County Histories of Northeast Missouri
Part of the American History and Genealogy Project

St. Charles County, Missouri
By Dr. J. C. Edwards, O'Fallon

 

The Village of the Hills

The first settlement made in what is now the state of Missouri by Europeans was made at Ste. Genevieve about the middle of the eighteenth century. St. Louis was probably settled about ten years afterwards by Pierre Laclede with a few French adventurers. There was another settlement made on the Mississippi River below St. Louis called New Bourbon.

About the year 1770, a young and adventurous Frenchman named Louis Blanchette, called by the Indians "La Chasseur'' "the hunter" found himself on the west side of the Missouri River, on a series of beautifully symmetrical hills overlooking to the north a lovely stretch of plains bordering the great rivers and clothed in all the wealth of springtime verdure and summer flowers. No natural landscape could have been more entrancing than the Missouri and Mississippi valley covered with green grass and wild flowers as tall as a man on horseback. This scene was viewed from the two beautiful mounds that over-looked it from the south. These mounds were named by the fanciful Frenchman the "Mau Melles." Here he erected his "wickiup" and decided to fix his abode. In what is now the town of St. Charles, he erected the first cabin and called the place "Les Petites Cotes," "Little Hills." Here, by the authority of the governor of Upper Louisiana, he built a house and established a trading post on what is now square No. 13 in the upper part of the town of St. Charles, near a little stream of water then called Blanchette, but now known as Factory Branch. Near here was afterward erected the government house and prison, built of logs hewn on two sides. This post was established while the French government still held control of Louisiana.

The transfer of this territory to Spain took place about 1762, but the French held control of it till 1770. Blanchette, who had been appointed commandant of the post by the French governor, remained commandant till 1793. The town, which had grown to quite a village, in 1784 changed the name of "Village Des Cotes" to "St. Charles," in honor of Don Carlos, the reigning monarch of Spain, at that time the mother country. Blanchette lived in peace with the Indians and we have no record of any murder by them during his lifetime. He commanded the post till his death. He was respected as a commander and a magistrate. In 1793 he died of a fever and was buried in September beneath the walls of a little Roman Catholic Church, which he had erected, and which was the first church built west of the Missouri River. Thus St. Charles contains the ashes of its founder.

Don Carlos Tyon succeeded to the command of the post. Upon his resignation in 1802, he was succeeded by a Scotch-Irishman, Capt. Charles Mackay, or as his name appears, "Don Santiago Mackay." He was in office one year when the country was ceded by Napoleon Bonaparte to the government of the United States. At this time the village contained about four hundred inhabitants, nearly all of whom were French.

The village of St. Charles on the west bank of the Missouri River, gave name to the county, or province as it was termed under French rule. At that time it was an empire in dimensions. It was bounded on the north by the Mississippi river, extending to the British possessions; and on the south, extending from where the Missouri emptied into the Mississippi, west to the Pacific Ocean. Out of this tract were formed many of the now wealthy states of the Union, with millions of population and billions of wealth, the result of a little more than one hundred years of development. In laying out the town, each settler received from France a plot of ground 120x150 feet. In addition to this there were the ''common fields." These fields were one arpent wide and forty arpents long. One such lot of about thirty-four acres was set apart for each head of a family for farming purposes. Besides these grants, there was laid off a larger tract of land for common use, as pasturage, fire wood and building timber. This tract belonged to the town and was known as ''St. Charles Commons." This has long since been disposed of to settlers and ceased to be city property. These "commons" were enclosed and enlarged as the population increased and the necessities of the people demanded. The commons were first enclosed in 1793.

The first Spanish grant of commons was made in 1790, and two years afterwards, Governor Delassus made an additional grant. The entire grant aggregated fourteen thousand arpents. Many other grants were made about this time. One was to Pierre Chouteau in 1789, for building a water mill at the mouth of a small stream at the southern or upper end of the town, some traces of which still remain. The secretary of Delassus, Jacques St. Vrain, for public services, also received a grant on Cuivre River in 1799, on which he afterwards settled. John Baptiste Blondeau, an early settler, also received a large grant in 1796. These grants were always made for some supposed public service rendered or to be rendered.

