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St. Charles Missouri

I recently sat down with author James W. Erwin whose new book ST. CHARLES MISSOURI – A Brief History by History Press is a great read on the city of St. Charles Missouri. It is nice to see our local history so well written, with clarity and facts. Erwin does a great job of sharing the stories that make the City of St. Charles Missouri so fascinating and rich in great history! I want to share our discussion about the book and hope that you might find the book as interesting and fun to read as I did….

  1. How did your writing this book come about?

I previously wrote three books for History Press on the Civil War in Missouri. My editor was aware that Vicki and I owned Main Street Books in St. Charles for eight years. He asked if I would be interested in writing a book for History Press about the first one hundred years of St. Charles history. I agreed. Arcadia has published three books on St. Charles history (one by Vicki – St. Charles Then and Now), but these were primarily books of photographs. (Arcadia and History Press merged a few years ago.) The publisher then said they wanted the book to cover not just the first one hundred years, but up to the present day. We agreed to cut it off at 2006, after some negotiation about book length.

 

  1. Is there any character in St. Charles History that you especially like?

I think Rufus Easton was an interesting fellow. He clashed with the French elite in Missouri, not to mention President Thomas Jefferson. His daughter Mary and her husband George Sibley were also interesting characters. Because of my interest in the Civil War, I also became interested in the life of Charles Bentzoni, an officer of the 11th Infantry in the Regular Army assigned during the war as the commander of the 56th USCI (many of its soldiers came from St. Charles and surrounding areas). Steven Clay, president of the 16th Infantry Association (the successor to Bentzoni’s Regular Army regiment) was very helpful in finding information and photographs of a lesser-known soldier of the war who led a life that ranged from being a member of the Prussian Army to the social elite of Los Angeles.

  1. What is your favorite era?

By far, the first one hundred years – as I originally agreed to write about. Within that, I must confess it is the Civil War.

  1. How difficult do you feel it is to research the history? Anything special you want to share about how you go about it?

With the advent of the Internet, it is so much easier to do historical research than ever. I recall from my graduate student days that doing research in primary documents located anywhere other than the University was nearly impossible unless you had a grant or fellowship because you had to go where the document were. I remember getting an interlibrary loan of a government report from the Truman Library being like getting an unexpected dream Christmas present.

Now, many primary documents – either images of the originals or transcriptions, or both – are available with the click of a computer key. You still must dig, but a lot of what you are looking for is there.

Local historical societies are also valuable sources of information on virtually any era. We have many in this area – the Missouri Historical Society, the Mercantile Library, Western Historical Manuscripts, the State Historical Society, National and State Parks like Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield, and the Ulysses S. Grant site at Whitehaven. For this book, the folks at the St. Charles Historical Society were especially helpful. They helped me find documents, books, articles and photographs that were indispensable.

  1. Are there any events or stories that you feel might be new to readers of St. Charles?

For aficionados of St. Charles history, there probably isn’t much new in the book. I relied heavily on prior works. I do think there are a few stories that readers might not be familiar with or ones that I can provide some additional details. For example, the relationship between Zaidee Bagwell and W.F. Luckett is a story that I don’t think has previously been pointed out. I also tried to provide some details about the 56th USCI’s service that aren’t well-known. Also, I’m not sure how many people are familiar with the history of the Montana, the steamboat that makes a ghostly appearance rising out the river during very low water.

  1. What other books have you written?

My other books are Guerrillas in Civil War Missouri (History Press, 2012), Guerrilla Hunters in Civil War Missouri (History Press, 2013), and the Homefront in Civil War Missouri (History Press, 2014).

  1. Anything else you would like to share about this one?

This book provides what I hope is a readable introduction to the history of St. Charles. Its primary audience are visitors and residents who want to learn more about the history of this fascinating area. As with most History Press books, there is a lengthy bibliography to provide anyone interested in finding out more details.

  1. What projects are you working on now?

My major work in progress is a history of the Missouri State Militia, several regiments of cavalry organized under a special agreement between Missouri’s Provisional Governor Hamilton Gamble and President Abraham Lincoln to specifically to fight Confederate guerrillas in the state. I am also interested in the Enrolled Missouri Militia, a state-controlled force that was called in emergencies to fight guerrillas or invading raiders.

If any of your readers have letters, diaries, memoirs, or photographs related to either of these organizations, I would love to hear from them at jerwin011@outlook.com. Many members of the Missouri State Militia were second generation Germans. And so, your readers might very well have had ancestors who were members of these regiments.

I have also been working on article-length essays about several Civil War topics, including Frances Louisa Clayton (said to have fought in a Missouri regiment disguised as a man), and the only two men awarded the Medal of Honor for bravery in action during the Missouri-Kansas guerrilla fighting.

