Missouri Digital Heritage :: Collections :: St. Louis Circuit Court Mechanic's Liens

St. Louis Circuit Court, Office of the Circuit Clerk
St. Louis Circuit Court Mechanic's Liens

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Mechanic Lein document


The collection consists of 5,129 liens filed in the St. Louis court system between April 21, 1824, and December 31, 1875. A lien is the legal right of a creditor in another's property until the debt involving the lien has been paid.  In 1821, the Missouri General Assembly passed legislation securing for “mechanics and others payment for their labor and materials in erecting houses and other buildings.” This law created a priority of payment for the work performed and materials furnished in the building, improvement, or repair of structures. Priority of payment means that these individuals would receive payment for debts before any other individuals. In addition to offering protection to workingmen, suppliers, and contractors, this law reduced the large number of cases in the Circuit Court dealing with contracts, wages, and claims for payment. In 1853 the Missouri General Assembly created the St. Louis Land Court and assigned it control of the Mechanic’s Liens, in response to the large number of probate cases, land disputes, petitions for partition, and liens that clogged the St. Louis court system. The Land Court handled Mechanic’s Liens until 1865 when it was done away with and the liens returned to the control of the Circuit Court.

The Collection

The collection consists of the following types of documents:

  • Petition for lien – The main document containing the statement of the lien, description of the property, the account of work done, and the affidavit of the plaintiff. 
  • Description of property – Generally in the lien petition, but occasionally written on a separate leaf. 
  • Notification of owner – Always a separate document, used by a subcontractor, supplier, or worker to notify the owner of the property that a lien will be filed based on a claim against the contractor or subcontractor. 
  • Account statement – Lists the materials and/or labor provided for the improvements which may be in the petition, but longer accounts are generally separate. 
  • Notice of suit before Justice of the Peace (1872 onward) – This document appeared when the law gave Justices of the Peace jurisdiction of liens under $300.00. It officially notified the Circuit Court that the plaintiff was filing an action against the defendant before a Justice of the Peace. The Circuit Court was still responsible for seizing property if the debts went unpaid.
  • Printed forms – forms with the standard language of the lien pre-printed with space to write in litigants and other parties, description of property, and the account statement. Their use increased rapidly after the Civil War.

Rights and Reproductions

Original records remain the property of the St. Louis Circuit Court. The original records are at the Missouri State Archives – St. Louis located at 710 North Tucker Boulevard, St. Louis, Missouri, 63101. Copies of original documents are $.10 per page and $.50 per page for copies from microfilm. All references to the Mechanic’s Liens should be cited as follows:

  • Plaintiff v. Defendant
  • Filing Date
  • Lien Number (when available)
  • Cite specific document, as required
  • St. Louis Circuit Court
  • Mechanic’s Liens
  • Owner institution:

    Office of the Circuit Clerk
    City of St. Louis, Missouri

  • Microfilm.  Missouri State Archives, Cite roll number.

How to Use This Collection:

The collection is keyword searchable using one or more of the following pieces of information:

  • case title,
  • plaintiff,
  • defendant,
  • date,
  • structure type,
  • structure material,
  • number of stories,
  • city block number,
  • subject,
  • general description,
  • address,
  • subdivisions,
  • lot numbers,
  • city and town,
  • township,
  • landmarks.

Additional Resources:

There are additional cases and record books (http://www.stlcourtrecords.wustl.edu/about-related-records.php) within the Circuit Court case file records that relate to persons, places or events mentioned within the Mechanic’s Liens. Researchers should consult these series for additional information.

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