Category Archives: O’Fallon History

Arnold Krekel

The Krekel family were part of the huge wave of German immigrants that came in the 1830s. Their journey was a difficult one. Arnold Krekel’s brother Nicholas recalled the journey “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. On arriving at Erie, there was so much ice in the lake that we could not make the trip, so we went overland to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, a distance of 160 miles. Mother, my sister Katherine (11 years), myself (Nicholas Krekel) rode in the wagon. Father, my three oldest brothers, Godfred [sic], Arnold and Frank walked. On this overland trip my mother took cold which continued to get worse when coming down the Ohio River, so we landed at Louisville, Kentucky to get medical assistance and religious consolation. She died there on December 14, 1832 and was also buried there. Three years later Arnold went there to find his mother’s grave but the city had been built beyond it. The voyage across the Ocean took 9 weeks, the overland trip from Erie to Pittsburgh took about 3 weeks. After her burial we continued our way to St. Louis. On arriving there we put up at the William Tell house on Main Street, a two-story stone building.” 

Arnold Krekel was born in the small village of Wolfrath, in the Rhineland “near Cologne on the Rhine” and was seventeen years old when he made the journey. Born on March 12, 1815 to Franz Leonard Krekel (1783-1862) and Maria Catherine Schumacher (1779-1832), he was their second son in a family with nine children. His family would settle in the far southwestern tip of St. Charles County near Dutzow, a small German village in Warren County, where Gottfried Duden had lived. Duden was a friend of

Arnold’s father and had authored A Report on a Journey to the Western States of North

Gottferied Duden
A Report on a Journey to the Western States of North America

America in 1829, inspiring thousands of Germans to immigrate to the U.S…  There his father purchased U.S. Congress land from the government, and purchased a house built by a previous squatter. While his oldest brother Gottfried, a farmer, purchased adjoining land, Arnold was turning eighteen and would strike out in new directions and make changes in the world. He would first attend the St. Charles College in the old city of St. Charles, fifty miles away, where he would meet the Americans. This was a school filled with the “old families” wealthy with property and slaves. There his connections with society began, as he studied law. Familiar with the process of surveying, he also grew his network of those actively involved in the growing city.

His religious views took him in another direction as well, as a member and one of the original 36 members of the Friends of Religious Enlightenment in 1838. The 29-year-old man was a member of the Association of Rational Christians, or Frei Denkers (Free Thinkers) in 1845 when Friedrich Muench performed his marriage to 28-year-old German born Ida Krug. Her father, was a wealthy physician in the Dutzow community, who had come with the huge Giessen Emigration Society back in 1834. They began married life in St. Charles where Arnold had already taken an active role. He had been elected a Justice of the Peace in 1841, and as a surveyor, and lawyer, he was involved in property deals all over the area. After his friend William Eckert died in 1845, former Secretary of State William Pettus had hired him to survey Eckart’s land. Eckert was the son-in-law of Francis Smith, whose estate Krekel would purchase 320 acres of land from ten years later.

Arnold’s law career began in St. Charles after being admitted to the Bar in 1845. As the City’s attorney and prosecuting attorney this brought him into close connection with theth City’s rapidly expanding and prominent population.  In 1852, Krekel is a rising star, as he wins the race for a seat in Missouri’s House of Representatives, the first German to be elected to Missouri’s House.  He had run a campaign using his newly created newspaper, Der Demokrat, which was the first German newspaper in St. Charles County. While Krekel’s business associates were wide, he was still very proud of his German heritage and his closest friends, like Friedrich Muench and Emil Pretorius were examples. In 1853, he attended the North Missouri Railroad Convention in St. Charles, where St. Louis businessman and philanthropist John O’Fallon was also in attendance. On August 6, 1856, he surveyed and laid out a plat of a town on the 320 acres he had purchased from Smith, calling it “O’Fallon” hoping that the North Missouri Railroad would create a station. The need for wood and water at certain distances were necessary for the engines. And the U.S. Postal Service had announced that station stops would also be the locations for Post Offices.