One enterprising Frenchman, at an early date in the history of the village, finding that the inhabitants of the territory were in great need of peach brandy, solicited and received a grant of land that he might plant an orchard and supply the want. The governor fully appreciated the request and at once yielded to the demand. These grants were of various sizes, ranging from eighty acres to several thousand.

Daniel Boone, in consideration of his promise to introduce one hundred families into the territory, was to receive ten thousand arpents, but owing to his oversight in not having his deeds signed in New Orleans by the governor-general, failed, under the United States government, to secure title. The Arend Rutgers Survey on the upper waters of Dardenne creek contained six square miles or 5,760 acres. The average grant was about eight hundred arpents. The surveys were not made on meridian lines, but to suit the fancy of the grantee.

The growth of the little Village of the Hills, in the western wilds, was slow. In 1781, it contained less than a dozen houses and perhaps not over thirty white inhabitants. Ten years afterwards it had increased to about two hundred inhabitants, with fifty or more houses. In 1796, the place had acquired more importance and settlers of Anglo-Saxon blood were beginning to come in and make homes among the happy-go-lucky Frenchmen. The irregularities of the boundaries of much of the land in the county is due to the way the Spanish grants were surveyed, most of them running to any point of the compass, so as to suit the claimant. In 1797, the place had become sufficiently important to demand a young ladies' school and the Baron of Carondelet appointed Madame Blanche tutoress of the village, with a salary of fifteen dollars a month, but the salary was never paid, there being no funds in the school treasury for such a purpose. Her assignee, however, received a grant of 1,600 arpents of rich alluvial lands, which would now be worth a small fortune.

Topography of the County

This county, as laid out in the final division of the state into counties, is an almost exact representation of the letter "Y" of the English alphabet. While it presents in its outlines an unusual spectacle, its location in the world is not devoid of beauty and romance. It lies between the junction of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, and is the natural gateway to the great Northwest, and from the fact that it was the pioneer county of north Missouri, it takes precedence in any historical account of the great Northwest. It is bounded on the east and south by the Missouri River from its mouth to the Warren County line; along its entire western border parallel with the fifth principal meridian on a township line to Big creek; it is divided from Lincoln County on the north by Big creek, Cuivre River and the Mississippi, whose clear waters are lost in the turbid rushing stream from the west, whose waters nearly bisect it and it loses its name in an inferior stream.

The county is well watered by an abundance of smaller streams; in addition to the two great rivers, it has Peruque creek traversing it on its northern border from west to east for about thirty miles, and emptying into the Mississippi twenty miles above its junction with the Missouri. Through its center meanders Dardenne creek nearly bisecting the county. It also flows into the Mississippi about ten miles above West Alton. From West Alton to its western border the county is about fifty miles long. In width, it varies from a few miles to about thirty on the western border. Femme Osage creek enters on the west and runs across the southwest corner, emptying into the Missouri River near Hamburg, Sam's creek and Ballou creek pass from southwest to northeast. All these streams have fertile bottom lands along their courses. The county and its adjacent islands in the two great rivers has about 540 square miles, approximating 345,600 acres of rich land, almost all of which is arable.

About one-third of the county consists of rich alluvial soils brought down by the streams in past ages, and to the tillage of the farmer, they respond with almost Egyptian fertility. The high lands of the other two-thirds of the county are mostly beautifully undulating landscape, much of it in a high state of cultivation, yielding to the husbandman an ample remuneration for his labors. Some of the highlands are hilly. The prairies are beautiful.

There are several large prairies in the county, the Point Prairie, Dardenne, Mississippi, Howell, Thornhill, Allen and Dog Prairie. These sections of the county, in their primitive state, clothed in summer with tall grass and wild flowers, were beautiful beyond expression. One-half of the county, when first opened to the Anglo-American settler, was heavily timbered with many species of valuable timber, such as black walnut, white walnut or butternut, cottonwood, white and sugar maple, pecan, and all the varieties of oak. These have now practically disappeared. The lands had to be cleared for the plow, and much valuable timber was, in earlier days, burned on the ground to get rid of it. The wild prairie grasses were wonderfully succulent and nutritious and the wild deer and buffalo thrived and kept fat all through the winter. A hundred years ago every species of game abounded. Fish of many varieties were found in the streams and lakes. The river cat, growing to large size, sometimes weighing as much as 175 pounds; the buffalo, pike, bass, croppie and sun perch. Wild turkeys, wild geese and every variety of water fowl abounded. And very soon the honey bee, that precursor of civilization, filled the woods with its luscious sweets. This area is now (1912) divided into about three thousand farms producing annually millions of bushels of wheat, corn and oats, and every variety of vegetable in profusion, known to the temperate zone.

