All posts by Dorris Keeven-Franke

Public Historian, Author, Archivist and Curator.

The Story of Jacob Zumwalt and his Fort

We saw a new book just out from The O’Fallon Community Foundation by Patricia Swinger and wanted to let everyone know about this great new book!

Great history of everything you ever wanted to know about the Zumwalt family (German) when they came, who they came with and where they settled! Then it shares the history of the Zumwalt home and the Heald House!

This great little book also acknowledges all of the hard work of Jessie Francis, Raleigh Jessup, Joe Harl, Charlie Brunjes and Mayor Paul Renaud did to bring the place back to life. And it is through the wonderful work of the O’Fallon Community Foundation that the Fort is there today. Today it is part of the wonderful Parks and Recreation Department of the great City of O’Fallon. Tours are available and the historic site is open on the the second and fourth Sunday from May to September. Please call 636-379-5614 for more information.

We highly recommend it for those who love O’Fallon history! For those into the War of 1812 or how it happened here in St. Charles County or for those interested in who were Veterans either here IN ST CHARLES TROOPS or elsewhere see Veterans Roll of the War of 1812. 

 

Zumwalt Fort book

 

 

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Sage Chapel Cemetery

Near the center of the largest city of St. Charles County  sits a quiet little plot of ground that transports a visitor to an earlier time when many of its residents were enslaved people. Samuel Keithly brought his family and property to  what is today’s City of O’Fallon, in the early

Sage Chapel
a wonderful sign which was the original idea of Jim Pepper and it was constructed as an Eagle Scout Project by Jim’s grandson, Jackson Pepper.

1800s at the same time that the friends and followers of American pioneers like Daniel Boone, Jacob Zumwalt and Francis Howell were settling the area. Keithly was one of the largest slave owners in St. Charles County according to the U.S. Slave Schedules of 1850 and 1860. Among those slaves were John Rafferty and his sisters Ludy, Elsie and Lizzie according to oral history.

 

In 1855, a German born attorney named Arnold Krekel, purchased 320 acres of land on thwhich he platted a town named O’Fallon, naming it after the railroad magnate John O’Fallon in hopes that it would become a stop on the westward push of progress. He set up his younger brother Nicholas as the Station Agent and Postmaster, giving him credit as the town’s founder. This created the unlikely neighbors of the Keithlys and the Krekels, with yet one common denominator. Both Samuel Keithly and Arnold Krekel owned slaves in 1860. Yet there their stories parted. Arnold Krekel, President of Missouri’s Constitutional Convention would go on to sign its’ Emancipation proclamation ending slavery in the State on January 11, 1865.

Samuel Keithly didn’t free any of his slaves. Oral tradition states that he gave the land that we call Sage Chapel Cemetery to his slaves, where they worshiped in a field of Sage.  We do know that in 1881, his daughter Mahala and her husband Jasper Castlio legally transferred  property that included a small church building of the African Methodist Episcopal Church on today’s Sonderen Avenue and the cemetery which lay at its southern

Jefferson Sage (2)
Preacher Jefferson Franklin Sage

terminus  to three A.M.E. Trustees. At the same time there was a traveling minister with the A.ME. Church Conference named Jefferson Franklin Sage that preached along the route of today’s Interstate 70 between the city of St. Charles and further west in Jonesburg. He would preach there for many years before moving on to Kansas in the late 1890s. And by that time, there were two other black churches along today’s Sonderen Street, where a large African-American community lived.

Wishwell Baptist Church was begun in 1891 and was a plant of Hopewell Baptist Church that had begun in the 1850s south of Wentzville on the Boone’s Lick Road. Wishwell was near the creek, on the east side of Sonderen, close to Sage Chapel Church. The other African-American Church was Craven’s Methodist, begun in 1871, near the corner of Elm and Sonderen. Next to Craven’s, on the corner, was the town’s African-American school, and across the street was the “Colored Odd Fellow’s” lodge that met in Willis Thornhill’s house until Henry Obrecht purchased the property in 1910. All of these lay on today’s Sonderen Avenue, which ran north to south from the Wabash Railroad to Sage Chapel Cemetery near the former Keithly plantation. This was also the dividing line between the property of the Krekel Addition and the former Keithly’s until 1951 and the City’s annexation of property. This was the line for  segregation.

Even though all three of these African-American Churches are no longer standing, and the buildings that once housed the black school and the Odd-Fellows lodge are largely

bill-hayden-8
O’Fallon residents

remodeled, Sage Chapel Cemetery still exists. Significant in today’s world where such places are so often lost and forgotten. A peaceful and quiet testament to a difficult time and such families as Hayden, White, Edwards, Thomas, Rafferty and Ball. While many of the community of African Americans left O’Fallon in the late 1950s and early 1960s in search of better job opportunities for their families, some remained. And while many of Sage Chapel’s residents died living in St. Charles, St. Louis or even as far as New Orleans,  they were brought home to Sage Chapel when they passed. Eventually all three churches would use Sage Chapel to bury their families.

