Tag Archives: O’Fallon MO

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, 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.

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

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Wilhelmina Moritz Krekel

 

August 15, 1857 at St. Louis coming to O’Fallon Missouri shortly after, where I had built a home, having come there 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. 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 it, 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 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 is being renovated and brought to life once again by the young local family of Jason and Jessica Orf, who will soon be opening their new business, with all the former glory that would make Nicholas Krekel himself proud.

*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.

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.

 

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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

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.