Daniel Boone

The Firsts in the County

The first assembly of the people of the county, of which we have any record, was held on a certain Sunday in 1801, due and timely notice having been given by Monsieur Tyon, commander of the post, to determine the question of fencing in the new addition to the commons in the lower part of the town. This was unanimously agreed upon and signed by ninety-three persons, which we suppose comprised the total number of heads of families.

The first marriage in St. Charles, of which there is any record, was that of John Baptiste Provost and Angelique Savanges, on the 25th of September, 1792. But there were doubtless marriages before that.

The first infant baptism which we find recorded was Perry Belland, son of Baptiste Belland and Catherine Lelande Belland. There were doubtless others before, for Blanchette, the founder of the village, had built a small church in which religious services had doubtless been held by some passing missionary priest.

The first records we have of the village describe it as being on the river bank on the level ground at the foot of the range of small hills rising above the river. This is now Main street and the town as it is now is built back on this gentle elevation to the level country back of it, presenting a beautiful view when approached from the east on the opposite side of the river. It now has a population of about twelve thousand prosperous and happy people, the growth of a little over one hundred years. A stranger once approaching St. Charles in its earlier days was struck by its quaint appearance like a string extending for a mile along the bank of the river, and exclaimed, "My! but this would be a tall town if it was standing on its end."

There is no record or tradition of any trouble between the earlier French settlers of St. Charles and the Indians. Their relations seem to have been amicable. There was a system of barter carried on between the two races, the Indians giving peltry and furs in exchange for such trinkets and goods, guns and tomahawks as the white man had to offer.

The Indian Tribes

The Indian tribes who were near neighbors of the village were the Kickapoos, an inoffensive, friendly people, who had a village two and a half miles southwest of town up the Missouri River, and another below on the Mississippi; the Osages and the Sioux were also in possession of much of the St. Charles territory. They were much more warlike than the Kickapoos, and were almost constantly engaged in war with each other. They gave the early American settlers of the country much trouble and murdered a number of the earlier American settlers during the War of 1812 and even as late as 1830. After the death of Tecumseh a treaty of peace was made in 1815 at Portage des Sioux between the Confederate tribes and United States. This place had been named by the Indians, and afterwards settled by the French, who retained the name.

The Osage Indians were the most warlike and blood-thirsty of these tribes and were hostile to the Sioux. The Osages lived on the Missouri River and the Sioux on the Mississippi. A hunting party of the Osages, trespassing on the hunting grounds and encountering some of the latter, killed a few of them. The enraged Sioux resolved on revenge and a bloody feud followed. The warriors were assembled and a formidable fleet of bark canoes well-manned descended the Mississippi to the mouth of the Missouri, ascended that river to the possessions of the Osages, and surprising them, the Sioux, in a night attack, made a great slaughter of their unsuspecting enemies. They then returned to their canoes and fled down the river. The enraged Osages collected a large war party and gave hot pursuit. Both parties were skilled in water craft and in dexterous handling of the canoe and a life and death race began down the turbid stream. On they sped, pursuers and pursued, the one impelled by fear of cruel death, and the other urged on by the mad hope of a bloody revenge. The Sioux made good speed down the river, but the Osages, filled with rage, were gaining on their foes. On, on they sped, day and night, until in a long straight channel of the river, the pursued were sighted. A loud, wild war whoop arose from the pursuers, and pallid fear filled the hearts of the pursued. Who can tell the savage joy and the no less savage fear of poor Lo at such a time as this. But a friendly bend in the mad stream, twelve miles above its mouth, gave the Sioux a renewal of hope and, quickly landing and lifting out of the river their frail barks and secreting themselves in high grass, permitted the wild and impetuous Osages to speed on towards the mouth of the river. Manitou had favored the Sioux and the Osages were foiled. The wily Sioux then transported their light canoes across the narrow strip of land to the Mississippi, thirty miles above its mouth, and thus made their escape. The point where they re-embarked received the name of "Portage des Sioux.''

