One could almost say St. James emerged from what is known today as Maramec Spring. Thomas James, discovered an iron deposit and established an iron works in 1826, making use of the natural spring to produce iron that was in high demand by pioneers who opened up the midwest, prospectors surging westward for the California Gold Rush and, eventually, it sheathed Union gunboats patrolling the Mississippi. Thomas’s son, William, established the town of St. James just a few miles away.
Today, remnants of the foundary are preserved at Maramec Spring Park, a 6,800-acre nature conservation area. The park offers a trout hatchery, campground and nature preservation area along with fine trout fishing. The park was established as a gift for the community from Lucy Wortham James, a decedent of the founder of St. James.
Many years later the area became home to Italian immigrants who found the soil and climate to be conducive to grape growing, and so the first of many vineyards were established. Grape growing was a major component of the economy for many years, at one time being a primary supplier for the jelly industry. Modern day vineyards are dedicated to wine making with 8 wineries, of various sizes, within a 20 mile radius of St. James.