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There's No Picture, But It's Worth a Thousand Memories

Gas station puppy lacks photo but spurs investigation, and discovery.

Back in the 1950s, my dad was gassing up his car at the Sieveking gas station on Gravois Road and spotted the "PUPPIES" sign.

We promptly became the proud owners of a beagle pup named Texaco. He was a cutie, but his name was the best part of the story and continues to be a family topic of dogs-we-have-known-and-loved.

As it turns out Sieveking Oil Company is still around, as a petroleum product distribution business in High Ridge, MO, and still run by the Sieveking family.

The Sieveking homestead on Old Gravois Road, also known as Highway 30, is still standing, but gone are the famous rock gardens built by Henry Sieveking.

The patriarch, Henry Sieveking, Sr. came from Germany to settle in New Minden, Illinois in 1884. After his first wife and baby died during childbirth, he came to settle in St. Louis and went to work as a hired man for a widow, Mrs. Frerck. He actually wound up married to "the farmer’s daughter," Louisa.

It is one of their seven children, son Henry Sieveking, Jr. who founded the oil company that still bears the family name, and is owned and managed by his heirs. His son, one of six children (now pay attention, this gets confusing) and named Henry Sieveking III—better known as Hank—is the president of the family business. 

Just behind the Sieveking homestead on Old Gravois Road was the rock garden.  Neighbors would come and enjoy the work of Henry Jr. who passed away in 1964.

He had Missouri limestone rock hauled by horse and wagon from Barnhart. He built the big red barn in 1915, and thereafter lived in it for a week at a time, working on his rock garden, building it by hand. His rock design reportedly included waterfalls and fountains. He incorporated his own water system—ecologically correct long before his time.

Now, one of my many cousins' mother was Frieda Sieveking, a daughter of Henry Sr. and Louisa. His name is Bill Franke and he furnished the photos included here. Frieda died when he was four years old in 1939 at the age of 38. 

When his father William Franke died just five years later, young Bill and his brothers were raised by his mother's sister, Linda Sieveking and her husband Uncle Eddie Franke on Kennerly.

If you're following this, yes, the two Sieveking sisters Frieda and Linda had married two Franke brothers, William and Eddie. 

Then, there was an Audrey Sieveking who married into the Heimberger Bakery family of Concord Village. It's said that Heimberger’s invented the popular St. Louis gooey butter cake, and quite by accident.

So it's Cousin Bill’s grandfather (Henry Sr.) who ran the farm, built the rock gardens, and somehow also found time to organize pumpkin-picking parties, marshmallow roasts, and take all the kids on hayrides.

Bill, now retired, is a wealth of historical tidbits and memories, and was kind enough to share his family photographs—historian that he is. 

While no photo of Texaco the dog survives, my sister Fred distinctly remembers the day we got him. Dad came home in the middle of a workday, which was very unusual for him. He sat a box down on the kitchen table and said : “There’s a puppy in here.” Sister Fred was ecstatic.

“I got him at Sieveking and I think we should call him Texaco,” Dad said, according to family lore. Despite having no photo, it's still worth a thousand memories.

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