Book is available through History Press at https://www.arcadiapublishing.com/Products/9781467136198

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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.  I also know this from the records of the AME Conference reports made by Brother Samuel Jenkins November 28, 1878. There he is one of the  “Local Preachers, where as

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

Jefferson Sage of Jonesburg” it clearly indicates he 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, thats 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 amongst the towns between St. Charles and his former town of Jonesburg. Other Ministers of the Gospel with the A.M.E. did this as well, such as M.E. Smith who preached at 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.

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. There was 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.

 

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Life of a German Emigrant Family

In 1832, the Krekel family settled in the far southwestern corner of St. Charles County, in the Femme Osage Township, next to the border of Warren County. This community was dudenknown as Dutzow, where a village had been founded by the “Baron” Johann Wilhelm Bock which was named after his former estate in Germany. Bock had established his village on the southern edge of the farm of Gottfried Duden, an author who had published a book called “A Report on a Journey to the Western States of North America” in 1829. Duden’s book was the impetus for a huge wave of migration from Germany to Missouri in the decade of the 1830s.

“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 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. 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 another’s dictation so came alone with his family. The Deus family consisted of himself and wife and three daughters…two sons…Peter and Carl. The family settled within a mile of our home and we children became playmates and later good friends. Many a Sunday afternoon did my sister Kathryn and myself spend with them playing “Hopfen Suchen” (Hide and Seek).”

In the summer of 1834, founders of the Giessen Emigration Society, Friedrich Muench

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Home of Friedrich Muench built in 1832

and Paul Follenius would settle their families in the Dutzow community as well, near the northern border of Gottfried Duden’s farm. Members of the Society would also settle in the St. Paul, Cottleville, and Hamburg communities. Nicholas Krekel would spend time on Friedrich Muench’s farm, working alongside other young men who had also recently immigrated.

“I never was strong and the hardships of pioneer life did not strengthen my in no way good

Nicholas Krekel
Nicholas Krekel

constitution. On account of the unlimited hospitality of people in those days and the very limited accommodations of the home at that time … [I] got the itch. I cannot describe the suffering I endured from it. After that I had the typhoid fever which left me very weak and blind for eleven months. During those months sister Kathryn dear faithful girl was my constant companion. Near our house was a ten acre field we had cleared during our first winter there. There were many stumps in it. I was put to plough it…”

“During the high water of June 1844 I was working for Steven Hancock who lived in Hancocks bottom in a double log house later owned by the Kunsels [Kuenzel] next to Anton Reuther’s farm. Before the water was at the highest point the stock and horses were in a pasture that was somewhat higher … than most of the farm. One morning when we got up we found the pasture under water the stock in the pasture were up to there [sic] neck in the water. Myself and Mr. Hancock’s son Dan rode in and drove them out, the fences at that time all made of rails were raised in the water and moving slowly up and down. As long as the “top rail” is still there it is safe but as soon as it is gone and the weight is lifted the fence will raise again and another rail go off, so in a short time the fence will be gone. We took the stock to a higher place near the river bank. Mr. Hancock went to Washington Mo to get one of the boats that would come down the river to take us to Washington. Five boats came by and all passed and gave no attention to our signals of distress. The water was up to our knees and young Hancock cryed [sic] fearing we would drown. Towards evening a boat came down the river named Wapella. It took us and all the stock to the other side.”

The flood of 1844 filled the river bottoms of the Missouri River where hundreds of German families had established homes. Today this is part of Missouri’s “German Heritage Corridor” as established by the Missouri Legislature on July 1, 2016.

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Missouri River Valley

According to the History of St. Charles, Warren and Montgomery Counties Nicholas “was reared in this county and remained at home on the farm with his father until he was nearly approaching majority. He then went to St. Louis and was connected with the manufacture of shot at the shot-tower in that city, the first one established west of the Alleghenies, for some seven years. Meanwhile, however, the Mexican War having broken out, he enlisted for the service of his country under Gen. Price and served with conspicuous courage and fidelity until the triumphant close of that struggle. In 1856, still a young man, he located at O’Fallon, Mo., and built the first house that reared aloft its walls at this place.”

“Wilhelmina Moritz and Nicholas Krekel were married August 15, 1857 at St. Louis coming to O’Fallon Missouri shortly after, where I [Nicholas] had built a home, having come there on August 6, 1856 … Wilhelmina Louise Moritz was the oldest child and daughter of Casper and Sophie Moritz of Bielefeld, Westfalen Germany. She was born July 17, 1838 and came to America … by way of New Orleans. Her father and brother came … sooner by way of New York where Mrs. Moritz had a brother living at Buffalo….”

This is the “voice of Nicholas Krekel” and the story as told to his daughter Bertha BerthaKrekel. 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. The home is the Nicholas Krekel home on Main Street of O’Fallon being renovated by Jason and Jessica Orf to be opened soon in October of 2017. Next…The Krekel’s in the Civil War. For more on the Dutzow community and the Giessen Emigration Society see the blog Mo-Germans.com as well.  See also earlier post Coming to America