Head Water Diversion Channel 

In 1850, the Secretary of War Conrad authorized Charles Ellet Jr., one of the best trained civil Engineers in the county, to investigate flooding along the Mississippi. Conrad also called upon the Corps of Topographical Engineers to do the same.

The Corps of Topographical Engineers was founded by Congress in 1813 and reorganized in 1816 and 1838. They were under the authority of the War Department and in charge of surveying for civil works projects, including navigation improvement.

Illness among the engineers in the field and other support crews hindered the survey to the point it ground to a haul. After work on the survey resumed in 1859, a report of 660 pages and dozens of maps was submitted in 1861. This was the most extensive study of a river done anywhere in the world and remains a classic in American hydraulic engineering. Military engineers were now, as was the national government taking responsibly to improve navigation.

Disastrous floods of the past had made it clear that without scientific knowledge of the Mississippi, engineers could not protect the alluvial lands. With the completion of the Mississippi Delta Survey, the Corps of Topographical Engineers, which in 1863 was merged with the Corps of Engineers, proved that it was one institution capable of gathering and analyzing the information necessary to plan flood controls program on a large-scale needed to protect citizen along America’s waterways

The act which created the Mississippi River Commission, (MRC), in 1879, it was given the task of preparing, surveying, examining, and investigating ways to improve the river channel. Responsibilities also included protecting the banks of the river, improving navigation, preventing destructive floods while promoting and facilitating commerce and the Postal Service.

While the MRC was given large responsibly, the Commission was limited in funds and limited in its flood control efforts. Public opinion, at the time, was so opposed to federal intervention that until 1917 congress dared not reveal that federal funds to protect private property were used during floods. While such appropriations were made between 1879 and 1917, it was publicly announced as applying only to aid navigation.

In 1882, the River and Harbor Act relieved the MRC of the responsibilities of doing the work of improving the River. MRC became the planning agency for work done on the Mississippi River while the actual labor became the responsibility of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers.

At the Corp of Engineers suggestion, the Lower Mississippi was divided into four separate Districts, each under a District Engineer. The first district started at the mouth of the Ohio and extended to Island Number 40. For a while the District Engineer was located at Cairo, this soon proved impractical and his office was moved to Memphis.

Bank protection along the entire length of the River seemed to be out of the question. Yet, caving bands and erosion was central to the river’s problems. A problem the nation would have to eventually face. In1901 the estimated annual caving rate per mile of river was about nine acres while the erosion volume was 972,092 cubic yards per mile. These actions was creating a problem as two-thirds of the erosion was building sand bars that obstructed navigation, changed the channel while good land was lost to farmers.

When the MRC was only three years old nature challenged it with one of the greatest floods in the known history of the Valley. At Memphis, the Mississippi was in flood from January to March in 1882 this being one of the longest periods in the rivers history. Floods along the River are frequent. Almost yearly, some flooding occurs, three out of five years the water becomes a serious concern. The density of settlement was growing within the Valley. The embryonic levee system made each major floor more disastrous.

February 23, the New York Times reported that between Cairo and Memphis only twelve points of land were visible. Deep water extended throughout the St. Francis and White River valleys. Along the River in Arkansas, Mississippi, and Missouri came reports of drowning and disaster. Houses, cabins, livestock and trees were tumbling along in the rivers current. Pemiscot County was entirely under water.

The Rivers and Harbor Act of August 2, 1882 gave the MRC its first money for improvement in the Lower Mississippi. There was a however in the bill, none of the $4,123,000 was to be used constructing levees. Even the horrendous destruction of the 1882 Flood failed to shake the traditional position relating to levees as a private and state responsibility, not governmental.

Despite Congressional reluctance to spend federal funds for flood control levee development moved forward in the 1880’s. In 1886, the House Committee on Levees and Improvements of the Mississippi River recommended a $3,000,000 appropriation to strengthen the Mississippi river levees. The Bill’s language helped pass the legislation as it indicted the levees purpose was to aid navigation.

Major flood came to the Lower Mississippi Valley in 1884, 1887, 1898, 1903, 1907, 1912, 1913, 1916, and 1927; between 1893 and 1942, 33 rising water exceeded the flood stage at Memphis, an average of three major floods every five years. After each flood public pressure from the public called for national levee appropriation, but navigation had first priority. Some people believed there was but one answer to both flood control and navigation, which was straightening the Mississippi channel.

During the 1897 flood, a Senator suggest the construction of seven or eight parallel levees placed at right angles to the Mississippi River and the river bank all the way across to the St. Francis Basin on to Crowley's Ridge. Thus, the flood water would be temporality impounded between the levees and when the flood receded, the water could be released back into the river.

In the late 1890’s the United States Corps of Engineers begin constructing main line levees along the Mississippi River. A levee would stop the river from its annually gift of water to the Little River Valley. This raised hope among the people living in the Lowland repeatedly covered with water. One reason for the yearly overflow of the Mississippi was being brought under control. Himmelberger had proven it was possible to drain the land. Before, this had been a task assumed to large, even for the federal government. Now it was starting to seem possible.

Talk had started in the early 1900’s about how desirable a large scale drainage project was. If it was possible in a small scale, like in New Madrid County by Himmelberger, why not on a larger scale, like the entire Bootheel?

In January of 1905 the Missouri Legislature’s first order of business was to enable the formation of a large, single drainage district with the power to support the project with the power to tax.  On April, 1905, Missouri State Senator from Cape Girardeau R. B. Oliver introduced a bill giving permission to form the Little River Drainage District. April 8, Governor Joseph Wingate Folk signed the bill into law.

The district could not be formed until a state circuit court approved its plans. On September 20, 1905 the Stephen Oliver law firm filed in New Madrid Circuit court the longest petition filed up to that time in a Missouri civil processing. In the 285 page, the filing traced the district boundaries in the proposed district, outlined its plan and sought authority to levy taxes to carry out the drainage improvement and its maintenance and the facilities that were to be built.

Louis Houck v. Little River Drainage District

Opposition developed almost instantly. The railroads had been given large tracks of lands to build into the swamps to service the timber industry. If railroads were not the biggest landowners in the drainage district, they were one of the largest. The timber was quickly disappearing; with it gone, so was their revenue. As of yet, the farming community was small. Thus the railroads saw themselves as financing, almost alone, the work of the Drainage District. Therefore, the Cottonbelt, Frisco and the St. Louis Iron Mountain railroads along with Louis Houch fought the taxing portion of the law that formed the Little River Drainage District.

In 1898, Louis Houck builds a railroad, later to become part of the Frisco system, into Morehouse. Although the construction was shoddy and unsafe, its building rewarded him thousands of acres of swampland. As a supporter of Southeast Missouri Houck built railroads into this swampland, the more settlers, the more people to transport, more lumber to move from the swampland.

As the Little River Drainage District work increased the value of the land Louis Houck owned, at first thought, you would think he would support it. Yet, he fierily opposed the Little River Drainage District, especially its power to tax. Twenty-five cents per acre does not seem much to pay for what you would get in return. But if you owned several thousand acres and already was over extended financially, $1,000 was a lot of money (think in terms of 1909 dollars).

So, on October 27 and 28, 1915, Houck challenges to Little River Drainage District’s right to level taxes; that the state of Missouri did not have to power to grant such an enterprise the right to tax. He also claimed he was deprived of his rights under the Fourteenth Amendment of the Federal Constitution without due process of law.

The U. S. Supreme Court in Louis Houck v. Little River Drainage District agreed with the Missouri Supreme Court in saying that the plaintiffs, Houck, was wrong in all its claims. Missouri’s Constitution bestowed the right to create the Little River Drainage District with taxing powers. In this instance, this tax did not deprive him of Due Process. The power to tax is not to be confused with eminent domain; it is not necessary to show special benefits in order to lay a tax, which is an enforced contribution or the payment of public expenses. The district had a legal right to levy a tax for its operations. While the district covers 540,000 acres, legally it can tax only a total of 435,680 acres.

Supreme Court case Louis Houck v. Little River Drainage District set precedent quoted in at least three other High Court cases in the 1920’s. On March 9 – 10, 1921, Miller & Lux v. Sacramento Drainage District the plaintiff argued much the same as Houch did in 1915, the results were the same.

Ironically, the Arkansas Legislature in 1915 crested the Little River Drainage and Levee District in Southwest Arkansas. The same situation arose when the Kansas City Southern Railway 14,400 acres of property was assessed within the drainage district. In March and April of 1923, Thomas Sheriff v. Kansas City Southern Railway heard similar arguments concerning tax assessments violating the company’s right of due process. Again the Louis Houch v. Little River Drainage District ruling was supported.

Early in 1926, the Norborne Land Drainage District of Carroll County, Missouri was sued by at least five individuals. Involved were at least 24,000 acres within the taxing influence of the drainage district. Justice Holmes delivered the opinion of the Court in Cole v. Norborne Land Drainage District of Carroll County, Missouri quoting Louis Houch v. Little River Drainage District in dismissing the case.

Little River Drainage District Become Reality

On November 30, 1907, the Little River Drainage District was incorporated in the Butler County Circuit Court at Popular Bluff. The case was changed out of the proposed Drainage District in a change of venue. The Drainage District was organized and existed under provision of Article 3, Chapter 22, of the Revised Statutes of Missouri, 1899 and its amendment.

In December of 1907 all the land owners in the Little River Drainage District voted on a board of directors. Each land owner had one vote for every acre they were assessed.

The first Little River Drainage District Board of Supervisors was John Himmelberger, C. W. Henderson Alfred L. Harty, Mr. Reynolds, and A. J. Matthews. Mr. Himmelberger was selected as president of the board and George S. Hansford the secretary-treasury. Hired by the board as the first chief engineer was Otto Kochtitzky; and they selected the Oliver and Oliver, Senator’s Oliver’s’ law firm as legal counsel.

In formulating a “Plan for Drainage” some of the top engineers were consulted. The Chicago firm of Isham Randolph that had been involved in the Panama Canal constructed added his input. Also consulted was the dean of the Engineering School of the University of Iowa, Daniel Meade.

From around Cape Girardeau to the Arkansas state line, there was a 100 feet drop in elevation. As the distance is about 100 miles that is an average drop of one foot per mile which should allow easy drainage. This was the center point in the Little River Drainage District plan to drain the bootheel. Some people questioned if this drop in elevation was realistic in expecting gravity to pull the water off the land. The engineers were confidence it was.

When everyone agreed on the proposed “Plan of Drainage”, it was submitted to Colonel J. A. Ockerson, a member of the Mississippi River Commission; C. E. Elliot, head of the land reclamation division of the United States Department of Agriculture; and the chief engineer of the Army Corps of Engineers. They all saw the plan as workable. Then on November 15, 1909, the plan was approved by the Board of Supervisors.

To many the swamp seemed too big to be drained. Water covered most of the land for 90 miles north to south and from 10 to 20 miles wide. Approximately 96% of this land was unfit for human habitation. The plan was unique; nothing like it on this scale had ever been tried. The residences of the Little River Valley were assured the plan was feasible

Natural topographical boundaries also helped define he plan. To the north were commonly known as the Benton-Commerce Hills and the foothills in the areas of Cape Girardeau and Bollinger counties. On the east was Sikeston Ridge which ran from the hills to the Mississippi River at New Madrid. Crowley's Ridge bordered the valley on the west, with four breaks, from the hills on the north into Arkansas.

A five mile levee was constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers before the planned building of the drainage system. Known as the Old Rock Levee Road it ran between the hills in North Scott County and Cape Girardeau. It was to prevent the river from overflowing, at times, into the area to be drained.

The planners recognized the necessity of dividing the Little River Valley into two areas. Some 700,000 acres of highland drained into the Morehouse Lowland. This was to be worked as a separate part of the plans than that of the Lowland.

   Little River Drainage District Headwater Diversion Channel

Extending from the northwest corner of the district, in Bollinger County eastward along the foothills in Bollinger and Cape Girardeau Counties and into Scott County where it meets the Mississippi River was called the Headwater Diversion Channel. As the name implies, this diversion channel collects the runoff water from the hills to the north and directs it through this channel. Water is collected as far west and north as Fredericktown and drained into the Mississippi. The northern district controls runoff of approximately 1,130 square miles of hill land.

The Headwater Diversion Channel flows west to east diverting the headwaters the Castor and Whitewater rivers and Crooked Creek directly into the Mississippi River south of Cape Girardeau. It was constructed between 1910 and 1916 and diverts their share of the water away from the rest of Little River Valley.

While this diversion channel is only about 45 miles in length, its importance is impossible to overstate. Without it, the success of the lower efforts has been questioned.

On to south side of the headwater diversion channel is a levee which is maintained judiciously. This prevents the diverted water from flowing southward. Such is the object of the channel it protects. Stopping this water makes the lower system work more efficiently.

This levee is bordered on the north by a floodway ranging is width from 900 to 1,100 feet running from Dutchtown, located southwest of Cape Girardeau and runs to the Mississippi River. Within the Headwater Diversion Channel are three detention basins. The west basin covers 9,856 acres nearly 15.5 sections; a middle basin has 9,000 acres; while the eastern most of the basins contains 3,300 acres.

These are to provide storage space when excessive rainfalls trigger sudden rises of the many small steam dotting the hills. Before now, they have entered the Caster and Whitewater rivers and rushed toward the Lowland. Now the west to east headwater diversion channel, protected by a levee set back on the south some 1,000 feet with redirect the water to the Mississippi. The lower parts of the Little River Drainage District will only the water collecting within its boundary.

During periods of high water, these basins store flood water to protect the levee just to the south of the floodway. Should this levee be compromised, the water would flow southward through the entire drainage district and the Bootheel into Arkansas before reaching the Mississippi River.

Construction of the headwater diversion channel and some of the ditches bean in 1914 and completed in 1920. In 1921 work began on Sals Creek channel and levee and at the same time on the Castor River and the western extensions in Bollinger and Stoddard counties. Work in the western extension involved construction of 12 ditches totaling 75.56 miles long with 7.67 miles of levees.

In 1924, completed in 1928, a “Revised Plan for Drainage” was put into effect. This plan enlarged some of the original ditches and levees and constructed new channels and levees.

More retention basins were dug under the revised plan. Upper and  Lower Caney Basins were found to be need in the Scott County Hills between Chaffee and Oran and Jenkins Basin between two hill south of Painton in Stoddard County was added to the system. These basins were built to hold runoff from the surrounding hills until the outlet ditches had fallen enough to handle the water. Caney and Jenkins basins both have concreter culverts designed to retain most of the hill runoff during periods of heavy rainfall.

The single largest contract let by the Little River Drainage District was to Stephens Company. For payment of $1.25 million, they were to clear 4.000 acres of timber, construct approximately 40 miles of levee, and moving 8,500,000 yards of soil. This contract was to be fulfilled in the lower Little River Valley. This was the largest single contract for moving earth up to this time in world history.

Since the early construction the Corps of Engineers have constructed a series of relief wells on the protected side of the mainline levee south of the he headwater diversion channel, the work being completed in 1985. This $2,000,000 project relieves pressure on the levee during high water.

   Semo Port

The Semo Port area near Cape Girardeau is in part of the land-form known as the Mississippi River bottom lands. The Post’s property while part of the river’s flood plain includes diverse land forms including button lands, terraces, and ridge tops. This land is used primarily as farmland and has several industrial sites. Also included are the regional airport and three rock quarries nearby.

Important water supplies near the Port area include the Mississippi River, Headwater Diversion Channel, Ramsey Creek Diversion Channel, Marquette Lakes, and Cape LaCroix Creek. All of these are man-made water courses with the exception of the Mississippi River.

The Head Water Diversion Channel drains parts of seven counties with a total drainage area of some 1,200 squares miles. Flowing from west to east with drainage into the Mississippi near Cape Bend upstream and northwest of the Port the Head Water Diversion Channel diverts water from rivers and streams as they come from the Ozark foothills directly into the Mississippi River. Built between 1910 and 1916 by the Little River Drainage District this is a key element in the drainage of the Bootheel.

Located south of the Head Water Diversion Channel is the Ramsey Creek Diversion Channel Flowing eastward along the foot of the hills southwest of Scott City then along the levee eastward and northward passing the northwest edge of Scott City where it joins the Head Water Diversion Channel between Interstate 55 and Semo Port Railroad Bridge.

The soil excavated from these to diversion channels built the original levees between 1910 and 1916. The scope of the 1927 flood prompted Congress to initiate the Mississippi River and Tributaries Project (MRT) under the over site of the Corps of Engineers. The MRT Project authorized rising and strengthen the mainline levee of the Mississippi River to surpass the projected 500 year flood elevation. Without these levees, Water during major floods along the Mississippi would return to its ancient channel to the southwest causing extensive damage and destruction across the Bootheel and Northeast Arkansas.

The Marquette Cement Company or Cape Girardeau dug the Marquette Lakes. One of the two lakes is north of the Head Water Diversion Channel and the other south. Originally these were clay pits dug to furnish clay two mile north to the cement plant. This part of their operation continued for several decades’ from the early 1900’s through the 1950’s. Marquette Lakes are used today for recreation.

Cape LaCroix Creek empties into the Mississippi in a south Cape Girardeau industrial area next to Cape Girardeau municipal sewage treatment plant. Originally the creek meandered through lowland from Cape Girardeau southward to the Semo Port’s Harbor. The Head Water Diversion Channel runs farther south with its north ditch cutting the old creek bed.

            Lower Little River Valley

South of the long levee is the Little River Valley proper. Here, drainage is controlled by various ditches. Usually these waterways are roughly one mile apart. Most of them are channeled into a large ditch, referred to as a floodway. These floodway canals are 210 feet wide.

The Castor River was directed into such a floodway staring about two miles north of Buffington. Ditch Number1 runs southwesterly from about five miles south of Cape Girardeau, then bending due south just north of Oran to join Little River Drainage District floodway west of Morehouse. Originally the plan specified for 85ditches to be built in the lower section of the Little River Drainage District, including the longest, the 100 mile Ditch Number 1. South of Vanduser where Little River was detoured into a ditch and from that point south for several miles is dry part of the year.

The floodway that started just north of Buffington is 210 feet wide for about 20 miles before being widen to 550 feet. This wider channel runs for about 35 miles and then was widen to 610 feet all the way to the state line. The fill from these floodway was deposited along the ditch banks to form levees.

In the lower Little River Valley, the Little River Drainage District made use of the natural drainage patterns. Over the years ditches were dug, such as the drainage system instituted by Himmelberger with his agreement with New Madrid County years before the Little River Drainage District was formed. All of these piece-meal units became part of the new, more complete system of excessive fluid removal.

Otto Kochtitzky, in 1881, was sent into the Little River Valley to survey the area between New Madrid and Malden for the Arkansas Railroad. After the rail line was sold to the Cotton Belt system, he moved to Cape Girardeau where he married and lived while he had a land trading business.

In 1903, Kochtitzky published “Map of the Lowland of Southeast Missouri.” It covered the seven counties that would eventually make up the Little River Drainage District. Also that year, according to the Caruthersville Democrat, on December 23, the county court of Pemiscot sold 12,000 acres of land lying along the Little River and including Flag Lake. It was sold to a syndicate of capitalist represented by Otto Kochtitzky.

The buyers of this large block of land indented to secure drainage that made that body of wet land fit for farming. The newspaper further stated the land owners in Dunkin County were speculating that the large landowners of the adjacent land in draining their property would increase all the property values without them investing on their part.

There was an increasing cry for a drainage district to control land speculation. Citizen of Dunklin County realized that other counties were rapidly moving ahead o them in population and taxable wealth because the people had seriously taken up the drainage question and at work digging the ditches for drainage.

With the formation of the Little River Drainage District in 1907, because of this history within the district, Kochtitzky was appointed chief engineer. His expertise and experience was used in making the plans that drained the area.

Special equipment had to be invented to ditch the swamps of Southeast Missouri. Bulldozers were too heavy and not build to operate in the water such as covered the land. Drag lines needed a base to stand on and room to freely swing their booms. Largely to the efforts of Kochtitzky, a walking excavator was invented. After a water–course was started, the excavator was located in the ditch and excavated from there to extent the waterway and move downstream as the channel lengthen.

Kochtitzky, even after he retired in 1910, worked to support the drainage system as landowners in the district. He fought various legal battles to make the district a reality. That year, Kochtitzky and Warner with Otto Kochtitzky and John E. Warner as principals, established an independent consulting firm. They acquired dredging contract throughout Southeastern Missouri and Northeast Arkansas. At one time they had seven large dredging machines on projects. During World I, their business suffered when Kochtitzky turned most of his attention to managing his son’s business affairs and it never recovered. After a series of financial setbacks that included machine obsolescence and problems with contracts, the business dissolved.

The lower district or southern part of the Little River drainage system, some 750 square miles, or roughly 480,000 acres and drainage outlets for 960 square miles or about 614,000 acres were drained. To accomplish this, 849.6 miles of ditches with 241.6 miles of levees, and three water detention basins were dug.  It is estimated 31.5 million gallons of water travels through the system annually. Through a system in Arkansas not control by the district the water eventually flows into the Mississippi River at Helena, Arkansas. Some of the water had traveled 231 miles to reach the Mississippi River.

Drainage of the Little River Valley was accomplished from 1914 to 1928. Since 1931 these facilities have been under the oversight of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and maintained by them.

Before the swamp was drained, the only road out of Cape Girardeau heading south was the Bloomfield Road, which followed the ridges of Crowley's Ridge .If Little River Drainage District had never been built, Southeast Missouri as we know it would not exist.

Two things coincided with the start of the construction helped the projects’ success. Lumberman fought the building of a lock and dam in Keokuk Iowa, in 1913, stopping the floating log drives down the Missouri River. Timber companies then started looking south for hardwood forest.

Between 1909 and 1926, $11 million dollars was spent on the project. Cost to the state or the federal governments were nothing. The landowners taxed themselves to pay for the Little River Drainage District. The 2,300 landowners within the district pay an average of $2.50 per acre to maintain the system.

Constructed of the Panama Canal ended the following year, leaving large numbers of experienced men seeking work in the earth-moving business; many of them came to Southeast Missouri. This made it possible to complete the job as quickly as it did. Thousands of workers participated in the incredible difficult and dangerous work of clearing the swamps, by hand, of the trees and stumps.

Missouri turned control of this vast expanse of land to the counties during most of the last half of the 19th century and the counties were unable to find anyone willing to assume the burden of taxed on swamp land considered unless.

Within these dense swamp forests were millions of feet of marketable timber. Some of the oak trees circumferences reached 27 feet and some of the Cyprus trees circumferences reached 10 to 12 feet. In the late 1800’s, lumbermen recognized the value of the abundant timber and bought up most of the land. But after the land was drained and cleaned of its oak, hickory, gun, and cypress, the lumberman found that they and to pay taxes on unproductive land. Then the landowners, mainly railroads and lumbermen, but the number was growing as insurance company and speculators were attracted to the area made an effort to attract farmers started in earnest. This would be a chance to make revenue off selling land once considered useless.

