Tag Archives: Original

Clio

Bertha Krekel

Born in O’Fallon, on December 25, 1859, she was the second child of O’Fallon’s founder Nicholas Krekel who had founded the town on August 6, 1856. Her father had been born Berthain Germany on August 30, 1825 and had emigrated with his family at the age of seven. His father had brought his family to America in 1832. Nicholas purchased the land where he would build a home for his wife, and live together after their marriage on August 15, 1857. By the time Bertha was born, O’Fallon had its’ own Post Office and Train Depot, which her father managed.

Bertha spent her entire life in that same house on Main Street (today’s Cleo Bridal Shop) where she would be surrounded by her family and in the center of the community. She and her father were very close. Her sister Mary would marry William Westhoff on October 13, 1892 and after their father’s death on February 6, 1910 Bertha would continue to live in what became William and Mary’s home, the Westhoff place.  A real hub of the community, it was just across the street from the Westhoff Mercantile (today’s McGurks). There the young lady, who never married, took a liking to writing about the bustling town’s events, and wrote about the daily life and its’ eventual history. As the City had a newspaper, and her uncle Arnold Krekel was also involved with two of St. Charles’ newspapers, there was an easy outlet for the young muse’s talents. She wrote under a pen name, which was a custom at that time – of Clio – the muse of history, who inspired the development of liberal and fine arts in ancient Greece.

From the newspaper clippings of Bertha Krekel’s that bring the history of O’Fallon to life.

June 1912  History of O’Fallon

This was written by Miss Hortense Keithly and read at the graduating exercise of the O’Fallon High School.

When the railroad came through this portion of the country O’Fallon began its growth as a town. Previous to that event, Cottleville and Flint Hill, with the exception of St. Charles had been the most rapidly growing towns in this county.

The country surrounding the site of the present town was occupied by a a few very small trading places among which was Wellsburgen the Salt River Road, about 2 ½ mile south of the present site of St. Paul. It consisted of two buildings, one of which was occupied by a saloon, store, post office and a residence. The other contained a blacksmith shop. There was another store also on the Salt River Road, where Mrs. Anton F. Orf now lives, about ½ mile west of Audrain Bridge, where Dardenne is now situated, there stood a shop which contained what was know as Nailer’s Store.

While Cottleville and Flint Hill were increasing in size, the site of O’Fallon was covered with timber, excepting a small area where the convent now stands and a plot surrounding the only house in the near vicinity. This house stood on the south side of the railroad and east of Main Street, just back of where Talleur’s baker shop and Ahren’s saloon are at present. It was occupied and owned by Mr. Henry Ernst. One of the most interesting and peculiar facts known concerning the physical features of the area occupied by the town, is that at the time Mr. Ernst lived here there was a spring near his residence. The portion of the country on the north side of where the railroad now is and easrt [sic] of Main Street was owned by Mr. Joseph Boegel; that on the same side of the railroad track, west of Main Street, belonged to Mr. Arnold Krekel.

The part on the south side of the railroad track and est of Main Street was the property of Mr. Henry Ernst and the remaining portion was owned by Mr. Joseph Trevy.

The North Missouri Railroad now known as the Wasbash was located in 1855. It was completed as far as Peruque Bridge in 1858 and the first train was run over the road as far as the bridge in the summer of that year.

During the year 1855, Arnold Krekel, who was a prominent St. Charles County Attorney, who later became a United States Judge for the West Division of Missouri, laid out the original town of O’Fallon on the north side of the railroad and west of the north projection of Main Street.

The town was named for John J. O’Fallon, a prominent business man of the city of St. Louis at that time. In 1856 Nicholas Krekel, the brother of Arnold Krekel built the first house and did the first business as a merchant and Post-master in the town and was also the first agent for the railroad here. Also about this time, Mr. McIntosh built a one story house where Mr. Peter Saali’s hotel stands at present. A few years later this property was bought by Love and Callaway who built part of the house and saloon, where the residence of Henry Ahrens is at present.

