The third in a continuing series on the Krekel family of O’Fallon: “In the fall of the year 1832 we sailed from Bremen. It took about three months, we landed at New York, went up the Hudson River to Albany, and from Albany to Erie by canal. Intending to go to Cleveland Ohio from there and to Missouri…The voyage across the Ocean took 9 weeks, the overland trip from Erie to Pittsburgh took about 3 weeks …During the high water of June 1844 I was working for Steven Hancock who lived in Hancock’s Bottom in a double log house later owned by the Kunsels [Kuenzel] next to Anton Reuther’s farm. (Nicholas Krekel to his daughter Bertha Krekel)…
Germans began arriving in Missouri in 1830 due to a small book written and published by Gottfried Duden called A Report on a Journey to the Western States of North America. Nicholas’ father personally knew Duden and first settled adjoining a parcel of his land when the family arrived in Missouri. The father settled his motherless family at the far southwestern corner of St. Charles County near Dutzow. There the children grew up near the village and were members of the Catholic church known as St. Peter and Paul, now St. Vincent de Paul. It sits atop the hillside not far from his childhood home.
Nicholas Krekel to his daughter Bertha Krekel: Wilhelmina Moritz and I were married
August 15, 1857 at St. Louis coming to O’Fallon Missouri shortly after, where I had built a home, having come there on August 6, 1856”.
Nicholas Krekel was an enterprising young man, building a home to bring his young wife to within a year. Wilhelmina “Mena” Moritz was the daughter of Casper and Sophie Moritz. Born in Bielefeld, Germany, July 17, 1838, she and her family came to America by way of New Orleans during the 1850s, and her family was living in Florissant then. This was a strong Catholic community that had begun coming to America in 1833, and most likely had many families that had connections all the way back to Germany.
The Krekel’s first child was a daughter who they named Emma, born in 1858. Nicholas had been appointed Stationmaster on the North Missouri Railroad* which began in 1851. Soon after Nicholas was appointed Postmaster of O’Fallon on February 11, 1859. That Christmas their next daughter Bertha was born. And by 1860, he was well on his way to establishing himself as a merchant and running the town’s new Post Office. A young 17 year-old German girl from Hannover named Donetta Kipp was a servant in their home.
In 1861, Nicholas had joined the Union Army, and was serving in Missouri’s Home Guard, in Captain Newstadter’s Company H, as a Private. His brother Arnold, who was a Lt. Colonel in the Home Guard, was not well liked either by some of the Krekel family’s neighbors, and this story which was shared in the Keithley family papers at the St. Charles County Historical Society and recounts a day in the life of O’Fallon during the Civil War: “They marched in front of it, on the road that ran past the house, and they did this regular patrol almost every day.” The Keithley farm was “on the main road” (today’s Main Street). They were known as Krekel’s “Deutsch” and “southern sympathizers like the Keithleys had very little respect. Never the less “Krekel was and there were more Union sympathizers in the O’Fallon area than Southern. He had the perfect right to march his contingent, up and down certain roads. Virtually every morning they did that march.” We are not sure which Krekel brother Julia Darst is sharing a story about since Nicholas held the rank of Private, and Arnold attained Lt. Colonel. She is either elevating one brother or demoting the other!
One day, Aunt Duck (Julia Darst) had gone upstairs to make the beds, and she looked out the window and saw Krekel’s army marching down what they considered “their road” and with a wicked impulse and not thinking she raised the window and yelled “Hooray for Jeff Davis”! Well of course the soldiers all looked up to see who would have the nerve to say such a thing! Grandmother Keithley heard and came running. She was terrified that Krekel would be furious and come for the only male resident in the Keithley home. Of course, they didn’t stop. Apparently soon all was forgotten.
“O’Fallon, thirty-three miles from St. Louis, is a small town, first settled in 1856. It has a population of about 100. It has two dry goods and a grocery store, a hotel, boarding house, steam flour mill, brick yard, broom factory, depot and stock yard, post office and express office. Farmers do well here, and there is a good chance for all kinds of manufacturers.” (http://www.ofallonmohistory.org/HistoryPage4.html) After the close of the Civil War, O’Fallon would grow rapidly around the stately two-story home of the Krekel family. Today the Krekel home is being renovated and brought to life once again by the young local family of Jason and Jessica Orf, who will soon be opening their new business, with all the former glory that would make Nicholas Krekel himself proud.
*The History of St. Charles, Montgomery and Warren Counties” was first published in the 1870s when the North Missouri Railroad had become part of the St. Louis, Kansas City and Northern Railroad, just as the Wabash, St. Louis & Pacific had, which is the name the County history gives to the O’Fallon Railroad. Both these railroads became part of the Wabash, St. Louis & Pacific, which ultimately became the Wabash Railroad System in 1889.
I would like to thank John Griesenauer and all of the members of the Krekel family who have been sharing their personal family history, Jason and Jessica Orf for allowing me to share their progress, and Jim Frain with his wonderful collection of O’Fallon photos.