     The Bridge Question in the Diversion Channel Area

During the 1910’s, Cape Girardeau adopted an unofficial motto . . .”You can’t there from here.” The Diversion Channel sarcastically became referred to as “The Big Ditch.”

An economic boom was having an economic boom thanks to the Little River Drainage District. However Cape Girardeau was missing this economic growth because of the lack of bridges. The Big Ditch was an obstacle just as formidable as the Mississippi River. But at least the river had ferries, which the drainage district would not allow because of the damage to the new levees.

Something as big and complex as the project untaken by the Little River Drainage District is impossible to build without opposition, lawsuits, and horrible political war. This project was no exception. Louis Houck saw a bright economic future for the swamp land of Southeast Missouri. His investments of time and money in building railroad throughout the region shows this.

Houck has some reservation about the project to drain the Bootheel, but in general, he agreed with Otto Kochtitzky’s vision of the economic advantage it would bring to the area. However, it did not take him long to see the negative impact its building would have on his economical situation. His family, owning extensive land in the development area which had taxing powers and powers of eminent domain he saw as a threat. In his view, the job was too big and would be a waste of money.

Louis Houck and family waged an impressive battle for year, but mostly unsuccessful, against the Little River Drainage District. He saw a conspiracy of greed between the drainage district, large lumber company like Himmelberger-Harrison and International Harvester, real estate speculators, outside investors along with their allies in county and state government.

The diversion channel, as Houck saw it, would flood Cape Girardeau. He claimed it was totally unfair for the landowners near Cape Girardeau to suffer while the landowners in the southern counties benefited. Houck happened to be a large landowner in the area proposed for the Diversion Channel. His point was valid as people in Allenville and Dutchtown have had recurring flooding problems


Houch challenged the authority and constitutionality of the drainage district with repeated lawsuits. He was, however, unable to beat them in courts of law. After becoming sick of dealing with his litigation, the district gave him over $100,000 to compensation for “alleged damages” to his land. They soon found out their hopes of this shutting his up did not work.

     Houck Opposes Bonds to Build Bridges

Because of an oversight, the law creating the Little River Drainage District had a loophole. One that had became a hotbed issue. The drainage district was not required to pay for bridges over the Diversion Channel. Houck jointed in the public outrage about this loophole with enthusiasm to sire protest because the county would be responsible to pay for such bridges.

In June 1914, work started on the Diversion Channel, shortly afterwards, the “bridge question” came to top. A new reality surfaced in some town that they would soon be cut off from the rest of the county unless bridges were constructed. Bridges no one wanted to pay for. When Cape Girardeau County sued the district in 1915 they were granted a temporary injunction prohibiting the district to cut through any public road unless they built a bridge. This injunction was soon lifted with the case eventually making it all the way to the Missouri Supreme Court.

Clearly uncomfortable with the way the law was structured, the court claimed a studied effort had been made to render the law ambiguous and vague. Houch saw this to prove his theory was true and argued about a conspiracy to favor a select few was duping the public. While unhappy about it the court felt they had no choice but to uphold the law in favor of the drainage district, Claim they only interpret the law not make it, therefore the remedy lies with the legislature.

In 1917, in an effort to fix the bridge problem a bill was introduced in the legislature; it failed to pass. Meanwhile, the Diversion Channel dig had reached Allenville. Here there were several roads, including the Cape Girardeau to Bloomfield Road, which was soon to be cut off. Still the county refused to pay for permanent bridges. Near Craig’s Gap the county located an old iron bridge they could relocate as a stop-gap at Allenville. This hand-me-down temporary bridge was a permanent fixture un6til it collapsed in 1977 under the weight of a tractor.

When the Diversion Channel reached the Mississippi River, several rickety temporary bridges had been constructed. One was built at Blomeyer on which is now Highway 25. Another at Rock Levee Road near today’s I-55. Being unreliable, every big rain washed these crossing out.

In Cape Girardeau a meeting to discuss a $200.000 bond being passed to pay for permanent bridges. Ex-Mayor Will Hirsch spoke at the meeting calling the present bridge situation ridiculous. Cape Girardeau was losing business to Cairo and other cities to the south were acquiring a lot of the trade that was coming to town before the drainage channels were cut through the lands south of the city.

           Newspaper War

The bond issue was vigorously opposed by Louis Houch. He though another effort should be made to get help for the legislature, as suggested by the Supreme Court, in making the Little River Drainage District pay for the bridges. An unsigned response was made in the Weekly Tribune newspaper attacking Houch, but his name was not mentioned. They ask if one man could undo what the whole legislature did, why has he not come forward and done it? They furthered suggest anyone opposing the bond issue was trying to kill Cape Girardeau.

After the bond issue failed by a large margin, Houck went on the offensive to use the ballot box to his advantage. His new plan was to run his son Giboney for the state legislature. He was a one issue candidate that of fixing the bridge question once and for all. He claimed those who benefit the most from the drainage work should bear the burden. Where bridges built over the Diversion Channel crossing public roads should be paid for by the Little River Corporation.

Louis Houck posted an ad in the Southeast Missourian, just before the election, attacking the drainage district. The bridge law in his view was an outrageous burden that should not have been placed on the people unjustly.

Giboney won the election by only 16 votes beating the incumbent Fritz Siemers. He was the only Democrat in Cape Girardeau County to win a seat in this voting.

The bridge on Rock Levee Road, the main road south of Cape Girardeau was out again before Christmas. During the winter of 1918-19 the road was out more often than it was open. Dennis Scivally, county engineer, wanted to build a steel bridge. At this time, it was not possible then because the drainage district was reconstructing the main Diversion Channel levee, moving it backward some 100 feet.

Losing the road south into Scott County was a huge setback for Cape Girardeau, especially the business community. Little River Drainage District became the target of displeasure and the focus point of their scorn. The newspaper Southeast Missourian joined the fray with a series of editorials having ingredients of intent focus on the evils of the Diversion Channel.

The newspaper claimed only the landowners supported the Little River Drainage District. The other citizens favored doing whatever of necessary to remove the burden of the drainage district. The cost of building bridges would drain the life out of Cape Girardeau for generations to come. A ringing endorsement was given Giboney Houck’s mission to pass a bill in the state legislature requiring the Little River Drainage District to pay for bridges across its own channels.

Weeks following, the St. Louis Times ran an editorial repeating the idea that Houck simply was carrying a grudge against the drainage district. Of course, this was challenged and done so in a front page counterattack in the Southeast Missourian. One of the largest shareholders in the St. Louis Times was Mr. Buder who also was a big landowner in the Bootheel.

Jack Blanton of Paris Missouri, respected as one of the great country editors of Missouri, took sides against “rich landowners” buying worthless land and reaping large profits by having outside land taxed to pay for bridges; his copy was reprinted in the Cape newspaper.

In the next issue of the Missourian was an angry story about the Bridge Bill being gone missing during a committee hearing. Rumors that it was stolen by the bills opponent excited the editors of the bill’s supports. However, the bill had been overlooked in a stack of papers

On April 7, a copy of the bulletin was printed in the Missourian. Next day the newspaper printed a rebuttal shifting the idea they the drainage lawyers; were the one using propaganda to mislead to deceive as to confuse the issue. Even suggested in a sarcastic statement; the “honorable gentlemen” working for the district would not write a bulletin which contained such gross inaccuracies.

Another diatribe followed in the next publication. Here they accused the drainage district of deception. According to the Missourian, the original bond issue had included money for bridges, however, the district decided to use that money for other things. In reality, the district had quiet paid for some bridges. Thus, the landowners were paying for bridges the district had no intentions of building. This, according to the editorial, was a matter of court records.

This editorial also claimed railroads were paid in cash by the district to build permanent bridges across the Diversion Channel. It is possible the drainage district believe it would be easier to pay off the railroads that risk a lawsuit against the Missouri Pacific, or Frisco empires. The Houcks and Cape Girardeau County, compared to the railroad were small bumps.

         Missouri Legislature

In the state legislature, Giboney Houck teamed up with D. A. J. Speer of Bollinger County. Bollinger County was facing the same problem with their roads being cut off at the southern end by the Big Ditch. Together, they endorsed legislation.

Back in Cape Girardeau, a rumor was making the rounds that the bridge question was simply a dispute between Houck and unnamed persons. Therefore, the state should stay out of the feud. On January 29, 1919, this rumor triggers an angry response for the Southeast Missourian calling it a lie without foundation; just an unscrupulous ploy trying to undermine the will of the people.

Giboney Houck reporter to the Missourian he was optimistic with the progress of the bill as it went from committee to the full house. In this, he proved to be naive. The Little River Drainage District with its allies was fighting with an all-out lobbying effort. In the District April issue of their quarterly bulletin, the bill was attacked along with the Southeast Missourian and the Houcks. An unknown writer accused the newspaper of carrying persistent and insistent propaganda\a of misstatements, misrepresentations and innuendo.

Giboney was right in believing his bill would pass the house it did, only to die in the senate. Co-sponsor Speer claimed he found out the power of money in the legislative system, along with the weakness of human nature and the lover of money. The Bridge Bill attracted more lobbyist than any other bill that session.

        The End of the Great Diversion Channel Bridge War

The Houck’s did not give up fighting the drainage district about financing bridges. However, it was to no avail. The Great Diversion Channel Bridge War was over.

Not depending on a favorable outcome of the legislative battle in the 1919 secession, Cape Girardeau County officials rejected a consideration of a proposal to build a low-cost suspension bridge at the Rock Levee Road crossing. Instead, a St. Louis company was hired to build a temporary bridge, costing $4.000 expected to last only eight to ten years.

In later years this bridge proved to be a bottle-neck to traffic. This location included not only the Diversion Channel Bridge, but the Rock Levee Road also had to cross a lateral ditch along with Ramsey Creek. The bridge across the lateral ditch deteriorated to where it had a 2-ton load limit and was frequently closed for repairs. During 1922, the bridge was blocked by two hours because of a 200 car road blockage. This roadblock was only one of many traffic stoppages at the Rock Levee Road Bridge.

The bridge building problem was solved late in the 1921 when the Missouri Legislature passed a day on gasoline. As money pilled in, Missouri went on an ambitious road building program. In 1925, the state highway department built a $150,000 bridge across the ditches on Route 9, later becoming U.S. Highway 61, south of Cape Girardeau.


On October 1, 1913, $4.75 million in bonds were issued at five and one-half percent interest to finance the district’s work. This first offering was the largest amount the drainage district issued. As the district had few offers for this issue, Mr. Himmelberger and Mr. Harty were appointed to negotiate the sale. This sell financed to construction of the Headwater and Ramsey Creed Diversion Channels and their 85 ditches.

World War I slowed the selling of an additional bonds issued on December 1, 1819. This million dollar bond issue carried an interest rate of five and one-half percent. Additional funding was required to finish the Headwater work.

On the first of October, 1920, it was necessary to issue another bond offering. To make possible the Sals Creek and Castor River improvement, an additional $600,000 was needed. This issue carried six percent interest.

Seven months later, April 1, 1921, a $750,000 bond issue, again at six, percent interest was necessary. This issue was to support the western extension.

In the middle of 1924, a revised plan was proposed. The Little River Drainage District plans were always changing and covering problems not foreseen in the original planning. The “Revised Plan for Drainage” was completed in 1928. In the Upper District, some of the original ditches and levees were enlarged. New channels and levees were constructed. An additional three retention basins were built. In October of 1924, $4 million at an interest rate of four percent were issued to finance the revised plan.

During the Depression of the 21930’s, trouble struck. The Little River Drainage District defaulted on a $8,018,000 payment. To the districts critics, this was a self fulfilled prophesy. They had said from the start the project was too large, too expensive and would be a large burden on the landowners. They knew the landowners would never recover the benefits estimation. Had it not been for the depression, the payment would not have been a problem.

Few district landowners were able to pay their drainage taxes after the depression hit. Faced with this dilemma, those of little revenue and a need for a lot of maintenance work, the Little River Drainage District desperate needed money. Thus, the district reduced the amount f unpaid back taxes, sometime as much as 20 percent, and canceled all penalties on back taxes in hopes the farmers would be able to pay the reduced sums.

However, these efforts did not help. Few legitimate farmers were able to hold on to even a part of their lands with titles to much of it went to county courts or was returned to the drainage district and to be absorbed by large insurance companies with enough backing to ride out hard times. The land reverted to per-drainage values of a few dollars per acre.

With a lot of help from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a bondholder’s protective committee and the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, Little River Drainage District was refinanced on October1, 1937 by the corporation for $2,405,000 with interest rates between one and one-half and two and one-half percent.

In 1938, the Little River Drainage District officers met at Morehouse and burn all the old bonds.

By 1964, the district was able to retire all its bond indebtedness after the Reconstruction Finance Corporation discounted some of the bonds. Since this time, with a few exceptions, the district has operated within its budget each year.

Between 1907 and 1928, the Little River Drainage District spent $11.1 million reclaiming Southeast Missouri for the flood waters; contemporary cost in 2011 is $276,000,000.

With the expiration of its 50 year charter in December 1957, the Butler County Circuit Court extended it into perpetuity.

In efforts to equalize the drainage and overflow protection in all parts of the district, supplement to the original plan were approved of the years by the Board of Supervisors and the Butler County Circuit Court. Modifications were approved on May 12, 1947; February 15, 1952; October 11, 1954; and November 9, 1965. Approval was given for enlarging ditches, strengthening levees and protecting them from bank erosion.

Corps of Engineers Activities

Until 1931, after the overwhelming flooding of the Mississippi River in 1927, the Corps of Engineer did not work within the Little River Drainage District. As a result of the flood, the Mississippi River Tributaries Law authorized the Corps to maintain the Headwater Diversion Channel mainline levee. Because of the importance of maintaining that levee, the Corp was assigned to care for it. This levee protected a large area to the south which was an important part of the Corps system that drain a third of the interior of the United States.

Since that legislation and until 1989, the Corps of Engineers has spent more than $12 million within the District, enlarging and strengthening the levees and installing rip-rap and sod protecting the banks from erosion.

West basin control works, known locally as the Block Hole, was constructed to stop erosion of the diversion channel in the west basin which had washed out. This was an important structure in the overall flood control plan. Realizing its importance, the Corps repaired the damage. Ever since, it has operated successfully.
Floods and the Little River Drainage District

Headwater Diversion Channel

Louis Huck v. Little River Drainage District

Little River Drainage District Become Legal

Little River Drainage District Headwater Diversion Channel

Semo Port

Lower Little River Valley

The Bridge Question in the Diversion Channel Area

Houck opposes Bonds to Build Bridges

Newspaper War

Missouri Legislature

The End of the Great Diversion Channel Bridge War


Corps of Engineers Activities

Railroads and Lumbermen Bring Development

While Bootheel resident struggled with drainage problems loggers cleared million of timberland acres in other parts of the United States. With the westward movement, industrialization, and urbanization, the demand for lumber was unprecedented. Steam powered circular and gang saws after the mid 1850’s, increased lumber output from less than 3,000 to more than 40,000 board feet per day. American loggers cut less than two billion board feet of wood in 1839, more than eight billion in 1859, and twenty billion in 1880, with a peak in 1904 of forty-six billion board feet.

After the lumber company clean cut the timber in the Midwest and Upper Mississippi River Valley, they looked around for opportunities. They were quick to move their operations southward into Southeast Missouri and Northeast Arkansas.


Hayward is a small village south east of Portageville just across the county line in Pemiscot County. When established, this settlement was Needmore, a name typical of pioneer Humor. A rural Baptist Church was established there in 1880 called Macedonia Church. The first post office was called Fisher after, a local landowner. The name was changed in 1888 to Hayward for a man who took replaced Fisher’s place in the community in prominence. The population in 2000 was 123 and had earned the classification of a town. Elevation was 282 feet above sea level. The racial makeup was 100 per cent white.


Senate, a Dunklin County city, incorporated 1882, elevation 256 feet, size, 1.9 square miles, is located in the southwestern part of the county some ten miles south of Kennett. Historically, the area is in an earthquake area that is 74% greater than the national average. Tornado activity, historically, is 212% greater than the overall national average.

The first settler in the area A. W. Dougham settled there in 1879. At first the community, dependent entirely on the surrounding farming society surrounding it, grew slowly J. M. Baird opened the first general mercantile store follow by cotton gins.

In 1887, the General Assembly passed a law giving the counties the right to vote whether intoxication liquors could be sold within their jurisdiction. This law was passed at the insistence of the temperance movement. Some years later, another law gave the people the right to choose, local option, in community of over 2,500 to vote the selling of liquor or banish it from their town. These elections were separated from the vote of the county. By 1910, there were no saloons in Dunklin, Stoddard, and New Madrid counties.

In 1897 Louis Houch extended his St. Louis, Kennett and Southern Railroad from Kennett to Senate and the community experienced quick growth.


When the railroad bypassed Lakeville, the townspeople wanted to take advantage of being on the railroad. However, the townspeople could not decide on a location. One group located on Toga north of Lakeville.  The other faction moved west and called their settlement, Advance, to show they were progressive and “advancing.”

When the post office closed in 1889, Lakeville died. Toga never grew. By 1911, was a thriving railroad town of 621 citizens with lumber and cotton the major industries. With an elevation of 361 feet above sea level, Advance is located on Crowley's Ridge and serviced by the Hoxie Branch of the Frisco.


Bayouville is a small town in New Madrid County not far from the Mississippi River. Bayouville was named by Mr. Fletcher of New Madrid, who sent mail by steamboat to his village in 1882. The name suggests that a Number of bayous were in the area. From 1901 and 1933, a post office was located there.

   White Oak

White Oak, a Dunklin County village situated nine miles north of Kennett was on the St. Louis & Gulf Railroad was settled on the opening of this road in 1902.  At the turn of the 20th Century, the village had three general stores and sawmill.


Painton is an unincorporated village in northern Stoddard County some 20 miles north of Dexter. Build on Crowley's Ridge, with an elevation of 315 feet, she can be found on the Bell City U.S. Geographic Map.


Hayti is a town in the center of Hayti Township in Pemiscot County on the junction of the Frisco and Kennett to Caruthersville Railroad. Established in 1894 with the building of the railroads however, a settlement was made thee earlier. In 1875, a school district was established. A post office was applied for in 1896 under the name Gayoso City. It was rejected because of its similarity to Gayoso,. So the name was coined from the name of Dr. G. Hayes, local land owner, and the syllable “ti.” Louis Houck, who helped lay to the town on the high ridge which ties it to Caruthersville.


Founded in 1894, Rives is a small village in Dunklin County. Its name derived from Colonel H. W. Rives, a railroad superintendent. The town has a total area o 0.4 square miles; the elevation is 246 feet above sea level.


Holcomb is a city in Dunklin County. Laid out in 1870’s it was incorporated until 1891. The total area of the community is 0.6 square miles. Clarkton is the nearest city, 2.1 miles away Campbell and Gideon is both 3.6 miles distance. Elevation is 297 feet above sea level. With a population of 279 at the turn of the 20th Century, it supported several general stores a bank and school.


Cardwell is a city in Dunklin County. Located in the southwestern corner of the county, located on Buffalo Island elevation 246 feet, just west of the St. Francis River and the Arkansas state line this was an area greatly enhanced by the Little River Drainage District.

With the development of the Paragould-Southeastern and Paragould and Memphis railroads the community experienced rapid growth. First settled and laid out by the Bertig Brothers of Paragould, Arkansas in 1895 and named for Frank Cardwell, cashier of the Bank of Paragould who helped finance the railroad. Incorporation came in 1904.The timber industry had several mills in the region with Cardwell & Buffalo Stave Company operating the most important factory.


Conran is a small incorporated town, since 1908, in New Madrid County. It dates back to 1896. However, scattered settlers lived in the area before that. That year Bob West erected a tent, this became the first store. This, like most of the communities developing at this time, owed its beginnings to the timber surrounding the settlement. In 1898, the St. Louis and Memphis Railroad was building from Paw Paw Junction, (Lilbourn) to Hayti.

Like the rest of the Little River Valley, in the swamps, great cypress trees grew. On higher ridges oak, sweet gum, black gum, elm, sycamore, and hackberry tree grew in abundance. In 1905, Ollie Gunin build a stave mill that was later sold to John Byrd who also operated sawmill in the area. By 1930, large stacks of pilings were stacked beside the railroad track waiting for shipment.


Catron was a school and community in New Madrid County just west of Little River. A post office was established here in either 1904 or 1905 to be discontinued for awhile before it was reestablished in 1919. At first, this settlement was called May’s Switch after an employee of the Southwest Land and Lumber Company who established a mill and arranged for a loading switch on the Cottonbelt Railroad Known in 1879 as Little River Station but was changed when the post office was name after an early settler, W. C. Catron.

Easter Sunday 1924, a cow caused a freight train to wreck by walking out in front of it. One of the cars derailed was loaded with matches. The resulting pileup ignited the matches. Fire quickly spread to several car loads of corn and meat, destroying the depot.


Deering is an unincorporated community eight miles west of Caruthersville in Pemiscot County. In the early 1900’s, the Wisconsin Lumber Company established a saw mill in the area. The lumber company built a dummy line into the woods to Rives. They called it the Deering South West was pulled by animals. The community got a railroad connection to the outside world in 1912with a connection to the Frisco system.

The International Harvester companies realizing it was only a question of time before their supply of lumber needed for production for making coke for steel production would become a problem. To solve this situation, the company looked to the timberland in the St. Francis Valley were the acquired 60,000 acres along with a leased 20,000 acres in Northeast Arkansas. This land was heavily timbered. The principal mill they set up at Deering worked a daily average of 44,000 feet of lumber per day employing 125 men. There Truman, Arkansas, operation with 85 workers, had a daily average output of 35,000 feet per day. This became the second largest, behind Morehouse, lumber operation of its kind.

With the lumber cleared from the land, the company moved and the town dwindled leaving the 60,000 acre Deering Plantation was a subsidiary of International Harvester. Just to the east was another small community, Pondertown which is no longer listed on maps.

Other independent sawmills were operation in the area. Most were known only by a number. The men working these mills often lived in tents. Small settlement grew up around some of the mills and no longer found on maps; Yama was one, others were Mid-City half way between Kennett and Hayti, Seldom Seen, Skinners Place, Bloody Bucket and Mangolds Grove. The early communities were close to each other. In October of1898 the Pemiscot Southern Railroad acquired roadbed right to this area.


Blazer was a logging switch on the Deering Southwestern Railroad. It was maned for J. M. Blazer, manager of the lumber company operating in and around Deering.

Skinners Place

Skinners Place was a large building housing a grocery store and night club separated by a double fireplace petition. By 1930, it had a reputation as one of the roughest places in the county. Several killing took place there, one being a Mr. Teroy. Sophia Skinner was also killed\d there, being murdered by her husband. However, the reputation of this place unequaled that of the Bloody Bucket just east of it.


Gobler is an unincorporated community on the border5between Dunklin and Pemiscot. It is located miles west of Caruthersville. Settled first by James Carruthers and his wife Carrie, he was the leader of the black coming to the area and buying land. Most of these settlers were from Arkansas and Mississippi. The Wisconsin Lumber Company was selling their land for between $0.25 and $1.00 per acre. These new arrivals were buying plots varying from 20 to 80 acres. They arrived in the area in covered wagons over the only dirt road.