In 1858 Ward & Ward [edited by crossing out] built a store just north of where the Werner Millinery Store stands. In 1854 Dr Woods built the residence owned by Mr Charley Himmelsbach. Later Dr. W.C. Williams bought the house built by Dr. Woods. He used it as his residence until he built the residence now owned by Mrs. Susie Johns. It was Dr. W.C. Williams and Dr. J. C. Edwards who bought the property previously owned by Mr. Henry Ernst and platted the part of the town of O’Fallon that lies east of Main Street and south of the Railroad.They presented the lot now now occupied by the Westhoff Grain & Mercantile Co. building to Mr. rufus Gamble on the condition tha eh build a brick house upon it. It was the first brick house in the town. The ground floor was used as a store; the second floor as a Masonic Lodge Room. The house is now a part of the Westhoff Grain & Mercantile Co.

Nicholas KrekelWhen O’Fallon was first settled there was no public road leading to or from the town. There were simply private or by-roads. For many years the road ran in front of Mr. Krekel’s business place which is now owned and occupied by Mr. Wm. Westhoff crossed the railroad west of where the present depot now stands, came into what is now Main Street in front of where Ward & Ward’s Store stood. It faced north, and ran south-westerly across what are now fields to the Mexico Road, where Woodlawn now stands. Main Street is now a part of the public road which is now a part of the public road which was afterwards located extending north to the Salt River Road and south to the Mexico Road.

 

This is from a book of newspaper clippings kept by the Krekel family. Bertha must have been quite the historian, as she took it upon herself to freely editorialize facts published by Miss Keithly, and are what are shared in this story. Otherwise, it is exactly the way it was published in June of 1912, and shares quite a bit of history by someone whose family played a prominent role. You will find more about the Krekel Family on this blog.

Note: The Wm Westhoff home is today’s Cleo Bridal Shop, and the Westhoff Grain & Mercantile is McGurks Restaurant. For more about the other locations you can visit the O’Fallon Historical Society’s new website or follow the O’Fallon Historical Preservation Commission on Facebook.

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Original Plat of Saint Charles

The Story of an Old Map

Everyone loves old maps. They do a lot more than give directions. Historic maps can share what a place looked like at a certain point in time and transport us back to another era. There are some maps can do more – they can share a story as well. This is the story of a map that takes people back in time, to the City of St. Charles historic past, all the way back to its’ original plat.

A few years ago, while working at the St. Charles County Historical Society in 2010, a crinkled and faded was found. The secretary at that time, Cleta Flynn, was introducing me to some of the more reclusive collections tucked away in corners of the historic building, the City’s original Market House. Saying “if you like old maps, this large map case has a lot of interesting old ones.” I found one that was taped, creased, folded and flattened (something us archivists hate) that appeared to have not seen daylight in a hundred years – which was good for the map – but rather sad.

Keeping the old map handy for the next few years, it would be used for study from time to time. Trying to unlock its secrets, mapthe map did not appear to have any date on it, nor did it have a signature to recognize who had drawn this treasure trove of information. Realizing it was a map of St. Charles, and that it was old (which could be recognized by its ink and paper) we became determined to learn more. It was old, but just how old? And who had drawn it? And why? What was its’ purpose and who was the information for? This wasn’t a map for directions.

The map clearly laid out St. Charles as a grid of streets and cross streets, giving their names. The street names were old and historic – Barbour, Chauncey, Pike and Clay. Over the years we would pull the map out whenever a researcher needed information about early St. Charles. The names of the owners in each of these blocks became very important. It became obvious that if we were to know just when the map was made, perhaps knowing when the owners should be found on such a map, we could possibly discern a date. And so every time we were able, we used the map, taking great care.

Finally we were able to pin the map down to the era of circa 1817, give or take a few years. That is when knowing its importance and wanting to make certain of its preservation, the map was sent off for conservation by Lisa Fox, Head Conservator at the Missouri State Archives. She and her wonderful team worked their magic, carefully removing the old tape, creases, and dirt to reveal an even more magical piece of history. The map, approximately fourteen by seventy-two inches was then digitized in order to enable everyone to delve into its history.