Arnold established his younger brother, Nicholas, as the first resident of this new town of O’Fallon, with a house and property of his own.  Nicholas served as the town’s founder, Postmaster and the Station Agent for the railroad all the while running his own mercantile. Nicholas would later oversee the Public sale of the lots in O’Fallon, on July 22, 1870. It was the intention of Nicholas and his wife Wilhemina (nee Moritz) to see the Catholic Church established in O’Fallon. Arnold was busy elsewhere as he had been nominated for the office of Missouri’s Attorney General in 1856.

As the state headed for the crisis over slavery, Krekel the abolitionist was a radical voice and leader among the Germans. The U.S. Slave Schedule shows him to have one thirty-

1860Slaveowner
1860 U.S. Slave Schedules for St. Charles County, Missouri

year old male mulatto living in the household in 1860, but he was not alone in this regard, as there were several German families in St. Louis, St. Charles, Warren and Franklin Counties that also owned their servants as well. Most were of the belief, that until the practice of slavery was abolished, they could provide a much better living environment for the African-Americans than they would encounter in the south.  He attended the Republican National Convention in May of 1860 with his friend Muench, where Germans were the only foreign born were in attendance. This gave the nomination to Abraham Lincoln for President. Up until that time, Krekel like many other German immigrants, were Benton Democrats in their politics, but the parties had shifted with the issues of immigration and slavery. In 1861, Krekel was appointed Provost Marshall for St. Charles, Warren and Lincoln counties. Provost Marshalls were established only where the local government was either failing to or refusing to meet the needs of the local citizens. Things were in turmoil and one of the most striking acts was when members of the Board of Directors of the same college where Arnold had been a student, and studied law, the St. Charles College, refused to take an Oath of Allegiance. Krekel threw out the entire board and turned the school into a hospital – for Union Troops in December of 1862.

Krekel was serving as a Colonel in the Enrolled Military Militia. His troops’ career is storied with unfortunate events that are best explained in the annals of a war that rocked the country. His Home Guards, was where his involvement brought Germans into action at the Camp Jackson affair in April of 1861. The Union soldiers managed to secure the Arsenal and rifles that could have fallen into southern hands.  His troops were next called into action as Federal troops in July 1861, and while away in maneuvers in western Missouri, Krekel’s troops were accused of marauding Confederate sympathizers’ homes. Back in St. Charles County, his troops were placed in charge of guarding the crucial Peruque Creek bridge, just west of O’Fallon, which enabled vital rail transport.

emancipationproc
An Ordinance Abolishing Slavery in Missouri

Arnold’s younger brother Nicholas, who had served in the Mexican War, was a Captain in the Home Guards, back in O’Fallon.

In 1862, Arnold served as Vice President of the State’s Radical Emancipation Convention. In 1865, he would serve as President of the recently convened Missouri Constitutional Convention and sign the Proclamation of Emancipation in Jefferson City on January 11, 1865 that freed Missouri’s slaves. Lincoln’s earlier Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 did not cover Missouri because it was a “slave state” and one of three that did not secede from the Union.

On March 31, 1865, shortly before his assassination President Lincoln appointed Arnold Krekel as Federal Judge for the Western District of Missouri. On September 17, 1866, Arnold who was long a proponent for public education, would help establish Lincoln University, Missouri’s first African-American college. For more than ten years, Krekel and his family lived in Jefferson City where he would lecture at the University for free. He was a member of the Board of Directors, and elected President of the Board in 1883. From 1872 until 1887, he also taught at the newly established School of Law at the University of Missouri, in nearby Columbia. He served as a Federal Judge for 23 years, and only retire when his health began to fail.

