history of O'Fallon can, in
large part, be told as a history of its two earliest religious
congregations; the Catholics largely made up of German immigrants, and
the Methodists, the majority of whose earliest members were the Irish
and English who moved to St. Charles County from Kentucky.
Eighty some families, Catholics of French descent, lived in and around St. Charles, existing as fur traders, trappers and hunters. These people came as far west as the site now known as O'Fallon as early as 1769. In about 1818, a log church was built at Dardenne. Five years later, in St. Peters, All Saints parish was established and its parishioners were a combination of the earlier French settlers and the newly-arrived German immigrants. The Germans began to arrive in 1838. The predominance of the German element in the latter sixties brought a German priest, Father Conrad Tintrup, to Dog Prairie, which was later renamed St. Paul.
Weary of traveling the distances to St. Peter's and St. Paul's churches and school, some members of both parishes met in the fall of 1869 to discuss the organization of a new parish. Pledges were raised, an anonymous St. Louisan donated the bricks, and Judge Arnold Krekel donated the land. The new church was dedicated on September 17, 1871. In 1876, Rev. Henry Brockhagen was appointed pastor of Assumption and under his lead, the log school that had been built the same time as the first church was replaced with a brick building to accommodate the increased enrollment. Two new bells were installed in the church tower in 1878. Along with the original bell, all three remain in service to this day.
Father Brockhagen is known for the first newspaper in the area, the "Katholicher Hausfreund" (Friend of the Catholic Home), a weekly publication that ran from 1882 to 1895. It was written in German and its purpose was to help the German Catholic immigrants adjust to life in their new home. Many of them spoke German even until the early 1900's. In 1900 it was revived as the "O'Fallon Hausfreund" and ran until 1909.
Because of the congregation's expansion, a newer and larger church was needed. The wrecking of the old church began on September 22, 1930 and the new church was dedicated on July 4, 1931. This church has served the Assumption Parish ever since and remains today alongside the brand new church built in 2005.
The Methodists were the first organized religious group in the vicinity of the present city of O'Fallon. They can trace their founding back to the historical walls of the house of Jacob Zumwalt. In 1778, "the hard riding, shouting, long-praying sons" of John Wesley came to St. Charles County as well as to other parts of Missouri as circuit riders. Though Rev. John Clark, a circuit rider or traveling preacher, led the first service at Zumwalt's Fort, Rev. Jesse Walker is said to have been the first pastor. As early as 1807, services were held at the Fort to a congregation that called itself the Mt. Zion Society. Their church, the first Methodist church west of the Missouri River, was built of logs only a few yards east of the Fort. Wine for communion services was made from pokeberry juice and the bread was cornbread crusts. Rev. John Travis, Missouri's first accredited Methodist minister, held regular services at the Zumwalt home the latter part of the same year.
As the group increased in numbers, it became necessary to build a new church. In 1853, the Methodists built a new stone church on Mt. Zion. A front porch offered the ladies protection from foul weather and muddy roads. The grounds behind the church were reserved for burying the dead and Mt. Zion Cemetery is still in use to this day.
By 1882 the congregation had outgrown the stone church that, by now, was in need of repair. The question was whether to raze the church and rebuild on the same site or build a new church within the city limits of O'Fallon. Many felt tied to Mt. Zion since their own lands surrounded the church but the businessmen of O'Fallon lobbied for the congregation to move to within the city's boundaries. When the time came to vote, the decision was made to move the church to a place where it could serve the greater number of people. In 1883, Rev. J. H. Pritchett dedicated the new church at the corner of Wood and Church Streets. The congregation flourished at this location and became an integral part of the community. Then, in 1953, the Public School building at the corner of Pitman and School Streets was purchased by the Methodists at public auction for $12,500. The old church was sold to the newly organized Christian Church.
Again needing a larger facility, the new church was built in 1958 adjacent to the existing building and was renamed Williams Memorial Methodist Church. In 2000, that building was sold to the Fort Zumwalt District for the Hope High School. The first phase of the congregation's newest church, again renamed to Cornerstone United Methodist Church, is on Tom Ginnever Blvd.