Today the City of O’Fallon sees that the grass is cut, trees cut and that Sage Chapel is well maintained. The City truly understands that this place has a collective memory that is an  integral part of its’ City’s rich history. Its’ Historic Preservation Commission shares in this mission and is working to see that Sage Chapel is preserved for future generations.

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Ceremony for the laying of a new memorial for Veteran Howard Morris

Members of the community are working to see it placed on the National Register of Historic places. One of the largest cities in Missouri, O’Fallon is setting an example of how to honor its history, even the more difficult stories. This in turn leads to a greater understanding and a richer dialogue for everyone. Thank you O’Fallon, Missouri, a great place to live!

Today research tells us that Sage Chapel Cemetery has 38 marked burials, yet is estimated to have an  115 grave sites on this small one acre which lies next to O’Fallon’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5077 at 8500 Veterans Memorial Parkway in O’Fallon, Missouri. It is estimated that nearly twenty percent of its burials were former slaves. To watch a video by O’Fallon’s Communications about Sage Chapel Cemetery CLICK HERE.

phyllis-and-george
Phyllis Hayden meets her new relative George Abington

 

 

 

Archer Alexander

This is the story of a St. Charles County slave that risked his life to “do the right thing” and has been famously immortalized in the Emancipation Memorial, also known as the Freedman’s Memorial and sometimes referred to as the “Lincoln Memorial”, a monument in Washington, D.C..

Born in Virginia, in 1816, Archer Alexander was a mulatto son of Salley, a slave on Reid’s farm. When he was six years old, he leaves the Reid farm and moves to the Smith farm Archer Alexanderwith his mother. The next year, Mr. Smith died, and his widow marries David Farrell, and Salley becomes the property of Ferrell in Widow Smith’s dowry. Salley also gets married, as is slave custom, by jumping the broom, with Aleck Alexander. With that, Archer is indentured to the Alexander family. A few years later, in 1828 or 9, the Alexander family moves to Missouri, but soon returns to Virginia, and he is sold to the Ferrell family. Buying and selling of property continues, and Archer first is sold to Louis Yosti, then to Richard Pitman, son of David Pitman, in St. Charles County.

He had been sold because when he was young, he was considered “too uppity” and was sold as punishment. This separates him from his own family forever. When asked at the end of his life if he still remembered his mother, Archer replied, “Yes, sir, I remembers her like yesterday. Seems like I never forgets her, nohow. ‘Specially when trouble comes, and I’ve had a heap of thatHere, at the Pitman farm  Archer meets Louisa, and they raise 10 children.

In February of 1863, Archer becomes one of America’s heroes, when he informs the Union Troops in St. Charles County that the Railroad bridge has been tampered with and undermined so that it will collapse as soon as a train passes. With this bold action, Alexander ran under the cover of darkness, five miles to inform the Union troops. Krekel’s “Dutch”- so called because they were German emigrants – oversaw guarding the Peruque Creek bridge, just west of O’Fallon. Archer Alexander is suspected of having alerted and of somehow betraying this information when the bridge did not collapse! Knowing that he was in mortal danger, Archer manages to escape and flee to St. Louis.

Under the best of circumstances, the best condition of slavery was worse than the worst condition of freedom—I doubt if a man or woman could be found who would exchange freedom, such as it is, for the old relation under the best master that ever lived” He thinks to himself, “Go for your freedom, ef you dies for it”. Archer Alexander.

Slave-catchers captured Archer and took him to a boarding house to spend the night before being taken to a new master in the South, as punishment for his actions. Instead of settling for a continued life of slavery, Alexander miraculously climbed out of a high eliottpwindow and avoids a ravenous dog long enough to slip away from his pursuers. His desire for freedom allows him to reach St. Louis and secure his freedom.

Archer’s son Thomas had escaped and joined the U.S. Colored Troops, recruited under German immigrant George Senden, on Main Street in St. Charles. He would later die “in action” during the Civil War.  Disease which took a huge toll on soldiers, especially the Colored Troops because of the conditions that they lived under. Archer was grieved but proud saying “I couldn’t do it myself,” “but I thank the Lord my boy did it.”

