Nicolas and Arnold Krekel

Nicolas Krekel, Founder of O’Fallon

When asked who founded the community of O”Fallon, Nicolas and Arnold Krekel are named.  These two German born brothers both played important roles in O’Fallon’s beginnings, although only Nicolas called O’Fallon home and he is credited with founding the city.

In 1832 the brothers and their extend family set sail from Bremen, Germany for a new life in America, Arnold was 17 and Nicolas was 10 years old.  Katerina Krekel, their mother, died en route to Missouri and was buried in Louisville, Kentucky.  The rest of the family journeyed on and settled near Augusta, Missouri in St. Charles County. Franz Krekel, the boy’s father, purchased 110 acres of heavily timbered land for which he paid $25.00 and compensated the previous owner with an additional $9.00 for the log cabin on the property.

Nicholas worked on his father’s farm and in 1848, fought in the Mexican War under General Price. It is said that on August 6, 1856, Nicholas came to O’Fallon. “He walked with his axe and carpetbag from Green Bottoms on the Missouri River where he’d been farming. He came through Cottleville to J. G. Trevy’s, now known as Woodlawn (Seminary), where he stayed for one year until he married.”  Nicholas married Wilhelmena Moritz on August 15, 1857 and they raised seven children.

Arnold Krekel

Meanwhile, Arnold was making his mark in St. Charles.  He served as a justice of the peace, school board member, investor, lawyer, surveyor, engineer, founder of newspaper for the German immigrant community, and as state representative.  Arnold was able to build enough wealth to buy an investment property in what is now O’Fallon in 1855.  He laid out the town, then called the Krekel Addition, and granted a right-of-way through the town to John O’Fallon’s North Missouri Railroad.


The Krekel House

Nicholas Krekel built the first home in O’Fallon facing the North Missouri Railroad. Nicholas cleared his land and originally built a two room log cabin. Later on he built “a one and a half story, gable to the south, 32 feet long, 22 feet wide and arranged for merchandise.”  Nicholas’ general store was on the first floor of the house and when the Northern Missouri Railroad came through Krekel’s Addition, the home also served as the agent’s office, a post office and purportedly even a library. We do not yet know at what point the house was expanded to its current dimensions, but it certainly was sometime in the late 1800’s.

Nicolas Krekel and his family on the front porch of their home

In 1857 Nicolas became the town’s first postmaster and stationmaster of the O’Fallon Depot.  Nicholas served as postmaster for 32 years, station agent for four years and served with his brother in the home guard militia during the Civil War.  Nicholas Krekel died on February 6, 1910 and was buried in Assumption Cemetery. The home remained in the family until the death of Mary Krekel Westhoff, Nicholas and Wilhelmena’s daughter, in 1966.  The Krekel home still stands today, across from City Hall at the corner of Civic Park Drive and Main Street.  It is the oldest home still standing within the city.  The home is currently undergoing renovations and will be opening as a business once more in the fall of 2017.  Many direct descendants of Nicholas Krekel and Wilhelmina still live in O’Fallon today.


Jacob Zumwalt and Zumwalt’s Fort

Zumwalt’s Fort, circa 1880

The presence of permanent non-Native American residents in what is today O’Fallon can be substantiated as far back as 1796 when Jacob Zumwalt accepted Spanish land grant #55.   The land grant consisted of 450 arpents (383.8 acres) and was located on both sides of Belleau Creek.  Today’s Fort Zumwalt Park sits on a portion of this original land grant.  The reconstructed Zumwalt’s Fort sits in the park and provides a glimpse of what life was like for the Zumwalt family.


Andrew Jackson Zumwalt

The history of the Zumwalt family and their homestead fort is a microcosm of American westward expansion and a tribute to the early settlers who came to the area in order to create a better life for themselves and their families, a process which still continues to this day.   Jacob and his brother, Christopher Zumwalt, moved their immediate families first and five additional Zumwalt brothers followed them later.  Local legend has it that Daniel Boone helped his friend, Jacob, locate his homestead at the brink of a hill that had a fresh spring below.  Jacob was also a Revolutionary War veteran, one of only a few who settled in St. Charles County.