The family would continue to live in Jefferson City for many years. There his wife Ida,

historic-home-built-in
Arnold Krekel’s home is Cliff Manor Inn Bed & Breakfast today, at 722 Cliff Street, Jefferson City, Missouri

mother of his six children, Laura, Alfred, Franklin, Hilma, Alma and Walter, passed away in 1870. They had lost two sons as young children, Walter when he was two, and Franklin at age 6. By 1880 he had gone to live with his oldest daughter, Laura, who had married Louis Schmidt, still in Jefferson City.  In November, Arnold at age 65, remarried to Mattie Perry of Kansas City.  Early in 1888 Krekel resigned his Judgeship because of illness, and he and his wife had moved to Kansas City. In July of 1888, Arnold Krekel passed away from Bright’s Disease, a kidney ailment, in Kansas City. His body was brought home to Saint Charles by his brother Nicholas and was laid to rest in the City’s Oak Grove Cemetery. A German emigrant’s amazing career was memorialized by his close friend Emil Pretorious as many mourned his loss.

 

Sources for this post are Krekel family papers, Dictionary of Missouri Biography and Crossroads by Steve Ehlmann.

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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, on the ship Isabella, on November 1st, 1832. We 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. The oldest son Gottfreid would purchase land that adjoined his father’s only in Warren County.  Arnold would pursue his dreams in St. Charles. (See https://stcharlescountyhistory.org/2018/02/26/arnold-krekel/) and Nicholas would grow up working for his father, then pursue his military duty and become a veteran of the Mexican War. He would return home and work in north St. Louis County which is where he most likely met his future wife.

O'Fallon Plat
Original Plat of O’Fallon in the St. Charles County Recorder of Deeds (Justin Watkins and Dorris Keeven-Franke presented January 9, 2018 to the O’Fallon Historic Preservation Commission and the City of O’Fallon)

 

From the Journal of Nicholas Krekel and his daughter Bertha Krekel

Nicholas Krekel to his daughter Bertha Krekel: Wilhelmina Moritz and I were married

KR1020
Wilhelmina Moritz Krekel

 

August 15, 1857 at St. Louis coming to O’Fallon Missouri shortly after, where I had built a home, having come here 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, as all Station Agents were also Postmasters. 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 us, 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, the youngest son 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 has beenrenovated and brought to life once again by  Jason and Jessica Orf, and is Cleo Bridal Shop.

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.

*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.

 

Coming to America

In the decade of the 1830s alone over 120,000 Germans immigrated to America, and one-third of those settled in Missouri. Those are the emigrants that made it. Thousands would not survive the journey at sea or the difficult overland trek westward.

Nicholas Krekel: “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. On arriving at Erie, there was so much ice in the lake that we could not make the trip, so we went overland to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, a distance of 160 miles. Mother, my sister Katherine Nicholas Krekel(11 years), myself (Nicholas Krekel) rode in the wagon. Father, my three oldest brothers, Godfred [sic], Arnold and Frank walked. On this overland trip my mother took cold which continued to get worse when coming down the Ohio River, so we landed at Louisville, Kentucky to get medical assistance and religious consolation. She died there on December 14, 1832 and was also buried there. Three years later Arnold went there to find his mother’s grave but the city had been built beyond it. The voyage across the Ocean took 9 weeks, the overland trip from Erie to Pittsburgh took about 3 weeks. After her burial we continued our way to St. Louis. On arriving there we put up at the William Tell house on Main Street, a two story stone building.” 

Of the forty thousand immigrants that arrived in Missouri in the ’30s, at least one-fourth of those Germans chose the city of St. Louis. The city’s population grew from approximately 15,000 to 35,000, meaning that half of that growth was by Germans alone. The city’s Germans were often affluent and educated, supporting six German newspapers. The sound of German voices filled the air and it was said one could spend the day and never hear a word of English.