In St. Louis, Archer meets Abigail Adams Eliot in a butcher shop. She’s the wife of a Unitarian minister named William Greenleaf Eliot. Eliot hires Archer to be his gardener. When he discovers Alexander’s story, the minister obtained an order of protection for Archer and attempts to purchase his freedom. Eliot helps Archer write a letter so that Archer can buy his freedom, because in 1847, Missouri’s laws had made it illegal to teach a slave to read or write. Eliot goes to Judge Barton Bates and offers him $600 for Archer Alexander.

Soon, however, slave catchers again attempted to abduct Alexander from the Eliot property- where he is under an order of protection. Three men, slave catchers came to the property and threatened Alexander’s life with pistols and daggers, cruelly beat him with clubs, knocked him down, stamped upon and handcuffed him, dragged him to a wagon and carried him to jail.

Eliot arranges to have Archer’s captors arrested on a military arrest warrant because what they had done was illegal, as Alexander was still under the Order of Protection. TheOld-City-Jail slave-catchers, upon learning of their impending arrests, hastily flee St. Louis without Alexander. Eliot has negotiated for Alexander’s release and Alexander is freed once again when Captain Dwight issues orders for the Jail to do so.

Eliot is able then to obtain a full order of protection. But the political situation remains volatile. Though President Lincoln had issued the ­Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863, it did not apply to slave-holding border states. In Missouri, the “peculiar institution” stood until January 11,1865, when Missouri’s Constitutional Convention under the leadership of Arnold Krekel, signed it.

When he’d recuperated sufficiently to travel, Alexander went by steamboat to Alton, Illinois, a free state. There he worked as a farmhand, saved his wages and waited. Six months later, Alexander returned to Eliot and deposited $120 in the ­Provident Savings Bank. It was a large sum as over the same period, a Union private would only have earned $78 at best.

He then sent word to Louisa, whose freedom he hoped to purchase. He wrote a letter to her owner.  “My dear husband,” Louisa wrote back. “I received your letter yesterday, and lost no time in asking Mr. Jim if he would sell me, and what he would take for me. He flew at me, and said I would never get free only at the point of the [bayonet], and there was no use in my ever speaking to him any more about it. I don’t see how I can ever get away except you get soldiers to take me from the house, as he is watching me night and day.

Eliot read Alexander the letter.  He worried that Louisa, having sought to leave, might now be endangered. Her life wasn’t safe if they got mad at her. But Alexander had a back-up plan: Wary of writing again, Alexander arranges for his wife and as many children as possible to escape. William Eliot, sensing slavery’s imminent demise, cautioned Archer that the few months of freedom might not be worth the risks of flight.

On a moonlit night, Louisa and Nellie, the couple’s young daughter, climbed into an ­ox-drawn cart and hid beneath the corn shucks. A horseman soon rode by. He grilled the farmer: “Have you seen Louisa and Nellie?” “Yes, I saw them at the crossing, as I came along, standing, and looking scared-like, as if they were waiting for somebody,” the farmer coolly replied. “But I have not seen them since.” Mother and daughter arrived at Eliot’s before dawn. Alexander paid the German farmer $20. Soon they were reunited with two more daughters.

After the war finally ended, Eliza began to yearn for her former belongings. She went to her former master to retrieve them, and suddenly took ill. She died within two days. Her belongings were sent to St. Louis to Archer. Archer eventually remarried to a slave who also knew how to speak German.

President Abraham Lincoln and a freed African-American slave are depicted in a statue thcommemorating the Emancipation Proclamation in Washington D.C., with the photo of the slave based on Archer Alexander.  About 1870, Eliot arranged for Alexander to be photographed. Eliot mailed the images to Italy, where artist Thomas Ball was sculpting a monument to Lincoln and emancipation. The funding for the memorial started when a woman in Virginia, Charlotte Scott, donated the first $5 she earned as a free woman for a monument honoring Lincoln’s proclamation. That started a fundraising effort among newly freed people that raised $16,242 — enough to build a memorial. The statue now sits in Washington‘s Lincoln Park and depicts Lincoln standing above a kneeling freed man holding broken chains.

Originally the slave was to be wearing a Union Cap and thanking Lincoln. The statue has been criticized as paternalistic, reflecting views of its time. Still, it remains significant as one of the first monuments to Lincoln funded entirely by formerly enslaved people. The freed man has the face of Archer Alexander. Neither Eliot nor Alexander attended the monument’s dedication in April 1876, and Alexander never saw the memorial for himself. Alexander died December 7, 1880 and, according to Eliot’s account, “his last words were a prayer of thanksgiving that he died in freedom.”
Watch O’Fallon Matters story on Archer Alexander https://youtu.be/4FfKhZRj7E0

The author used Crossroads by Steve Ehlmann, The Story of Archer Alexander by William G. Eliot, and The Rattling of the Chains by Errol D. Alexander for this article.