“Aunt Paul,” Pauline Rice was a former slave that resided in Gobler. She thought she was born the year Andrew Jackson was elected president. During her life, she was sold four times. As a field hand hoeing, plowing, splitting rails and digging don the land of the five masters she served. During the Civil War, she recalled slipping through the lines several times to carry food her ageing grandmother cooked for Union soldiers. She died at age of 111 on December 14, 1939.

The name was derived from the largest turkeys roost in the area was located near the community. It is located six miles south of Highway 84 some one-half mile from its present location. In 1940, Goober became a fourth class city


Risco was founded about 1900 as a base of operation when Louis Houch was building railroads through southeast New Madrid County. Soon after the railroad was complete, the St. Louis San Francisco Railroad bought it.

Since this was a train stop, it was necessary for the camp to have a name. The story goes that an old Frisco boxcar set on a sidetrack and used as a depot and waiting room. The “F” was faded from the name, so when the train crew came to name the village, they took the remaining letters “RISCO” as the name.

A post office and boarding house for the logging and train crews were the first building constructed in 1902. In 1911 A. W. Wilkey built a handle mill here that operated until the timber was removed.

Incorporating came in 1934 to Risco. It is situated in the lowest elevation, 272 feet above sea level, of the New Madrid County towns. In 1934, the town elected an all women town board. They were in office only for one year during which time they succeeded in having sidewalks built.

Himmelberger-Harrison begins logging operation here about the same time as the tracks were laid. Using Risco as a terminal for their train lines, they hauled logs from their various tracks of timber. Here they switched the trains to the Frisco and hauled the logs to the mill at Morehouse.

A set of four 2-2 steam locomotives (two sets of small wheels in front and powered by two sets of larger wheels behind them) were used by Himmelberger and Harrison. At Risco, one serviced the log loaders and did the switching, and another transported logs to the mills at Morehouse. A. similar locomotive was used in Morehouse yard for switching; the fourth one was held in reserve. Risco supplied Himmelberger and Harrison logs for several years. Risco may have developed later, however, with Himmelberger-Harrison’s timber operations in the area; its development was more rapid.

Where possible and when the ground was dry and hard, almost all of the logs were transported to the train by horses. During the wet season, oxen were used. Oxen had larger hoofs and were more stable in the mud and water.

Logging was a seasonal occupation being done largely between July and December. As many as 250 teams were used at the same time during the busier September and October.

The short line (tram) road was 25 miles long. Two log loaders loaded 100 flat cars for the Morehouse mills. To feed all the mills when they were running required 20 acres of timber per day.

   Tram Switch

Tram Switch was a log loading station on the Frisco just north of Canalou. On the maps, it was Deshler, named after the man overseeing this operation for Himmelberger and Harrison, who built this short line track. Within the company, it was Tram Switch. The tram, or tramway, is a short roadway or railway used for transporting logs or lumber from the camps to the railroad.

Trams also ran into Stoddard County. Indian Spur was laid out in 1907. Himmelberger and Harrison ask Frisco to name seven mile spur. As the Himmelberger family came from Indiana, they chose the name Indian Spur.


Bernie is a city in Stoddard County setting on the Kennett-Malden Prairie at an elevation of 302 feet. Set within 1.25 square miles, the city was incorporated in 1889. To the east is the Little River Valley. To the west, less than five miles, is Crowley's Ridge, which narrows down to a mere ruminant.

By 1900, Bernie had a population of 333. When the 1910 census was taken, the population had more than doubled going to 742. In the next ten years, it more than doubled again with a count of 1,571.

The 1914 Sanborn Insurance Map of Bernie said everyone got water from private wells; the streets were not paved, nor were there an organized fire department.  The town was serviced by the Cotton Belt Railway with a depot. Like most of the communities in the Bootheel at this time they were supported by at least one sawmill. The map did not list one. However, there was a lumber yard and a lumber storage warehouse along with a small concrete block factor.

Industries were Bernie Mill and Gin; the mill did not show a lumber yard. There was an unnamed grist mill and a wagon shop with a corn shelter and grinder. Also recorded was a dilapidated cotton gin along with five warehouses.

As the residential area shown was small, Bernie either had a large trade area or the map listed only the business area, not living space for around a 1,000 people. Four wooden churches were recorded along with a frame city hall and small jail. The W. W. A. Lodge building was also wooden frame.

The business district included a livery stable, several grocery and meat markets, a hotel, drug store, post office, ice house, four general merchandise stores, one bank a coal yard, building simple marked auto, a printing shop, a bakery, two barbers, a livery stable, and a clothing store.

Chute Sixteen

A small community, hosting a rural school before consolidation, located on Chute Eighteen of the Mississippi in southern Pemiscot County. Beginning at Number one at Cairo, Illinois, the chutes, island, bends, and other river formation were numbered consecutively down river. A community existed on chute eighteen in 1898. A village and school were also located on Chute Eighteen.

Lint Dale

Lint Dale was an old shipping point on the Mississippi at the mouth of Pemiscot Bayou. Founded in 1873 by Turner Chamberlain and George Coleman and was abandoned when the river current change making Tyler a better boat landing. The first cotton gin in Pemiscot County was here trust giving the settlement its name, one suggested by the cotton lint and the dale of open space in the woods along the bank of the river.


Tyler was a small community on the Mississippi in southern Pemiscot County. One time this was a flourishing sawmill village and shipping point until the timber was cut-over and with the formation of an island forming opposite the town changing the channel. In 1892, a post office was established there. The won was maned for H. H. Tyler of the Tyler Land and Timber Company owned vast tracts of land in the region and operated sawmills at Tyler at Number 8 and Number 9 in Northeast Arkansas. The settlement was already here but without a name when Tyler arrived in 1898.

Number 8 Cemetery and School.

An old rural cemetery in the community of Number 8 was stared about 1892. First known as Mitchell Cemetery, named for the Mitchell families along with their relatives, the Cassidy’s composed almost of the entire settlement. With the establishment of a saw mill, by the Tyler Land and Timber Company from Tyler, in 1898, the cemetery and community became known as Number 8. A school was soon added to this village. This was part of a series of mils (Numbers 8, 9, and 10). Number 8 was thus maned because Tyler moved the mill from Number 8 Island, Kentucky.

All signs have long disappeared of the Tyler sawmill, yet the name still applies to the area by locals. An old ridge, or small mound, two miles south of Cooter, about one-quarter mile long is known as Dogwood Ridge. Originally this was the site of boarding houses for Number Eight sawmill and maned for the dogwood trees in the area. Efforts were once made to call the community Cassidy, even though members of the Cassidy family were prominent, because the family was unpopular in the area, the name did not survive.

Wheeler-Tyler Railroad

The wheeler-Tyler Railroad was an old logging rod built by Wheeler and Tyler connecting their various logging camps located in the southeastern part of Pemiscot County and in northeast Arkansas. It was abandoned when the mills stopped operations with the rails being removed about 1915.


Pascola was a small community slightly east of the center of Pemiscot County. Established in 1894 when the Kennett to Caruthersville Railroad and named by Mr. Houch, who coined it without any explanation. Louis Houch helped lay out the town. Receiving a post office in 1896, the village was incorporated in 1901.


The small settlement of Dolphin, located in the western part of Pemiscot County, was started sometime between 1895 and 1900 as a logging camp. It was established by the Dolphin Land and Lumber Company of St. Louis on the Wheeler-Tyler Railroad. Around 1907 or 1908, a post office was active for a short time. The settlement assumed to name of the lumber company. Reports say Mr. Lubben, a company stockholder, owned a steamboat called the Dolphin, thus the company name.


In the eastern part of Pemiscot County, Schult was built on the Kennett to Caruthersville Railroad. The first name was given to the Carleton post office, established in 1896, in honor Major George W. Carleton, an early resident of Gayoso and Caruthersville, editor of the Gayoso Democrat, , and who secured the enactment of a low providing for drainage districts to be organized.

The post office was discontinued in 1903. Sometime later, the community was changed to Schult for Heine G. Schult, a prominent citizen in the community.


Vicksburg was a community going by the originally name of Dogskin by the residents of Braggadoccio who knew an old hunter who frequented the area, who dogs were said to be “skin and bones.” Dr. J. P. Vickery taught school there in 1914 and was respected enough that when a name was sought for a post office, which was established in 1915, it was maned in his honor using the form of the well known Mississippi town. The post office was maintained only a couple of ears.


Steele is a Pemiscot County city. When incorporated in 1901, her population was 333; by 2000 the population was grown to 2,263 with an area of 1.88 square miles enclosing 971 housing units. The elevation is low, 262 feet above sea level, which help explain why Little River Drainage District Ditch Number Six splits the community.

In 1920, the St. Louis St. Francisco Rail Road was northwest of the drainage ditch with a large passenger station and separate freight depot. Two cottonseed mills supported the town; Phoenix Cotton Oil Mill and Gin and East St. Louis Cotton Oil Mill along with two other cotton gins, Steels Cotton Gin and W. F. Copeland Valley Gin.  Along the tracks was a corn crib and elevator.

Along with several food and general merchandise stores, there were four barber shops, two drug stores, two banks, three auto and repairs shops, and three churches.  Also, there was a post office, a tailor, bakery, freed store, telephone exchange, a hotel, and a feed store, shop to repair wagons, movie house, furniture store, lumber shed, a light plant lodge hall, and pipe fitter.

Peach Orchard

Peach Orchard is a populated place in Dunklin County. With an elevation of 266 feet, she is set in the Bootheel Lowland She is located on the Bragg City U.S. Geographic Map about 20 miles northwest of Caruthersville. After a fire destroyed the post office in 1973, the mail now comes from Gideon.


Caruth is an unincorporated village in Dunklin County was settled in 1881 by William Satterfield in the heart of Grand Prairie and named for Caruth of the firm of Caruth and Byrns hardware Company of St. Louis.

At the turn of the 20th Century, two stores, two churches, and a mill were located there. About 100 residents lived there.  It is located north of Cotton Plant at the end of County Road Y just east of Pole Cat Island and Buffalo Creek Ditch. On the eastern side are the main Little River Drainage District Floodways.


Wardell in Pemiscot County was incorporated into a city in 1912. An early settlement known as Bracy, maned for J. W. Bracy, a large local landowner was located here before the village became Wardell. A post office was established in 1895. After the post office was abandoned, the settlement became known as Oak Grove for obvious reason. In 1902, a sawmill was established here. In 1903 a post office was applied for by R. L Warren using the name Wardell, using the first three letters of his name and adding the syllable “dell,” signifying an opening in the forest.

In 1919, the railroad depot was a boxcar with approximately 45 families lived in the area. There were five stores, a barber shop a hotel and post office and a two-room school. Surrounded by woods, timber was the main source of income for most families. These timber lands were owned or controlled by Himmelberger-Harrison Land Company with Gideon and Anderson leasing the timber rights for sawmills at Gideon A dummy rail line ran deep into the forest and flatcars carried out logs.

The 2000 population was 278. In 1950, The Wardell schools had 1500 students enrolled. An elevation of 276 feet above sea level, and Little River running a little ways west of the 0.2 square mile community, there is a history of flooding.


Located in the southwestern part of New Madrid County is the city of Tallapoosa. This city covers 0.435 square miles. Elevation is set at 272 feet.

Tallapoosa was founded around 1901 at the junction of the St. Louis, Morehouse and Southern Railroad and the Clarkton Branch of the St. Louis, Kennett and Southern Railroad. Both rail lines were constructed by Louis Houck a Cape Girardeau lawyer, historian, and speculator. Houck was corresponding with a Mr. Sturtevant who lived in Tallapoosa, Georgia, when the line was under construction. The first building in the town was the section house used to house repair equipment


The first settler in Canalou was D. S. Kreps in 1902.This was the same year that Louis Houck constructed a railroad, later part of the Frisco system, through Scott, New Madrid, Dunklin, and Pemiscot counties. Morehouse was Canalou’s nearest post office. Loggers had to also go there for food and other supplies.

The town started as workers settled around Georg McBride’s handle and saw mill. In 1906, the Brown Stave Mil, a branch mill of the Ozark Cooperage Company, opened using the abundant of Ash and elm found abundantly in the area.

Canalou is located in the northwest corner of New Madrid County just north of where the Castor River once jointed Little River. Except for Main, First, and MacArthur, the rest of the streets are named for U.S. president; Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Van Buren, Harrison, Roosevelt, Taft, and Kennedy

On July 25, 1903 D, S. Kreps opened a general merchandise store and post office. Next spring, his store had 30 inches of water in it. Also that year, Houck built a switch here calling it Canalou, in Spanish it means “Where is the channel?” The community was survey and laid out that year. Surveyor Joel Dunn plotted only 52 lots all on land owned by Himmelberger-Harrison Several Mills operated in Canalou over the years. On March 2, 1920, the town became a fourth class city.


Douglas was a small community, founded around 1895, in the south central part of Pemiscot County called Oak Ridge. When a post office was applied for in 1905, the name Oak Ridge was preempted by a town in Cape Girardeau County. The name Cooper from Dr. T. S. Cooper, a large landowner, was suggested because of Cooper in Gentry County. Finally the name Douglas, another prominent local family, was adopted. When the post office was discontinued in 1921 the mail was routed from Holland.


Holland is an incorporated village in Pemiscot County. Once a much larger community, 530 people in 1920. It was incorporated in 1903; the 1910 censes recorded 135 residents. Elevation 256 feet; 2000 population of the 0.02 square mile village was 246.

In 1871, J. C. Winters and J. W. Holland settled on the site. It was 20 years before the place was more than simply a small group of farms. This changed when the Frisco Railroad between St. Louis and Memphis enters the town. The railroad came to the area in 1901 with the first incorporation being in May 1903.

By 1910 there were five general stores, , blacksmith shops, restaurants  along with other small establishment, in addition to two cotton gins and a sawmill. The Citizens Co-operative Telephone Company of Holland was the pride of the community of 400.

In 1884, Frank and Pauline Noisworthy settled on the land they just purchased in New Madrid County near the Pole Road. Latter, this would be the site of Gideon. F. E. Gideon from Ohio and W. P. Anderson both were timber men in their homes states seeking a new area to set up saw mills.

   Bird’s Point

Bird’s Point is an unincorporated community in Mississippi County. It lies on an island or former island in the Mississippi River near the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi River and situation directly across from Cairo, Illinois. This is the point where U.S. Highway 60 Bridge connects with Wickliffe, Kentucky.

In the 1880’s, the area was an important railroad and river terminus for cotton distributions. Ferries here facilitated movement of cargo and passengers from the island to Illinois. In 1882, the narrow gauge Texas and St. Louis Railway built into Bird’s Point. When this part of the road was completed, it stretched from Bird’s Point to Gatesville, Texas. An incline was used to load railcars onto barges to cross-Mississippi trip from Bird's Point to Cairo. After the Texas and St. Louis went bankrupt, the St. Louis, Arkansas, and Texas Railway took over the business.

The St. Louis, Arkansas, and Texas standard gauged the rail line so the rail shippers would not have to break bulk in unloading and reloading to a different gauge road. After the St. Louis, Arkansas, and Texas went bankrupt, the St. Louis Southwestern, nicknamed the Cotton Belt took over. Route into Gatesville, Texas then included Pine Bluff and Texarkana, Texas. The Cotton Belt operation moved its car ferry operations to a new incline and car float at Gray’s Point in 1898

In September of 1908, the river bank at Bird's Point caved in to essentially destroy the boat yard and surrounding facilities. A flood in 1909 destroyed the Railroad incline.


Gideon and Anderson were interest in the vast forest of Southeast Missouri. They met in 1899, deciding to seek investors. In 1900, they purchased their first tract of lumber from Newsworthy. Himmelberger-Harrison Lumber Company also would later sell part of their holding to Gideon-Anderson

In August of 1900, M.S. Anderson moved his family to a log cabin at Gideon while waiting for a house to be built in Clarkton. His other partners, W. P. Anderson, F. E. Gideon, and M. V. Mumma, also lived in Clarkton. The plan was to build mills at Clarkton, but the town refused to allow it. Then the partnership viewed Dexter as a possible location. Citizen there did not like the idea. Thus, the mill was constructed in the middle of the woods where the timber would be cut. W. P. Anderson moved his family to Gideon and builds and managed a hotel.

L.M. Sarff followed F. E. Gideon from Ohio and builds a handle mill. Later this was sold to Gideon Anderson Lumber and Mercantile Company. They also built a Barrel stave mill, using wood unsuited as lumber. The following year, 1901, a Mr. Snyder joined into a partnership with the Andersons, Mumma, and Gideon to form the Clarkton Lumber Company. Also that year, E. C. Mosses, using the scraps from sawmills in the region built charcoal ovens that operated into the mid-1920s

A hotel was built in 1900. The first store arrived a year later; Fred Noisworthy, son of Frank and Pauline Noisworthy, owner. Other stores followed that year. In 1903, the first doctor, and a school built by the newly arrived Clarkton Lumber Company.

That year, 1903, the Gideon and North Island Railroad built from Malden to Gideon by the Gideon-Anderson partnership. Not only did this rail line open markets to the outside world, it extended rails into the forest to carry logs to their mills. When the railroad was sold to The St. Louis Southwestern Railway in 1929, the Gideon and North Island Railroad operated 29 miles of standard gauge track, six locomotives 150 cars, and service facilities.

Gideon was incorporated in 1909; elevation 269 feet. It was located on the 90th meridian about three miles south of the Mason-Dixon Line. In 1886, a small community was established north of Lilbourn called LaForge. It had a post office that closed in 1928 with mail going to New Madrid.  In honor of his wife’s family, A. B. Hunter, a prominent landowner, named the post office for the Pierre LaForge family that was driven out of France in 1794, by the Revolution.


Marston, a city in New Madrid County received its name from the maiden name of the mother of the founder, Seth Barnes, Marston. Incorporated in October of 1898, its nine city blocks covered 40 acres. Elevation is 292 feet.  It is located 2.4 miles southwest of the county’s seat of government at New Madrid.  Twenty-two years before it was incorporated, its founder had started a school.

A railroad was build from Paw Paw Junction to Hayti by the Barnes family which later became part of the Frisco system. The population of Marston quickly grew to over a 1,000, most of which worked in the timber industry. Before long, another rail line connected the city to New Madrid. By 1917, the timber industry declined and farming became the main commercial backbone of the community.


Matthews was called Prairie when it was settled in 1902.Located on Sikeston Ridge, the elevation is 312 feet, making it one of the highest location in New Madrid County. On March 13, 1903, St. Louis, Memphis, and Southeasters Railroad division of the Frisco Railroad came through town. Because the name Prairie was used elsewhere in the state by the post office, the name was changed to Matthews.

The founder, William Busby, a businessman at Sikeston, moved to Matthews in 1902 and set up a store. Located about half way between Sikeston and New Madrid, lumbermen soon followed. The town was surveyed by R. J. Miller and papers filed in New Madrid on May, 29, 1905. Busby was also in the lumber and saw mill business. In 1902, timber was plentiful here.

The post office was established in 1904. Other businesses at this time were a general store, saloon, livery stable, doctor’s office, restaurant, barber shop, drug store, and pool hall.

   John and Isaac Himmelberger = Morehouse

First settlers in what would become Morehouse arrived around 1880. When they started arriving, the only permanent building in the area was a railroad section house, a building used to store roadway repair equipment, for the Cape Girardeau and Caruthersville branch of the Cairo Arkansas and Texas Railroad commonly called the “Cat”. Work was done to keep the road in good repair.

 The “Cat” road was soon operating two passengers and one freight train each way a day through town. Poles were set and strung with two telegraph wires. Morehouse was then connected to the outside world.

In 1867, Isaac Himmelberger started a lumber and saw mill operation at Logansport, Indiana. Around 1879, his son, John H. Himmelberger with I. Himmelberger moved to Missouri and started a saw mill operation at Bluffingtion, in Stoddard County, Missouri. Because the mill in Missouri only had a small amount of equipment, Himmelberger augmented the equipment by moving more equipment from Logansport.

Buffington, at this time showed promise of becoming a thriving town. From 1886 to 1904, a post office was located there. Only by the luck of the draw did Himmelberger choose to move the major part of his operation to Morehouse.

The Buffington Mill Himmelberger brought to Morehouse was powered by a thirty-horse power plant and employed from forth to fifty men. The mill was moved because production could not come close to meeting the orders they had.

Orders were coming in from Northern Illinois and Iowa for material for plows; wagon parts orders came from Kentucky and Illinois Handles made from gum sold in the Chicago and New York markets.

Business was so good that in 1886, the mill’s capacity was doubled. Still they were unable to meet the demand for lumber.  Another mill was build powered by a fifty house-power plant. Employment went up to sixty more men. Daily, the production reached 40,000 board feet.

Within a few years Isaac Himmelberger joined a partnership with John Burris making barrel staves at Dexter, Missouri. Because his other businesses demanded so much time, this relationship did not last long.

With the establishment of the Missouri mill, John Himmelberger became the bookkeeper and manager. Then in 1887, he became a full partner and was in charge of the Stoddard County business

Some ten years later, a second operation was acquired five-and-one-half miles to the east, at Morehouse. The Morehouse operations were started and grew mainly because of the efforts of Isaac Himmelberger.

With his son John, who used the Buffington as a training ground, the Morehouse facilities grew fast. Before long they acquired approximately 100,000 acres of timberland.

In 1880, E. J. Malone had a small sawmill at Little River the name of the post office with U. L. Huggins postmaster as well as physician and station master. Before long, approximately 100 residents of the new community received mail daily.

Himmelberger bought out the small sawmill started in 1880 by E. J. Malone. A small area was cut out of the wilderness to erect the mill and build a few houses for the workers along the banks of Little River. It was not much of a mill. However, it did attract workers who brought their families. This was the beginning of Morehouse.

The growth of Morehouse was much like the other towns that were developing in the Bootheel at this time and were being established. The workers and their families that moved into the wilderness around Morehouse had to be able to put up with a great deal of discomfort.  Heat, cold, flies, mosquitoes, humidly, and snakes, were all part of daily living. Housing was not, by today’s standards, suitable for a dog house.

Some of these shacks were clustered close to the saw mills; others were in the woods set apart from the others. Most had only one room, build on stilts, made of green lumber of unequal thickness that shrank and warped as it seasoned. Also coming from the cull pile, was bark covered strips used to cover the gaps between the outside wall boards. Doors were loose fitting and homemade. Windows, if they had them, may have been oiled newspaper. Pricy was unheard of.

Dr. E. J. Malone’s small saw mill was on Little River where the “Cat” (Iron Mountain and Southern Railroad) crossed the river here to head towards Buffington westward to Dexter and Popular Bluff. Dr. Malone’s holdings, equipment and land became part of I. Himmelberger and Co., a partnership between Isaac Himmelberger and his son John Himmelberger. At this time the decision was made to move their milling operation from the Stoddard County community of Buffington to Little River Station.

