All posts by Dorris Keeven-Franke

Author and Public Historian

St. Charles Missouri

I recently sat down with author James W. Erwin whose new book ST. CHARLES MISSOURI – A Brief History by History Press is a great read on the city of St. Charles Missouri. It is nice to see our local history so well written, with clarity and facts. Erwin does a great job of sharing the stories that make the City of St. Charles Missouri so fascinating and rich in great history! I want to share our discussion about the book and hope that you might find the book as interesting and fun to read as I did….

  1. How did your writing this book come about?

I previously wrote three books for History Press on the Civil War in Missouri. My editor was aware that Vicki and I owned Main Street Books in St. Charles for eight years. He asked if I would be interested in writing a book for History Press about the first one hundred years of St. Charles history. I agreed. Arcadia has published three books on St. Charles history (one by Vicki – St. Charles Then and Now), but these were primarily books of photographs. (Arcadia and History Press merged a few years ago.) The publisher then said they wanted the book to cover not just the first one hundred years, but up to the present day. We agreed to cut it off at 2006, after some negotiation about book length.

 

  1. Is there any character in St. Charles History that you especially like?

I think Rufus Easton was an interesting fellow. He clashed with the French elite in Missouri, not to mention President Thomas Jefferson. His daughter Mary and her husband George Sibley were also interesting characters. Because of my interest in the Civil War, I also became interested in the life of Charles Bentzoni, an officer of the 11th Infantry in the Regular Army assigned during the war as the commander of the 56th USCI (many of its soldiers came from St. Charles and surrounding areas). Steven Clay, president of the 16th Infantry Association (the successor to Bentzoni’s Regular Army regiment) was very helpful in finding information and photographs of a lesser-known soldier of the war who led a life that ranged from being a member of the Prussian Army to the social elite of Los Angeles.

  1. What is your favorite era?

By far, the first one hundred years – as I originally agreed to write about. Within that, I must confess it is the Civil War.

  1. How difficult do you feel it is to research the history? Anything special you want to share about how you go about it?

With the advent of the Internet, it is so much easier to do historical research than ever. I recall from my graduate student days that doing research in primary documents located anywhere other than the University was nearly impossible unless you had a grant or fellowship because you had to go where the document were. I remember getting an interlibrary loan of a government report from the Truman Library being like getting an unexpected dream Christmas present.

Now, many primary documents – either images of the originals or transcriptions, or both – are available with the click of a computer key. You still must dig, but a lot of what you are looking for is there.

Local historical societies are also valuable sources of information on virtually any era. We have many in this area – the Missouri Historical Society, the Mercantile Library, Western Historical Manuscripts, the State Historical Society, National and State Parks like Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield, and the Ulysses S. Grant site at Whitehaven. For this book, the folks at the St. Charles Historical Society were especially helpful. They helped me find documents, books, articles and photographs that were indispensable.

  1. Are there any events or stories that you feel might be new to readers of St. Charles?

For aficionados of St. Charles history, there probably isn’t much new in the book. I relied heavily on prior works. I do think there are a few stories that readers might not be familiar with or ones that I can provide some additional details. For example, the relationship between Zaidee Bagwell and W.F. Luckett is a story that I don’t think has previously been pointed out. I also tried to provide some details about the 56th USCI’s service that aren’t well-known. Also, I’m not sure how many people are familiar with the history of the Montana, the steamboat that makes a ghostly appearance rising out the river during very low water.

  1. What other books have you written?

My other books are Guerrillas in Civil War Missouri (History Press, 2012), Guerrilla Hunters in Civil War Missouri (History Press, 2013), and the Homefront in Civil War Missouri (History Press, 2014).

  1. Anything else you would like to share about this one?

This book provides what I hope is a readable introduction to the history of St. Charles. Its primary audience are visitors and residents who want to learn more about the history of this fascinating area. As with most History Press books, there is a lengthy bibliography to provide anyone interested in finding out more details.

