Category Archives: history

Clio

Bertha Krekel

Born in O’Fallon, on December 25, 1859, she was the second child of O’Fallon’s founder Nicholas Krekel who had founded the town on August 6, 1856. Her father had been born Berthain Germany on August 30, 1825 and had emigrated with his family at the age of seven. His father had brought his family to America in 1832. Nicholas purchased the land where he would build a home for his wife, and live together after their marriage on August 15, 1857. By the time Bertha was born, O’Fallon had its’ own Post Office and Train Depot, which her father managed.

Bertha spent her entire life in that same house on Main Street (today’s Cleo Bridal Shop) where she would be surrounded by her family and in the center of the community. She and her father were very close. Her sister Mary would marry William Westhoff on October 13, 1892 and after their father’s death on February 6, 1910 Bertha would continue to live in what became William and Mary’s home, the Westhoff place.  A real hub of the community, it was just across the street from the Westhoff Mercantile (today’s McGurks). There the young lady, who never married, took a liking to writing about the bustling town’s events, and wrote about the daily life and its’ eventual history. As the City had a newspaper, and her uncle Arnold Krekel was also involved with two of St. Charles’ newspapers, there was an easy outlet for the young muse’s talents. She wrote under a pen name, which was a custom at that time – of Clio – the muse of history, who inspired the development of liberal and fine arts in ancient Greece.

From the newspaper clippings of Bertha Krekel’s that bring the history of O’Fallon to life.

June 1912  History of O’Fallon

This was written by Miss Hortense Keithly and read at the graduating exercise of the O’Fallon High School.

When the railroad came through this portion of the country O’Fallon began its growth as a town. Previous to that event, Cottleville and Flint Hill, with the exception of St. Charles had been the most rapidly growing towns in this county.

The country surrounding the site of the present town was occupied by a a few very small trading places among which was Wellsburgen the Salt River Road, about 2 ½ mile south of the present site of St. Paul. It consisted of two buildings, one of which was occupied by a saloon, store, post office and a residence. The other contained a blacksmith shop. There was another store also on the Salt River Road, where Mrs. Anton F. Orf now lives, about ½ mile west of Audrain Bridge, where Dardenne is now situated, there stood a shop which contained what was know as Nailer’s Store.

While Cottleville and Flint Hill were increasing in size, the site of O’Fallon was covered with timber, excepting a small area where the convent now stands and a plot surrounding the only house in the near vicinity. This house stood on the south side of the railroad and east of Main Street, just back of where Talleur’s baker shop and Ahren’s saloon are at present. It was occupied and owned by Mr. Henry Ernst. One of the most interesting and peculiar facts known concerning the physical features of the area occupied by the town, is that at the time Mr. Ernst lived here there was a spring near his residence. The portion of the country on the north side of where the railroad now is and easrt [sic] of Main Street was owned by Mr. Joseph Boegel; that on the same side of the railroad track, west of Main Street, belonged to Mr. Arnold Krekel.

The part on the south side of the railroad track and est of Main Street was the property of Mr. Henry Ernst and the remaining portion was owned by Mr. Joseph Trevy.

The North Missouri Railroad now known as the Wasbash was located in 1855. It was completed as far as Peruque Bridge in 1858 and the first train was run over the road as far as the bridge in the summer of that year.

During the year 1855, Arnold Krekel, who was a prominent St. Charles County Attorney, who later became a United States Judge for the West Division of Missouri, laid out the original town of O’Fallon on the north side of the railroad and west of the north projection of Main Street.

The town was named for John J. O’Fallon, a prominent business man of the city of St. Louis at that time. In 1856 Nicholas Krekel, the brother of Arnold Krekel built the first house and did the first business as a merchant and Post-master in the town and was also the first agent for the railroad here. Also about this time, Mr. McIntosh built a one story house where Mr. Peter Saali’s hotel stands at present. A few years later this property was bought by Love and Callaway who built part of the house and saloon, where the residence of Henry Ahrens is at present.

In 1858 Ward & Ward [edited by crossing out] built a store just north of where the Werner Millinery Store stands. In 1854 Dr Woods built the residence owned by Mr Charley Himmelsbach. Later Dr. W.C. Williams bought the house built by Dr. Woods. He used it as his residence until he built the residence now owned by Mrs. Susie Johns. It was Dr. W.C. Williams and Dr. J. C. Edwards who bought the property previously owned by Mr. Henry Ernst and platted the part of the town of O’Fallon that lies east of Main Street and south of the Railroad.They presented the lot now now occupied by the Westhoff Grain & Mercantile Co. building to Mr. rufus Gamble on the condition tha eh build a brick house upon it. It was the first brick house in the town. The ground floor was used as a store; the second floor as a Masonic Lodge Room. The house is now a part of the Westhoff Grain & Mercantile Co.

