by Deborah E. Bowman, MFA
Vice President of the
Wentzville Historical Society
Every town has a history, but some are more interesting than others. Wentzville, Missouri, is lucky; their history is rich and interesting. Newstime has asked the Wentzville Historical Society to write a monthly article telling some of the amazing stories that have shaped our past. We accepted this invitation eagerly because they are stories that we love to tell.
Before Wentzville was here, the area was filled with farms and plantations. Tobacco was the main crop and one of the biggest plantations belonged to farmer and landowner William M. Allen. He was born in Heady County, Virginia, in 1812 and moved to Missouri with his parents in 1829. He became an important man; in addition to being a farmer, he represented the county for one term in the Missouri State House of Representatives and then served two terms in the Missouri State Senate. When he heard that the Northern Missouri Railroad was looking for a route through the middle of Missouri, he realized that having the railroad near his land would help him get his tobacco to the market. Using his influence, he talked to the chief engineer of the railroad, telling him that if the railroad executives would agree to lay the tracks through his land, he would donate not only the land for the railroad and easement, but also a 7-block property for building a depot and creating a settlement. In 1855, he convinced other landowners along the route that it would benefit them to donate easements for the railroad and he platted the village of Wentzville. Although the map shown above has names for the streets, the only street that was named from the beginning was First Street. The others were named as the city settled in. Some, like Talley, Whitehead and McRoberts, were named after early citizens. What was then First Street is now Main Street, the street that the Historical Society’s red caboose sits on.
Perhaps you have two questions: (1) Why do the current signs coming into town say that Wentzville was established in 1872 if it was actually founded in 1855? Answer: The 1872 date refers to when Wentzville changed from a village to a town. But Wentzville was established in 1855. So yeah, the signs are wrong. (2) If William Allen was responsible for creating Wentzville, why isn’t it called Allenville or Allentown or Allenopolis? Answer: The deal that he made with the chief engineer of the Northern Missouri Railroad had several parts. He agreed to build a train depot on land that he donated, he promised he would create a town around the depot and he said he would name the town after the chief engineer. The engineer’s name was Erasmus Livingston Wentz, so the town became Wentzville. Cheer up; it could have been named Erasmusville.
Allen kept his other promise too; he built a depot on property that he donated and he was named the first Station Agent. In addition, along with friend W.A. Abington, he opened Wentzville’s first store, The Wentzville Mercantile. The first train entered Wentzville in 1857 and the former farmland became a village. In 1879, the railroad became the Wabash, St. Louis and Pacific; that’s where the city got the name for Wentzville’s annual Wabash Days Festival.
Much more history is coming your way in upcoming issues of Newstime; the plan is to publish an article in every other issue. Meanwhile, if you would like to support us in our unending quest to discover and preserve Wentzville’s history, consider becoming a member of the Wentzville Historical Society.
Membership is just $15 per year, so just send a check along with your name and address to the Wentzville Historical Society, PO Box 202, Wentzville, Missouri 63385.