"The Passage of the Sioux" and was sometimes afterwards settled by the following Frenchmen and their families:

Early French Settlers

Francis Saucier
Francis Sesieure
Simon Lepage
Charles Hibert
Julean Roi
Augustia Clairmount
Etine Papan
Abraham Dumont
Louis Grand
Jaquies Godfroid

Some of the descendants of these men still reside in what is called the Point Prairie, the beautiful bottom lands between the two great rivers. Below it on the river is now West Alton in a most beautiful and highly cultivated valley, richly remunerating the faithful husbandmen for his toil.

The first white child was born in this settlement in 1800. She was Bridget Saucier, the daughter of the commandant. She married Stephen De Lille and some of their descendants still live in the county.

The soil of this part of the county is mostly an exceedingly rich and productive sandy loam, with occasionally a black "gumbo," which is also wonderfully productive. The cereals all grow to perfection, producing from fifty to one hundred bushels of corn and from twenty to forty bushels of wheat of fine quality, with all the variety of vegetables that can be grown in the temperate zone. The beautiful valley between the two great rivers is almost equal to the valley of the Nile and the region is emphatically the farmers' paradise. These lands are now worth one hundred dollars per acre and upward. The rivers sometimes overflow and a crop is lost.

The District of St. Charles

The district of St. Charles, as first laid out under the Spanish government, embraced an immense territory. The lower part of it directly between the two great rivers may aptly be termed the "Mesopotamia" of the New World. In 1803 the United States took possession of this territory and organized a temporary government. Gen. Wm. Henry Harrison was at that time governor of the territory of Indiana, and under his jurisdiction came Upper Louisiana. He at once appointed Francis Saucier, Arend Rutgers, Daniel Morgan Boone, Francis Duquette and Robert Spencer, Esqs., as the judges of a court of common pleas, in and for the district of St. Charles, any three of whom to constitute a quorum to hold court. The first term of this court was held on Main Street where the old courthouse stood and where the United States post office now stands.

The first term of this court, and the first of like jurisdiction held west of the Missouri River, was convened in January, 1805. Francis Saucier was chief justice; Daniel Morgan Boone, Francis Duquette and Robert Spencer were associate justices; Maj. Rufus Easton was attorney-general; Mackey Wherry acted as sheriff; Edward Hempstead as clerk, and Antoine Renal as coroner. It was held in the house of Antoine Renal.

The names of the first grand jury ever convened also deserve to be perpetuated. They were as follows:

Jonathan Bryan
David Darst
James Flaugherty, Jr
Elisha Goodrich
James Green
Antoine Jarris
Peter Journey
St. Paul Lecroix
John McMicke
Henry Orowe
Joseph Piche
Pierre Troge
Arend Rutgers*
John Weldon
*foreman

The first assessment in the St. Charles district was made by the sheriff, Mackey Wherry. His returns show that the population of the district at that time was 705. There were 275 heads of families, and ninety-five taxable single men. The amount of taxes collected was $501.80.

This form of government continued in force till 1812, when the Missouri territory was regularly organized by an act of congress. Prior to this time there had been no representative government by the people. All the officers had been appointed by the Indiana governor, and were under his supervision.

In 1812, congress passed an act organizing the district of Missouri into a territory, partially curtailing its boundaries, and empowering the people to elect members to a territorial legislature to enact laws for their own government. A governor for the territory was appointed by President Monroe. The legislature convened on the 12th day of December, 1812, in the town of St. Louis, and the following organized counties sent delegates: St. Louis, St. Genevieve, Cape Girardeau, New Madrid and St. Charles. St. Charles County was represented by John Pitman and Robert Spencer.

