History of Cedar Creek | Cedar Creek

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History of Cedar Creek

A Historical Gem Alive with Charm and Natural Beauty

The rich history of Cedar Creek is much more than a collection of dates and historical facts. The true legacy is reflected through the people who have thoughtfully and lovingly developed it over the last 200 years.


Generation after generation has been drawn to a special elusive quality that pervades the picturesque 200-acre tract of land nestled in the rolling hills of Missouri Wine Country. Owner after owner purchased the property for the same reason – as a refuge, a place for the soul to be nurtured.

Cedar Creek has always been a place to be shared with others, a place that was intended to facilitate connection among the people who visit it. And though the outside world has changed remarkably in the last two centuries since the first formal purchase of Cedar Creek, somehow each new owner has sought to respectfully and thoughtfully preserve the rich legacy and inherent beauty of the estate while still updating it to meet the needs of the time.

That legacy continues today.

John and Joan Vatterott, owners since 1978, have invested in significantly upgrading the facility in a way that meets the 21st century tastes of its clients but also restores its old-world charm and preserves the natural beauty of the land. They also recognize that those are the qualities that make Cedar Creek special and the characteristics that facilitate its corporate guests to refresh, to focus and to connect just as generation after generation have come to Cedar Creek to do.

We welcome you to experience for yourself the allure of Cedar Creek, a rare gem alive with charm and natural beauty.

From Louisiana Purchase To Retreat For Baseball Legend

Even the early background of Cedar Creek is fascinating and historically significant. Though much is recorded about the historical facts, little is known about the lives of the early owners of Cedar Creek.

Situated on the historic Lewis and Clark Trail, the first formal purchase of the land is recorded in 1800 with a 6,987 acre land grant to Baptiste Duchouquette by Don Carlos Dehault DeLassas, the Lt. Governor of the Spanish Province of Upper Louisiana.

The Spaniards, who controlled much of the territory west of the Mississippi River, encouraged pioneers from the East to settle in the region. In 1801 Napolean negotiated secret treaties with Spain that transferred Louisiana from Spain to France. In order to finance his wars, Napolean sold the Louisiana Territory to the United States. For the next 56 years the land grant, soon to become part of the state of Missouri, was transferred and divided among the heirs of Duchouquette. Cedar Creek’s Rock House, which is now a guest house, was likely the first dwelling on the property built during this time period.

In 1857 Prussian immigrant George Ernst purchased a tract of the land grant for $400. Though he would not live long enough to enjoy the property himself, it would remain in his family for several generations. David Ernst, appointed administrator of the estate after George Ernst’s death in 1857, built the Manor House as a residence for his wife and children. In the years following the Ernst family ownership, portions of the land changed hands five more times.

Cedar Creek reached celebrity status in 1931 with its sale to St. Louis Cardinal’s pitcher Burleigh Grimes. Grimes, nicknamed “Old Stubblebeard” for his refusal to shave on the days he was pitching, is often thought to be one of the greatest spitball pitchers of all time. While riding high on his successful season of 17 wins with the St. Louis Cardinals, he bought Cedar Creek as a get-away during the off-season. Grimes was responsible for adding the statuesque white pillars to the Manor House, possibly to make the house statelier.

Grimes kept the property even after he was traded from the Cardinals. He retired in 1934 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1964. In 1939 Burleigh and Laura were divorced and Laura was granted the lot, which she sold in 1941. Cedar Creek then changed hands over five times in the following 10 years.

The Vatterott Family Legacy Is Established

The Vatterott Family began its legacy at Cedar Creek in 1953. The history of the Vatterotts is as interesting as the history of Cedar Creek. Charles F. Vatterott, born in 1904 as the oldest of 11 children, was an entrepreneur from an early age. Although his family was not well off, he had large aspirations that he creatively pursued. Story has it that at the tender age of 17 Charles convinced his mother to sell the family cow in order to buy his first piece of property. Being underage, his parents had to sign off on the deal.

By 1953, the Vatterotts were a prominent family in St. Louis. Charles’ company C.F. Vatterott and Company, operated today by his son Greg, still is a premier home developer in the region. Charles’ success was established in the 1940s and 1950s largely by to the G.I.s who were returning from war. The Vatterott family is featured in the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis for their role in essentially building the city of St. Ann from the ground up.

Charles and his wife Mary Patricia bought Cedar Creek as a place where he and his family, which included 17 children, could retreat from city life and entertain friends and the large extended Vatterott family. Charles always said that “the air is much better there than anyplace else.”

Charles and Patricia found that the buildings on the land had fallen into disrepair and immediately began work to restore them. A fan of the Old West, he built a replica of a western town where his many children could indulge in imaginative play. With design help from architect and friend, Stu Mertz, and using photos of Hollywood movie lots, the Western Town facades were built on the old barns, creating the town of Circleville. Many of the businesses in Circleville were named after friends and family.

Throughout the 1950’s Charles and Patricia continued to expand and renovate what was then known as the Circle V Ranch. Building additions included a two story bedroom wing on the Manor House and a “parlor” to the Rock House. A caretaker’s cottage was built at the entrance to the property. The garage was converted into today’s Little Lodge.

An avid golfer, Charles built the original four-hole, par 15 golf course which today has been expanded. The Chalet was built as a party facility and dining room for big groups. If you were to pull up the carpet in the cozy Swiss Chalet, which today is the dining area for guests, you would still find the Circle V logo.

Devout Catholics and philanthropists, the Vatterotts were compelled to share their summer haven with others. They often hosted special events for various groups including orphanages and cloistered nuns.

As their children grew older and had less interest in spending their summers working on the farm, Charles and Patricia donated the property to the Society of Mary.

In 1965 the Marianists assumed ownership of the property to develop a retreat center, Maria Vista, and began the building up the conference areas of Cedar Creek.

The Modern Cedar Creek Is Born

In 1978, the Marianists, no longer having a need for the retreat center, sold the property to John C. and Joan Vatterott. John, son of Charles and Patricia, is the founder of Vatterott College which has 17 campuses including Missouri locations in St. Ann, Sunset Hills, Kansas City, Springfield and Joplin.

John’s original plan was to open a campus of the expanding Vatterott College, yet he soon had a better idea. Picking up where the Marianists left off, John’s goal was to combine up-to-date meeting and conference accommodations with the spirit of his family’s hospitality and attention. The modern Cedar Creek was born.

John and Joan Vatterott have invested significantly to update and add amenities to Cedar Creek. They added a privately stocked lake, updated the Manor House and made additions to the conference facilities and the Swiss Chalet. The Saloon has been renovated into a Tasting Room for 2nd Shift Brewing beers and the Town Hall has transformed into well-known restaurant for both conference and leisure guests.

Over the years, the Vatterotts continued his father’s legacy of sharing Cedar Creek with others including sponsoring a family from Vietnam to live there for several years. They also would bring out at-risk children affiliated with the Boys Hope and Girls Hope organization to visit and play with his own six children during the summers.

Recognizing that Cedar Creek is too special not to be shared, the Vatterotts still are quietly sharing it with organizations and causes they support.