Because of this great work, the map is carefully preserved, yet made available to everyone. Since then, I wanted to know more of the maps other great mysteries. Who was its’ creator and why? Sometimes, when trying to discover the stories found in old documents and maps, you have to travel to the time in which the people lived. So I went to the City’s Record Book A and on Page 8 found this:

Authorizing and ordering the limits of the Town of St. Charles to be estendd [sic] according to the original plan of said town and providing for and ordering a certain proportion of the town commons to be surveyed and divided into lots and regularly numbered which saw lots so surveyed and numbered, together with the Town lots as Extended surveyed & numbered were ordered to be Leased at public sale by the Clerk of the board on the 10th day of September 1821.

City Council Book A Page 8
City of St. Charles Minutes, Book A, Page 8 Microfilm Reel 977.839 Kathryn Linnemann Library

 

Up until 1818, they had been working with a map drawn by Soulard, according to their Minutes. Then there is a bit of a gap,  and then is the above entry. As they immediately start selling and leasing these additional lots, which are NOT shown on this map, this indicates that this map is perhaps the one they started with. During this same time period, they have also employed the surveyors Prospect K. Robbins and Nathan Boone. Five pages later, Prospect K. Robbins is paid $20 for surveying completed on the 18th of  September 1821. Both Robbins and Boone had worked together before, as a 3 man team was needed – Chain man, Link Man and Surveyor. The third team member may have been James Findley who had settled in Troy when it was founded, as early deeds for this same time period refer to a map made by Findley.

And as you begin to understand the history, the next question becomes “why?” The old map that I was using told me a)the layout of the streets and gave a name and a survey number of the owners of the land. It told me about people who owned land in St. Charles. St. Charles had just become the temporary State Capitol and people were flooding in. The names of the streets running parallel to the Missouri River are Main, Second, High and Fourth. The cross streets run from Barbour, which is the original southern city limits to Tecumseh Street on the north. Buildings are not shown, and the land measurement used is the old French foot. The name of the owner, if the lot is owned by someone other than the City, is referred to as a survey number in a personal Surveyor’s book.

When the map was restored and processed by the State Archives conservator in 2013, the dates I had suggested of circa 1820 were also confirmed in their examination of the paper and ink used. Lynn Morrow, with the Missouri State Archives had examined the map before retiring that year. He also suggested that a friend of his in St. Charles, Robert Myers, might be able to shed more light on the mysteries of the old map. When Robert and I met, I took along a copy of “the map”. When the map had been returned to the Archives, I had obtained a print copy for my own research at the same time I had had one made for the Society. Theirs hangs on the wall in the archives. Mine has become well traveled.

Seeing “the old map” Myers asked “if I had ever seen the map in the City offices?” to which I responded no. Formerly Myers had worked for the City of St. Charles and presently works for St. Charles County. He graciously set up an appointment for me to see this other map, and where I would also meet Chuck Lovelace. Not knowing what to expect, I was totally shocked when I was shown a framed copy of another very old map that was almost identical! And it had a seal that attested to being a true and authentic hand drawn (in 1871) copy of “The Original Plat of the City of St. Charles”.While this new map discovered is wonderful with much darker ink, and even more information, it was further confirmation of the first map’s identity. The information on this map, matched exactly, block by block. This was the Original Plat, perhaps a working copy for the surveyor, although which one drew it we don’t know yet.

Working to compare the handwriting of Auguste Chouteau, Antoine Soulard, Nathan Boone, Prospect Robbins and Joseph Evans (who did receive $50 from the City on July 13, 1822 for surveying) has not yet provided an “aha!” moment yet. The closest so far are Nathan Boone and Prospect Robbins.

This map transports us back to town of St. Charles that has emerged from the early settlement founded by Louis Blanchette in 1769. It has grown past its territorial days as a fur traders outpost, and reached a new glory as important State figures walk these same streets we do today. These people were important in that day as the street names affirm: Barbour, Pike, Clay, Madison and Jefferson. There is so much to yet be learned.