At this time the decision was made to place the Morehouse and Billington mills under the same management with the active head of operations overseen by I. Himmelberger. Morehouse became the headquarters with most of the mill’s improvements being made at Morehouse.

The Number of houses and amount of people increased over a Number of years. However, the community was not stable. Because so many of the families were transit, the community and work force was in a state of flux.

Like the people living by it, Little River was uncontrolled. With the land relative flat, the river’s spread was determined only by the amount of water it carried. Especially in the Spring Little River claimed much of Little River Valley.

Morley & Morehouse Railroad Company v. John Himmelberger

Operations were now under the name of I. Himmelberger Co. until 1894 when another businessman from Indiana, Charles L. Luce invested in Southeast Missouri real estate, especially in the Morehouse area. In 1895, the heirs of Charles J. Luce and I. and John Himmelberger merged their business interest to form Himmelberger-Luce Land and Lumber Company.

As the Luce family owned and controlled several hundred thousand acres of timberland in New Madrid County and surrounding area joining together was a good move for both parties. Himmelberger had the equipment, the men, and distribution system and now were assured of an unbelievable large supply of timber.

On July 1, 1897, Stephen B. Hunter entered into a written agreement with the Morley and Morehouse Railroad Company Hock’s Missouri and Arkansas Railroad Company and Louis J. Houch. Hunter agreed to furnish $20,000 for the purchase of railroad materials, payments were to be made on delivery of rails, ties, and other construction materials to the Morley and Morehouse Railroad Company.

Five years from the date this agreement was signed, the Morley and Morehouse Railroad Houck’s Missouri and Arkansas Railroad company and Louis Houch agree to pay Stephen B. Hunt $20,000 plus eight per cent interest per year, all interest payable annually. Hunter was to be issued a trust deed on the proposed rail line from Morley to Morehouse. An additional security promise by Louis Houck to Hunter was a deposit in a bank of $20,000 in bonds of Houck’s Missouri and Arkansas Railroad

Hunter, a real estate agent, merchant, large land owner, would later establish the community Huntersville in Stoddard County about 1904. By 1938, he was director of the Missouri penal institutions. Before dealing seriously with Houch, Hunter made an agreement with I. Himmelberger assigning his rights to the lumber company.

Houch wanting to make sure the rail line was assured revenues. Therefore, an additional agreement was reached giving Hunter and his assigned, certain specified freight rates guaranties. Covered were lumber and all other manufactured forest products from Morehouse to Cape Girardeau, East Cape Girardeau, and Commerce. Also included were logs and spoke butts from any point on the Morley and Morehouse Railroad. Hunter and his assigns (I. Himmelberger and Company) claimed the right to haul logs with their own engines and cars at the same rates on ties and pilings shipped to Cape Girardeau and Commerce at the lowest rates given any other shipper.

This contract was to be in force for five years from the date of its’ signing. Hunter inserted an escape clause; this contract binds him to fulfill it “unless prevented by fire or other unavoidable accidents to give, furnish and deliver, or causes to be done by others, to; whom he may assign of transfer his rights hereunder.

Five thousand dollars of freight was to be delivered to Morley and Morehouse Railroad each of the five years of the contract. Part of this money was to be put on the interest with the rest applied to the principal. If Hunter did not fulfill his part of the deal, he agrees to take first mortgage bonds on Houck’s Missouri and Arkansas Railroad. In 1902, the Morley and Morehouse Railroad became part of the Frisco system.

Claiming the contract was not fulfilled, Houck suited Himmelberger and Hunter. After Houck lost his lawsuit in the Cape Girardeau Court of Common Pleas, he appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court. One of railroads’ lawyers was Giboney Houch, the chief plaintiffs Louis Houch, son and business partner.

The railroad’s suit was to cancel the note held by the lumber company, now organized under the name of Himmelberger and Luce Land and Lumber Company. Houck’s lawyer claimed that in the first year of the contract, the lumber company did not live up to the contractual agreement with the railroad by only furnishing half the freight obligated by the agreement. Furthermore, has the Morley and Morehouse Railroad had been sold and no longer owned by Houch, the contract was void and the money borrowed from Hunter need not to be paid back.

The defendant answered the railroad did not supply equipment to satisfy the contract because the line was under construction. However, more than enough freight revenue was generated other years to make up the difference. (Houch claimed this extra revenue applied only to the year generated and could not be rolled over.) None deliver of rail cars was an action beyond the control of the lumber company, therefore, they were not required to meet the conditions of the contract that year.

The Supreme Court agreed with the trial court’s judgment that during each year of the contract stands alone and freight from other years could not be used to pay for another year; however, the railroad was in error in not supplying enough equipment to fulfill the contract.

Himmelberger-Luce Land and Lumber Company

Himmelberger-Luce Land and Lumber Company drew up the first formal plat of the Village of Morehouse in 1898. By now, the population had grown to 900 with sixteen businesses, two of which dealt with the lumber industry. Drawing up a plan for the proposed town was the first step towards incorporating a community.

In 1908, the Village of Morehouse was recorded in the Recorders office at New Madrid recognizing the City of Morehouse as a forth class city adopting a mayor-alderman system of government. The 1910 census recorded a population of 1636 residents. This was nearly an 82% increase in ten years.

The name came from A. P. Morehouse, lieutenant-governor of Missouri. He became governor at the death of Marmaduke in 1887, serving until 1889 when he retired from public live. Two years later, he died; committing suicide.

In 1900 as the population reached 900 the community was now starting to stabilize into a more civilized more stable society. Commercial hunting became less important. Even as the population increased, the buildings looked much the same. They were built with rough timber. Because of the frequent flooding, they were built on stilts. Even the sidewalks, what few they had had been also build on stilts.

Between 1860 and 1890, three important developments helped pave the way for drainage of Southeast Missouri’s swamplands. The land within the Little River Drainage District was given to Missouri under the Swamp Land Act of September 28, 1850.

Hoping to encourage development, the state transferred large tracks of these lands to the counties. As counties always needed monies to support the local government; both state and county leader hoped county ownership would encourage more aggressive actions by local developers to buy the land especially as it would be to the county’s benefit. Not only would they be able to collect taxes for developed lands, but also, the money from the land sales would go to the county government.

The land was offered for sale for as little as $1.25 per acre. Few people were interested in the land for farming operations. All most people saw were giant stands of tree surrounded by water A few land spectators did take advantage of the offer. However, it was the logging interest that made most of the purchases.

Dredging Little River

Himmelberger-Luce Land and Lumber Company desiring to dredge the Little River channel contacted the county about a contract to do the job, which they got. The channel was shallow, crooked, and chocked with trees and brush. Therefore, instead of draining the watershed, the river overflowed to flood the whole area. Instead of water taking a short cut for the swamps of Arkansas the rainfalls and headwaters left the channel flowing over the level county around.

Draining timbered swampland was a formidable task. To use shovel-wielding men or mule–drawn scrapers to excavate the massive ditch as needed to drain the swampland was virtually impossible. The problem was solved by floating dredges using yard-wide buckets operated by steam power along with a liberal use of dynamite made the job possible. Floating dredges could move up to one-thousand cubic yards of material daily. While this cost up the $3,000 a day, it was the only feasible way to drain swampland.

In the 1860’s and ‘70’s, large tracks of land in Southeast Missouri were selling for pennies per acre. In nearby Stoddard County one such body of more than 8,000 acres sold for $663.95.

Dredging operations in 1896 cut the channel deeper while crooked places were cut off by ditching across them to straighten the channel out. Staring at the Iron Mountain Railroad, at Morehouse, the dredging operations ended at the south end of the county. This was the real beginning of draining the swamps of Southeast Missouri.

In neighboring counties, other drainage projects quickly followed. By 1910, all the land north of the Iron Mountain Railroad and east of Little River is thoroughly drained and a large portion is under cultivation.  The rest of the counties in the Little River Watershed in Missouri were activity draining their swamps. This work was being done on a smaller scale that was done in New Madrid County.

Land that appeared in 1880 to Isaac Himmelberger as worthless, except for the timber growing on it, was becoming rich farmland. Being able to grow 75 to 100 bushels of corn per acres raised the selling price of $1.25 per acre in 1880, to $100 per acre in 1910.

Himmelberger-Lucy Land and Lumber Company was paid by the county in land (one section of land for each mile of ditch) for dredging Little River receiving several thousand acres of land for their work. A large portion of this acreage already had already had the timber removed. Much of it would be sold and resold several times; each sale raised the price, before it would be in a high state of cultivation.

Dredging operation by Himmelberger-Luce Land and Lumber Company in New Madrid County ended in 1899. Within the three years of its operation, the county changed from an economy built entirely on lumber to become increasing an agriculture-timber mixed economy.

Entrepreneurs were encouraged to build railroads into and out of the swamps. To encourage railroad development strips of land was given to those building railroads along their roadbeds. This was a common practice. Between 1850 and 1870, over 129 million acres, seven percent of the continental United States, had been ceded to 80 railroads; most of it west of the Mississippi River. Ten square miles of land was given for each mile of track laid. Usually, the state was given an equal amount of land by the federal government.

Land titles of several thousand acres of land were given to the Fulton and Alton Railroad Co. in 1857. This was part of the government’s efforts to encourage development of the west. Twenty-one years later, in 1878, the Cairo Arkansas and Texas Railroad Company laid rails through the area where Morehouse later developed. This line was called the “Cat.”

By 1892, Little River Station’s business district had grown to include C. L. Armstrong’s Hotel owner and barber; Berry and Hawk Meat Market; H. F. Emery and Co general Store; I. Himmelberger and Co., saw mill; John Himmelberger express agent; W. H. Marshall General Store; Lud Myer, temperance saloon; James Roberts, grist mill; and James Ryan’s, Hotel.

The swamps’ dense forest contained millions of feet of marketable timber. Some oaks reached circumferences of 27 feet and some cypress to 10 to 12 feet. In the late 1800’s, lumbermen recognized the value of the abundant timber buying up the land for next to nothing.

Without rail transportation, most of these large trees would still be standing because the finished product needed a market. Trains provided the necessary transportation to market. Large bulky loads could be carried out of this swampy wildness and transported long distances to furniture and building markets at a reasonable cost.

At least, until 1895, the community was still known as Little River, according to the 1895 Matthews Northrop Map. The east-west railroad was still a train stop was called Little River Station. This was the year the Himmelberger’s consolidated their lumber interest with the heirs of Charles L. Luce to form the Himmelberger-Luce Land and Lumber Company.

In 1898, Cat branch of the Iron Mountain Railroad became owner of the Houck Road. Houck had built this road in a shoddy manner. He economized every way possible. Ties were too far apart. Light steel rails were used. Instead of removing large trees, the railroad was run around them. Still, the road was able to fulfill its purpose, which of hauling freight from the swamplands. Houck’s railroads, while not built to last; they served the purpose for which they were built, that was to open the swamps of Southeast Missouri for settlement.

St. Louis Morehouse and Southern Railway

According to George Franklin Cram’s 1901 Map, the old “Cat” branch railroad became the St. Louis, Morehouse, and Southern Railway for a short time. The road went from Popular Bluff to Jackson, then over to Cape Girardeau and became part of the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railway.

Changing ownership again in 1902, the “Cat” road became part of the Frisco system. Now this branch of the Frisco railroad was called the “Pea Vine” road. Improvements were started by laying heavier rails on new ties and straightening the roadbed by removing trees instead of going around them. In 1906, four years after Frisco acquired the old Houck Road, a depot was erected. One freight and one passenger trains was scheduled each day for Morehouse.


Founded in 1900, Hollywood is an unincorporated community in southern Dunklin County. The name is from the Holly trees in the area, earlier it was called Klondike. Hollywood in 1960 had four grocery stores, a cotton gin, grain elevator and the Church of Christ. In 1974, its post office closed.


Delta is a small community, incorporated in 1967, consisting of 0.4 square miles, in Cape Girardeau County. It is part of the Cape Girardeau-Jackson, Missouri-Illinois Metropolitan Statistical Area. Elevation is 341 feet.

   Lotta Becomes Parma

Lonshed settled in the woods of New Madrid County west of New Madrid and established a sawmill deep in the woods and contracted to remove the timber. Within several years, several lumber mills were within the vicinity. A central loading place was soon established for shipping their lumber. To accommodate the lumbermen, a grocery store, a dry goods store, and two or three saloons were established. Lotta was a “Boom Town.”

By 1890, when this town was incorporated, Lotta was granted a post off. Like many of the town springing up at this time in the Missouri Lowland, the house built here were not fancy. They were roughly constructed and built high off the round. This was necessary as the elevation, one of the lowest in the county at 272 feet above sea level.

During the latter part of the 1890’s about half of Lotta burn. As new people kept settling in the area, the business’ started building back; only they moved about one-half to three-quarters of a mile away from Lotta. This new settlement became Parma it is located on the St. Louis Southwestern Railway about eight miles northwest of Malden. The center of town was considered where the Frisco cross the St. Louis Southwestern.

The first lumber mill came to town in 1902; the Ocin, Wilkerson, with the Vanbriggle Company located close by was the E. J. Hoke Mill and the Beech Lumber Company. A veneer mill also was in town. Most of the logs were transported into Parma by mules and oxen. Trappers were very active in the wilderness here. Pelt bundles of mink, opossum and raccoon consisted of 500 pound shipments during the fur season.

Parma was incorporated in 1903. F. P. Wrather was the first mayor. That year, Bank of Parma was established with capital of $10,000. Elevation was 279 feet. As of the census of 2000 there were 825 people, 333 households, and 229 families living within 0.6 square miles. The racial makeup was 57.39 percent white.

   St. Louis Kennett and Southern Railway  

Built in 1906, the St. Louis Kennett and Southeastern Railway started in Dunklin County at Campbell on the St. Louis Southwestern Railroad. Heading almost directly south and skirting around a long bend in the St. Francis River the railroad went some 20 miles into Kennett, the county seat. The timber in the region was still uncut. Local men financed the road. Landowners R. H. Jones, Virgil McKay, J. B. Blakemore, W. D, Lasswell, and D. B. Panker desired to clear and develop the land.

Later they turn northwest towards Piggott, Arkansas to make it the western terminus. Building bridges, they crossed the Varner and St. Francis rivers to extent their road another 14 miles. Construction was such as to handle the heavy logs and lumber they were to pull out of the Lowland.

Standardization of railroad was bring so all the roadways had rails the same distance apart, helped bring an end of the narrow gage St. Louis, Kennett and Southeastern Railway. This was perhaps one of the most unique railroads in the nation. Starting as a narrow-gage branch road into the timber line, it soon out grew its humble beginning as all the rails were re-laid as standard gage.

“Narrow-gage” railroads were any less that the standard-gage set by the English railways at four feet, eight and one-half inches. This was adopted as the common measurement of most railroads in the United Stated by the Civil War. Many engineers and railroad developers were reluctant to accept this, claiming not only was it not economically feasible or would not be suitable where the broader track could not effectively go.

The main line of the St. Louis, Kennett, and Southern was from Kennett crossing the state line to Piggott, Arkansas. A branch of the line was from West Kennett, Arkansas, to Buckhorn, Nimmons to Bear Station, and Nimmons to Log Yard and Grassy to Log Yard. Total length of the line was 31 miles. Of this, 19 miles were standard-gage and 12 miles were three-foot apart. In addition, 9.7 miles of the standard-gage section had an inside third rail making this stretch useable by both standard and narrow gage traffic. This unique track arrangement ended in 1915 when all the tracks became standard-gage.

   Thebes Bridge: Fornfelt and Illmo

Fornfelt and Illmo, in Scott County, both owe their existence to the building of Thebes Bridge and the St. Louis, Southwestern Railway using this structure. The railroad yards shared by these two towns were built by the St. Louis, Southwestern and St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern.

The Southern Illinois and Missouri Bridge Company was incorporated in Illinois on December 28, 1900 to own the bridge and 4.64 miles of connections rail line. Initially it was owned equally by the Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad, Illinois Central Railroad, Missouri Pacific Railway, St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern railway, and St. Louis Southwestern Railway. Polish-American engineer Ralph Modjeski designed the bridge. It is a continuous truss bridge 959 feet in length with the longest span 651 feet wide with a 104 feet clearance. It opened April 18, 1905 across the Mississippi River between Illmo, Missouri and Thebes, Illinois

The first settlers in Fornfelt were G. S. Cannon and A. Bardendistel. This was in September of 1904 with incorporation coming the following May. Later, this community was renamed Circle City.


Illmo was settle in 1904 and incorporated in 1905. Illmo and Scott City run together, along with Fornfelt, these communities set on the Scott and Cape Girardeau county lines. In 1910 it was the divisional headquarters for the St. Louis, Southwestern and St. Louis, Iron Mountain railroads. The 20210 census records the white population at 96.9 percent

A cholera epidemic was brought to New Orleans by emigrant ships in December of 1848. A few weeks later it was carried to all principal cities on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers Six of the victims were Irish monks headed to a monastery near Dubuque, Iowa. These monks were buried a few hundred yards northwest of the Thebes railroad Bridge.


Glennonville, a Dunklin County village north of Campbell and west of Malden was established in 1904. It set on land which had been purchased by the Catholic Church in the name of Archbishop Glennon of St. Louis. Most of the early settlers in the colony were principally immigrants from Germany. A stave and handle mill furnished employment to the first settlers.


Kewanee a name meaning “Friendly Indian”; name given this New Madrid County settlement by its founders, Messrs. Gould, Fisher, and Birge of the Fisher Lumber Company in 1907. At the height to its population growth, about 600 people resided in the village. However, with the demise of the timber industry, the population declined. Before its decline the town supported two hotels, and had about 100 other building, including, two stores and two saw mills. In the early 20’s one hotel was destroyed by fire and the other later torn down.

Little River Drainage District efforts to drain the land made it possible for the Mays to start the first farm in the area and the Jones Brothers from Atkins, Arkansas to build the first cotton gin north of New Madrid.

The St. Louis and Missouri Southern started at Marston, and ran eight miles into New Madrid. This line completed in 1911 was built principally by New Madrid investors lead by E. S. McCarthy. One of the better constructed road in Southeast Missouri, it was the only one in the state that did not charge extra for using its parlor car.

Paragould Southeastern Railway

The Paragould Southeastern Railway (PSR), The Buffalo Island Route Arkansas, extended from Paragould, Arkansas to run east crosses the St. Francis River near Cardwell, Missouri, population 700. A large steam driven cotton gin operated in the area and was capable of handling 5,000 bales per season. Several sawmill also operated in the area. In1898, the demand of housing exceeds the capability of local builders and the lumber being manufactured locality.

Continuing east some 13 miles to Hornersville where the PSR crossed Little River Turning southeast to cross Dunklin County where it heads towards Blytheville and the Mississippi River. Opening up another large track of lumbered land and played a large hand in building Cardwell and Hornersville. This was another railroad built and originally owned by local capitalist; this time under the leadership of E. S. McGharty before it was absorbed into the Gould system.


Klondike was another community on Paragould Southeastern Railway. The Seitz Lumber Company and the Winder Lumber Company had mills here. A depot was located here and pulled out lumber and cotton. Land was advertised as lots had been plotted and the verdure of the land for growing cotton emphasized in this new hope of a new community being developed six miles east of Cardwell. Klondike is not shown on modern maps.


Hornersville, in Dunklin County, was a stop on the Paragould Southeastern Railway. Located on the eastern banks of Little River, which was navigable for small steamers most of the year. The land east of the river, at the time the PSR reached there, was comparatively unsettled with the Mississippi River only twenty miles away with Big Lake 15 miles to the south.

Paragould Memphis Railroad

The Paragould Memphis Railroad ran 118 miles from Paragould, Arkansas, across Dunklin County then back into Manila, Arkansas. This road started as a tram road to help handle the timber cut by the Decatur Egg Case Company, a large corporation headquartered at Cardwell. Although most of the rails are in Missouri, it was developed and financed in Arkansas. Without it, the opening of the area it served would have come later.

Paw Paw Junction Becomes Lilbourn

Starting by being called Paw Paw Junction, Lilbourn was incorporated in 1909. Paw Paw Junction got its name because it was location in a Paw Paw thicket. This site was near Little River about a mile west of what became Lilbourn. At an elevation of 287 feet, the floods of 1912, 1913, and 1927 forced many to leave or move to higher locations.

At the turn of the 20th Century, Lilbourn was the fastest growing towns in New Madrid County. It was situated at the junction of the St. Louis Southwestern and the St. Louis and San Francisco railroad. The new town was moved east about a mile where the New Madrid Branch joined the main line of the St. Louis Southwestern.

R. T. Waring was one of the first settlers in the area and also an early merchant and its first mayor. At the time of its incorporation in 1904, the town had eight general stores beside these several factories, broom, stave, handle, brick and tile stave, and two saw mills. The town’s first site was a boxcar depot on the Malden-Birds Point branch of the Cotton Belt Railroad and a log cabin for hunters from St. Louis.

This flag station would have probably disappeared, like Ristine and LaForge, except Frisco Railroad officials were interest in locating another rail line in the area. Lilbourn A. Lewis, large landowner and S. S. Barnes of Marston built a short line railroad between Portageville and Lilbourn which in 1901 or 1902, they sold to Frisco Railroad

Louis realized that with the laying of the rails where they touched his land, that that would be a good place for a town. Thus, in 1902, he had part of his farm, what was being tilled by Dave Wilkerson, laid out in lots. October 7, 1903, his family appeared before a notary public and ceded the streets, the alleys and the public square to the new town he named Lilbourn.

The Hartre Brothers, in 1906 established the towns first handle mill. Three years later O. B. Coated built his first stave mill. A sawmill was built in 1908 by Mr. Travis.

According the 2000 federal census, there were 1,303 people in 512 households, and 352 families living on 0.9square miles. The racial makeup was 65.46 per cent white, 2.69 per cent black 0.08 per cent Native American, 0.08 percent Asian, 0.092 percent from other races and .77 percent from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race was 1.15 percent of the population.


On June 20, 1905, the Chaffee Real Estate Company of St. Louis purchased 1,800 acres of land from John Witt of Sikeston for $140,000. The real estate company then transferred ownership of 150 acres to the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway to build a switching yard and began surveying the area for a town for the railroad employed.

Chaffee Real Estate company then gave notice that lots were for sale within the town to be established. Then they began clearing he land for construction on August 15, 1905. Each contract on land sold had a clause prohibiting the sale of intoxication liquors.

Chaffee became a fourth class city on August 6, 1906. In 1911, the First National Bank of Chaffee issued $392,320 in “National Currency with the permission of the United States Department of the Treasure, thus giving Chaffee the distinction of being a city with its own currency.

Chaffee is located in Scott County at 344 feet above sea level. In 2010, the population was 2,955 people in 1,204 households with 762 families units. The racial makeup was 97.8 per cent white.

