Dueling Oak

Stop 6 of 12 in the City Park tour

Many myths are associated with the "Dueling Oaks." An 1892 Times-Democrat article noted that "Blood has been shed under the old cathedral aisles of nature. Between 1834 and 1844 scarcely a day passed without duels being fought at the Oaks. Why, it would not be strange if the very violets blossomed red of this soaked grass! The lover for his mistress, the gentleman for his honor, the courtier for his King; what loyalty has not cried out in pistol shot and scratch of steel! Sometimes two or three hundred people hurried from the city to witness these human baitings. On the occasion of one duel the spectators could stand no more, drew their swords, and there was a general melee."

One of the frequently referenced duels involved a "European scientist insulting the Mississippi River by calling it ‘but a tiny rill compared to the great rivers of Europe.' A Creole overheard the insult and immediately came to the defense of the river, challenging the scientist to a duel, which the Creole won."

Before the Dueling Oaks became a favorite spot for disrespected Creoles, a frequent dueling site had been St. Anthony's Garden, located behind the St. Louis Cathedral. In 1855, laws against dueling began to be enforced, so most duels moved to the city's outskirts. Some sources claim that the last duel was fought beneath the oaks in 1890, while others contend the last one took place during the first decade of the Twentieth Century.

One of the Dueling Oaks was destroyed by a hurricane in the 1940's. The remaining one is thought to be 300 years old with a height of 70 feet and a girth of 25 feet.