Wednesday, December 5, 2012

After the War is Over

So the War of 1812 is over by, say, January of 1815. That’s fair enough. The question on my mind, though, is: “Where’s John?”

John Jay Jackson, who has yet to say “I do” to one Sarah Howard Ijams of Fairfield County, Ohio, is—as far as I know—still in the army at his last post at the close of the war. 

Thanks to the several online mentions of his history, that post has been labeled as Bellefontaine, Missouri. (I’ve also seen other mentions as Saint Louis, Missouri, which helps—mainly because, in checking Google™ Maps, entering “Bellefontaine, Missouri” brings up the map for a place called Bellefontaine Neighbors. Other than appreciating the bit of trivia that this is the longest name of a city in the entire United States, that tidbit of information doesn’t help advance my research efforts.)

That brings up a question in my mind. Where, exactly, would Bellefontaine be? Is it the same thing as Bellefontaine Neighbors, near Saint Louis? Or is it an entirely different location?

Fortunately, perusing the material posted alongside various online resources explaining the War of 1812, I stumbled upon a map indicating that it most probably was the name of a fort. It was, incidentally, located near Saint Louis—or what, at the time, was a vastly diminished version of the Saint Louis we know today.

Not to complicate things, but I do want to mention that there were actually two forts with that name. The first was established in 1805, “on the flood plain below the bluff” of a nearby river. Those of my readers who are avid shoppers might be interested to note that the first fort was located at the mouth of what is now known as “Coldwater Creek.” No, not the store—the river.

Owing to an inopportune shift in the course of that river—and, believe me, these things just can’t be planned—the location of that fort today would be approximately in the middle of the river. However, the river’s shift in 1810 pre-dates the time span we are currently targeting in our pursuit of John Jackson’s personal story. His time at Fort Bellefontaine would be spent at the subsequent facility.

The second fort was located above the bluff—right smart of them, don’t you agree?—and continued in use through 1828, when decaying conditions and changing military needs brought about the decision to abandon the fort.

Interestingly enough, the fort was replaced by an edifice known as Jefferson Barracks. Everybody all together: “Ahhhh…”

Thus ends the historical whirlwind tour of the mystery designation of “Bellefontaine.” The fort that was once the first United States military installation in the area of the Louisiana Purchase has now morphed into a county park. Knowing this does, however, provide a clearer backdrop for us to revisit the biographical sketch of John Jay Jackson. It also provides the setting for more of the story on John’s mother-in-law, and her concurrent life’s events that link to that same fort and region.

Above left: wood engraving showing Zachary Taylor defending Fort Harrison during the War of 1812; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.


  1. There remains one problem. Jefferson Barracks is located south of Saint Louis and is not the same "location" as Fort Belle Fontaine which is on the north side of the city approximately 28 miles away (up river). I am nearly convinced the "Jefferson Barracks" bit "in the records" is an error.

    1. True, Iggy, they are not exactly in the same location. And yes, the distance between them is significant. However, it is my understanding that the Jefferson Barracks location replaced that of the now-defunct fort up river.

      Of course, that label of Jefferson Barracks in the various online genealogical collections is in error, not only because of date discrepancy, but also because of location. However, I can how see someone who knows the timeline of the facility might enter a label that can be better-related to in terms of current facility function. I guess what I'm saying is that I don't take it as a pernicious attempt, but one attempting to generalize.

      At any rate, what I need is a source for any records still existing from that Fort that is no longer existing! The search is on...

  2. perhaps something was lost in a typo:)

    1. if this weren't giving me enough grief already...


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