Category Archives: African American History

Franklin School

In 1846, when the first public school Board was created, and German born Arnold Krekel was a director, public education was only for white students. As plans for public schools took shape, there was a count of school age children made, which unfortunately did not include colored children. It was illegal to educate blacks under Missouri Law in 1847. It wasn’t until after Missouri’s Emancipation of its slaves on January 11, 1865 that things changed. In 1866, Jacob Weston was hired by the public school board and paid $20.00, in part payment, to teach the colored children in St. Charles. William Royce, began to collect subscriptions to build a public colored school, for the 167 colored children. The school board announced that school would start in December 1867. The African Church at Second and Pike Streets served as a school house and received $5 a month rent for that. By 1870, plans were being made to purchase the church.

At that same time, the Franklin School building was purchased from St. Louis University. For $3,500 the school board purchased everything, even the benches, in the school house that had been serving as a Catholic school for the St. Charles Borremeo parish since 1855 when it had been built. The colored school population was divided between the African Church and the Blue Ville School at Gallaher and Olive. In 1871, The colored Methodist Church was then purchased for $1250. In 1897, all colored children were being sent to what was Lincoln School at Second and Pike.

It wasn’t until 1901, that H.H. Peck spoke up about giving the African-American children, of which there were 80 at this time, a full day’s education. He also wanted another teacher since there were so many students, but that was denied. Instead on October 7, 1902 the school district opened the Franklin School to relieve the overcrowding at

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Franklin School’s new addition in 1910

Lincoln School. It wasn’t until 1910 that the first mention of graduation exercises. In 1914, Lincoln was the white school and Franklin was all black, and an addition was built to accommodate all the former black Lincoln School students. The addition was made at a cost of $2,674. In 1921, the State Superintendent of Schools suggested that two years of high school be added. Improvements of more rooms at a cost of $11, 418.00 was done at this time as well. And in 1922, the first diploma was awarded to Clarence Thomas Shelton.

In 1925, the front of the school was modernized to today’s appearance. A lot was purchased for $7,500 to provide a playground for the students. In 1931, a third year was added to the high school, and in 1932 a fourth year was added. By this time, bus transportation covering 60-80 miles a day in its route, to bring African-American students from Jonesburg, Warrenton, Wright City, Wentzville and O’Fallon. It was great event when in June of 1933, Franklin School proudly graduated ten students from its four-year high school. In 1938, a gymnasium was built on the south side of the school building, where the former George Hellrich home had been, at the cost of $17,980.00. Another house on Hellrich’s property served as the Home Economics building.

Integration came to Missouri’s schools in 1954, and the lower grades were the first to be racially integrated. An era came to an end on a Thursday evening in June, the 2nd, in 1955 with the last graduation of Franklin High School. Hundreds of students from African-American communities in Warren, Lincoln, and St. Charles Counties had gained IMG-6933(1)that important High School education in this building. Portions of its halls had served students since 1855, with a majority of its life as an all-black school. Student Mary Stephenson’s family had moved to O’Fallon from a farm in St. Paul, to attend school. She would pass school buildings that were a block from her home, to ride an early morning bus, to receive a high school education. Dedicated teachers, used all the materials they could find, and taught several different subjects. They insisted upon learning and the importance of education. This was a place that instilled pride in hundreds of former students that passed through its hallways. This sense of pride can still be seen today in the homes of these families. Their pride in their education still echoes in the hallways, and in their discussions with the school board. For more information about the plans for the former Franklin School, which is being sold, please contact the City of St. Charles School District.

Information for this post came from the National Register Listing for the Frenchtown District and One Hundred years of Negro Education in St. Charles, Missouri by Stephen Blackhurst, Jr..

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Endings and Beginnings

As we end 2017, we are sharing this blog from Sage Chapel Cemetery…

Sage Chapel Cemetery is a very special place. More than just a cemetery, it is a place of peace and solace, and the final resting place for the African-American community of O’Fallon, Missouri. For so many it is the only place that they can speak of as “home” and “family” and “my ancestors”. Many of these family members lie in an unmarked grave, where the location is one only known to “Aunt Phyllis” or “Cousin Mary”. And to walk this ground and hear “this is my mother’s grave” and this is where my father is, and to see only the flowers on one, is so sad. To know that with this person, the memory of where his father is, goes with him, is hard to understand in today’s world. But of the one-hundred eleven known burials in Sage Chapel Cemetery, of which at least seventeen were born as slaves, there are only thirty-five graves marked. And some of those are only marked by flowers and a memory.

