Elley, operated coal mines in Forest Park for years building a collective pool of money. When rich enough, the Gittens moved to Cheltenham. This was just after the Icarians sold a massive piece of land cheaply when they failed in their attempt at a Utopian Socialist paradise. The Gittens built their grocer, a butcher and a hotel, all with the family name proudly displayed and in 1875, George enters the picture.
In 1895, George William Gittins, opened a saloon at 5867 Manchester Avenue. He became a popular figure in the neighborhood as was the Gittens saloon. George made a lot more money a few years later when he bought a clay mine on Tamm Avenue. His wealth continued to increase and he became the owner of several other mines in Maryland Heights. Finally in 1910 the business was incorporated under the following officers: George W. Gittins, and his son Albert E. Gittins.
Mabel Stubbs, 37 year old mother of 3 girls, takes a punch from a car thief. She was on her way to her father’s saloon on Manchester with friends and a 1000 dollars. The man hit her in the face and she pretended to faint, removing the money from her purse. They stole the car and got away with 5 bucks, abandoning the car blocks away. The story worked it’s way across America making it all the way to the East Coast. What wasn’t known at the time, was her family had a long history of being stolen from. Her father was in the paper regularly as his employees were robbed quite frequently back during Prohibition when the Saloon became a Grocer, when a piano repair man stole his piano, and a former employee stole payroll. It was still the wild west in Dogtown and the lower class area attracted crime in Depression era America.