The first act of the legislature after its organization was to recommend to the president eighteen men, nine of whom were to be selected by him and confirmed by the senate, to act as a council for the territory. The men selected from St. Charles were Ben Emmons, Sr., and James Flaugherty. Howard County was set off from St. Charles. It was organized in 1614. In January, 1816, the general assembly passed an apportioning act, giving St. Charles three representatives and St. Louis city and county two. In 1818, the present limits of St. Charles, Montgomery and Lincoln counties were established and the representation of the county reduced to two.

The First Legislators

The county of St. Charles, soon after its organization, for municipal convenience, was divided into the following six townships: Portage, St. Charles, Dardenne, Femme Osage, Callaway and Cuivre.

Prom the earliest times in the history of the state, St. Charles County, as the mother county of north Missouri, has wielded a marked and enviable influence in public affairs and private life, through the high character and ability of her representative citizens. In the first territorial assembly the county was represented by two men in the council and two in the house. These were men of intelligence and sterling integrity, and would have been acknowledged leaders in any assembly of men, Benjamin Emmons and James Flaugherty in the council; and John Pitman and Robert Spencer in the house.


House Where Legislature Met

Benjamin Emmons, the senior member of the council, was a New Englander by birth and education, and came to St. Charles with his family about 1795, while it was under Spanish control. He was well educated and a man of broad views and wide and varied information. He was gifted with many of the stronger and better qualities which fit a man for a popular leader. He was a man of irreproachable integrity, great public spirit, and withal of a genial temperament and pleasing manners. He was looked upon as one of the most able and influential men of the council. He was a man of original ideas and of sound views on the science of government. He was a clear, forcible, pleasing speaker. His decision of character and persuasive manners made him a successful legislator. In the War of 1812, he served as an adjutant, with honors to himself and to his country. He represented this county in the first state convention which met in St. Louis. He served again in both branches of the state legislature with distinguished ability. He was the father of Col. Benjamin Emmons, an able circuit clerk of the county, and of Edward Emmons, a successful practicing lawyer, of St. Louis.

James Flaugherty was a native of Virginia and of Irish descent. He was a man of ability and a born orator, and when he spoke he fairly electrified his audience. He was a man of great modesty and of a retiring disposition, entirely unconscious of his genius, and consequently he never became a political leader. He had no ambition for political preferment and sought to avoid it whenever he could do so. His prominence in that early day was solely a tribute to his ability and his purity of character. The magic of his eloquence had been handed down by tradition from generation to generation. Had he been ambitious, he would have taken rank with the most influential men of that or perhaps any other time.

John Pitman, the first man to represent the county, was not a public speaker, nor was he a politician. He was a sturdy, clear-headed, thorough-going farmer, whose judgment was a safe guide on all legislative subjects. He was patient and industrious in his duties as a lawmaker. He thoroughly digested every measure presented to the house, and his judgment was relied upon by his colleagues. His vote recorded for a bill always had a strong influence upon the votes of others. In those days politics exerted but small influence upon legislation. In 1812, he was commissioned colonel of the Fifteenth state militia.

Robert Spencer completed the quartette of St. Charles County members to this honored body of lawmakers for the new territory. We doubt if any subsequent legislative body of the state has contained, in proportion to numbers, any more fertile brains than was to be found in that small assembly. Mr. Spencer was a lawyer by profession and one of the pioneers of the province. He was the first judge of the common pleas court for the district, having received his appointment from Thomas Jefferson in 1804. He was a man of native ability and of some wealth. He built the first brick house in the county below the town of St. Charles. He was chairman of the committee on jurisprudence and originated many of the important laws enacted at that session. He was a man of great hospitality, genial and companionable, of fine mind but mentally lazy. He was not a hard student, but had a retentive mind, and what he accomplished was more by natural intellect than .by any application to study on his part. However, as a legislator, he was earnestly solicitous for the enactment of wise and just laws, and was an active and prominent member of the body.

Such were the four men who, without any training in lawmaking, left their undying impress for good upon the legal code of the new miniature state. They may be termed the "Irresistible Four," from the fact that their influence for good in shaping legislation was irresistible, and to a great extent, has shaped the destinies of the state.

