Tag Archives: African-American

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

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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.

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Phyllis Hayden meets her new relative George Abington

 

 

 

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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..

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