“From there we came to St. Charles and were there during the Christmas holidays and New Year. A man from the western part of the county named Cashew and his son named Jackson were there with a team of four horses having been to St. Louis. They took us to our new home. While looking about for a location we stopped with a man named Bonet, a bachelor that made spinning wheels (the place was later owned by the Braehus family) he showed my father a piece of land owned by the government on which a man named Wood had built a log house. After looking at the land which was covered with heavy timber my father went to St. Louis where the land office was and bought it for the sum of $__for ____ acres. He paid the man Wood $9 for the log cabin that was on it, he seemed well paid and settled further towards Warren County”

Warren County had been carved out of Montgomery County in 1833. St. Charles County which had been created out of the St. Charles District of the Louisiana Territory in 1812 had stretched to the Pacific Ocean until the counties like Montgomery and Franklin werecropped-cropped-1823-missouri.jpg created in 1818. At least 30,000 German immigrants chose to go west in the 1830s, settling in St. Charles, Warren, Franklin and Gasconade counties. They settled along the Missouri River valley creating the towns of Dutzow, Dortmund and Hamburg. They helped the town of Washington grow and become a German town. They turned The Philadelphia Settlement Society into the German town of Hermann.

“The name of the vessel we came to America in was Isabella. Two years later Anton Hoester’s father and family came over in the same vessel. In the year 1835 it was wrecked at sea. Before leaving Europe my father had decided to settle in this neighborhood. A criminal Judge named Duden with whom my father was personally acquainted had come to America several years previous and wrote such favorable letters to Europe that my [father] thought well of this country”

In 1829, Gottfried Duden published A Report on a Journey to the Western States of North America and a Stay Along the Missouri (During the years 1824, ’25,’26., 1827). dudenBorn in Remscheid in 1789, the young attorney had lived with the farmer Jacob Haun, even though he had purchased a large parcel of land himself. Observing the life of the “American farmer” and describing the life of Missouri’s earliest residents Duden described a place where freedom and opportunity were almost taken for granted, causing some Germans to decry Duden’s description as an impossible fairy tale.

“On our way there through St. Charles County we passed prairie lands that now are fine farms, but we were under the impression that where no trees grew, no vegetables would grow. So we settled in the dense forest and it took several years of hard labor to clear the land, burn the logs and the brush. Many large walnut trees were cut and burned.”

Duden’s farm was approximately 50 miles west of St. Louis on the eastern edge of Warren County adjoining St. Charles County, near the Missouri River. In 1832, a group of Germans often referred to as “the Berlin Society” made the first German settlement in Missouri when a town named Dutzow was established here. The village is named after the former estate in Germany of its founder, Johann Wilhelm Bock and adjoins Duden’s farm to the south.

“In sight of our home in Germany was the home of Carl Deus. Carl’s father was a brewer, distiller and coal merchant. The family was quite wealthy and of high social class.”

The conditions in Germany were desperate following the Napoleonic War, leading to overpopulation and famine. Revolutions were stirring among the students, and hundreds of such books as Duden’s were being written about Russia, Brazil, and England as places to immigrate to.

“In the year 1832 when Carl’s father heard that our family intended going to America he asked my father to wait until ’34 when there was a colony coming over, but my father was of a disposition not inclined to subject himself to anothers’ dictation so came alone with his family”

The Giessen Emigration Society  was founded by friends of the Krekel family, Paul Follenius and Friedrich Muench, whose farms adjoined Duden’s to the north. Their arrival in Missouri in July and August of 1834 brought over 500 Germans who settled all over St. Charles County, including St. Paul, Cottleville and St. Charles. By 1850 St. Charles County was over 50% German with many of them being established second generation families.

Next: Life of a German Immigrant Family

This is the voice of Nicholas Krekel and the story as told to his daughter Bertha Krekel. He was the founder of O’Fallon, Missouri, born in Germany on August 30, 1825 and emigrated with his family to America in 1832. The story was shared in his final years just shortly before his death. The journal has been graciously shared with me by a descendant, John Griesenauer. The author extends her utmost appreciation for allowing her to share this wonderful piece of family history.