Onward Bates

Early Court Proceedings

The first representative in congress from the new territory was from St. Charles, Edward Hempstead. He was one of the distinguished lawyers of the territory, and a man whose career forms an honorable page in the history of the state. Colonel Rufus Easton was another distinguished citizen of St. Charles, and a noted lawyer. He was a candidate against Mr. Hempstead, and afterward twice elected to congress.

At this time there were but five counties in the territory, and in point of importance, St. Charles took precedence. They were thus enumerated: St. Charles, St. Louis, St. Genevieve, Cape Girardeau and New Madrid. These, however, covered almost unlimited territory. This was in 1812.

At the second session of the assembly the county of Arkansas was formed. At each succeeding session of the assembly new counties were formed. During this time St. Charles continued to hold a commanding position in public affairs, both in the number and ability of her representatives. When the state was admitted into the Union in 1821, St. Charles became the capital. The first state legislature convened there and it became the home of the state officers. While the country was still under the territorial government, a grand jury made the following deliverance. The people of the country were in favor of Negro slavery, as it was a recognized institution of the country under Spanish rule, and most of the immigrants from the southern states had brought their slaves with them. So this grand jury felt called upon to draw up this bill of indictment against the government and congress:

We, the undersigned grand jurors from the body politic of the county of St. Charles, Missouri territory, and summoned to attend the sitting of the circuit court for the county aforesaid, beg leave to present to the honorable court that we deem it our high privilege and bounden duty to take notice of all and singular grievances of a public nature: that amongst the various duties assigned us we do present that the congress of the United 8tat.es, at the last session in attempting to restrict the people of Missouri in the exercise and enjoyment of their natural rights as American freemen in the formation of their state constitution, assumed an unconstitutional power, having the direct tendency to usurp the privileges of our state sovereignty, guaranteed to us by the declaration of American rights, the constitution of the United States, the treaty of cession with France, and the blood of our fathers who achieved our independence. This is a restriction heretofore without precedent or parallel, as it regards the admission of territory into the Union of States, and if persisted in by those members of congress who at the last session proved themselves opposed to the growth and prosperity of our happy land and luxuriant country, will be, in our opinion, a direct attack and infringement upon the sacred rights of state sovereignty and independence, and the tocsin of alarm to all friends of union under our republican form of government. Although we much deplore any existing political differences of opinion with the majority in the house of representatives of the last congress, who introduced and supported the restriction, yet we consider it our bounden duty as freemen, and as republican members of the great American family, to take a dignified stand against any assumption of our rights from whatever quarter it may come, and to support the constitution of the United States as the anchor of our political hopes.

Signers

James Baldridge
D. Beauchamp
Randal Briggs
Wm. S. Burch
James Clay
Warren Cottle
Antoine Derrocher
Thos. Dozier
Chas. Fanner
Francis Howell
N. Howell
Wm. Keithly
Armstrong Kennedy
David Lemaster
Antoine Renal
T. D. Stephenson
Joseph Sumner
Samuel Wells*
Edward Woods
*Foreman

This was the St. Charles declaration of independence. This presentment to congress was made July 6, 1819. Exactly what effect it had on that august body is hard to tell, but that winter congress passed an enabling act, and the constitutional convention authorized by that act met in the summer of 1820, in St. Louis, with forty-one delegates present and a constitution was framed, which was afterwards ratified by the people, and the state was admitted into the Union in 1821. There were fourteen counties in the state.

Great Men in Pioneer Days

The German Immigration

The German immigration set in about 1830. In 1825 an intelligent and enterprising German came to the United States on a visit of inspection and to increase his knowledge of the western country. This gentleman, Gottfried Duden, spent a year in St. Charles and the adjoining counties studying the climate and the various productions as well as the manners and customs of the people. He traveled and made his observations under the guidance of Daniel ^I. Boone and others. He was delighted with the country and the people he met with and their cordial and hospitable treatment. On his return to the "Fatherland" he published a book in German giving a description of the country, the people, their manners and customs, the laws of the country and it's wonderfully productive soil. The book, which had a phenomenal sale, aroused an interest in many of his countrymen and a number of well to do, educated men came over and settled in the county. Louis Eversman came with Duden and remained here. He married a Miss McLane, raised an intelligent family and was a prominent and influential citizen. He purchased a farm in Warren County.