Back a few years ago though, that began to change. A small group of O’Fallon residents took notice of this place, where the grass was high, and some people did not even realize there was a cemetery. At first the group was small, but they worked to make a change. They involved the community whose ancestors were buried there.The City began to cut the grass and it looked better. Someone bought hundreds of flowers at Dollar General and asked their friends for help in spreading them across the cemetery. Another did research and dug into the family histories of those that were buried there. They talked to their friends at the V.F.W. Post 5077, the neighbors to the east. Word spread and the city featured the story on the local TV channel. An Eagle Scout project brought a bright new sign trying to ensure that everyone in O’Fallon recognized that this was Sage Chapel Cemetery and this is a very special place.

In the past year, there were many more great things that happened at Sage Chapel Cemetery. There was a wonderful new stone placed on a World War I veteran, obtained by Post 5077 to replace the former headstone which was cracked and broken. When trees were blown down, the City was quick to take care and mend fences. Volunteers donated fertilizer and grass seed, and worked to spread that love. Other volunteers helped clean and clear brush. Another spent time searching with a metal detector hoping to find remnants of the old metal funeral home signs. Other volunteers catalogued and photographed, did research in deeds, newspapers and death certificate files. Others surveyed the cemetery carefully recording the names. Volunteers came together to carefully prod in search of any headstones that may have fallen over the years, hoping to find more markers. Flowers were planted at grave sites and under the sign. And there was even more love given to this very special place. And a community began to come together, with a common bond.

Because our color does not matter when we are united under the common bond of our love for family. Our love for our ancestors crosses that boundary, and is shared, whether we are black or white. Love for our family – and a connection to our ancestors – transcends all of that. We can each understand each others need to have a place such as Sage Chapel Cemetery. A place filled with the love even though it may not look like a cemetery, because that is what makes it such a special place. A place where one can say “that’s my family” and share that love with their family and friends.

To the many friends – both old and new – of Sage Chapel Cemetery there is a very big Thank You for everything everyone has done this past year. You know who you are. Everyone is so grateful, and appreciates the community involvement. We are looking forward to 2018 and a wonderful new Chapter, and invite you to visit for yourself, this very special place. We are ending 2017 grateful for the many blessings that Sage has had this year, and looking forward to the beginning of a wonderful 2018.

 

 

Sage Chapel Cemetery

Sage Chapel Cemetery is a very special place. More than just a cemetery, it is a place of peace and solace, and the final resting place for the African-American community of O’Fallon, Missouri. For so many it is the only place that they can speak of as “home” and “family” and “my ancestors”. Many of these family members lie in an unmarked grave, where the location is one only known to “Aunt Phyllis” or “Cousin Mary”. And to walk this ground and hear “this is my mother’s grave” and this is where my father is, and to see only the flowers on one, is so sad. To know that with this person, the memory of where his father is, goes with him, is hard to understand in today’s world. But of the one-hundred eleven known burials in Sage Chapel Cemetery, of which at least seventeen were born as slaves, there…

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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.  From the records of the AME Conference reports made by Brother Samuel Jenkins on November 28, 1878, we see in his handwriting that  “Local Preachers, where as

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

Jefferson Sage of Jonesburg” it clearly indicates Sage 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, 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 among the towns between St. Charles and his former home of Jonesburg. Other Ministers of the Gospel with the A.M.E. did this as well, such as M.E. Smith who preached at what is 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, at 101 Main Street, in Saint Charles, Missouri.

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. These were two separate parcels:  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, that being the exact same parcel of land we call Sage Chapel Cemetery in 2018.

 

Signature

Sources:

African-Methodist Church Book, Donated by Wardell Reed to the St. Charles County Historical Society, St. Charles County, MO. in 2010. These are Conference Records of the St. Charles African-Methodist Episcopal Churches in St. Charles County.

1880 U.S. Federal Census, St. Charles County, Saint Charles, Enumeration District 201, Roll 714, Page 72A

1900 U.S. Federal Census, Ottawa Kansas, Enumeration District 0086 Ward 2, Franklin Roll 480, Page 10A

1920 U.S. Federal Census, Lexington, Ward 3, Lafayette County, Missouri Page 4A Enumeration District 117

1910 Missouri State Census, Montgomery County, Roll MOSC_4716

U.S. Social Security Applications & Claims Index, Ancestry.com

U.S. City Directories 1822-1995, Ancestry.com

Descendants of family members of Rev. Jefferson Franklin Sage