Bragg City

Bragg City is a small city in the western central part of Pemiscot County. At first it was a railroad stop called Owl City when the Kennett to Caruthersville Railroad was constructed in 1894. The name supposedly was suggested by the railroad workers, because they heard the hooting of numerous owls in the surrounding woods. The name was changed to Clayroot, from Clayroot Island. This is an island in Clayroot Bayou that drains into Little River. The island is formed during flood season when the waters of Elk Chute and Little River surround the region. Its name came when pioneers found large numbers of trees torn up by the roots in the black clay. Clayroot post office was established in 1916.

In 1916 the name was change to Melson in honor of Edmund P. Melson, president of the Missouri State Life Insurance company. Until 1918, the post office was still Clayroot. At this time, another name changes this time to Bragg City to honor W. G. Bragg of Kennett in Dunklin County, a large land owner in the region of the community.

Incorporated in 1919, Bragg City is 0.2 square miles in size. Elevation of this Pemiscot County town is 259 feet above sea level, this historically, has made the community subject to frequent flooding. A few miles to the west, the main group of Little River Drainage District floodways is bunched together. The 2010 census put the racial makeup at 97.8 percent white, with the 2010 census count at 149, residents on .20 squares miles, of this 32 families live in 53 household with 61 housing units.


The seat of government for Scott County is Benton, was incorporated until 1953. This small community is considered part of the Sikeston Metro Area. The community was named after Thomas Hart Benton. Set in the southern edge of the Benton Hills just north of the Sikeston Ridge, the community had an elevation of 436 feet.

In 2010 the population was 863 residents with 214 families in 339 housing units and 311 households. The racial makeup was 94.2 per cent, down from the 2000 count of 97.54 percent.

The city of Benton, incorporated 1955 is in Stoddard County. Its form of government is mayor aldermen. Set in the foothills of Crowley's Ridge with the elevation at 328 feet. The 2000 federal census enumerated 461 residents. There were 220 housing units with 196 households and 220 housing units on 0.6 square miles. The racial makeup was 98.48 percent white.

Benton is an unincorporated community located in Mississippi County Arkansas and Dunklin County Missouri; most of the community lies in Missouri. At 243 ft elevation it is another village made possible because the Little River Drainage District drained the land.


Burfordville in Cape Girardeau County is an unincorporated community in the western part of the county. Bollinger Mill State Historic Site is here, five miles west of Jackson, on the banks of the Whitewater River.


Pinhook is a village in Mississippi County. Elevation is 302 feet. According to the 2010 census 30 people, 17 households and eight families reside in the village. The racial make us was 3.3 percent white and 96.7 percent African American.

There is a mystery about the founding of Pinhook. Some people believe it as founded by sharecroppers in the 1930’s. At one time this largely black community had expanded to nearly 250 people.

On May 2, 2011, Pinhook was destroyed by the Mississippi River flood. The Bird's Point-New Madrid levee was blown to save Cairo from flooding. Everyone in Pinhook lost their homes in which they had lived for years.

Early settlers could buy the land for as little as $1.25 ($33.50 buying power in 1900; average national wage was 11 cents per hour) per acre. Few people were interested in the land for farming operations. However, a few land spectators did take advantage of the offer. On the other hand, it was the logging interest that made most of the purchases

Early Maps

John Berry in his 1998 book Rising Tide: The Great Flood of 1927 and How it Changed America described the early Delta in Mississippi “Swamp East Missouri” was very similar in makeup. Dense forest of cane and large tree with vines of wild grape and Muscatine make passage difficult. The forest included species typical of sandy areas such as river birch mixed with cypress, oaks, and hardwood bottomland species leaving a large mainly mixed hardwood forest growing out of the swamp. The growth was so dense that the moisture in the air hung, untouched by any breeze, and stifled breathing. Stinging flies, gnats and mosquitoes were so thick some travelers stopped to build fires to protect their animals before their nose was completely blocked. Thick cane breaks were hiding places for bears, wolfs, wildcats, rattlesnakes, water moccasins which populated the region. Illnesses such as yellow fever and malaria were common.

Early maps of the Morehouse Lowland showed how much they did not know about the area. An 1823 edition of the Bradford Map named what is now known as Little River, White Water River, and Niska River, which was the Chippeway name, meaning White Water. Anthony Finley and David H. Vance published a map in 1826, Missouri and Territory of Arkansas, which also showed Whitewater Creek not Little River, running through the area.

Whitewater River starts in just north of Sedgewickville just over the eastern edge of the Bollinger County near the Perry County line. Then it runs southeast through Cape Girardeau, counties where it joins the Castor River near the community of Whitewater where they run to the Mississippi  between Cape Girardeau and Scott City. The watershed of these two streams include a partial list including Byrd Creek, Schrader Creek, Wolf Creek, Caney, Allis Creek Little White Water Creek, German Branch of Mayfield Creek, Crooked Creek, Big Blue Branch of Crooked Creek, and Little Blue.

Prior to the coming of Europeans to the area of what is now the southern part of Madison and the western part of Bollinger counties, the land supported a large area of canebrakes. Here pools of water collected during the rains of spring. Beavers are believed to have built damn here that were broken by heavy rains. The large amounts of water quickly released cut channels. Over time, a river was formed and the early Frenchmen, 1725, in the region call the stream Castor River, which means Beaver River.

In 1818, Schoolcraft referred to this river as Crooked Creek. The present named Crooked Creek runs a few miles east and joins Castor River in New Madrid County. Beck called the river Castor or Crooked Creek in 1823; Wetmore named it Castor in 1837, however, the creek and river were not separated on maps until 1873.

Castor River

Headwater of the Castor River is in northeast Madison County northeast of Fredericktown near St. François County to the north and Perry County to the east.  Now, Castor River, after a five mile gap starts again close to the northern edge of Stoddard County to join Little River between Morehouse and Canalou.

To the Indians, it was Ne ska or Unica. Schoolcraft says the Osage name was Unica, meaning white, but he is believed to have confused the White River, largely in Arkansas   and Whitewater, this stream. The Chippeway name for the river was also Ne ska, meaning white water it is often written Niska. Early Spanish explorers called it Rio Blanch and the French La Rivier Blanche or L’eu Blanch.

In the English translation it became Whitewater by which name the entire stream was known as late as 1817. The name “Little” seems to have been given between 1817-1822, in the French form La Petite Riviere, with reference to the size of the Mississippi and St. Francis with which Little River lies between and was compared to the two.

Morehouse was only one of seven communities situated on Little River. Delta and Perkins were north of the rivers’ namesake while to the south was Canalou, Lilbourn, and Wardell. As Morehouse was one of the earliest communities set on Little River, and growing to be, for a while early, the most financial important, the Lowland became known as the Morehouse Lowland. Himmelberger-Harrison timber and lumber operations became one of the largest of its kind in the United States, if not the largest.

Over time the channel became shallow, crooked, and chocked with trees and brush. Instead of draining the watershed, the blocked river overflowed to flood the whole area the year round. Instead of taking a short cut to the swamps of the rainfalls and Headwaters left the channel flowing over the level county around. Himmelberger-Luce Land and Lumber Company desiring to dredge the Little River channel contacted the New Madrid County officials with plans for draining the land. They were given a contract to do the job.

Railroad and Lumbermen Bring New Developments





White Oak










Skinner Place



Tram Switch


Chute Sixteen

Lint Dale


Number 8 Cemetery and School

Wheeler-Tyler Railroad





Peach Orchard







Bird’s Point




John and Isaac Himmelberger = Morehouse

Morley and Morehouse Railway Company v. John Himmelberger

Himmelberger-Luce Land and Lumber Company

Dredging Little River

St. Louis Morehouse and Southern Railway



Lotta Becomes Parma

St. Louis Kennett Railway

Thebes Bridge; Fornfelt and Illmo



Paragould Southeastern Railway



Paragould Memphis Railroad

Pawpaw Junction Becomes Lilbourn


Bragg City




Early Maps

Castor River


                 Railroads Come to Southeast Missouri 

Cairo and Fulton Railroad

In February 5, 1853, James Buchanan approved an act of Congress to grant Missouri and Arkansas the right to use federal land for a right of way for a rail line from opposite the Ohio River in Missouri to Little Rock, Arkansas and onward to the Texas border. Besides the right-of-way, through government land, the act also granted every alternate section of land designated my Number being six miles width on each side was also conveyed to the railroad constructing the rail line. This act was to be in effect for ten years.

People of Southeast Missouri were excited at the prospects of a rail road being built into the area. Many of the people lived in isolated areas. This would be a touch with the outside world. A meeting was called at the Charleston Mississippi County Court House on June 9 1853 to discuss how to make the rail road happen. On November 14th and 15th, another series of meeting were called at Benton in Cape Girardeau County. Both meeting were centered on plans to build the Cairo and Fulton Railroad They wanted to build the road though Bloomfield and ask the St. to construct a line there to join the two lines together physically to form the St. Louis Iron Mountain Railroad.

A September 12, 1853 meeting organized the Cairo and Fulton Railroad with John B. Johnson President. Capital stock was fixed at $1,500,000 dived by 60,000 shares with par value at $25.00.

The counties receiving direct benefit and believing they were to be paid back in land, rushed to subscribe to the capital stock. They expected their investment to be back by land valued at $1.00 per acre as per the government bill signed by the President. Stoddard County invested $150,000; Butler County, $100,000; Dunklin County, $100.000. Scott County, $50,000; and Ripley County $19,500; this investment eventually resulted in big losses for all of the counties.

Another meeting was held in Charleston late in1853 to determine the possibly to proceed in a survey for a new railroad. Mississippi County authorized up to $500 for a right of way survey. This survey, slow to get started, was not made in Missouri. Before it got under way, the state of Arkansas incorporated the Cairo and Fulton Railroad. They hired Chief Engineer J. S. Williams to make surveys in Arkansas and Missouri.

In February, 1855, Williams reported favorably to the Missouri Legislature and they passed an act to incorporate the Cairo and Fulton Railroad in Missouri. Then they authorized $250,000 in bonds to be issued to start the road; the governor vetoed the bill which the legislature over ruled. Missouri also loaned the company money on first and second mortgages against the land granted them by the federal government.

In 1874, the Cairo and Fulton was taken to the U. S. Supreme Court for not paying interest on loans they had make with the state of Missouri in the 1850’s. These loans were first and second lien and mortgages on the road and properties of the company. The railroad claimed exemption because to railroad had been sold. The court ruled this was ejectment and the state could collect the debt.

The January 2, 1853 Missouri’s act of incorporation for the Cairo and Fulton Railroad exempted forever all taxes on the roads capital stock and its dividends. On February 9, 1853 the state of Arkansas declared that when the Cairo and Fulton Railroad, twenty years after completing the line from the Missouri state line to cross the Red River into Texas, the company shall pay Arkansas two and one-half percent of their net proceeds annually.

On April 1869 the Missouri General Assembly passed an act requiring all unsold lands under control of railroads subject to taxes. This law was to go into effect in 1875. All laws and parts of laws in conflict Missouri repealed.

By 1875, the Cairo and Fulton Railroad had not been completed, but had become part of the St. Louis and Iron Mountain Railroad and now operated under the name St. Louis, Iron Mountain, and Southern Railway. Land granted to the Cairo and Fulton Railroad was also consolidated into the new company.

The unsold lands, under the law of 1875, were assessed for taxation by Loftin, the collector of Jackson County Missouri. The tax bill was forwarded to the new company. They appealed all the way to the U. S. Supreme Court in Railway Company v. Loftin – 98 U.S. 559 (1878). The court stated the suite was in error, they paid the taxes.

A new survey was started in1856 from Bird’s Point to Charleston for the Cairo and Fulton Railroad. On October1, 1857, work was started by contractor H. J. Deal on a ten mile rail line between these two points. Work was slow; it was not until April 1, 1859 that a train reached Charleston. The engine was named Sol G. Kitchen for a Mississippi County resident leading the drive for the Railroad.

By the time of the Civil War, the railroad had laid only 20 miles of track. With the start of the war, the army took over its operations; they however, did not keep up the payment. In Southeast Missouri this was the only rail road in operation. With the heavy traffic, the road soon fell into disrepair and the loss of most of the rolling stock.

While the Cairo and Fulton was in military service, its state bonds went into arrears not making enough to pay the interst.In1866, McKay, Simmons, and Vogel, from St. Louis, purchased the line. This group also owned the St. Louis Iron Mountain system. They paid the state $350,000 and transferred it to Mr. Allen of the Cairo and Fulton to the Iron Mountain System.

Later, this rail road laid tracks into Popular Bluff. At that time the line became known as the Cairo, Arkansas and Texas. CAT (first letters of the name) became its popular name. In 1874, it became part of the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern and given the designation of the Cairo Branch.

Cape Girardeau, Pilot Knob and Belmont Railroad Company

In 1859 the Cape Girardeau, Pilot Knob and Belmont Railroad Company was organized build a road from Pilot Know to Belmont by way of Cape Girardeau. William C. Ranney became president of the company. Cape Girardeau County bought $200,000 dollar of the company stock. While preparations were being made to start the work, the Civil War broke out and nothing was done.

Illinois, Missouri and Texas Railway Company

Governor Fletcher organized the Illinois, Missouri and Texas Railway Company. They were unable to sell the planned $1,500,000 in bonds projected that would be need. As none of the bonds sold, the project was temporarily put to rest. Ten years later, construction was started. A considerable amount of primary roadway work was done in building bridges and laying ties before construction had been started earlier. Before the ten years were up, most of this work had rotted beyond use. Project abandoned.

Cape Girardeau and State Line Railroad Company

Organized on April 27th, 1869, the Cape Girardeau and State Line Railroad Company had vague plans to construct a rail line from Cape Girardeau to somewhere in Arkansas. Again the city of Cape Girardeau voted to buy $150,000 in bonds as did the township of Cape Girardeau. After construction begin money run out without a single mile of track was finished because of bad management.

Iron Mountain

Under the direction of Mr. Allen the St. Louis Iron Mountain constructed another 120 miles of track from Pilot Knob to Belmont going through the counties of St. Francois, Madison Bollinger, Scott and Mississippi. Then in 1872, the St. Louis Iron Mountain system was conveyed to the property of the Cairo, Arkansas, and Texas Railroad which had a line from Cairo to Sikeston. With the transfer, rails were laid 70 miles to Popular Bluff.

Acting under the Cairo and Fulton Railroad charter and part of the Iron Mountain, a main line was construction from Moark through Arkansas to the Texas line at Fulton, Arkansas near the Texas border. In June of 1874, when these two lines consolidated it was under the name St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railroad. This then was the main line for St. Louis to Fulton, a distance of 681 miles.

A new company was organized in 1883 known as the Jackson Branch Railroad Company. They planned a build a railroad from Allenville, on the Belmont Branch, to the Mississippi River at Grand Tower by way of the Cape Girardeau county seat of Jackson. The Iron Mountain builds this line into Jackson and later became part of the Iron Mountain system.

In 1874 the Cairo and Fulton Railroad Company was acquired by the Iron Mountain and were consolidated as the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern. This line covered a distance 681 miles from St. Louis to Fulton, Arkansas.

On November 23, 1860, the railroad sold, 11,896 acres to raise construction capital, to Blakeley Wilson of New Jersey. The railroad had failed to pay the state of Missouri the interest due o the loans. The U.S. Supreme Court, Wilson V. Boyce – U.S. 320, (1875 agreed with the Missouri Supreme Court that the case was an ejectment possessory action where title of real property may be tried and possession recovered.

The Iron Mountain Company later constructed a line from Poplar Bluff to Doniphan by way of Naylor. This road became part of the Cairo Branch with through train being run from Doniphan to Bird’s Point. Close relations existed between the Iron Mountain System and the St. Louis Southwestern, or Cotton Belt. Both were owned in a large part and controlled by the Gould family.

Railroad Embankments as Levees

Some proposals were made to combine railroad construction with land development. One proposal was that railroad embankment is used as a levee. This plan was favored in Southeast Missouri and eastern Arkansas.

Perhaps the most widely publicized of these arrangements was proposals involved the Memphis-St. Louis Railway Company, an Arkansas Corporation and the St. Louis and Iron Mountain Railroad Company, a Missouri Corporation. U.S. House Resolution 745, February 1868, described the plan “. . . To construct a railroad from a point at the commencement of the Lowland to the southeast of Cape Girardeau in the State of Missouri along the west bank of the Mississippi River to the mouth of the St. Francis River in the State of Arkansas; the roadbed of which shall be constructed as to serve the purpose of a levee between said points; they further propose to furnish the landless in that region with immediate employment at fair wages in the construction of such levee and road-bed  and to give those thus employed the right to purchase, at fair prices, of lands, of said companies along the route of said levee and railroad.”

The Federal Government, under the provision of the resolution, would guarantee bond up to $20,000 per mile of levee. However, little actual work of projects of this nature was done

Houch: Railroad Builder

After the Civil War, Louis Houck was a leader in opening up Southeast Missouri. His investment in short-line railroad connected its town and forest to Cape Girardeau, St. Louis, Memphis, and the outside world. In the spring of 1869, he traveled south form Dexter to Kennett and marveled at the vast stretch of primeval forests. For the next three decades he acquired property, promoted the development of the area, built roads and railroads, and encouraged lumber companies to harvest timber.

Louis Houck cannot be given a too much credit for opening up the swamp lands of Southeast Missouri. By training, a lawyer, trained in Illinois, coming to Missouri, he served as an Assistance U. S. Attorney in St. Louis. After moving to Cape Girardeau to practice law, his interest shifted to railroads. His first adventure into railroad build came in 1880 when he promoted and built the Cape Girardeau Railway Company.

In building his law practice, he had traveled though out the Lowland of Southeast Missouri. He saw opportunity to open the region to development. St. Louis, he saw as a market for the farmers of the region. Railroads he believed were the answer to that development and as a means to increase the population.

Houck created three railways in his lifetime. He built the lines by purchasing established lines and building short lines to adjacent cities. By this process Houck created an extensive network that reached north to Ste. Genevieve, Missouri; south to Leachville, Arkansas; east to Carbondale, Illinois; and west to Idlewild, Missouri. All this wheeling and dealing sometime cut his money supply short.

A list of his files in the Special Collections and Archives of Southeast Missouri State University there are at least 57 files concerning breach of contract, delinquent taxes, and notes about cancelled promissory notes between 1888 and 1921. For a small town lawyer, buying land for right-a-ways, purchasing rail, ties, rolling stock, paying labor, and other assorted cost, had to be a constant money worry. The numerous lawsuits he was involved in not only cost him money and time, it was time taken away for from other cases that would have produced revenue.

Advance and the Cape Girardeau Railway Company

Advance became a growing trading center for settlers northeast of Mango swamp after Houck and his railroad brought his Cape Girardeau Railway through the lowland into the Stoddard County community in 1881. Overcoming the difficulty presented by the wetland he reached Lakeville settlement. However, this was not his goal.

He desired to extend his railroad into the great Mango Swamp. Jacob Kappler, a stubborn landowner, refused to sell Houck land at what he considered a fair price. Therefore, he shopped around for a new route finding one about a mile west. W. H. Whitewell agreed to sell him land, thus when the railroad went through his land, most of the residents of Lakeville moved to the new railroad town and in 1883, New Lakeville was incorporated becoming Advance in 1897. About this time, the Cape Girardeau Railway became Cape Girardeau Southwestern.

Houck’s Short Line Railroads in the Southern Bootheel

In 1891, Houck became interested in a railway being constructed from Campbell, sitting on the Cotton Belt to Kennett; Dunklin County’s set of government. This line was under construction by E. S. McCarty and Associates. After gaining controlling interest, Houck reconstructed it and continued its operation.

Houck in 1893-1895 built a Railroad from Kennett to Caruthersville in Pemiscot County. This 25 mile rail line gave the people in the southern part of Dunklin County a more direct connection to the Mississippi River

St. Louis, Kennett and Southern Railroad

In 1896 and 1897, Houck starting at Kennett and going through Senath, build a railroad into Leachville, Arkansas. This provided the first rail service into some of the riches farm land in southern Missouri.

Houck continued to build railroads through the swamps. In 1898 he built a road in Stoddard County from Brownwood to Bloomfield. This was the first railroad to open Bloomfield she was not longer an inland town without a rail connection to the outside world. The community was now connected with the Cape Girardeau and Southwestern, which with its ties through southern Missouri, formed a trunk line. This was the year the Cotton Belt rebuilt their line from Bloomfield to Zeta in Stoddard County.

Missouri and Arkansas Railroad

Houck began one of his most important railroads in 1894.This was the Missouri and Arkansas Railroad from Cape Girardeau to connect with the St. Louis, Kennett and Southern at Gibson in Dunklin County a distance of 100 miles. In 1902 all the rail lines owned by Houck were now connected into a single system he called St. Louis and Gulf. This rail system was soon connected to the lead producing region to the west and north, joining the Mississippi River at several points.

St. Louis, San Francisco (Frisco)

One of the main, or trunk, lines through Southeast Missouri at this time was the St. Louis, San Francisco commonly called the Frisco. The Frisco system in the Missouri Lowland purchased many of Houck’s lines. Frisco’s main line extended from Cape Girardeau southward through the counties of Scott New Madrid, Dunklin, and Pemiscot to Caruthersville. The main towns involved were Commerce, Benton New Madrid, Morley, Morehouse Parma, Clarkton Holcomb Kennett, Hayti, and Caruthersville. In addition to the trunk line were several branches. One ran from Clarkton too Malden. Another extended from Gideon westward to Campbell northward to the Dunklin County town of Caligoa. A third branch line started at Kennett to reach Leachville Arkansas passing though Senath and near Cardwell. A fourth branch line ran from Deering northward to Pascola turning southeast here to join the main line at Hayti.

When each of these short line railroads became Frisco property, they had to be rebuilt. Houch built each as cheaply as possible. The ties were too far apart, and he used rails that were too light to handle the heavy loads, over a long period of time, that would be pulled out of the woodlands of “Swamp East” Missouri.

The Frisco system jointed with the Chicago and Eastern Illinois. This line crossed the Mississippi at Thebe to run train into Cape Girardeau from Chicago.

St. Louis, Memphis and Southern

The St. Louis, Memphis and Southern was a new rail line running from St. Louis to Memphis. North of Crystal City it ran west of the Iron Mountain. From Crystal City it headed into Cape Girardeau. From there, crossing “Nigger Wool Swamp it follows Sikeston Ridge through Sikeston, Portageville, Lilbourn, Hayti, and Caruthersville, with several lines branching into smaller communities.

Opening the Lowland Railroads Comes to the Lowlands

Cairo and Fulton Railroad

Cape Girardeau Pilot Knob and Belmont Railroad

Illinois Missouri and Texas Railroad

Cape Girardeau and State Line Railroad

Iron Mountain

Railroad Embankments as Levees

Houch: Railroad Builder

Advance and the Cape Girardeau Railway Company

Hock’s short Line Railroads in the Southern Bootheel

St. Louis Kennett and Southern Railroad

Missouri and Arkansas Railroad

St. Louis San Francisco (Frisco)

St. Louis Memphis Railroad



Morley is a city in Scott County. Once source says it was incorporated in 1863; another claims it was laid out and surveyed by John Morley, a railroad engineer about 1870.  Morley worked for and established the town on the Belmont Branch of the Iron Mountain Railroad later the Missouri Pacific.

