It’s hard to imagine the O’Fallon area as the leading edge of the American frontier. But in 1799, when Daniel Boone and his family settled just a few miles away, the area was a wilderness in which Native Americans hunted, fished and trapped game.
At about the same time that Daniel Boone arrived, Jacob Zumwalt and his extended family settled in the O’Fallon area circa 1798, building a large log home. A few years later, when the War of 1812 set off deadly guerilla raids with Native Americans ambushing and killing American settlers, local families fled to the shelter provided by the Zumwalt’s home, which is said to have been fortified with a stockade fence. A spring, which is now Lake Whetsel, supplied water.
Zumwalt’s Fort, as the fortified house came to be called, was one of 35-plus “settler forts” that once stood in Missouri. Boone’s Fort at present-day Matson, Missouri, was the largest.
The reconstructed Zumwalt’s Fort opened in 2015 as a gift to the City from the O’Fallon Community Foundation. It is the only rebuilt War of 1812 settler fort in the state.
Interpretive signs at the site provide structural details and information about the people who lived here in the days when the O’Fallon area was part of the American frontier.
Thank you to the O'Fallon Community Foundation and the O'Fallon Historical Society for their many contributions in completing the reconstruction of Zumwalt's Fort!
Zumwalt's Fort is open for tours on May 1, May 23 and the 2nd and 4th Sundays in June through September from Noon – 3 p.m. Admission is $5 per person, children 10 and under are free. Your admission fee includes access to the historic Heald Home, as well. Private / group tours of 10 or more available with a minimum 2-week notice. For more information, please call 636-379-5605 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Frequently Asked Questions about Zumwalt's Fort
Did early settlers drink tea from delicate tea sets?
Yes, English tea sets have been found even at the most remote frontier settlements. Tea drinking was most important because of its social aspects. By having tea sets, frontier women could properly entertain guests, but the tea sets also brought a bit of comfort, familiarity, and “civilization” to these remote and frightening places.
Did frontier settlers of Missouri eat off wooden or pewter plates?
No, they typically ate off the most recent table settings of cream-wares and pearl-wares. These pieces were often highly decorated. More surprisingly, the dinner sets came from England, which was at war with the U.S. for much of the late 1700s to the early 1800s. They had a very diverse diet, dominated by corn and hogs.
Did the Heald Family live in the original log house?
Yes, they lived there from 1817 to about 1884. The Healds operated a large and successful farm raising a diversity of crops –wheat, corn, oats, potatoes, clover, hay, honey, apples, and peaches. Livestock included horses, milk cows, beef cattle, oxen, and sheep. There was also a loom house where clothing was made for the family’s use and for local sale. Having moved from the South, the Healds operated the farm as a plantation, including the holding of many slaves.
How did the Heald family figure in Zumwalt’s Fort History?
In 1817, the Zumwalt’s sold the property to Nathan Heald. During the War of 1812, Nathan Heald served as the commander of Ft. Dearborn near Chicago. He was ordered to abandon the fort and during the move, allies of the British, the Pottawatomie, attacked his troops. Nathan Heald and his wife, Rebekah, were severely wounded and captured by the Pottawatomie. They were later released and, after healing from their wounds, moved to Missouri.
How was Ft. Zumwalt constructed?
Zumwalt's Fort was a 1 ½-story log house. It consisted of two main rooms (pens) placed on either side of a central stone chimney in a style referred to as saddlebag. The original 1-story cabin on the east end was built first and housed the family until the main portion of the home could be built.
Was Zumwalt’s Fort a military post?
No, it was the home of the Zumwalt family. During the War of 1812, when threatened by attack, local families came to this house for mutual protection. Although used as a refuge several times, there is no evidence that it was ever attacked.
When was Zumwalt’s Fort built?
Zumwalt's Fort was constructed by the Jacob Zumwalt Family around 1798. They came to Missouri from Kentucky where they were neighbors of Daniel Boone. Jacob received a grant for approximately 380 acres from the Spanish government in 1799.