SOAR - St. Louis Chapter
St. Louis joined the SOAR family in November 2012. During the first decade of the 20th century, a group of immigrating Armenians settled in St. Clair County. Industrial East St. Louis provided opportunities for those seeking jobs. Most planned to return to Armenia, but some wanted to become permanent residents of the United States. The first Armenians to settle permanently in St. Clair County were Mr. and Mrs. Arman Magarian, Mr. and Mrs. Mike Fouryigian, and Mr. and Mrs. Hampartz Vartanian.
In St. Clair County the Armenian population grew to several hundred, with one count going as high as one thousand. In East St. Louis, they lived near Brady, Broadway, Converse, Division, Gaty, Kansas, Missouri, and St. Louis Avenues, and between Tenth and Nineteenth Streets. Many started to work at the Granite City steel mills. Others began small businesses. Armenian-owned grocery stores, dry cleaners, ice cream shops, and taverns.
Of the first Armenian children to arrive, some graduated high school, but most ended their schooling in the freshman or sophomore year to help bring in more income for the family. But for the first generation of American-born Armenians things were different. Most completed high school and some went on to college and to graduate school to become attorneys, accountants, doctors, and teachers. As the children immersed themselves in America, they also held on to their heritage. The Armenian Women’s Education Association, founded in the late 1920s, taught the Armenian language and culture.