At 344 feet above sea level, Morley is located in or near Thebus Gap. This is where the Mississippi River moved from east of the Sikeston Ridge to join the Ohio River near where the two join now. This is said to be about 9,500 years ago.

During the latter part of the 19th and early 20th centuries, melons and cotton was important crop. Several cotton gins were in town and vicinity. Today, none exist.  At the turn of the 20th century, the census takers counted 437 people. With the first mill was built by F. C. Martin and Brothers. In 1910, the population of 494 supported three general stores and two cotton gins, Organized in 1891, with a capital of $15,000 the Scott County Bank was formed. The 2000 count was 792 people in 315 households and 219 families.

 Oak Ridge

Oak Ridge was first settled in 1852 and was incorporated as a city in 1869. The original name for the community, and still its nickname, is Lizard Lick.  The 2000 census counted 202 residents compared to 256 in 1910. . Of these, 37.6% considered themselves to be of German ancestry, over three times any other ancestry, including America. Nor, did the majority consider they were part of the Southern culture.


Whitewater was built on a branch of the Belmont section of the Iron Mountain Railroad in Cape Girardeau County. As a town, it was first settled in 1866.Yet it was not until 1898 to become incorporated. At that time there were four general stores, a flourmill, a saw mill and a plant manufacturing butcher blocks. Located in the northwest area of Cape Girardeau County at an elevation of 600 feet, Oak Ridge is on a high ridge. This ridge divides Apple Creek watershed from the Whitewater water shed.


Essex is an incorporated Stoddard County city; first incorporation was in 1876. Located six miles east of Dexter, elevation is 299 feet.

By 1920, there was a cotton gin, a large lumber yard, a commercial grain elevator, four churches, two livery stables, two garages, bank, and post office. Along the St. Louis Iron Mountain Railroad Depot was an assortment of stores, including a doctor’s office, several general merchandise stores, a bakery, a print shop, cobber, and barber. There were warehouses for implements, grain, and hay.  Also, there was a wagon maker, a flower mill, and cotton gin. Not far from the hotel was an airplane hangar. All of these services were in a town of 589 people, and a two story brick school house.  


Clarkton is an incorporated, 1885, city in Dunklin County in the central part of the county north of Kennett. No date found for the first settlers in the area.  Early settlers called a settlement there Beech with a post office until 1873.

However, it is known the town was founded in 1860 and named for Henry E. Clark, one of the contractors of the Plank Road. His town was laid out about one-quarter mile from Beech. Their public school was founded in 1871. The community’s area covers 1.1 square miles and sets at 282 feet above sea level.


One great advantage Dexter had was the early development of railroads aiding greatly in its early growth. Located on the Cairo Branch of the Iron Mountain between Byrd’s Point and Popular Bluff, Thus it had a connection to the Mississippi. This position allowed it to attract a large portion to the trade from Stoddard and Dunklin counties which formerly went to Cape Girardeau and New Madrid.

Dexter, a city of 6.2 square miles, is in Stoddard County. This Crowley's Ridge community has an elevation 371 feet. Location is 45 miles west of Cairo, Illinois and the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. Like the rest of the Bootheel, Dexter has a humid subtropical climate with a Köppen Classification of Cfa (C Moist Mid-latitude Climates with Mild Winters; fa hot muggy summers and frequent thunderstorms; winters are mild and precipitation during this season comes from mid-latitude low pressure.)


Oran, a Scott County was surveyed under the name of Sylvania on July 9, 1869. Then on February 14, 1879 it was renamed St. Clouds. A new plat of the town was filed on August 23, 1883 under the name of Oran. The community is situated on the edge of the sandy edge of the Scott County Hills at an elevation of 338 feet. At one time a paint factory operated here using a large deposit of yellow ochre. The 2010 census found that 97.7 percent of the population was white.


Founded sometime around 1882, Advance is a small first-class city in northern Stoddard County. The community is thought to have been founded during the construction of the Hoxie Branch of the Frisco Railroad, completed in 1884. Captain W. H. Whitewell, Mexican war hero donated 60 acres to what was called Lakeville, because of the lakes and swamps around the region. Lakeville was first settled around 1858 when a post office opened town became Advance. In 1902 the Bank of Advance was chartered with a capital of $20,000 followed in 1909 by the establishment of the Advance Exchange Bank capitalized with $15,000.
Starting Again After the Civil War


Oak Ridge









      Missouri’s Importance

The position of Missouri during the Civil War was unique. It was located on the border line between North and South. Nearly all the territory was north of the Ohio River, which generally considered the dividing line between North and South. In two Secession Conventions before the conflict went live, Missouri voted to stay within the Union

Missouri’s importance in the Civil War is easily underestimated. Had she fell to the Confederacy, the entire mid-west would have been more open to attack. This could have made the Civil War a different conflict. An entire different strategy would have been needed.

Under normal circumstances, Missouri would, from its location would be a Northern state. Yet, a great bulk of its immigrants were from southern states, Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee perhaps furnished more settlers for Missouri in the early settlement period than all other states. Mostly, they stayed Southern in their sentiment. Thus, normally, it would be expected for Missouri to join the Confederacy.

Many of the state’s farmers owned slaves at the start of the Civil War. Their vote at the Secession Conventions counted for withdrawal. However, Missouri had a large foreign population, most of which settled in towns. Few of them were slave holders. Their sympathies were very strongly favoring the Union. The German population in the town of Cape Girardeau, and the counties of Cape Girardeau, Perry, and Bollinger, and in the city of St. Louis almost to a man favored the North.

Feeling on both sides were high and very emotional. Missouri men enlisted in the armies of both side in almost equal Numbers.

The Mississippi River became an important part of the strategy of the Union commanders; it was to use this waterway to pressure the South from the West adding to the coercion from the East. As the river became an important means of transportation of troops and supplies. Southeast Missouri, being bordered on the Mississippi and at the junction of the Ohio, became an important part of the conflict.

Union General in Chief Winfield Scott’s Anaconda Plan received widespread publicity. This plan was to blockade the coastal cities a advancing down the Mississippi River to cut the Confederacy in two. Thus the rebelling forces were aware of the threat posed n the Mississippi Valley.

        Early Civil War Actions

During the first year of the war, Confederate forces in the West went through a series of command changes that after was confusing and left responsibility for particular action hard to pin down. The Bootheel was strongly pro-Southern and therefore fell within the control of Confederate Department Number 2. This department was under the command of Major General Leonidas Polk.

In May of 1861 the state legislature passed an act authorizing the Missouri State Guards. The statue also divided the state into military districts; Southeast Missouri was District One with N. W. Watkins of Cape Girardeau appointed by the Governor as Brigadier General to command the district. Finding the work distasteful, he resigned being replaced by Jeff Thompson who temporarily made his headquarters at Bloomfield.

Northern sympathizers not joining the Union Army were drafted into the Home Guard. Between the Home Guard and the Confederate State Guards there was constant hostility and warfare, especially in Southeast Missouri.

The Confederates made a three prong assault into Missouri. In the southwest, Colonel McCulloch attacked; in central Missouri, General Hardee; while in the east General Pillow was in charge. Pillow reached and captured New Madrid early but made no plan to advance from there.

On August 30th, General Fremont issued a proclamation declaring martial law. J. McKinstry, a United States Army Major was appointed Provost Marshal of the state. Drawing a line from Kansas City to Cape Girardeau, Fremont declared: anyone caught below this line carrying arms will be tried by court martial and shot and all personal and real propriety owned in Missouri shall be confiscate and put to public use if proven enemy of the Federal government and their slaves, if they have any, shall be declared free men and found guilty of giving aid to the Confederates, including a speech or substance have been warned of ill consequences to themselves.

Persons traveling away from their home area had to carry a permit issued by the provost marshal. This proclamation covered the southern half of Missouri. Business was hampered by this degree and it caused demoralization and property loss throughout this part of the state.

On August 11, 1861 some of Thompson’s Rebels entered the Scott County community of Hamburg. An attack on the Home Guard left one dead and five wounded and 13 captured

Colonel Daugherty with his Illinois troops, on August 19, skirmished with Confederates near Charleston defeating them. That same day skirmish was fought at Fish Lake near Charleston and here the Federals also routed the enemy.

On December 29, 1861, Confederate Brig Gen Thompson sent a report to the New Madrid Headquarters of the first Military District of the Missouri State Guard at Columbus, Kentucky. He had left New Madrid Saturday evening with 40 men, one 6-pounder and one little rifled cannon. While heading towards Sikeston, near Hunter’s the little cannon was accidently damaged and the 6-pounders’ team gave out. After sending the little gun back, the 6-pounderwas placed at Jones’ Ford.

With 27 men, Thompson proceeded into Commerce on the Sandy Ridge Road. A quick attack took the residents by surprise with all male inhabitants under guard. After a raid on the two Federal stores, my men replaced any clothing they needed. About 2:30, the steamer City of Alton was sited. My plan to capture the packet, without cannon support, was defeated by the women of Commerce as we were unable to stop them from giving the alarm. Coming close enough to the shore, they received a good peppering before the backed out of range and headed downstream. The raid netted muskets, two rifles, six horses, 15 or 20 suites of clothes. After stampeding the Union men of Scott County we returned safely to New Madrid. In forty hours, we marched 105 miles.

The events at Sikeston were typical of the Civil War events in the Bootheel. That is, most of the contacts between Union and Confederate troops were not normally considered large events, except by those involved. However, two events did have a national impact.

The Union leaders wanted to drive General Thompson out of the Southeast if he could not be captured, which was their first choose. Union General Prentiss was in Ironton. He was to go to Cape Girardeau and turn his forces south. Meanwhile, Grant would cross the Mississippi at Cairo and descend downstream to Belmont and move westward from there.

General B. M. Prentiss, when he arrived at Jackson, on his way to cut off and capture General Thompson, was given orders from Grant to stop there, to go no farther. Believing himself to be the senior officer, Prentiss disobeyed that order and departed to Cape Girardeau..

Upon reaching Cape Girardeau, he found Grant in charge, therefore he ordered his men back to Jackson where he left his command and went to St. Louis feeling he and not Grant should have been promoted. Thus, the expedition to capture General Thompson ended.

With the defeat of Lyon’s army at Wilson’s Creek, it generated a feeling throughout Missouri that Confederates were winning the war. Within the border of the state and among the state leaders there was a great deal of excitement and confusion.

In the fall of 1861, a column of troops were rushed by Confederate Brigadier General Jeff Thompson from New Madrid to Sikeston Confederate troops were moving towards Cape Girardeau to enforce the troops stationed there.

While in the Sikeston area Thompson had set up three camps in the area. The camp west of town was Camp Brown. North of Sikeston he later created Camp Hunter he located on the farm of Joseph Hunter near the Scott County Central School. The final camp was in Sikeston proper. Each was in a strategic location to harass any Union troops moving towards Sikeston from Commerce.

On August 20th, at Charleston, there was a skirmish against forces under the Confederate Colonel Jason Hunter and the 22nd Illinois Infantry under Colonel Daugherty and the Union Cavalry under David P. Jenkins. Hunter was defeated and retreated to rejoin Thompson’s forces. Hunter was arrested for not following orders. He was only to discover the position of the enemy, not fight a superior force.

Bird’s Point was a strategic site. One secured after the Confederates were deterred from regain control of the supply routes, this became an important supply and repair site as well as training camp and military port for the Union army and navy.

On September 3, General Fremont, hearing rumors, warned General Grant that Rebel forces in Sikeston numbed 16,000 men. His report also expressed concerns about the Confederates experienced cavalry there while his men were mainly untested. After finding out the next day that the reported Confederate troop numbers were not only inflated, but that the Southern army had left Sikeston Prentiss occupied Sikeston.

A skirmish was fought on October 14, 1861 at Underwood’s farm near Bird’s Point. It was a Confederate victory

During the month of October, 1861, Thompson led his army on an expedition from his headquarters in Stoddard County by way of Fredericktown into Jefferson County. He had two planned objectives. One was to destroy The Iron Mountain Railroad Bridge over Big River, thus hindering the movements of Federal Forces south from St. Louis. The other was to capture much needed lead the Confederacy required for bullets.

Union soldiers were guarding the bridge, near Blackwell, and a skirmish was fought and the bridge was destroyed. Thompson then retreated back to Fredericktown where he learned a strong Union force was closing in on him.

With the knowledge that Federal troops were on the way to Bloomfield, Thompson fell back some ten miles to Camp Jackson, and later to West Prairie close to Clarkton in Dunklin County. Plans were made, if the Union troops followed him, to use the Plank Road form Clarkton to New Madrid.

After Plummer and Oglesby received reports of Thompsons retreat to New Madrid, they set off in pursuit. With orders arriving from General Grant to return, to their base, Plummer went back to Cape Girardeau with Oglesby returning to Bird’s Point.

On October 4, 1861, Confederate Brigadier General M. Jeff Thompson stopped at Sikeston; his planed was to strike Cape Girardeau. As his manpower was limited, his plans changed and he disappeared in the swamps off to the west. Another time that year, General Thompson visited Sikeston. Without money to buy supplies or pay his troops, he robbed a bank at Charleston before heading west. He left an IOU with the Charleston Bank and apologized for the necessity of his actions.

That same day Grant reported to General Halleck in St. Louis that Confederates were retreating from the area of Sikeston and Bird’s Point. Colonel Wallace received orders to occupy Charleston and sent patrols to Sikeston to confirm the rumors of a Confederate retreat.

Discovering the Union plan, Thompson expressed concerns to his superiors that Prentiss’ plan to occupy Sikeston would interfere with Southern troop movements. He realized the importance of Sikeston as a transportation center. Thus he moved his forces out as he slowed Prentiss’ advance. Thompson also worried about a reported buildup of Union troops at Cairo. These troops could be used, he realized, to set a trap for him.

In 1861 Cape Girardeau was under Union Control. On Oct. 18, with the knowledge that Federal troops were on the way to Bloomfield, Thompson fell back some ten miles to Camp Jackson, and later to West Prairie close to Clarkton in Dunklin County. Plans were made, if the Union troops followed him, to use the Plank Road from Clarkton to New Madrid.

That same day, the Confederate steamers Aargo and Lake City lobed cannon balls into Cape Girardeau.

Included in the quick plan to capture Thompson, the federal authorities sent Colonel Plummer from Cape Girardeau with amour 1,500 men; Colonel Carhn left Pilot Knob with 3,000 troops. Thompson heard the reports of the advancing enemy and went south towards Greenville where he had to fight off Union forces just outside Greenville on October 21, 1861.

After the fiercely fought baton on both sides, Thompson continued his retreat in good order as the Union forces occupied Fredericktown. Hauling away some 18,000 pounds of lead, the Confederates made good their escape.

The situation as of November 1, 1861 in Southeast Missouri; General Grant was in command and station at Cairo with an army of about 20,000. Colonel J. B. Plummer was at Cape Girardeau with another 1,500 troopers including the 11th Missouri Volunteer and some Illinois troops. Colonel Carhn was at Ironton and Pilot Knob with 3.000 Illinois troops. Colonel R. J. Olgesby commanded at Bird’s Point but under direct supervision of General Grant.

At this time the Confederate forces in Southeast Missouri included General W. J. Hardee at Greenville with some 3,000 men, General Pillow was in New Madrid commanding about 5,000 men, and General Jeff Thompson was stationed at Bloomfield with a force of about 1,500.

During the Civil War Bloomfield was controlled by both the Confederate and Union armies. She was the staging area for several expeditions and also the target of expeditions. The Confederates right before the Battle for Island Number Ten lost control of the city and a number of men planning to shortly move to help their comrades there were captured.

At midnight, Saturday, November 2, Colonel Richard J. Oglesby, 8th Illinois Infantry regiment’s commanding officer, stationed at Bird's Point received a dispatch from Brigadier General Grant. He was ordered to lead an expedition to destroy rebel forced gathered in Stoddard County. These southern forces were under Brigadier General M. Jeff Thompson of the Missouri State Guard.

        Bloomfield and the Stars and Stripes

On November 7th and 8th, 1861, federal troops from Illinois and Iowa enter the nearly abandoned town of Bloomfield and set up camp. Undoubtedly, they were pleased with themselves as this was their first military operation

Colonel Oglesby had under his command some 2,200 men in the 11th, 18th, and 29th Illinois Infantry Regiments. On Tuesday, the 5th, they started towards Bloomfield. The shortest route was across Niger Wool Swamp, arriving at their destination on Thursday November 7th.

General Grant had also ordered in Cape Girardeau and Ironton to Bloomfield. Thus Union forces were converging on the town from the east, northeast and northwest. Confederate General Thompson, realizing his predicament withdrew further south to a less precarious position.

The first Union army to enter Bloomfield was the 10th Iowa Regiment. Coming from Cape Girardeau they arrived about 10:00 on the 7th of November only to find the Confederates had left town.

About 9:00 on the 9th, Oglesby’s command arrived. Plans were for them to only stay in town one day. During the day some of the Illinois started looting the stores. After a while, the military police stopped this.

Another group of union soldiers touring the town noticed the newspaper office of the Bloomfield Herald was empty. Its editor, Jokes O. Hull, a New Jersey native, recently in the newspaper business in Southern Illinois before opening the Bloomfield Herald in 1858. The office was empty as he had joined the Confederate army and left town.

That night ten Union solders returned to the newspaper office and the newspaper, Stars and Stripes was born. Nine of these men had or served newspapers after the war as publishers, editors’ newsmen, managers, or printers. Little did they know the legacy started that night; a newspaper by military personal for military personal.

They thought it logical to print their own newspaper telling about camp life. It is unknown how many copies of the first paper were printed for the 2000 troops in and around the town.

They called their paper the Stars and Stripes Also at Bloomfield is the Stars and Stripes Museum Library Association Still in operation today it is an American newspaper that reports on matters affecting the members of the United States military.

The Battle of Belmont  

A small community north of Island Number 5, commonly called Wolf Island that was laid out in 1853 by the Belmont Company of New York and named for its president, August Belmont. In 1870, a post off was established there. During the 1912 flood, almost all the down was destroyed with the flood of 1922 destroying its only church building, also substituting as a school. After 1922, they lost their post office with the mail being routed across the Mississippi to Columbus, Kentucky.

General Grant had received orders to stop Confederate troop from crossing the Mississippi at Columbus and the Battle of Belmont was the results. Belmont was a small Missouri community north of New Madrid. Columbus was a Confederate staging area in Kentucky.

A month later, Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant wrote a letter from Cairo, Illinois, to Colonel Richard J. Olgesby, Commander of Union Forces Headquarters District Southeast Missouri at Bird’s Point. Grant wanted him to move against Sikeston. Oglesby was ordered to move from Commerce and Colonel W. H. L. Wallace was to meet Oglesby there in preparations for Grant’s attack at the Battle of Belmont. His troops in marching across Niger Wool Swamp had to fight several skirmishes against irregular Rebel forces as they made their way into Bloomfield, only to find it deserted of armed forces.


During the opening states of the Civil War, Kentucky, a critical border state, declared its neutrality, saying it would align opposite the first side breach its borders. On September 3, 1861 this occurred when Confederate forces, commanded by Major General Leonidas Polk who occupied Columbus, Kentucky.

Columbus was setting on a series of Mississippi River bluffs. Some of these bluffs looked down 150 feet at the river. Polk’s army quickly set about fortifying the bluff by mounting 140 heavy guns pointed the river. Included was an 8-ton Dahlgren called “Lady Polk.” Rifled and breech-loaded, the Dahlgren could fire 128-pound cone shaped projectile. To hinder river traffic, a log pontoon floated on massive iron chain tied to two sycamore trees on the Missouri side and grounded on the Kentucky side with a 6-ton anchor. 

The Union commander of Southeast Missouri, Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant sent forces under Brigadier General Charles Smith to occupy Paducah, Kentucky on the Ohio River. Grant based at Cairo, some 30 river miles north of Columbus and was eager to attack this Southern stronghold. Until just before November 7, 1862, Major General John C. Fremont, Grant’s superior officer, frequently asked for permission to attack

The Federal gunboat Tyler, on patrol near the Iron Banks in the Belmont area fired one shot on to Beckwiths’ and Hunter’s corn fields trying to provoke a response from any guerrillas in the area. No response was made in return. This was a primary probe before the Battle of Belmont.

With 4,000 men Grant transported his men by boat accompanied by a convoy of gunboats from Cairo on November 5th. After a three mile march from Hunter’s farm and after being dropped off, they reach Belmont early in the morning. Although the Confederates were outnumbered, even with reinforcements from Columbus the battle lasted for four hours before they withdrew into the deep woods and swamp.

Instead of following up their success, the Federal troops stopped to pillage the Rebel camp. The Confederates at Columbus crossed to river to reinforce their besieged comrades. Under pressure from this new attack, the Union army withdrew.

The Union army suffered severely in their retreat. General Grant barely escaped capture before reaching a gunboat. It was considered a Confederate victory although they lost 642 men while the Union loss was 402, with 80 of them killed.

In early November Grant elected to move against the small Confederate garrison at Belmont, Mississippi County, Missouri across the river from Columbus.

For support in this operation, Grant ordered Smith to leave Paducah and distract the Confederates by moving to the southwest, marching towards New Madrid. On November 6th, Grant left by riverboat from Cairo to attack the Rebels massed at Columbus, Kentucky. Accompanying, the men aboard the steamers were the gunboats USS Tyler and USS Lexington.

Next morning Grant received word that some Confederate forces had crossed the Mississippi River to Belmont. Polk sent Brigadier General Gideon Pillow across the river from to reinforce the troops at Belmont. Crossing were four Tennessee regiments to strengthen Colonel James Tappan’s command at Camp Johnson. They moved northwest to block the road south from Hunter’s Landing the logical steamboat landing spot. Confederate forces now counted 2,700 soldiers.

The Union flotilla carried four Illinois regiment, one Iowa regiment, two companies of cavalry and six guns, and a total of 3.000 men. About 8 A.M. Grant’s flotilla stopped at Hunter’s Landing, some three miles north of Belmont.

General Pillow staged his main defensive line along a low rise in a cornfield. Grant’s men marching south cleared the road of obstruction after driving back skirmishers. Union soldiers formed a battle line in the woods. After they crossed a small marsh the Union troops emerged from the trees.

For about an hour, the Confederates repelled the attacking army. After the Union artillery finally reached the battle ground around noon, Pillow’s troops began falling back. Quickly the retreating army reorganized to defend Camp Johnson and became trapped against the river.

Supported by the heavy artillery from bluff across the river, Grants men were forced to retreat. Reaching his riverboats, Grant took his men to Paducah, Kentucky.

Union loses during the battle numbered 120 killed, 383 wounded, and 104 captured or missing. Polk’s command lost 105 men killed, 419 wounded and 117 missing or captured. Grant achieved his objective of destroying the camp. Therefore he claimed victory. The Confederates also claimed the Battle of Belmont a victor. Compared to later events, the battle was relative small. Here, Grant gained valuable field experience. Although a formidable position, the Confederate batteries were abandoned at Columbus after Grant outflanked them by capturing Fort Henry on the Tennessee River and Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River.

