When Raleigh Jessup Jr. began efforts to rebuild Zumwalt’s Fort in the mid-1970s the state of Missouri, which owned the site, denied requests to salvage material from the old home.
“So then-Mayor Del Peters and Raleigh made a midnight rescue,” said Pat Swinger, a member of the O’Fallon Historical Society.
The two grabbed the few remaining white oak logs from the original cabin. One log became the mantle piece in another log cabin salvaged by the historical society. That cabin became the group’s headquarters in Civic Park.
Using remnants from their rescue effort, Jessup “carved and built a scale model of the fort, which he has been showing schoolchildren for the last 20 years,” Swinger said. The model of Fort Zumwalt resides today in the St. Charles County Veterans Museum. The first veterans of St. Charles County were from the Revolutionary War.
The history of the Zumwalt family and their homestead fort is the story of American westward expansion and a tribute to the early settlers who came to the area in order to create a better life for themselves and their families.
Jacob and his brother, Christopher Zumwalt, moved their immediate families first and five additional Zumwalt brothers followed them later. Local legend has it that Daniel Boone helped his friend, Jacob, locate his homestead at the brink of a hill that had a fresh spring below. Jacob was also a Revolutionary War veteran, one of only a few who settled in St. Charles County.
The Zumwalt home was one of the largest in the area at the time. It was referred to as Zumwalt’s Fort because neighbors would gather there for protection from raids at this “homestead fort” during the War of 1812. There were a total of seven homestead forts in St. Charles County and three were located in or near O’Fallon. The other two being Pond Fort off Highway N in Dardenne Prairie, and White’s Fort in Dog Prairie (St. Paul area). As many as ten families found refuge within one of these properties during the hostilities which were characterized by quick penetrating Indian raids against settlements along the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. Fighting ended in Missouri by July 1815 when peace treaties were signed at nearby Portage des Sioux.