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St. Charles County park named for historic Black landowner

The 199-acre plot of land is scheduled to open this summer.

ST. CHARLES COUNTY, Mo. — St. Charles County has named its newest park near Wentzville after an African American landowner who purchased the property in 1871. The 199-acre plot of land is at 2949 West Meyer Road and is scheduled to open this summer. The park now carries the name of Benjamin Oglesby, who was born a slave in 1825 in Bedford, Va., and brought to Missouri in 1837 at the age of 12 by his owner, Marshall Bird.

He worked on a farm near present-day I-70 and Highway W in the Foristell/Wentzville area. In 1864, the 39-year-old Oglesby fled captivity of Bird and enlisted in the Union Army in St. Charles. His wife and children remained in captivity while he went through basic training in St. Louis to eventually fight for their freedom. Oglesby was assigned to the 56th United States Colored Infantry and was honorably discharged in 1866.

His regiment would see action in 1864 at Indian Bay on April 13, at Muffleton Lodge on June 29, they were in charge of operations in Arkansas July 1-31. They then saw action at Wallace’s Ferry and Big Creek on July 26, 1864. Their expeditions took them from Helena up the White River from August 29 till September 3. Another expedition would take them from Helena to Friar’s Point, Mississippi, on February 19-22, 1865. They then had post and garrison duty at Helena, Arkansas till February of 1865. After the war ended, they had duty at Helena and other points in Arkansas until September 1866. The entire regiment was finally completely mustered out on September 15, 1866.

After the Civil War, according to the 1870 census, Oglesby, his wife, Martha and their six children – Medora, Samuel, Oskar, Bell, Albert, and Charlie – worked on a farm in Hickory Grove Township in Warren County. In 1871, he purchased 146 acres of land in Foristell. He financed the property through a $2,000 Deed of Trust and paid off the property six years later.

Read the full story on The St. Louis American website.

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