new Fire Department should have a new Fire Truck
it turns out, the first fire truck of the new department
would later be known as an American classic. Built
by General Fire Apparatus in St. Louis, Missouri,
the 1929 REO Speedwagon was the elite fire apparatus
of it's day. Equipped with a 268 REO Gold Crown Engine,
it is one of only 18 General Fire Apparatus Trucks
registered today. The truck is now fully restored
and owned by Mr. Anthony Motta, of Kansas City, Mo.
These photos were taken by Mr. Motta before and during
the restoration of the truck.
Years of Service - 1929-2004: The Early Days
the westward expansion of the United States continued
in the years after Lewis and Clark visited the north
county area, many small communities began to spring
up in the fertile fields near the confluence of the
Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.
Louis was fast becoming the busiest city in America,
and settlers poured in from all over to set up a better
life for themselves and their families. Those who
settled just east of the village of Florissant and
west of the rivers would establish what we now call
the early 1840’s, a clump of three large Black Jack
Oak Trees stood at the intersection of Parker and
Old Halls Ferry Roads. This species of the American
Oak is usually small and scrubby, but these were large
and cast immense shade upon the tired and heated humanity
that passed that way. They were located about twelve
miles from St. Louis, and afforded shelter, as well
as, a resting place for farmers hauling their wheat,
cordwood, and garden products to the markets in St.
Louis. Farmers living in the Sinks and outlying districts
made these Black Jacks a stopping place, often bringing
their heavy loads to this point during the evening,
and resuming the journey to the City, the next morning.
In this way, the Oaks soon attained celebrity status
as a point for shelter from the heat, a rendezvous,
and as a measure of distance from other points, and
were spoken of as "the Black Jacks".
this time, there was no building of any sort on the
present site of Black Jack, but Thomas Fletcher built
his home, a modest one room log house, on the Halls
Ferry Road, a short distance from the famous oak trees.
Black Jack was officially christened by the Postal
Department in 1865. Julius Nolte had been away taking
part in the Civil War and returned to his home to
become the first Postmaster of the growing village.
He was also the owner of a general country store.
half mile East, on the same road, Peter Obert, opened
a blacksmith shop and a general store, At this time
also, Mr. Richardson built a large tobacco barn on
the Halls Ferry Road. This structure was, a few year
later, transformed into a residence by Judge L. Hyatt,
and still later was occupied by the Utz family. Joseph
Leber is credited with being the pioneer businessman
of the community. He opened a blacksmith shop on the
Northeast corner of the intersection of Old Halls
Ferry and Parker Roads, and later opened a wagon making
shop next door.
and businesses were established in the area by many
of the founding familes like the Rosenkoetters, Trampes,
Jacobsmeyers, Poggemoellers, Burgdorfs, Noltes, Hartwigs,
Hammersens, and the Uzzells.
and progressive changes soon began to alter the appearance
of ‘the Black Jacks’ village. By 1877, Black Jack’s
population was recorded at 300. Victorian and federal
style homes, along with stone houses, and simple structures
were built along Parker and Old Halls Ferry Roads.
The growing village, now surrounding “The Black Jacks”,
became a thriving community.
number of other smaller settlements also developed
around the tiny village of The Black Jacks” in the
mid and late 1800’s. Many of these names sound familiar
to us today, and it is interesting to learn about
them and their origins.
village of Cross Keys was located in the old St. Ferdinand
township at the intersection of Robbin's Mill ( Hwy
67 today) and the New Hall's Ferry Roads was first
settled in 1850 by a settler by the name of Obermeyer.
Today a shopping center at New Hall's Ferry and Hwy
67 bears this name.
Jamestown, might possibly be the name of our Fire
Department if the dreams of one of the original land
claimants in the area, Phineas James, had become reality.
