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The city of St. James, Missouri is in Phelps County. Founded in 1859 by John Wood, who anticipated the extension of the St. Louis-San Francisco Railroad through the area, the town was originally known as Big Prairie, as that was the natural state of the land prior to its settlement. For a time, it was also known Scioto, for the Ohio town where many of its first settlers came from but, in 1860 it was renamed St. James, for Thomas James, who had come from Ohio to create the Meramec Iron Works, as the town was intended as a shipping point for the Meramec Iron Works, which had previously shipped its product by wagon train. Lucy Wortham James, a descendant of Thomas James, lived part-time in the community, creating the James Foundation, a charitable organization that financed the St. James City Park, Meramec Spring Park, and the James Memorial Library. In 1921, St. James voters elected Mayme Ousley, the first woman elected mayor in Missouri. Interstate Highway 44 passes through the city, intersecting N US Route 68. Dillon and Rolla are southwest of St. James, while Rosati and Fanning are northeast, and Meramec Springs is southeast.


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