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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.

 

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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.

 

Missouri’s Slaves Emancipated

On January 11, 1865, Arnold Krekel signed the Missouri Constitutional Conventions Proclamation ending slavery here in Missouri.  Krekel, was born in Germany in 1815, served as President of Missouri’s Constitutional Convention when slavery was abolished in Missouri on January 11, 1865. He emigrated with his family to Dutzow, Missouri in November of 1832. The young man moved to searchSt. Charles and attended the  St. Charles College where he studied law. He worked as a surveyor and became a Justice of the Peace as well. In 1844 he graduated the bar and opened his law office. Krekel became the St. Charles County and city attorney from 1846 to 1850. He was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives in 1852. In 1855, he purchased 320 acres of land, and platted the town of O’Fallon. There his brother Nicholas Krekel, built the first house, and established the town’s Post Office. They established O’Fallon as a town on the Wabash Railroad, with Nicholas the agent.

Krekel Addition

 

Arnold Krekel was editor of the St. Charles German newspaper, Der Demokrat from 1850 until 1864, and when the Civil War began, Krekel served in the Union Army, as Lt. Colonel of a regiment of Missouri volunteers. When the Civil War began, Missouri’s plans for gradual emancipation infuriated the Radical Republicans, who wanted slavery abolished immediately. They took their grievances to Lincoln, who refused to take sides in Missouri’s politics, which infuriated them even more. Provisional Governor Gamble offered to resign, but the First Constitutional Convention would not accept it. Gamble died in office on 31 January 1864. Missouri’s radicals arranged for elections and for a new Constitutional Convention in November 1864, where they elected Thomas C. Fletcher Missouri governor.

Constitutional Convention of 1865

Arnold Krekel, a Democrat, was elected President of the new Constitutional Convention that met in the Mercantile Library in St. Louis on January 6, 1865. On January 11, 1865 the convention, by a 60 to 4 vote, abolished slavery in the state with no compensation for slave owners. A month later the convention also adopted the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution to abolish slavery throughout the U.S..

On March 6, 1865, Krekel was nominated by President Lincoln to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, and confirmed on March 9, 1865. Krekel later taught law at the University of Missouri Law School in Columbia from 1872 to 1875, and continued to as a Judge for the Court until his retirement on June 9, 1888.

 

EmancipationProc