        Failure to Remove Confederates from Southeast Missouri

December 11th there was a skirmish at Bertrand and next day at Charleston.

The Confederates, under Thompson, on December 29th with 40 men left Hunter’s Farm and passed quickly through Sikeston and Commerce capturing supplies before retreating to New Madrid.

January 19, 1862, on an expedition from Cape Girardeau into Bloomfield, the Union Cavalry had to borrow rifles from a Missouri Volunteer Company to be armed. The raid by 100 men was in response to rumors the Confederates gathering at Bloomfield were preparing to reinforce Confederate troops at New Madrid. The Confederates were at a dance and were easily captured. Included among the 39 prisoners were a Lieutenant Colonel and ten other officers. Small cannons and several horses were also confiscated.

January 26.1862 found Confederate General Jeff Thompson with a cavalry of some 500 men between Commerce and Price’s Landing. Union troops were dispatched from Bird’s Point and Cape Girardeau. Again, Thompson escaped.

A few days later, Grant moved his command to Cairo. At this time, a debate raged in Grant’s command about the practically of forcing the Rebels out of Southeast Missouri. He however was hampered by poor intelligence.

In the attempts to drive the Rebels out of Southeast Missouri, where the battles and skirmishes were not important to the overall outcome of the war, there was one results usually overlooked. The problem arose as wither to defend Southeast Missouri or Southwest Missouri. An invasion from Arkansas was supposed to come by way of Springfield, as it did later under General Price.

Another invasion was planned from Arkansas coming up the Mississippi to Birds Point. General Fremont assumed command and had to decide whether to defend the southeast of the southwest from Rebel encroachment. His decision was to defend Southeast Missouri. Doing so, he sent a fleet of eight steamers loaded with infantry and artillery to Birds Point. In part, this decision resulted in the defeat of Federal Forces at Wilson’s Creek in Northwest Arkansas.

The Battle of Island Number Ten

While, at Cape Girardeau, with General Order 37 issued February 1, 1862, Grant, was given command of the District of West Tennessee, and was to plan and execute the capture of Island 10 near New Madrid, and opened the Mississippi River to Memphis. The enemy troops at Belmont stood in the path of Island 10.


The Battle of Island Number Ten was an engagement at the New Madrid or Kentucky Bend on the Mississippi River, lasting from February 28 unto April 8, 1862. The position was an island at the base of a tight double turn in the river and held by the Confederates from the early days of the war.

Confederate Brigadier General Gideon J. Pillow, one of General Polk’s subordinates brought the areas around Island Number 10 to, official notice. Neither Polk nor Pillow was actively involved in developing defenses at the bend. The assignment was given by Polk to Captain Asa B, Gray, an army engineer. Gray worked hard even thought he was not given the resources needed.

Captain Gray started in Mid-August of 1861 on constructing batteries to protect the island. The Tennessee banks, about 1.5 miles north of the island was the first location selected by shore batteries. Battery Number 1 commanded the approach to the bend. Coming down stream, vessels would have to move directly towards theses guns for more than a mile. In practice, these weapons were not very effective as the low ground was subject to flooding. At this time, Polk was diverted to the capture and fortification of Columbus. While work continued at Island Number 10, it was not regarded as urgent and was denied by equipment and workers.

When Fort Henry and Fort Donaldson fell into Union hand early in February 1862, the importance of New Madrid end rose dramatically. This cut Columbus off from the rest of the Rebel army leaving the garrison subject to capture by the Federal troops moving overland to the Mississippi from the Tennessee River. General Beauregard then ordered the position abandoned as quietly as possible. On February 24, the first members of the Columbus stronghold arrived at Island 10. Two days later, its new commander Brig. Gen John P. McCown arrived to immediately start wok strengthening the Confederate positions from Battery Number 1 to Point Pleasant.

Given adequate resources, McCown was able to transform the defense area into a formidable obstacle for any fleet attempting to pass. Middle of March saw fiver batteries with 24 guns lined the banks above the island; 19 guns were ion the island within five batteries. New Orleans, a floating battery had nine guns and moored at the west end of the island. Two forts had been set u at New Madrid: Fort Thompson with 14 guns on the west, and seven guns at Fort Bankhead to the east where St. John’s Bayou net the Mississippi.

On September 15, 1861, Polk was superseded by General Albert Sidney Johnson to command of Department 2. Polk remains part to the Department but in a subordinate position. Like others in his position, Johnson took no active interest in Island Number 10.

General P. G. T. Beauregard became commander of the Army of Mississippi and in effect became Johnston’s second in command. He became the first Confederate commander to recognize the importance of Island Number 10. He issued orders to abandon the garrison at Columbus moving it to help defend the river at New Madrid. He could not take personal charge of the bends defenses because he fell sick. After his recovery, Beauregard and General Johnston were making preparation for the forthcoming Battle of Shiloh.

With the transfer from Combos to Island Number 10, Major General John Pl McCown was appointed local commander. On March 31, with the fall of New Madrid, McCown was replaced by Brigadier General William W. Mackall.

Although these command changes, the Confederate navy on the Mississippi were commanded by Flag Officer George N. Hollins. As the river lay in two military departments, Hollins had to work with the commanders at New Madrid Bend and with the man in charge of the defense of New Orleans.

They had selected an excellent site to hamper Union efforts invading the South by the river pulling needed troops and equipment from the east. Vessels would have to slow down as they approached the island to make the turns. For the defenders, its innate weakness was their dependence on a single road for supplies and reinforcement. If that road was captured of cut off, the garrisons would be trapped.

Word was received by Union commanders that troop were landing four miles below Point Pleasant on the eastern bank to march across the neck of land to cross to Island Number 10. Estimates are the enemy forces their Number 11,000.

On March 1, 1862, the Union army was able to drive the Confederates into Nigger Wool Swamp and out of Sikeston. Of the 100 combatants two were killed, ten wounded or captured. Now, the important crossroads at Sikeston were in Union hands.

On April 13th, Lindsay Murdoch led a Federal expedition from Cape Girardeau to Jackson, Whitewater, and Dallas. No severe fighting occurred with no organized resistance encountered.

On May 16, 1862, the Confederated forces in the area were General W. J. Hardee was at Greenville with about 3,000 men. General Pillow was quartered at New Madrid with about 5,000 and General Jeff Thompson was at Bloomfield overseeing about 1,500 men.

Colonel Plummer received orders to march to Bloomfield to capture Thompson and his command, however, Thompson has retreated. Oglesby left Bird’s Point by boat for Commerce, marched across Niger Wool Swamp where he fought a skirmish with a few Confederate troops and then marched to Bloomfield taking control of the town.

With the arrival of Union troops at Bloomfield, Thompson fell back about ten miles to Camp Jackson and later to West Prairie in the vicinity of Clarkton. He planned to use the Blanton Plank Road from Clarkton to New Madrid. After Plummer and Oglesby found Thompson had retreated, they made plans to follow him to New Madrid before General Grant ordered them back to their points of departure, Cape Girardeau and Bird’s Point.

Confederate Colonel W. L Jeffers a Mexican War veteran, on April 6, 1862 defeated a company of militia under Captain William Flentge near Jackson. May 6, he defeated a Wisconsin regiment under Colonel Daniels at Chalk Bluff, on the St. Francis River just across the line into Arkansas. In action before this Colonel Daniels had defeated a detachment of Confederated under Colonel Phelan about 12 miles from Bloomfield.

Then Colonel Jeffers led his troops into Dunklin County. Here at the Port of Dunklin County which was the northern point of navigation of Little River, the Union forces captured a small steamer on Little River, the Daniel B. Miller at Hornersville. This was a small stern wheeled packet with a wooden hull. A packet was a steamboat which carried both passengers and freight. Build in 1859 at California, Pennsylvania; she was 109 feet long by 26.8 feet wide with a 4 foot deep hull. Daniel B. Miller and S. B Kitchen of Bloomfield were the owners. Her master was John A. Williams of Cape Girardeau She was typical of the smaller crafts servicing the smaller streams.

After Plummer and Oglesby received reports of Thompsons retreat to New Madrid, they set off in pursuit. With orders arriving from General Grant to return, to their base, Plummer went back to Cape Girardeau with Oglesby returning to Bird’s Point. The Confederate steamers Aargo and Lake City lobed cannon ball into Birds Point then withdrew southward.

Throughout the Civil War, Confederate had irregular troops operating in the field. These guerrillas were charged with interrupting transportation by burning bridges, falling trees across trails, ruining off horses and mules, and by attacking small groups out foraging for food and hay for their animals along with anything else that would harass and delay the Union Army and/or lower moral. Another part of their mission was to keep enemy troops tied up and not used elsewhere.

In the spring of 1862, Sikeston again became a staging area this time. Union Brigadier General Pope sent his artillery across the Mississippi at Commerce. There they were sent by rail to connect with the highway for overland transportation southward in preparation for the Battle of Island Number 10 near New Madrid.

General Pope left Commerce on February 28, 1862. The Cairo and Fulton Railroad carried 12,000 of his troops to Sikeston where they marched south on the Kingshighway. During this march, Colonel William Pitt Kellogg, future governor of Louisiana, was leading the 7th Illinois Cavalry where he encounters rebel sabotage lead by Confederate General Thompson. The confederates had burned several bridges and place obstacles across the road. In this raid, just south of Sikeston, Thompson lead a small force, 85 horsemen with four to six experimental cannons recently manufactured at Memphis. The Illinois troops were reinforced by Brigadier General Schuyler Hamilton’s 2sd Division. Thompson’s troops quickly faded into the Nigger Wool Swamp of Little River Valley.

Union Brigadier General Eleazor Arthur Paine, commander of the 4th Division of the Army of Mississippi, orders repairs to road, the railroad and telegraph lines south of Sikeston destroyed by Confederates under Thompson’s command. Paine formed a garrison of Illinois troop for Sikeston, Bertrand, and Charleston.

On March 31, 1862, there were six Union officers and 143 Union soldier stationed at Sikeston. Paine also would later lead these troops against New Madrid, Island Number 10 and Fort Pillow, was assigned repairing Confederate damage to the King’s Highway south of Sikeston. With the road repaired, massive Numbers of troops could now march on New Madrid and Island Number 10.

Confederate forces under General Pillow, in April, started construction of defensive positions at New Madrid and Island Number 10. The idea was to block navigation of the Union fleet on the Mississippi. Between February 29 and March 2, as Polk withdrew from Columbus, Kentucky, he diverted McCown division of 5,000 men to reinforce the 2,000 men defending the river.

Island Number 10, at one time was the tenth island below Cairo and some 50 river miles south of the junction with the Ohio. A short-lived product of the river, Island Number Ten was an enlarged sandbar roughly one mile long and 450 yards wide at its maximum width that stood about 10 feet above the water.

More important than the island was the course of the river here. Island Number 10 at the southern end where the river does a clockwise turn of 180 degrees. Almost immediately it was followed by a counterclockwise turn that moved the river almost parallel to its original course. These turns were tight; the distance from the southern limit to the first turn to the north of the second was only nine miles by air, or 12 river miles.

On a peninsula 10 miles long and three miles wide, the Confederates defended it with two two-regiments in a temporary fortification at New Madrid. This riverbank was about 30 feet above low water, giving the defense an advantage as they looked down on Union gunboats’ passing below.

Island Number10 also had land batteries and a floating battery of Confederate gunboats. Land based artillery batteries on the Tennessee shore were pointed upstream. In all 50 guns and a small fleet of gunboats protected New Madrid.

The mainland on the south side behind the island connected to Tiptonville, Tennessee. Running along the natural levee, it was good road. However, it was the only easily traveled route as the region was a mixture of sloughs, lakes, and swamps to the nearest high ground some ten miles to the east. Reelfoot Lake was the largest of these wetlands with the southern end near Tiptonville. In the spring, as it was in 1862, high water extended it north to beyond the bend. Nowhere was the water very deep so individual soldiers could wade across. However, an army trying to move heavy equipment would not be able to do so. Thus, Island Number Ten was considered invulnerable to land attack on the Tennessee side. Also it meant the only escape and enforcement route was the Tiptonville Road.

General Pope, in an effort to capture the Confederate stronghold at Island Number 10, made a forced march to New Madrid. The town’s strong defensive placements and the guns of the Confederate gunboats caused him to wait for enforcements. His plans changed when he determined a siege was in order.

March 5, General McCown reported from Camp Clarkton that the Plank Road was protected by two guns at Weaverville on Little River. Any refugees needing protection had it here. At New Madrid General Polk ordered levees constructed of sand bags and earth around the two upper batteries and bail out the water. This was to be done immediately. Burn down any portion of New Madrid which affords protection to the enemy’s sharp shoots.

While waiting for siege guns from Cairo, Pope he sent Colonel Plummer with the 11th Missouri to Point Pleasant, ten miles south of New Madrid. Arriving to find the town well defended, Plummer entrenched his command. Point Pleasant on the right bank of the river was almost directly opposite Island Number 10. The Confederate navy contested the Union troop movement. With the Union soldiers moving out of range, the gunboats retreated.

Point Pleasant was occupied on March 6 by Plummer’s’ brigade. The town was then shelled for three days. Flag Officer Hollins received no support during this time as the Confederate Army remained within their fortifications.

The Union army had siege guns arrive March 12. McCown and Hollins were surprised by this move almost as much as Pope’s winters march from Sikeston. Now the river was in effect closed to the unarmored Rebel gunboats. This armament also prevented artillery companies from reinforcement of New Madrid by shifting troops from Island Number 10.

On March 13, an artillery duel followed at New Madrid between the Confederate gunboats and Pope’s heavy gun from Cairo. The night of the 14th, McCown ordered the Confederates to evacuate New Madrid and Point Pleasant. Now Pope had a base for the Union army to prepare and attack Island Number 10.

The town and two forts, in a heavy rainstorm, evacuated with incident. The departure was so sudden the he guns left in the fort were spiked. As Pope’s scouting reports were wrong, he did not realize the number troop occupying New Madrid was over estimated. Nor did he know the town was without Confederate troops until two deserters under a white flag inform him.

Some to the troops withdrawn from New Madrid after the loss were transferred to Fort Pillow some 70 miles south, by almost twice that by river. McCown was replaced by Brigadier General William W. Mackall. While this appears to be a reprimand for his loss of New Madrid, McCown was actually promoted to major general.

With the gunboat and mortars arriving on March 15, this is usually considered the starting date of the siege. With Pope in New Madrid and Foote upstream, Island Number 10 was between them. From the beginning, the two disagreed on how to carry out the operation to subdue the Rebels around the bend. Pope wanted quick action. Foote wanted to use a bombardment to slowly subdue the island. General Halleck was the general in charge of the area and stationed in St. Louis. Foote was confused about what was expected of him as he was getting what he considered ambiguous or even contradictory orders for Halleck who was distracted by preparation for the advance along the Tennessee River.

As early as March 17th Pope was asking that two or three gunboats run past the island to allow him to cross the river and trap the entire garrison. Foote balked arguing his boats were not invincible, claiming a chance disabling shot could give the Confederate a boat to be used again northern cities. His thinking may have been affected by the wound he received at Fort Donelson, one that was not healing properly, keeping him in pain and on crutches.

As long as the Confederate River Navy, under command of Commodore Hollins controlled Island Number 10 with the steamers, Grampus, (which was sunk during the battle for the island) the Mohawk, Kanawa Valley, and the Champion along with smaller craft the Red Rover, Ohio Bell, Simonds, Yazoo, De Soto, Mears, and Admiral, any Union river approach from the north had to run a dangerous gauntlet. These craft and shore artillery batteries of 45 guns made it exceedingly dangerous for the Federal River Navy to slip around the island.

For the next two weeks, mortars mainly bombarded the island at rather long range. Occasionally, the Confederate batteries answered with their artillery. The mortars had their high expectations shattered. Their damage to the enemy positions did not live up to expectation. In fact, they did little damage. On March 17, during the bombardment with the gunboats taking part, a gun on the USS St. Louis killed three men of the crew and wounded a dozen more when it exploded.

After Foote flatly refused Pope’s request to run gunboats past Island Number 10, a staff member suggested what perhaps a canal could dug to cut to allow Union warships to bypass the enemy batteries. Colonel J. W. Bissell, of the 1st Missouri Engineers, started digging a 12 mile long canal, 50 feet wide, six miles of it went through heavy woods. Using huge U-shaped sass mounted on barges they cut trees four and a half feet below the water line. While the canal was no deep enough for gunboat to use it did prove helpful in allowing transports and supply vessels. Now Pope no longer had to depend on land communications.

March 20th Confederate General Polk ordered all transports about New Madrid not absolutely needed to be sunk on flats and bars near Island Number10 to obstruct the channel.

March 24, 1862 Confederate General Van Dorn, commander of Crowley's Ridge sent steamboats up the St. Francis and Little River to Hornersville. This was to send help if needed and hopefully it will not be necessary, remove the troops if things go wrong. He also claimed to have the Plank Road securer as an escape route.

Pope was still insisting he needed a gunboat cover his projected landing on the Tennessee side of the river. March 29, Foote again called a meeting of the captains in which he confirmed his decision not to support Pope’s demand. The situation was solved when Halleck in St. Louis told Foote to give Pope the support he needed.

Commander Henry Walke, captain of USS Carondolet believed the plan worth the risk volunteering to take his craft through. The necessary orders were given and Carondelet prepared for the run. She was covered with chain, rope, and other loose material that lay at hand a coal barge filled with coal and haw was lashed to her side to muffle here sound, her steam exhaust diverted from the smokestacks. Now ready, she only had to wait for a sufficiently dark night to make her run.

To increase the odds of success, a raid by soldiers from the 42sd Illinois Infantry and sailors in the flotilla, under the command of Colonel George W. Roberts overran Battery Number 1 on the night of April 1 and spiked its guns.

The flotilla, on April 2sd using both gunboats and mortars concentrated fire on the floating battery New Orleans. After being hit several times, her mooring lines parted. She floated downstream. While the New Orleans was in the Confederate river service was renamed W. H. Ivy and was lost in 1864

April 4th the night was moonless and a thunderstorm came up after dark. Conditions for running past the remaining batteries were acceptable. Carondelet made her way downstream. She was not discovered until she was even with Confederate Battery Number 2. Had her smokestacks not blazed up when the soot build up no longer was dampened by escaping steam and caught fire to reveal her position she may have escape detection. With the battery’s fire inaccurate, the Carondelet run the gamut unharmed. Foote was still pressed for another gunboat. Two nights later USS Pittsburg made another success run.

The next day a tornado hit New Madrid. That day Thompson reported his troops destroyed the Plank Road on Sunday last. General Villepigue left Osceola for Hornersville to make sure the Plank Road was destroyed.

Pope’s Army could now cross the river unopposed by Confederate gunboats. This left him in a position where he could suppress enemy fire that may have opposed their landing. On April 7 gunboats were sent to destroy the batteries at Watson’s Landing where his attack was to come. With the heavy weapons quiet, transports carried Union troops across and the landing proceeded without opposition.

Mackall took several hours deciding his next move. By then he realized his situation was hopeless, therefore, the men on the mainland were put in motion for Tiptonville. Pope’s spies realized the importance of this troop movement and reported to the general. Now both armies were in a footrace for Tiptonville instead of the expected battle. Mackall’s major concert was that the Union gunboats would not interfere; however, they did, thus delaying the retreating Rebels. The delayed Confederates were slowed enough that Pope’s men arrive at Tiptonville first. With the defenders trapped with no prospect of victory, Mackall surrendered. On April 9th, the Rebels lost 273 officers and 4,500 enlisted men; men that were not easily replaced.

        After Island Number 10

Not only did the Confederates lose a critical defensive position but also immense quantity of artillery, ammunition, and supplies of every description. These were items they could ill afford to lose. On the human side, they lose was even more critical. Three generals, 273 field and company officers, 6,700 privates, 123 pieces of heavy artillery, 35 pieces of field artillery (all of the very best character and latest patterns), 7,000 stand of small-arms, 10 to 12,000 men, several wharf-boats, loads of provision, an immense quantity of ammunition of all kinds, many hundred horses and mules, with wagons and harness were among the items lost.

With Island Number 10 in Union hands, the Mississippi was open with only Fort Pillow remaining to stop Union forces from taking Memphis. Gunboats, operating with foot soldiers, accomplish a major event of the Civil War. General Pope’s leadership here led to his being selected by Lincoln to command the Army of Virginia.

This was the only major military action in Southeast Missouri during 1862. However, there was constant warfare between the Home Guards and Confederate troops.

December 22, 1862, the 32sd Iowa Regiment, stationed at New Madrid, made an expedition to Clarkton and Kennett seizing property and taking prisoners.

For the most part, the Confederates were successful during 1862. They went about capturing large stores of supplies, killing many enemies, and disturbing Union plans. Things changed in 1863 for the Confederates in Southeast Missouri. After being forced back into Arkansas, many of the Confederate contacts between the two forces came from out of state.

        Battle of Cape Girardeau

While about 9,000 men met at Cape Girardeau on April 26, 1863 and the conflict is called a battle today, in true terms of battle during the Civil War, it was little more than an overgrown skirmish. With 5,000 men the Confederates leady by General Marmaduke meeting Union General McNeil in his pursuit of Rebel forces throughout Southeast Missouri. It was important because it was a turning point because it brought General Marmaduke’s second Missouri raid to a conclusion never to be tried again.

This second raid into Missouri from Northeast Arkansas by General Marmaduke began on April 18, 1863. Marmaduke had several hundred troops that were unarmed and un-mounted. He planned this foray as a means of correcting this situation. Always being short of men, the General was afraid if these men were left behind they might desert.

The Confederates were organized into two columns, each made up of two brigades. Colonel George W. Carter headed one column which consisted of a brigade led by Colonel Colton Green and the other by himself. The second column was led by Colonel Joseph O. Shelby and consisted of Shelby’s “Iron Brigade” commanded by Colonel George W. Thompson and the other brigade led by Colonel Johan Q. Burbidge. The Rebels had between eight and ten artillery pieces.

Colonel Carter’s column advanced towards Bloomfield in an attempt to capture the Federal garrison there commanded by Brigadier General John McNeil. Colonel Shelby’s men, accompanied by General Marmaduke, turned north towards Fredericktown hoping to intercept the Union army trying to escape McNeil’s pressure on Bloomfield. Shelby reached Fredericktown April 22. Because of difficulty crossing Mingo Swamps, Carter arrived at Broomfield April 23rd. He found the town in ruins after the Union army’s departure two days earlier. Hearing the enemy was on the way to Bloomfield, McNeil disobey orders and headed towards Cape Girardeau arriving on the evening of the 24th.

Carter also disobeyed orders. His instructions were only to purse McNeil if they fled towards Fredericktown and Pilot Knob. Indeed, he followed the Union troops towards Cape Girardeau catching ups with them at mid-day on April 25th four miles from town.