Nicholas KrekelWhen O’Fallon was first settled there was no public road leading to or from the town. There were simply private or by-roads. For many years the road ran in front of Mr. Krekel’s business place which is now owned and occupied by Mr. Wm. Westhoff crossed the railroad west of where the present depot now stands, came into what is now Main Street in front of where Ward & Ward’s Store stood. It faced north, and ran south-westerly across what are now fields to the Mexico Road, where Woodlawn now stands. Main Street is now a part of the public road which is now a part of the public road which was afterwards located extending north to the Salt River Road and south to the Mexico Road.

 

This is from a book of newspaper clippings kept by the Krekel family. Bertha must have been quite the historian, as she took it upon herself to freely editorialize facts published by Miss Keithly, and are what are shared in this story. Otherwise, it is exactly the way it was published in June of 1912, and shares quite a bit of history by someone whose family played a prominent role. You will find more about the Krekel Family on this blog.

Note: The Wm Westhoff home is today’s Cleo Bridal Shop, and the Westhoff Grain & Mercantile is McGurks Restaurant. For more about the other locations you can visit the O’Fallon Historical Society’s new website or follow the O’Fallon Historical Preservation Commission on Facebook.

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Statehood

Missouri became a State on August 10, 1821. Its birth was not easy though. The land was purchased by the United States in 1804, and organized into  a Territory in 1812, with the first Legislative session held in Pierre Choteau Senior’s home. For the second session they were at the home of Madame Dubrevill on Second Street, also in St. Louis.

Residents wanted to discuss Statehood, so they gathered at E. Maury’s Hotel on October 26, 1818. There they began to draft a Constitution, which was completed when the Convention met at the Mansion House on June 12, 1820. This was a large 3 story brick on the corner of Third and Vine Streets, that had been built in 1816. At this session, the Convention also drafted a resolution that the seat of government would remain at St. Louis until 1826, when it would be moved to a point on the Missouri River within 40 miles of the Osage River. The rivers were the highways of their day.

The first session of the Missouri General Assembly was convened in St. Louis, and the election returns counted, with Alexander McNair becoming the first Governor. This was followed by high drama at the Missouri Hotel, at Main and Morgan Streets. U.S. Senators were elected by a caucus of a joint General Assembly, and the first seat went to David Barton by a unanimous decision. However, a bitter fight broke out between Judge John B. Lucas and Thomas Hart Benton. For days the 14 State Senators and the 43 members of the House debated and remained in a deadlock. It grew acrimonious and bitter. Then someone remembered that Representative Daniel Ralls had not come down from his room because he was ill. Needing the stalemate to end, a group of Benton supporters, carried his bed down to the Dining Room, where he feebly announced his vote for Benton. He died within a few days.

Before it adjourned, and after  yet another long fight, they named Saint Charles the Mointeroirestemporary Seat of Justice.  McNair convened a special session on June 4, 1821 to discuss the objections raised by the U.S. Congress, on the second floor of a brick building on Main Street. That summer the heated debate over slavery floated down to listeners in front of the Peck Brothers Mercantile. A great compromise suggested by Henry Clay, ended the debate. Missouri was a slave state with the institution part of its history from its very beginning. With 11 free states, and 11 states in the Union, it would take the free state of Maine to balance Missouri’s entry as the 24th State.

Whereas the Congress of the United States, by a joint resolution of the 2d day of March last, entitled “Resolution providing for the admission of the State of Missouri into the Union on a certain condition,” did determine and declare “that Missouri should be admitted into this Union on an equal footing with the original States in all respects whatever upon the fundamental condition that the fourth clause of the twenty-sixth section of the third article of the constitution submitted on the part of said State to Congress shall never be construed to authorize the passage of any law, and that no law shall be passed in conformity thereto, by which any citizen of either of the States of this Union shall be excluded from the enjoyment of any of the privileges and immunities to which such citizen is entitled under the Constitution of the United States: Provided, That the legislature of said State, by a solemn public act, shall declare the assent of the said State to the said fundamental condition, and shall transmit to the President of the United States on or before the first Monday in November next an authentic copy of said act, upon the receipt whereof the President, by proclamation, shall announce the fact, whereupon, and without any further proceeding on the part of Congress, the admission of the said State into this Union shall be considered as complete;” and

