John C. Fremont Goes From Famous To Infamous In St. Louis

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KPLR)— Lewis and Clark set off on their exploration of the West from Missouri. A St. Louis man is also noted as one of the most famous explorers of the American West.

He made a name for himself in many ways, as a military officer, as an explorer of the West and even a presidential candidate. But, it was during his time in St. Louis that John C. Fremont went from being famous to being infamous.

"In 1861 he was appointed commander of the Western department which included St. Louis and everything Wes. It was a major military command in a real hot spot during the early years of the Civil War." said Dr. Robert Archibald of the Missouri History Museum.

Fremont lost points with the public when he moved into this mansion on Chouteau avenue at a time of despair for so many. What got Fremont into the most trouble was his decision to impose martial law in Missouri. He threatened to free the slaves of anyone with Confederate sympathies.

"He jumped the gun a little bit because Lincoln was very concerned about holding the border states as loyal to the union. The idea that in a border state Fremont would threaten to emancipate the slaves of anybody he suspected of being disloyal to the union threatened to unhinge Lincoln's program of trying to keep the border states loyal in the union." said Dr. Robert Archibald.

Fremont's decision would turn out to be a career changer. Lincoln suggested to Fremont that maybe he had gone a bit too far and Fremont refused to back down. At that point Lincoln gave him a written order which of course he had to follow and then a short time later removed him from command.

From St. Louis, Fremont went on to become governor of Arizona. Only to end up moving back East to New York where he lost almost everything he had gambling on mining.

It seems only appropriate that the road running through the middle of the oldest part of the Las Vegas strip is named in his honor. Although the locals pronounce it "Free-Mont" street.