Among the early German settlers were Francis Krekel with four sons, one of whom was Judge Arnold Krekel, a prominent and honored citizen, a lawyer of prominence, who represented the county in the legislature in connection with Dr. John A. Tally in the early fifties; Julius, Herman, Emile and Conrad Mallinckrodt. These men were all well-educated and became influential. They had studied the English language before they came to the country but their pronunciation was very defective, but they soon learned the correct pronunciation. When Julius Mallinckrodt arrived in St. Louis, wishing to make some inquiries about the town he addressed the first man he met in what he supposed to be the English tongue, as it had been taught him, but the man could not understand him. He then addressed him in German, and then in Latin with no better success; as a last resort he tried French. Instantly the man embraced him delighted to find someone with whom he also could converse. He was a Frenchman who had also just arrived in the city and had been unable to find anyone with whom he could converse.

In 1834 a small colony from Hesse Darmstadt arrived in the care of Frederick Muench, who was a man of talent. He was a minister of a Liberal Protestant church in Germany for fourteen years. In 1834 he organized what he called the Gissen Society from among the members of his congregation and migrated to America, settling in the western part of this county and Warren. He was popular and influential and represented his county in the legislature. With him came Dr. Fred Kruge, Jonathan Kunze and a number of others with their families. This man and his colonists were Rationalists in their religious belief. Their Society gave way in time to Orthodox Christian denominations, German Methodists, Lutherans and Evangelical. A large German immigration came to the county from this commencement up to 1850. They have been a valuable acquisition to the county. While not so quickly assimilated by the Anglo-American as some other nationalities, they are, however, in the second generation, thoroughly Americanized.

Immigration for seventy years from foreign countries has been great, but the amalgamation of races has not been so thorough as to evolve an American type. That result will follow in due time.

Cities, Towns and Villages

Augusta | Cottleville | Defiance | Foristeil | Lake St. Louis | New Melle | O'Fallon | Portage Des Sioux | St. Charles | St. Paul | St. Peters | Weldon Spring | Wentzville | West Alton

Beginning of American Colonization

About the year 1795, straggling Americans began to come into the county from the east. Three brothers, Christopher, Jacob and Andrew Zumwalt, settled in the county. They were of Dutch extraction and came from Virginia, settling on or near Peruque creek in 1796. They were sturdy, courageous Christian men, and brought their families, stock and household "penates" with them, among other things, some sheep. They selected land on which were found springs of living water, and at once erected comfortable log dwellings, the timber being hewn on two sides; the first houses of that style built west of the Missouri. The house built by Jacob one mile south of O'Fallon, is still standing and is in a good state of preservation. It was built in 1798. In it was born the late Darius Heald, only son of Maj. Nathan Heald, an officer of the United States army, and who commanded Fort Dearborn in 1813 when it was captured by an overwhelming force of English and Indians, when many of the prisoners were massacred. Portholes were made in the sides of the building to be used in case of an Indian raid. Major Heald bought the property of Zumwalt about 1815. He and his wife, Rebecca, lived and died there, and are buried near the house. The old house of three rooms on the ground floor is still habitable and picturesque in the extreme. They are the oldest buildings in the county, and are now beautifully fitted up, and it is the Chapter House of the Rebecca Heald Chapter of the D. A. R's and the "Daughters of 1812,'' of whom there are a goodly number in the community. When the Zumwalt brothers came they brought their religion as well as other necessities of life with them into the wilderness. They were Wesleyan Methodists and like the first Frenchman, Blanchette, who settled in the county, they very soon erected of logs, the first Protestant church, as a temple dedicated to the worship of God west of the river. This little church stood on the ridge just west of where O'Fallon now is. In this humble temple was celebrated the first sacramental service ever administered west of the river. The services were conducted by the Rev. Jesse Walker, in 1807. The wine used on this occasion was prepared by Sister Zumwalt and Mrs. Col. David Bailey, from the juice of the poke berry and sweetened with maple sugar. The bread prepared by the same faithful hands was the crust from a corn pone baked in an oven.

