Pam Sanfllippo, historian at the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site (White Haven) gave an illustrated lecture sponsored by the Historical Society of University City and the University City Public Library, at the library on May 22. Like most soldiers, Grant led a peripatetic life, but White Haven can fairly claim to be his family home.
She recounted that Grant was born in Ohio. He wanted to be a teacher, but relatives secured him an appointment to West Point. His first post was Jefferson Barracks.
When he met Julia Dent, she was 18. White Haven was the Dent farm. The courtship was advanced by romantic rides along the Gravois Creek, but delayed by Grant’s posting to Louisiana and by prolonged negotiations with her doting father, who dreaded the long separations from her that Grant’s Army career was likely to demand. Finally, on Grant’s return from the Mexican War, they married in St. Louis on Aug. 22, 1848.
They eventually had four children, and Grant missed his family terribly when they stayed at White Haven while he was stationed on the West Coast. He resigned from the Army and returned to White Haven to try to make a living as a farmer. He failed at that, and at businesses in St. Louis and Galena. Then the Civil War came, causing tension between Grant and the Dents, who were slaveholders.
Nonetheless, Julia and the children stayed at White Haven while Grant rose to command of the U.S. Army. In 1868, Grant was elected President. After serving two terms, he lived in New York, but he did not forget White Haven. He steadily bought up all the land and owned it until his death in 1885.
White Haven, located in Crestwood, is open daily, and tours are given approximately every half hour from 9:30 am to 4 pm. Info: (314) 842-1867.