  1. What projects are you working on now?

My major work in progress is a history of the Missouri State Militia, several regiments of cavalry organized under a special agreement between Missouri’s Provisional Governor Hamilton Gamble and President Abraham Lincoln to specifically to fight Confederate guerrillas in the state. I am also interested in the Enrolled Missouri Militia, a state-controlled force that was called in emergencies to fight guerrillas or invading raiders.

If any of your readers have letters, diaries, memoirs, or photographs related to either of these organizations, I would love to hear from them at jerwin011@outlook.com. Many members of the Missouri State Militia were second generation Germans. And so, your readers might very well have had ancestors who were members of these regiments.

I have also been working on article-length essays about several Civil War topics, including Frances Louisa Clayton (said to have fought in a Missouri regiment disguised as a man), and the only two men awarded the Medal of Honor for bravery in action during the Missouri-Kansas guerrilla fighting.

Book is available through History Press at https://www.arcadiapublishing.com/Products/9781467136198

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Preacher Jefferson Franklin Sage

This is the story of a minister of the African Methodist Episcopal Church who was born a slave in Missouri in 1854. His father had been born in Virginia, and his mother in Kentucky, and they were brought to Pike County before the Civil War. After the end of the Civil War,  he made a life in Jonesburg and the AME church. He appears on the Missouri State Census in Montgomery County for 1876, with his wife Eliza and their two small sons Dick and John.  I also know this from the records of the AME Conference reports made by Brother Samuel Jenkins November 28, 1878. There he is one of the  “Local Preachers, where as

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Mary Sage, wife of Rev. J.F. Sage

Jefferson Sage of Jonesburg” it clearly indicates he is a Minister of the St. Charles Conference being held at St. John’s AME Church on Washington St.  in St. Charles. In 1880, Preacher Sage has come to St. Charles and is supporting his family by working as a clerk at the largest St. Charles manufacturer, the American Car Foundry which makes railroad cars. Something occurred in Jefferson’s life, thats when he lost his young wife Eliza and their son Dick between 1876 and 1879.  He remarries in 1879 to a beautiful young woman named Mary and they have young son John, and a brand new son named  James Arthur who born in March. Jefferson’s youngest sister Sallie who is only 18 years old, lives with them as well.

Preacher Sage is noted in the records of Grant Chapel, an AME Church in Wentzville, as a traveling Pastor just a few years later in 1886 and in 1888. Apparently he set out along the Circuit from St. Charles, and would preach amongst the towns between St. Charles and his former town of Jonesburg. Other Ministers of the Gospel with the A.M.E. did this as well, such as M.E. Smith who preached at Smith Chapel in today’s Foristell. Each minister was apparently given certain town’s to minister to. That’s all recorded in a small little record book at the St. Charles County Historical Society.

Jefferson Franklin Sage was well loved, and called to minister as far away as Kansas, and as close as St. Louis. He leaves St. Charles County by 1894 we know, because his daughter Ruth is born in Kansas in May of 1894. In 1900, the couple is living in Ottawa City, Kansas and two of their nine children have died. They are later is at Independence, and then Lexington apparently. His wife Mary dies in 1905. Jefferson Franklin Sage is living on Market Street in St. Louis in 1914. Later in 1920, he is still preaching and  living in Lexington where he passes away on May 22, 1922 in Lexington, Missouri.

 

Jefferson Sage (2)On the 20th of August 1881, Jasper N. and Mahala (nee Keithley) Costlio sold land in what is now O’Fallon, in St. Charles County, Missouri to three Trustees named Walter Burrel, Joel Patterson and Taylor Harris. On this land they were to build a house of worship for the “African Methodist Church”. Mahala had inherited the property from her father Samuel Keithley, Jr., a former slave owner in O’Fallon when he died in 1871. There was 1/2 acre of land on “St. Peter’s Road” or Sonderen Street which perhaps had a building already, and another one acre of land to be used as a graveyard.

 

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Nicholas Krekel founds O’Fallon

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

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Wilhelmina Moritz Krekel

 

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.

Mrs.N.KrekelThe 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 andKE1018(1) 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.

KrekelsDepot“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.