Adam Zumwalt, who came with Jacob, settled near where Flint Hill stands. He brought sheep, horses and a few cattle. He thought, like his earlier French neighbors, that it was not good to live without a stimulant; so he built a still-house and made brandy from Indian corn. One of his neighbors was the famous Indian chief, Black Hawk, of the Dakotas, who partook of Mr. Zumwalt's beverage that cheers, and consequently soon became his fast friend and ever remained such. He was fond of dancing with, the young daughters of Mr. Zumwalt. He got drunk sometimes, but never boisterous, and was always a gentleman in his demeanor. Black Hawk was ever a friend to the Zumwalt's, even during the bloody Black Hawk wars. On one occasion, when the hostile Indians were raiding the country and scalping the inhabitants, he was warned by Samuel Keithly, a lieutenant of the militia, to take his family to Pond Fort for safety and promptly report at headquarters, armed with his musket and all the powder and balls he had, to fight the savages. He explained in great dismay: "What, do you fight mit guns? I thought you fight mit sticks." The old man's simplicity of heart greatly amused Mr. Keithly.

Agriculture and Progress

Great improvements in the manner of agriculture have been achieved, and a great variety of products have been added since the primitive days of one hundred years ago. In the advance of civilization crude methods have succumbed to science. The wooden mold board, the bull-tongue plow and the shovel and the hoe have forever disappeared, and in their places we have riding plows, disc harrows, self-binders, motor plows, steam threshers and every appliance of labor saving machinery. Verily the glory of the reap hook, the cradle and the threshing floor is gone. The little two-horse mill that ground our fathers' corn and wheat into meal has been superseded by the steam roller mills.

From 1804 the increase in population was very rapid. In 1810 when the first census was taken it had increased from 700 to 3,505. At the next enumeration, it had increased but 465, but the Indian wars and the war with England had checked immigration almost entirely. In 1830 it was 4,320; in 1840, it reached 7,911, almost double. In 1860 it had reached 16,523. In 1900, 24,474. In the next decade to 1910, there was an increase of only 110. In 1804 the amount of taxes collected was $705.00. In 1818, the taxable property was $87,419. In 1830 it had increased to $727,575. In the next twenty years there was a phenomenal increase of wealth in the county. Its assessed valuation up to 1912 has been about three hundred and fifty per cent. The county has kept pace with the balance of the state in wealth and all the varied productions of the soil as also in manufactories.

The city of St. Charles has one of the largest car factories in the United States, besides a large shoe factory, breweries and other important factory concerns.

The number of farms in the county as shown by the last census is about fifteen hundred. Number of acres in cultivation is 206,000. The amount of com raised in 1911 on forty-five thousand acres was 1,675,000 bushels. The wheat raised on seventy -five thousand acres of land was 1,500,000 bushels. Oats, barley and potatoes in about equal proportions. In the early settlements of the county, the farmer, for home consumption, also raised cotton and flax and some hemp of fair quality and good yield to the acre. Farm lands in the county are valued at from fifty to one hundred and twenty-five dollars per acre. About seven-eighths of the land in the county is under cultivation or under pasturage. Stock raising is largely followed, and the poultry business is second only to the other combined interests of her agriculture.

There are two unusually large farms in the county, one, the Baldwin farm, between the Mississippi River and Dardenne creek. It consists of four thousand acres, under the management of one man whose large crops of cereals and hay are produced annually and pay dividends on the investment. The tract has been levied and thoroughly drained, and shows the success with which wet lands may be drained. The other consists of about twelve hundred acres of Mississippi bottom land which has also been thoroughly prepared for cultivation by ditching and levying. It belongs to John M. Keithly, who superintends its cultivation. It is highly productive and yields its owner a handsome income. He is a model up-to-date farmer, putting into practice all the modem ideas of cultivation and stock raising. His farm lies one mile west of St. Peters.

  Northeast Missouri| Missouri Counties | Books on AHGP

Source: History of Northeast Missouri, edited by Walter Williams, Volume I, Lewis Publishing Company, 1913

 

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