After a few shrewd land transactions between the years
1813 and 1816, he owned most of the land along the
Missouri River from New Halls Ferry Road all the way
down to where Hwy 367 crosses into St. Charles County
next venture was an attempt to start a settlement,
to be called “James” Town, that was advertised as
so to rival the city of St. Louis itself. On June
16, 1819 the Missouri Gazette ran a front-page advertisement
by Phinehas James offering lots “situated on the southern
bank of the Missouri River, six miles above its confluence
with the Mississippi”. Although the notice made the
area sound like paradise, the town never materialized.
In a report dated August 7, 1832, road commissioners
alluded to the “ferry landing below where Phinehas
James formerly lived in Jamestown”. Another petition
in 1845 by a Gilbert James asks for a road “commencing
in Jamestown, running so as to intersect the road
leading from Robbins Mill (what we now know as Hwy
67) to Florissant, and thence southwesterly. First
named “Assumption Road”, This road today is mostly
in the same location, and is now called Old Jamestown
maps show the original Jamestown Road running along
what is now Portage Road to the spot where, until
recently, the historic Vilray Blair House stood on
the bluffs of the Missouri River. However, no physical
evidence has been found to prove the existence of
“James” Town. The entire area is now referred to as
the “Old Jamestown” area, and includes Jamestown Mall
Heights, was located on the Halls Ferry Plank Road
in the old St. Ferdinand township, on ground once
owned by Thomas Gardner. It had a store and blacksmith
shop, operated by Jas. H. Brown. This was at the intersection
of Chambers Road and New Halls Ferry Road south of
Ferry was located at the northern end of the New Hall's
Ferry Road and the Missouri River in old St. Ferdinand
township. Reuben Musick operated a ferry here.
Patterson Settlement was first settled by descendants
of John Patterson and associated families. Patterson
was one of the handful of American colonists that
received permission by the Spanish government to settle
in this territory. The settlement was "bounded by
the Missouri River on the north, Coldwater Creek on
the south, Hall's Ferry road on the west, and the
Bellefontaine road on the east.
Hollow was a small community located in the old St.
Ferdinand township, "2 1/2 miles west of the Burlington
Railroad Bridge, on the Missouri River." This is believed
to be the Sinks road area today.
Ferdinand was the former name to the present day City
of Florissant. Some historic references from colonial
times also give the settlement's name as, "St. Ferdinand
the most interesting settlement that existed was Shoveltown,
a very small community located near the intersection
of Old Halls Ferry and Hwy. 67 today. It got its name
from a disturbance in which residents took up shovels
in a fight.
As one can see, many smaller communities and one larger
one were in the area that we now consider Black Jack
Fire District territory. The area remained a farming
community for many years, and there was no real need
for any kind of organized fire fighting force, at
least not yet.
from the Ashes of Tragedy
the mid summer of 1929 a tragic thing happened.
A fire struck the home of George Schladerback's
family on Mehl Avenue just south of the village
of Black Jack. Since there was no fire department
in Black Jack, frantic calls for assistance were
sent to neighboring Florissant Valley Volunteer
Fire Department. Florissant had suffered a devastating
fire at the Loretto Academy in 1919, and so they
had started their own fire department as a result
of this deadly danger to their community.
crew of Volunteer Firefighters from Florissant Valley
responded to the call, and although they fought
valiantly to save the family's home, all was lost.
Within days, several of Black Jack's community leaders
held a meeting and started a plan in motion that
now today, over 75 years later, still meets the
original intention of that first meeting.
again would a family in our community suffer such
a loss without adequate help being available.
New Fire Department Arises
though an official organization did not yet exist,
a letter of proposal to construct a fire engine
house in Black Jack was received on July 18th, 1929
from John E. Wohldmann. The proposed fire engine
house was to be 20 feet wide, 35 feet deep, and
10 feet high at a proposed cost of $1,097.00. The
building was constructed soon thereafter in the
rear of the Hartwig Brothers Saloon and General
Store at Old Halls Ferry Road and Parker Road. The
old fire house once stood in what is now the parking
lot of the Walgreens Store, and served the community
for nearly 28 years.