History of Wentzville, Missouri
Frontiersman Daniel Boone and members of his family were among the first Americans to settle alongside the French in St. Charles County in 1795. They were followed by hunters and trappers. During the 1830s, German craftsmen and farmers began to arrive in turn, fostered the development of county Communities, including Wentzville.
Wentzville was founded in 1855 when the great movement of pioneers across our country was reaching its highest tempo. A railroad was pushing across Missouri to the west to carry these settlers and to furnish services for those few who were already established in the new area. This movement prompted William M. Allen, a great landowner and slaveholder to Western St. Charles County, to give a tract of land along the railroad right-of-way to establish a station to serve the local community. Mr. Allen laid out the town, which consisted of a narrow tract of ground seven blocks long lying east and west along the railroad. In giving the ground for the first railroad station, he stipulated in the grant that in the event the station was moved or taken away, the land would revert to his heirs. This assured the station’s site for the community and made the new town’s future more secure.
The railroad construction pushed through Wentzville during the year 1856 and the first train arrived in 1857. The construction and building of the line were completed under the supervision of Mr. Erasmus Livingston Wentz of New York state. Mr. Wentz assisted Mr. Allen, the founder, in surveying the present town’s lots and streets and so Mr. Allen honored his good friend Mr. Wentz by naming the town after him.
The churches in Wentzville have played a major part in the development of this community. The records reveal that the first church building in Wentzville was constructed by the Methodists between 1866 and 1868. The next major churches in Wentzville were the Lutheran and Catholic churches.
The Wentzville area was principally devoted to raising tobacco between 1850 and 1880. Names, such as George S. Myers (a partner of Liggett and Myers), Paul Brown, Joel Carr, Robert and Caleb Dula, John and Jim Drummond, worked in and owned tobacco factories in this area. Caleb Dula became the first president of Liggett and Myers, Robert Dula, Caleb’s brother, became Chairman of the Board of Lieggett and Myers Tobacco Co. Many of these men became millionaires and many them and their relatives are buried in the community.
Wentzville was incorporated as a fourth-class city in March 1872 and the government is composed of an elected Mayor and six aldermen, with an appointed city administrator.
In the following decades, Wentzville sustained a slow but steady growth as an agricultural hamlet, primarily in the small services, professional and retail sectors. In 1980, however, General Motors Corporation began construction of its largest, most modern auto assembly plant at the time, providing more than 6,000 jobs when it went into full operation.
Today, Wentzville has a population of about 42,000. It has excellent schools, private and public, many churches and clubs. Although Wentzville is less than an hour away from downtown St. Louis, it is still a quiet pleasant peaceful community, rich in history and identity.
Information for this article was taken from articles written by John Denny and Gerry Matlock.
For an Interactive History Map go here. This interactive story map features sites of historic import in Wentzville and can be viewed computer or a web-enabled tablet/smartphone for the urban explorer.
From KETC, LIVING ST. LOUIS Producer Jim Kirchherr profiles the Wentzville community as part of a special episode highlighting the distinct neighborhoods in St. Louis. The town is deeply rooted in tobacco farming. At one time, there were seven different tobacco plants in the Wentzville area.