Whereas by a solemn public act of the assembly of said State of Missouri, passed on the 26th of June, in the present year, entitled “A solemn public act declaring the assent of this State to the fundamental condition contained in a resolution passed by the Congress of the United States providing for the admission of the State of Missouri into the Union on a certain condition,” an authentic copy whereof has been communicated to me, it is solemnly and publicly enacted and declared that that State has assented, and does assent, that the fourth clause of the twenty-sixth section of the third article of the constitution of said State “shall never be construed to authorize the passage of any law, and that no law shall be passed in conformity thereto, by which any citizen of either of the United States shall be excluded from the enjoyment of any of the privileges and immunities to which such citizens are entitled under the Constitution of the United States:”

Now, therefore, I, James Monroe, President of the United States, in pursuance of the resolution of Congress aforesaid, have issued this my proclamation, announcing the fact that the said State of Missouri has assented to the fundamental condition required by the resolution of Congress aforesaid, whereupon the admission of the said State of Missouri into this Union is declared to be complete.

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Establishing the birth of a City

In 1769, Louis Blanchette settled along a small stream that would later bear his name. A fur trader from a very prominent and wealthy French-Canadian family had struck off to

Blanchette-Coontz house
John Coontz house built on the site of Louis Blanchette’s in Block 20 on the Original Plat of the City of St. Charles established in 1769

 

start a new settlement. The Spanish recognized Blanchette and made him their commandant after they took possesion in 1770.The Census of 1787 of St. Charles… contains the following information about Blanchette “Juan Bapta Blanchet, aged 51; Maria Su Mujer; 48, Baptiste Blanchette 24; Maria Blanchette 21” In addition to these his household contained, one carpenter, one huntsman and four laborers. Houck also quotes Auguste Chouteau, as noted in Hunt’s Minutes Book 1, page 127 saying “was established by Blanchette.” Houck also established where Blanchette lived “the lot upon which the first house being the square now numbered 19 bounded on the south by McDonald [McDonough], west by Main, east by Missouri [River] and north by Water streets, and from this we infer that Blanchette must have first erected his hut on this block when he made a settlement at what is now St. Charles.” In 1789, Louis Blanchette, sold his land in the southern part of the village to John Coontz, a German,… and he too erected a grist mill on Blanchette Creek, building a dam for it on what is now known as Block 79. Romain Dufreine, testifiying before Theodore Hunt, Land Commissioner, on May 7, 1825, swore that John Coontz had built his mill on this square thirty years before, i. e., in 1795, and had continued to occupy the land until he moved to the Dardenne ten or twelve years later. Blanchette died in 1793. Subsequently Charles Tayon was appointed Commandant of the village, and had to petition to the Spanish who literally owned the land, permission for such things as to cut wood in the commons. In 1800, the Treaty of San Idolfonso brought the small village back to a part of the French domain. Spain was unhappy with the treaty, as it did state that France was not to sell the land, which it promptly did in what we call the Louisiana Purchase on April 30, 1803. This was ratified nearly a year later in March of 1804, which is what held up Jefferson’s Corp of Discovery which left Saint Charles on May 21, 1804. At that time there were over a hundred families (about 450 inhabitants) spread primarily along today’s Main Street. The village had grown from 1787 when it had: eighty families to one hundred families. “The houses, about one hundred in number, in which the four hundred fifty inhabitants lived, were scattered along a single street about one mile long” By 1808, the Village is of such importance that the U.S. Government would send its U.S. Army to establish Fort Osage, as Sibley and Clark assembled their men here, they would leave on an established road, formerly called the Osage trace (a well traveled road) that left from in front of the former Blanchette’s house. On July 8, 1808 the U.S. Government, from their headquarters at St. Louis at that time had made laws that established roads, and the local village had begun to petition for a road to the west. The small village had grown to become a young City, westward expansion had begun, and on October 10, 1809, the City of St. Charles was Incorporated so that it was able to establish its own laws, survey and sell its land, and govern the village which had grown to nearly a thousand people already.

The Incorporation papers say:

City of St. Charles Record Book A Page 6

Saint Charles Eighteen Hundred and nine

At a Court of Common Pleas began and held at the village of Saint Charles for the District of St. Charles on Monday the thirteenth day of October in the Year of our Lord one Thousand and Eight Hundred and nine and of the Independence of the United States the thirty fourth.

Presnt the Hon. Timothy Kibby

James Flaugherty

Francis Saucier and

Robert Spencer

In the record and proceedings of said Court we the following viz.

In conveyence of the Petition of two thirds of the inhabitants of the village and commons of Saint Charles praying the said village may be incorporated. The Court finding then petition to be completely comporting with the laws of this Territory in such laws made and provided have therefore granted the said petition and have accordingly appointed Alexander McNair and Doctor Reynolds Commissioners and that a plat of said village and commons be filed in the Clerks off of this court.

Wm Christy  for Clerk

StChasInc