Hey Heidi: Who is John O'Fallon and why is he important to our area?

12:04 PM, Oct 11, 2012   |    comments
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John O'Fallon. (Missouri Historical Society)

By Heidi Glaus

St. Louis, MO (KSDK) - In a basement in a building on the campus of University of Missouri St. Louis, history slides off the shelves.  Landmarks live on in photographs and pages are dedicated to people like John O'Fallon.

"Well, John O'Fallon's father was a doctor. James O'Fallon was a doctor on George Washington's staff during the revolution," explains Zelli Fischetti, Assistant Director at The State Historical Society of Missouri Research Center.

O'Fallon was a man who rubbed elbows with more than a few folks you studied in high school.  For instance, he was the nephew of William Clark as in Lewis and Clark.

"He also studied law under the father of Mary Todd Lincoln so there's a lot of name dropping going on," Zelli points out.

And those connections came in handy through the years.

"He fights in the War of 1812 and meets William Henry Harrison, who's a general and later becomes president, and they become fast friends," Zelli adds.

O'Fallon, however, was wounded at Tippecanoe and came to St. Louis to work for his uncle.

"But he also starts selling supplies to the army because he has connections," Zelli explains.

Through that he becomes quite wealthy, possibly the richest man in St. Louis during the mid-1800s.

"Once he becomes wealthy he's involved with railroads and that's how O'Fallon, Illinois and O'Fallon, Missouri get their names because they were railroad stations first," Zelli adds.

Thankfully for thousands of students, he didn't hold on to all of his money.

"He gave the land that St. Louis University is built on. He gave a large amount of money to start the medical school at Washington University," Zelli says.

Of course, this is just the Cliff's Notes version, but that alone shows how important John O'Fallon was to our city's history.















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