Friends of Jefferson Barracks

Jefferson Barracks was named in honor of President Thomas Jefferson who died six days prior to the founding of the post.

Jefferson Barracks

A brief history, and its transition to a park

Jefferson Barracks was established as a military post in 1826 when it was determined that Fort Bellefontaine was considered to be unhealthy and unsatisfactory as a military post. The town of Carondelet, anxious to attract business, offered the town common fields to the military. On October 23, 1826, the war department declared the post to be named Jefferson Barracks in honor of President Thomas Jefferson who died six days prior to the founding of the post. The location of Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis and on the Mississippi River proved to be an excellent site for a permanent military post.

Few military installations have been as important to the United States as Jefferson Barracks. Men from the post have served in every major war. The history of Jefferson Barracks is displayed at the Powder Magazine Museum.

During the Mexican War, Jefferson Barracks was a major distribution point for men and materials destined for the West. The post also served as a major training, deployment and medical center during the Civil War.

During WWI and WWII the area was used primarily as an induction and training center for soldiers entering the army in preparation for active duty.

The post was deactivated in 1946. Beginning in 1950, the Federal Government conveyed tracts of land to St. Louis County to operate as a historical park. In 1971 Jefferson Barracks County Park, the adjacent active military base, and several other adjoining land parcels were placed on the National Register of Historic Places. All the buildings owned by the County in this district are considered to be historically significant.

The County added 233 acres to the park in 1960, using, in part, funds from a 1954 bond issue for landfill sites. The south central section of the park was leased to a series of private companies to operate as a landfill, and eventually about 72 acres was used for this purpose until 1971. The resulting methane and other gases have remained a continuing problem for the park.

The 1986 Bond Issue called for the development of a Veterans Memorial at Jefferson Barracks that was completed in 1990 as designed by Team Four Architects.

A volunteer support group for the park, the Friends of Jefferson Barracks, was organized about 1983, and they operate the gift shop and concessions at some concerts to raise money for park activities. The Friends also began publication in 1993 of a quarterly newsletter, called the Jefferson Barracks Gazette. Their top priority was restoration of the old Ordnance Barn, which had been reduced to its stone basement by the Army, for use as a visitors center. From 2000 to 2003 the frame superstructure was reconstructed to serve as an education center and community facility, a longtime goal of the Friends. A wide array of state and federal sources, including the National Recreation Trail Program and the Economic Development Initiative Program of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as from the Friends.

In 1995, the 3-mile Dennis Schick Trail was built with grant funds from the National Recreation Trail Program and L&WCF. Jefferson Barracks Park has now become a Land & Water park and is subject to Section 6(f) restrictions.

Jefferson Barracks is the most heavily programmed park in the county system, with Mud Mania, Blues on the River, Civil War and World War II reenactments, and many other activities. In addition to the museum buildings operated by the County, the semidetached officers’ quarters at 16-18 Hancock have been renovated as a museum by the National Association of Civilian Conservation Corps Alumni (NACCCA).

Jefferson Barracks Park is included in the Mississippi River Greenway.

Some Notable Individuals Who Served At Jefferson Barracks

Henry Atkinson has a special importance to Jefferson Barracks because he founded the post in 1826 and was buried there in 1842. Atkinson was born sometime in 1782 in Person County, North Carolina and inherited a plantation of over one thousand acres at the age of 18. He left at 26 in 1808 to become a captain in the new Third Infantry. He rose to the rank of colonel while serving in northern New York during the War of 1812. Eventually he was recommended to command the Sixth Infantry and brought them from Plattsburg to St. Louis. Atkinson reached his highest rank, brigadier general in 1820 when he commanded the right wing of the western department of the army. Less than a year later, army reorganization cost him his position and rank. He returned to command of the Sixth Infantry with the rank of colonel and once again assumed the responsibilities for maintaining order on the frontier. After his return to St. Louis with the Sixth Infantry, Atkinson traveled to Louisville where he married Mary Ann Bullitt. Shortly after his marriage he received orders which resulted in the establishment of both the St. Louis Arsenal and Jefferson Barracks. On June 12, 1842 he suddenly became ill and died two days later of “bilious dysentery.” His funeral was held at Jefferson Barracks on June 16th.

Black Hawk, whose full name was Black Sparrow Hawk, was born in 1767 at Saukenauk, an area located near Rock Island, Illinois. Black Hawk was married to Singing Bird, and they had two daughters and three sons. Legendary athlete Jim Thorpe was their great-grandson. Although known as “Chief Black Hawk”, Black Hawk was never actually a chief, although he was a leader and warrior among the Sauk and Fox nations. The Sauk and Fox Indians lived along the Mississippi River from northwestern Illinois to southwestern Wisconsin. In 1830 the United States forced the Sauk to move to present-day Iowa. The Sauk struggled on their new land to grow enough food, and in April of 1832 Black Hawk led about one thousand Sauk and Fox people back to their native land. General Henry Atchinson and four thousand militiamen attacked the Indians, starting the Black Hawk War. After months of many bloody battles the remaining 150 survivors of Black Hawk’s group returned to the Sauk and Fox people who had remained in Iowa. The war ended in August of 1832, at the Battle of Bad Axe, and Black Hawk surrendered himself. For a time he was held as a prisoner at Jefferson Barracks, and then sent east to meet with President Andrew Jackson. Eventually, the U.S. government sent him to live with the surviving members of the Sauk and Fox nation on their reservation in Iowa. He wrote his autobiography in 1833, and died on the reservation in 1838. 

Ulysses Grant was born in Clermont County, Ohio in 1822. At age 17 he entered the United States Military Academy at West Point. In 1843, shortly after graduating from West Point Grant was assigned to Jefferson Barracks. Fredrick T. Dent, his West Point roommate, encouraged him to visit the Dent family at its country home, White Haven. Grant fell in love with the Dents seventeen-year-old daughter, Julia, and the two were married in 1848. In 1854 Grant retired from the army and returned to his wife and children in St. Louis. Upon the outbreak of the Civil War Illinois Governor Richard Yates reassigned Grant as colonel. He was subsequently promoted to brigadier general. In March of 1864, Grant was promoted to lieutenant general and given command of all U.S. forces. One year later General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Grant and the Union Army. After the war Grant continued to command the army and to administer Reconstruction. In 1868 he became the youngest U.S. president. After leaving the White House in 1874, Grant spent two years traveling, finally settling in New York City. He died in 1885. 

Robert Edward Lee was born in 1807 in Stratford, Virginia. He graduated second in his class at West Point in 1829, with the commission of second lieutenant in the engineers. General Charles Gratiot assigned Lee to St. Louis in 1838, with the task of preventing the current in the Mississippi River from shifting to the Illinois side, which was threatening the harbor of St. Louis. Later he fought in the Mexican War and became superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy. He was in command of the Department of Texas in 1860, and the following year Abraham Lincoln offered him the field command of the Union forces. He declined, and then resigned from the U.S. Army. He was military adviser to the president of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis. In 1865, Lee was made commander in chief of all Confederate armies. He surrendered two months later at Appomattox Court House. Lee’s military strategies are still studied today. In the fall of 1865 he accepted the presidency of Washington College, now Washington and Lee University, where he died in 1870. Lee was stationed at Jefferson Barracks. 

Other Amenities Named For County Employees

The Leuthauser shelter at Jefferson Barracks Park was named after Jim Leuthauser who worked as the park construction supervisor of the grading crew for the St. Louis County Parks Department.

This trail was named in honor of Dennis Schick who worked for the St. Louis County Parks and Recreation Department as the park construction supervisor for the asphalt crew.

Courtesy of St. Louis County Parks Department