Tag Archives: Missouri

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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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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Veterans Roll of the War of 1812

Veterans Roll of the War of 1812

Between 1806 and 1812, over 370 men from the Saint Charles District of the Louisiana Territory were called upon to protect the settlers. Some served in the Boone’s Rangers, also known as the Mounted Rangers, and some served under James Callaway, which he called Minute Men in his log book.

The link below brings up a Printable PDF of a list of over 200 names. If I knew what Regiment(s) they were enlisted in, I noted it. Some on the list are veterans of the War of 1812 and may have served while still living in another State, but settled here, and later died and their headstone has been marked. It would be wonderful if every veteran of the War of 1812 could be marked. At the Saint Charles County Historical Society, they are happy to help you find out more information about your veteran.

https://stcharlescountyhistory.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/1812roll1.pdf