Interior of the Fort as decorated by the local Daughters of the American Revolution

The Zumwalt family originally came from Pennsylvania and they spent time in  Kentucky before finally settling in St. Charles County.  Jacob and his family are believed to have built the first hewn log house north of the Missouri River. With help from extended family, the first section was completed in 1798, and additions were made in succeeding years. The cabin’s four generously sized rooms, hewn log walls, stone foundation, plank floors, a double fireplace and other details of substantial Pennsylvania German construction set the house apart from others.  Jacob helped brother Christopher build a mill and brother Adam operated a distillery. Both of these properties were closer to the area that is now St. Paul.


ZW1003The Zumwalt family were Methodist and the first Methodist sacrement in Missouri was administered in the Zumwalt home by Rev. Jessie Walker in 1807.  It is also believed that when Jacob’s with Catherine died on the homestead in 1799 her burial was the first christian burial in the area.  With no Methodist church nearby, her death was recorded in local Catholic records.  Jacob lived on the homestead for nineteen years, and raised ten children from two wives.  He moved on to Pike County, Missouri with one of his sons in 1817.  He passed away there three years later.

Interior of the Fort as decorated by the local Daughters of the American Revolution

The Zumwalt home was one of the largest in the area at the time.  It was refered to as Zumwalt’s Fort because neighbors would gather their for protection from raids at this “homestead fort” during the War of 1812.  There were a total of seven homestead forts in St. Charles County and three were located in or near O’Fallon.  The other two being Pond Fort off Highway N in Dardenne Prairie, and White’s Fort in Dog Prairie (St. Paul area).  As many as ten families found refuge within one of these properties during the hostilities which were characterized by quick penetrating Indian raids against settlements along the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.  Fighting ended in Missouri by July 1815 when peace treaties were signed at nearby Portage des Sioux.


Legend has it that before the War of 1812, Black Hawk, a Sauk chief noted for his dignified manner, regularly bought whiskey from Adam Zumwalt, who lived about six miles from Zumwalt’s Fort, and danced with his daughters.   During the War of 1812, Black Hawk and a band of warriors fought U.S. Rangers to a draw at the Battle of the Sinkhole in Lincoln County off present-day Highway 79 just north of Old Monroe.

The War of 1812 ended with the Treaty of Ghent in 1814 and after the local treaties were signed with the Native Americans at Portage des Sioux, it opened the floodgates to a tide of immigration from the eastern states and Europe.   For the next twenty years, virtually all westward migration funneled through St. Charles and passed through present-day O’Fallon.   The settlers’ homes were generally far apart and the mills and trading points were far apart as well.

Early Exploration of the Area

Marquette and Joliet
Marquette and Joliet along the Mississippi

No written history of the area that is now O’Fallon exists prior to 1673.  The first recorded presence of Europeans in St. Charles County occurred in June of 1673 when Father Jacques Marquette and his companion, Louis Joliet, discovered the muddy waters of the Missouri River flowing into the Mississippi.  The French claimed the territory that the Missouri River drained into and by the 1770’s a few French settlers were living in St. Charles County, following the paths of the earlier French fur traders.

In 1770 France formally surrendered possession of Upper Louisiana to Spain.   The Spanish continued the fur trading policies of the French and established their own territorial government but Spain’s formal control of the area was weak.   The territory was returned to France for a short time from 1800 until the Louisiana Purchase when the territory officially came under American control.

In the late 1790’s Anglo-Americans started crossing the Mississippi River into what is today St. Charles County.  Most of them came from Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia.

The French inhabitants of St. Charles County preferred the fur trade to farming which, according to Meriwether Lewis, they regarded as a “degrading occupation.”  The American settlers from Kentucky and the other states of the upland south were much more interested in agriculture.  Daniel Boone, his wife, children, adopted children, and other family members migrated to southern St. Charles County where his oldest living son held a land grant from 1797.   Daniel Boone was invited by the Spanish government to migrate to this area they called New Spain along with a number of other settlers with the promise of large tracts of land should he encourage other families to migrate as well.