Benjamin Oglesby


Many of St. Charles County’s enslaved men would leave their families and join the 56th U.S. Colored Troops during the Civil War. One, named Benjamin Oglesby was born in Bedford, Virginia in about 1821 when his mother’s enslaver was Marshall Bird. Benjamin was brought to Missouri by Bird around 1830 and according to St. Charles County historian Ben Gall “settled in property that sits to the southeast of the park along Meyer Road, in Sections 18 and 19 of Township 47 Range 1 East. During this time, Oglesby lived among seven other enslaved people while working the 260-acre farm. On this farm, he worked to cultivate corn, wheat, and tobacco, the last of which was their primary crop, producing 7000 pounds in 1860 alone.“ He would jump the broom and take a wife named Martha Bird, who he called Patsy, and together they would have eight children, Dora, Mary, Samuel, Sarah, Sophia, Oska, Albert and Belle before he enlisted in the Union Colored Troops in 1864. On November 14, he and several other St. Charles County slaves left their owners and enlisted in the U. S. Colored Troops at George Senden’s store on Main Street. Soon after Oglesby was formally mustered into Company D as a Private of the 56th Infantry of the Union’s U.S. Colored Troops, at the age of 43 at Benton Barracks. His enrollment card says he is “copper-skinned, had grey eyes and black hair and was 5 feet 8 inches tall.

His Regiment, the 56th U.S. C.T. would see action in 1864 at Indian Bay on April 13, at Muffleton Lodge on June 29, they were in charge of operations in Arkansas July 1-31. They then saw action at Wallace’s Ferry and Big Creek on July 26, 1864. Their expeditions took them from Helena up the White River from August 29 till September 3. Another expedition would take them from Helena to Friar’s Point, Mississippi, on February 19-22, 1865.  They then had post and garrison duty at Helena, Arkansas till February of 1865. After the war ended, they had duty at Helena and other points in Arkansas till September 1866. The entire regiment was finally completely mustered out on September 15, 1866. The Regiment lost four Officers and twenty-one enlisted men who were killed or mortally wounded and they lost two Officers and 647 Enlisted men by disease.”  Oglesby’s Muster Card indicated he was honorably discharged on November 13, 1865, at Helena, Arkansas, and was still owed $66 of his $100 enlistment bounty.

When he returned home, he and Patsy would rent a house and live south of Foristell, near Painter’s Store on the Boone’s Lick Road (Hwy N) where it crosses into Warren County (Hwy O today). Benjamin and Patsy would have four more children, Charles, Walter, Mount and Allie. According to Ben Gall “On March 2, 1871, Benjamin Oglesby purchased the property located along Meyer Road for $2000 from William Haggemann, who may have been a German immigrant. It appears that he acquired the funds for this land through a Deed of Trust, which they entered into with Henry Reinecke in March 1871. They paid off the property on March 14, 1877.

That September, on the 23rd, in 1871, Benjamin’s son-in-law Jackson Lockett, along with Austin Pringle, Nathaniel Abington, Smith Ball, David Bird, Thomas McClean, Mark Robinson, Clayborn Richards, and Martin Boyd would become the Trustees for the Smith Chapel A.M.E. Church and Cemetery at Snow Hill. There the one-acre of land would have one-third dedicated to a black school, named Douglass after Frederick Douglass. The small one-room schoolhouse would be attended by area children until 1951 at least. The cemetery and schoolhouse are less than a mile north of Interstate 70 near Foristell.

Benjamin’s wife of over forty years, Patsy, would pass away on the 12th of August 1888 and be buried at Smith Chapel Cemetery at age 58 years old. The family would attend their church, teach their children, and bury their family all at Smith Chapel. Then on the 15th of August 1901, Benjamin Oglesby would join Patsy in the cemetery. There his stone reads Behold the pilgrim as he lies, With glory in his view, To heaven he lifts a longing view, And bids the world Adieu.