Ulysses S. Grant is known as the victorious Civil War general who saved the Union and became the 18th president of the United States. But he was a second lieutenant when he was assigned to St. Louis in 1843 and was smitten by Julia Dent.
After his graduation from West Point, Grant was sent to Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis and soon visited the family of his former roommate, Frederick Dent, at their plantation on Gravois Creek. His visits became more regular after he met Frederick’s sister, Julia. The two were married in 1848.
The Dent home, known as White Haven, was where the young couple lived for much of the 1850s. Although Grant’s army duty took him away, Julia gave birth to three of their four healthy children at White Haven.
During the Civil War, Julia raised chickens and did other chores at White Haven, and served as the estate’s financial manager, leasing sections and collecting rent. The Grants had slaves that helped with the work at White Haven.
By 1870, President Grant owned nearly 650 acres of the White Haven farm, which was to be his retirement home. He owned the land until a few months before his death in 1885. Julia was left a wealthy widow, and she lived in homes in New York City and Washington, D.C., for the last 17 years of her life.
The two-story main house is the centerpiece of the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site, which is entered through an impressive interpretive museum. Slavery is part of the story told about White Haven at the museum.
For more information visit the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site website.