Sunday, July 31, 2022

Park bearing the name of former slave who served in USCT during the Civil War opens in suburban St. Louis

Oglesby Park features trails, lakes and this giant playground (St. Charles County Parks)
A video detailing the service and postwar life of a former slave who fought for the Union was released on the day a Missouri park named for him opened.

Benjamin Oglesby, who fled captivity at age 39, served with the 56th US Colored Infantry Regiment. He later farmed for 30 years on what is now the park property.

The 199-acre Oglesby Park, on West Meyer Road just west of Wentzville and near Interstate 70, features a large playground, lakes, trails and shelters, St. Charles County officials said. A dedication ceremony was held Saturday in the suburban St. Louis community.

Ryan Graham, parks director, told the Picket in an email that signage will be added at a later date and a schoolhouse that served Oglesby descendants during the early 20th century will be moved to the park.

County parks historian Ben Gall said his research showed that Oglesby was born in Bedford, Virginia, in about 1825. In the mid-1830s, he came to St. Charles County with his enslaver Marshall Bird. 

The farm near Foristell grew corn, wheat and tobacco. Oglesby was one of seven enslaved people working on the land.

In November 1864, Oglesby left the farm, went to a recruiting depot and enlisted in the U.S. Army and was sent to Benton Barracks in St. Louis for training.

He was assigned to the 56th USCT, which conducted military operations in Arkansas, including fighting at Indian Bay and Big Creek before he enlisted. (One of Oglesby's military records at left, in National Archives collection. Click to enlarge).

Oglesby was with the unit during an expedition from Helena, Ark., to Friar's Point, Ms., in February 1865, and subsequent post and garrison duty.

Oglesby was honorably discharged in November 1865, outside Helena, Gall said.

More than 180,000 African-Americans served in the U.S. military during the Civil War.

The 56th USCT lost during service four officers and 21 enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and two officers and 647 enlisted men by disease, according to the National Park Service. Nearly 180 died from cholera when they were being mustered out in 1866.

After the war, according to the 1870 census, Oglesby, his wife, Patsy (also called Martha) and their six children -- Medora, Samuel, Oskar, Bell, Albert and Charlie -- worked on a farm in Hickory Grove Township in Warren County, officials said.

In 1871, he purchased 146 acres of land in Foristell believed to have been owned by a German immigrant. He financed the property through a $2,000 deed of trust and paid off the property six years later.

“When Mr. Oglesby died in 1901, the estate records indicate a nearly 50% increase in the value of his property, demonstrating him as a successful farmer,” Gall wrote in an email. “The property was still in the family through the 1960s.”

Plan for Oglesby Park; click to enlarge (St. Charles County Parks)
The county on Saturday released a six-minute video about Oglesby’s life. The park is a “fitting tribute to Oglesby’s perseverance in reaching his goals in life,” the narrator says.

Barbara Love, the soldier’s great-great-granddaughter, told St. Louis TV station KMOV earlier this year that her ancestor was determined to succeed after escaping slavery.

Love wrote on Facebook that her ancestor's story shows "you can be anything you want if you keep the faith."

Oglesby and his wife are buried in a cemetery about a mile from the park.

No comments:

Post a Comment