Carter sent McNeil a message demanding the Union office surrender and returned a reply within 30minutes. He signed the note Confederate Major General Sterling Price hoping his name would instill enough fear in McNeil to surrender thanking that General Price was in the area. The bluff did not work and McNeil did not surrender. Believing he would soon be attacked, Carter sent word to Cape Girardeau explaining his situation and asks for reinforcements. Hearing that Colonel Carter had disobeyed orders, Marmaduke redirected Shelby’s column to reinforce Carter in any possible action at Cape Girardeau.

In 1861, General Grant approved the construction of four strategic forts around Cape Girardeau. They were knows as Forts A, B, C, and D. Fort A was north of the community on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River set to protect the city against Confederate gunboat. Fort B was sitting on a hill where Southeast Missouri State University is now. Fort C was near the present intersection of South Ellis Street and Good Hoop Street to guard the approaches of the Bloomfield Road, Gordonville Road, (now Independence Street) and Commerce Road (now Sprig Street).

Fort D was located on a south side of the city and also located on a river bluff. Like Fort A, primarily it was a part of the river defenses. This was the largest and most important garrison of the region and the only fort remaining in Cape Girardeau. Fort D. however, did not play a large role in the Battle of Cape Girardeau.

Asa Lt. Colonel of the Freemont Rangers, Lindsey W. Murdoch was commander of Cape Girardeau, including Forts, A, B, C, and D.

On the night of the 25th, expecting an attack, General McNeil evacuated the women and children at Cape Girardeau by steamboat to a location upriver. Also that night, two gunboats and a steamer brought additional troops to reinforce McNeil’s forces. An attack by river was not expected, therefore, McNeil moved the cannons from Fort A and D from along the river to Forts B and C on the western side of town. McNeil forces then totaled about 4,000 men; including support from regiment from Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Illinois some of these troops arriving after the end of the action.

Shelby’s troop arrived at Cape Girardeau early on April 26th. A full division of Confederate assumed a formation on the western edge of the city. Colonel Burbidge’s brigade was in the center with, Shelby on the left, and Carter on the right. The line extended from east of St. Mary’s Cemetery on the north (near present day intersection of Missouri Ave. and Mississippi Street) to Gordonville Road on the south. The center was at Jackson Road.

Around 10:00 a.m. on the morning of the 26th, the battle started. Both sides made a couple of unsuccessful cavalry charges. The Federal troops were driven back by Shelby’s Cavalry with the Confederate being met with heavy field artillery fire along with support from Forts B and C. Sometime shortly after 2:00 p,m., General Marmaduke ordered his troops to withdraw.

Neither side had a clear victory however, as the Confederate withdrew, it was a strategic Union victory as the Confederate forces retreated. Following the conflict Marmaduke retreated to Jackson and then southward toward Arkansas with Union forces following. Colonel Carter, possibly because of his disobeying orders was demoted to commanding a brigade.

The official records reflect casualties and losses as 12 for the union while the confederates were counted as 325. Some historians believe the Confederates losses were similar to the Union loses. As the Union artillery was used, this low number is open to question.

        In the area the Civil War in 1863 was much the same as the year before.  There were no great troop movements, but skirmishes were fought with much property damage and destruction and with much suffering. For the Union, more and more expeditions were being sent out. These journeys into the back county resulted in men being accused of being bushwhackers and guerrillas and were often shot in the field.

Typical of Union action during the year: on March 23rd, Major Rawalt, with a detachment from the 7th Illinois, made an expedition from Point Pleasant to Little River. After a skirmish, he fell back to his headquarters. April 13th, Lindsay Murdoch left Cape Girardeau on an expedition to Jackson, Whitewater, and Dallas. As no organized resistance encounter, no severe fights occurred.

Steamboat Captain Cass Mason, master of the steamer Rowena, on February 13, 1863, near Island Number 10, heading towards the Confederate controlled Tiptonville, Tennessee. Ensign William C. Hanford, acting commander of the U. S. gunboat New Era fulfilled his worst nightmare. The stop was routine. It was to check her papers and cargo.

Searching the Rowena, Union sailors found two ounces of quinine and nearly three thousand pairs of Confederate uniform pants. Ensign Hanford seized the packet and cargo. The Rowena became part of the U. S. Navy’s river fleet. For whatever reason, Mason was not arrested.

The Rowena belonged to Mason father-in-law, James Dozier, who before this did not like his son-in law Mason. Mason got command of Rowena at his daughter Rowena’s pleas. Just before the steamboat was to be returned to civilian ownership, she sank on April 18, 1863 after hitting a snag at Devil’s Island above Cape Girardeau. All civil and business relationship between Dozier and Mason ended; yet, Mason’s wife Rowena continued to live in her father’s house.

Sometime later, Mason became part owner in the steamer Sultana. At the Civil War’s end, the Number is unclear maybe as many as 2,500; recently released Union prisoners from Confederate prison camps were loaded on the Sultana. The legal load limit, including crew, was 476. (This is more passengers than was on the Titanic and the ocean liner was much longer and taller.)

At about 2 A.M. on April 27, 1865, the Sultana was upstream from Memphis about eight miles. The river was in full flood and out of its banks. In the middle of the river, straining to turn upstream, three of her four boilers blew near Mound City, Arkansas, five miles south of Memphis The official records say 1863 people died that morning. Later studies by historians talk about the Number being over or at 2,200, making it the worse maritime disaster in United States history.

        Chalk Bluff

Confederate General Marmaduke led an expedition into Southeast Missouri. His plan did not include an attack on Cape Girardeau. However, Colonel Carter disobeyed orders and led the Confederates in a battle Marmaduke did not want. Because of the strong defenses, the plan failed. However, on the 26th of April, 1863, Colonel Jo Shelby pushed back federal forces outside Cape Girardeau with cannon fire thus delaying federal action while Marmaduke withdrew.

The safety of Arkansas was about 75 miles to the south. He had two Federal armies with a combined strength; he estimated at 4,000 in pursue. Returning south faster than the trip north, they retreated along the military road running along the top of Crowley's Ridge. This road connected Cape Girardeau with Helena, Arkansas. Marshy lowlands bordered both sides of the ridge.

When Marmaduke reached the St. Francis River to cross into Arkansas, the found the ferry had become a victim of the war. He also found the river rain-swollen. Constructing a bridge seemed to be his only option. So Thompson sent a construction force ahead.

J. O. Shelby’s Missouri cavalry and George Carter’s Texas cavalry became Thompson’s rear guard, skirmishing almost continuously with the advance elements of the pursuing Federal forces. Four miles from the St. Francis, the Confederates started digging a series of trenches between the community of Four Miles, and the river hoping to be able to fight a delaying action long enough to get his army across the river..On May 1, advancing Federal troops arrived at Four Mile to be repulsed by Confederate artillery firing canisters.

Meanwhile, the bridge detail was working hard. The river turns southward here. On the Missouri side the land was low, dense, and a river bottom. On the Arkansas side is an almost insurmountable bluff some 70 feet high. In charge of building the bridge was Jeff Thompson, the “swamp fox of the Confederacy.” Before the war he had been an engineer. Using logs and timbers from area barns he constructed a large raft. Using grapevines and ropes as guy wires, a crude, but effective floating bridge was constructed.

On May first, Marmaduke’s troops begin a night crossing. Not only was it dangerous but the construction could not support a heavy load, so the men had to cross single file. To ferry the artillery across the river, a separate raft was used.

The artillery pieces were quickly placed on the high ridge facing the lowlands of Missouri. Horses, being too heavy for the bridge, were forced swim across, many, weak from exhausted never made it. The rear guard crossed early morning in the dark on May 2sd. The support ropes were then cut and the structure broke up as it rushed downstream. The Missouri troops did not follow the Confederates to Jacksonport, Arkansas.

Marmaduke had accomplished nothing except make his men miserably by crossing the mosquito infested Niger Wool Swamp to reach the uplift of Crowley's Ridge. He reported 30 killed, 60 wounded and120 missing while picking up 150 recruits during the raid.  The battle at Chalk Bluff saved Marmaduke’s army and prevented an unsuccessful raid from being a total disaster.

  Late 1863 Until the End


In Bloomfield on October of 1863, what some were calling a mutiny took place among Union forces. Major Samuel Montgomery was arrested charged with planning to turn the town over to Confederate forces. Charges and counter charges clouded the issue; nothing was every settled, nor proved. Bloomfield had strong feeling for the Southern cause. Later, Montgomery married a local girl.

The Cumberland Presbyterian Church at Clarkton was built around 1850. A two story building with the top floor being used as a Masonic Hall had an unusually interruption of services in early February, 1864.

On this peculiar Sunday, while the congregation was worshiping, the building was surrounded by a group of guerillas. Almost an apologist, the leader said he did not want to disturb the congregation, but they wanted to exchange clothing with all the men. As resistance was futile so all the men left the building and exchanged clothing with the guerillas without a fuss.

One young man, more alert than the others, slipped off his boots and hid them before joining the guerillas. He was the only man in the congregation who did not have to chose whether to go home barefooted of wear the worn out footwear of the soldiers.

In September of 1864, the confederates, during Price’s Raid had some 1,500 men in the Sikeston area. This second battle for Sikeston resulted in 23 killed an unknown Number wounded.

 On September 22, 1864, Colonel William Lafayette Jeffers command, with over 500 men attacked Captain Louis Sells’ company of Union soldiers as they moved from Cape Girardeau to reinforce two companies of soldiers in Bloomfield.

One-hundred and nine military incidents in the Bootheel have been found. This Number is probably small. The resource’s of material is small in comparison to what is available.

Skirmishes were the most common contacts. These events were when two small armed forces meet, sometimes unexpectedly. People are killed, supplies are taken, horses captured, and prisoners are sometime taken in these engagement. On the overall picture, the impact is little

Skirmishes took place every month of the year. The most active year in Southeast Missouri was 1862, with 37 events. Skirmishes were 34 % of the Bootheel’s military action.  April was the most active month with 12 with March second recording 10. For May, June, or September no record of a skirmish was found. While the action slowed down during the colder winter months, actives did not cease, each winter month recorded at least one skirmish during the long struggle.

In the vicinities of Bloomfield and Charleston were numerically the most active areas with skirmishes. At war’s end Bloomfield, except for some residences at the town’s edge, were destroyed. These were not the only places the enemies met and fought. A partial list of places would include Cypress Swamp near Cape Girardeau, near Chalk Bluff, and close to New Madrid, and in the Little River swamp.

The four years of conflict saw 21 expeditions; 19% if the military actions. These are the movement of larger forces. Cape Girardeau was the main staging area. These trips were usually into enemy territory. Expeditions were made into Bloomfield several times, to Doniphan, Missouri and Pocahontas, Arkansas. Caruthersville, Eleven Point River, Island Number 10, Benton, Commerce, Hamburg, and Chalk Bluff were destination points for other expeditions. The last expedition was a trip into the Little River Lowland on May 9, 1865 from New Madrid to Little River.

During 1862, the preparations and siege of New Madrid and Island Number 10, eight miles north of New Madrid, at Point Pleasant. There three places were where the biggest single military action in relations to the Bootheel. It was a long term operation, starting with an expedition on February 28 and ending October 23.

Colonel Birthright, with 65 Confederates on the morning of November 5, 1865 attacked Charleston. Union Captain Diehl was seriously wounded with one slightly wounded and the Confederates captured eight men. After robbing the Union men, they were paroled.

Union Colonel Hiller sent 30 men under command of Lt. Elon G. Rathun to destroy this raiding party. With help with men from Charleston, the Union party pursued the attackers towards Sikeston. On November 6, 1864, the Union force caught up with the Confederates four miles east of Sikeston. Twenty Rebels were killed and five captured. Splitting up into two groups, the Confederates headed to Arkansas.

The last year of the war saw seven separate military actions.

On January 4, 1865, the Union Army evacuated New Madrid. With gunboats controlling the Mississippi and patrolling the area, it was considered safe to remove most of the Union troops an assigning them to other duties.

January 4th to the 16, 1865, the Union sent an expedition into Poplar Bluff.  Lieut. Williams Rinne reported that in crossing the St. Francis River, he lost his wagon and ambulance and drowned two mules and five horses in the swamps. He reported 19 rebels killed, 3 severely wounded and five captured, 50 horsed and mules taken. During the 300 mile trip, marched and swam through swamps, ice, and water. On January 24, 1865, there was a skirmish in the Little River Bottoms.

Mississippi County was the site of a skirmish February 13, 1865. Capt. James W. Edwards, on an expedition from New Madrid with ten men were in pursuit of a band of bushwhackers. They caught up with eight of them, killing two and capturing six. They were from Clarke’s command on a mission to steal supplies.

Also in 1865 on March 3rd, there was a federal expedition from Bloomfield into Dunklin County.  On the 4th, some 25 miles below Bloomfield, near Hornersville, the Expedition run into a company of rebels, killing six of them, including their leader, Captain Howard. The Union Army had two men wounded. Reported in pursue of another 75 to 100 men.

The Union Army was being sent reinforcements. They returned with around 100 citizens conscripted for fatigued duty on the fort.

On March 9, 1865, another expedition from Bloomfield was sent towards Indian Ford in Dunkin County. They reported encountering guerrillas lead by Captain Howard and killing the Captain and two men, wounding several.

Returning soldiers returning home found most of Southeast Missouri in ruins from almost continuous action between the Home Guard and Confederate troops. Field had to be reclaimed again. For some, even refine morality again by making an honest livening and substituted for theft and robbery. For the most part, civil authority had been done away with during the way replaced by military power and martial law. Churches and school had to be reopened. Civilization had to be reestablished.

Southeast Misssouri in the Civil War

Missouri’s Importance

Early Civil War Actions

Bloomfield and the Stars and Strips

Battle for Belmont

Failure to Remove Confederates from Southeast Missouri

The Battle for Island Number 10After Island Number 10

Battle for Cape Girardeau

Chalk Bluff

Late 1863 until the End of the War

Tywappit Bottoms

Tywappit Bottoms was an extensive swamp on the west bank of the Mississippi River opposite the mouth of the Ohio running from Scott County to St. John’s Bayou north of New Madrid on the south and extended westward to Little River. It covered what is now most of what is now Scott and Mississippi counties. The bottoms were then covered with great forests, interspersed with small prairies, numerous lakes and may sluggish streams. Cane grew to eight feet high and grew so thick it is hard to walk through.

Tywappit Bottoms were designated as the northern edge of New Madrid County. The line between New Madrid and Cape Girardeau counties was not specifically stated in the legislation. For New Madrid District, the northern line came under question. The line was finally drawn about five miles north of Commerce. The Mississippi River was the eastern border. An indefinite line determined the western border but the St. Francis River was generally considered the boundary.

Mississippi County is located in what was formerly Tywappity Bottom. Its 428.91 square miles run along the Mississippi River on the east, now reclaimed swamp lands is part of the alluvial plain of the Lower Mississippi River Valley, as such most of the county was subject to overflow in 1910. The soil has a sandy content, but not enough of hinder crop production. The best farm land and the most productive, is around Charleston which is located on a prairie

Over half the land was cleared by 1910 with 6,000,000 feet of lumber was exported from the county. The processing of flour supplies $871,075 made up most of the $1,587,301 of the manufacturing revenue for the county.

In 1813, Tywappity Township was formed. Included was the territory lay east of St. John’s Bayou It included most of the area of Scott and Mississippi County, receiving its name from Tywappity Bottoms.

New Madrid County

Before long, the District of New Madrid started being reduced in size. December 31, 1813, the Missouri Territorial Legislature created Arkansas County, Arkansas. This newly created county was one of five organized by Governor Benjamin Howard This newly created political subdivision embraced about nine-tenth of the present state of Arkansas.

What was left of New Madrid County after all the territory was removed, was a county in the middle of the Southeastern Missouri Delta. It covered an area of 680 square miles, or 434,560 acres.  With an irregular shape, it had a maximum length of about 33 miles and a maximum width of about 35miles.  Along the eastern border for about 40 miles runs the meandering Mississippi River.

Historical, New Madrid County is sometimes called the “Mother of Southeast Missouri.” New Madrid County was further reduced in size by the formation of Dunklin Mississippi, Scott counties as well as loosing territory to counties to the west. Then in 1851, with the formation of Pemiscot County, it obtained its present size and shape.

In November of 1814, New Madrid County surveyor Joseph Story laid of the town of Winchester. It was to be named after Col. Henderson Winchester who lived in the vicinity. Location unknown, however, the community was mentioned in the Scott County McMullin Cemetery history. Reportedly it was located 0.5 miles south of Sikeston before the town was founded in 1860.

In 1910, only about one-fourth of the New Madrid County was under cultivation. The primary economic unit was the family farm. In the northern part, corn and wheat were the basic crops. In the south, cotton was the main crop. Manufactured goods, lumber mainly, produced $1,682, 959. Eight-five teachers directed students in 50 school districts. A taxable wealth of $4,485,765 came from the county’s 19,488 residents.

As of the 1990 census, some historical communities no longer existed. Most of these were just rural post offices, county churches, schools, a fort, stage stations, mill or a river forge. The exact locations are unknown for Blue Ridge Church, Chepouse, Cody, Crumpecker, Dawson LaForge School, Dillingham Spring, Five Point, Hondin, Hurricane Ridge Churchy man School, Juanita aka Junita Krepin, Medal Nordlow, ,Oak Ridge School Peck and Imhoff Pioneer, Saint Mary School, Shelby Church and School, Spies Landing, and  Willa aka Wiley.

John Hardeman and the Bootheel

John Hardeman Walkers and his family came from Tennessee around 1810 attracted by the rich land around Little Prairie. Walker was only 18 years old when the earthquakes started, when others left, he stayed in the area of Little Prairie. He stayed to protect his investment in cattle and land. Then he started acquiring the deserted properties to become one of the largest landowners and influancal people in the region.  During 1821-22, he was sheriff of New Madrid County and later a judge of the county court.

The Little Prairie Col. Walker moved into in 1810 was a town covering some 200 arpents (0.85 acres) of land divided into plots of one arpent each. Located on the Mississippi was Fort Fernando. The village was prospering; in 1799 the population was 78 and had increased to 102 in 1803.

When the Territory of Missouri was established as a third class territory, Upper Louisiana, including Arkansas, had a population was not more than 10,000. In 1818, the Missouri population had reached around 40,000. During this time of mass migration, the Ohio River was one of the main routes west. This was the far west.

        Little Prairie and Formation of the Bootheel

In 1803 New Madrid District including the Little Prairie and Arkansas contained 1,300 settlers, two-third were American the other third were French Indians were not counted. Cape Girardeau has a white population and slaves of 1,470. Most were Americans along with a few French. An 1814 census of the white population produce this count; New Madrid had a population of 1,548 and Cape Girardeau, 2,062.

In 1818, the area of Little Prairie was under the jurisdiction of the Missouri Territory and administered from New Madrid. In January of that year, a petition was received in Washington for the Missouri Statehood. At that time the proposed southern border would place Walker’s property in Arkansas. He did not want to be under the Arkansas Territorial laws. This idea displeased the Czar of the Valley.”

He had influence in New Madrid County and fought to stay under Missouri law. Walker lobbied in Missouri and Washington D. C. for inclusion of the Bootheel within the boundaries of Missouri. On November 22, 1818, the territorial legislature of Missouri again asks for statehood, this request included the area of the Bootheel. By including the Bootheel as part of Missouri, the acquisition increased the total area by so 980 square miles (627,000 acres).

The Bootheel contains the head of the old valley of the Mississippi River that once ran west of Cape Girardeau through what is now the valley of Black River. Later, the Mississippi moved east of Crowley's Ridge to its present position. The southern border of the Bootheel coincides roughly with Pemiscot Bayou a natural high-water drainage system, before construction of the levee, with access from the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers into the St. Francis River Basin. Topographically, the area extends and exemplifies the geographic and cultural characteristics found in the Arkansas Delta.

        Post Earthquake Settlements

By 1820, eight years after the major quakes, people started returning to the New Madrid area; the population of the county grew to 2,296, about two-thirds of its former occupancy. Twenty-three years after the last big quake, 1835, New Madrid again attained its former population. By 1840, the county had a population 4,554 residents.


In 1814, the village of Winchester was surveyed and laid out about a half mile from the future site of Sikeston. Winchester even became the seat of justice of New Madrid County for a very short period. After 1822, the village, for all intent and purposes, disappeared and the County seat was moved back to New Madrid.

Fanatical Pilgrims

Part of this population growth after the earthquake was due to the settling of a group referred to as “Fanatical Pilgrims They started in Canada, entered the U. S. by way of Vermont before heading southwest. The group included men, women, and children. They were seeking a “New Jerusalem”. Their proclaimed goal attracted a lot of attention as they moved westward. In 1817, their prophet led his group across the Mississippi River into New Madrid.

Up their arrival there, they had an emotional religious experience. They had found their New Jerusalem. The commune, dressed in strips, had collectively, a total of eight to ten thousand dollars.

Still New Madrid was still not quite right for their dream; something was missing. Wandering down river, they settled on an island in the Mississippi near Caruthersville. Their customs and lifestyle make the settlers in the area uneasy. After the earlier settles complained to the authorities, the Fanatical Pilgrims were driven from their New Jerusalem, at which time the group broke up and dispersed, some staying in the area.

  Cape Girardeau County

On October 1, 1812, the same day New Madrid County was created by the Missouri Territorial Legislature established Cape Girardeau County. The county was named after ensign Sieur jean Baptiste de Girardot, a French official.  The “Cape” part of the county’s name came from a rock outcrop overlooking the Mississippi River. The county’s southern region is alluvial bottom lands formed by Mississippi River overflow.

Approximately 83% of Cape Girardeau County is upland with the rest being Mississippi River Bottomland. The central part of the uplands houses isolated rolling plains.  Highly dissected plains make up the western and eastern parts of the county. Loess, thickest near the Mississippi becomes thinners farther from the river. Uplands in the county range from 400 to 600 feet with elevations near 800 feet near the Trail of Tears Park.

In 1905, the court of quarter sessions was organized for Cape Girardeau District with seven commissioners. They issued a license for a ferry across the Mississippi River to Louis Lorimier and Thomas W. Waters. Several petitions for roads were considered. Taxation was fixed; each house was taxed 25 cents, each head of cattle six and one-half cents each slave 59 cents, and each $100 worth of property was taxed 25 cents. On each able bodied single man without taxable property worth at least $400 was assessed a poll tax of 25 cents.

In 1813, the courts of common pleas and general quarter session of the peace were superseded by a court of common pleas. Its jurisdiction replaced the two former courts. For a short period in 1814, until a seat of justice was determined, the courts were held in Bethel Baptist Church on Hubble Creek. This was about one and one-half miles south of Jackson on the Thomas Bull Plantation.

    Big Bend

Big Bend was an important landmark that was probably named by early voyagers because of its natural feature. This bend in the Mississippi is two and a half miles north of Cape Girardeau. It was here that Girardot established a trading post as early as 1766.

    Big Lick

A salt lick on Ramsay Creek in the early days of Cape Girardeau County on land owned by Nicholas Revielle became known as Big Lick around 1801.


Bainbridge was a small settlement and ferry landing on the Mississippi River. The Bainbridge family established a ferry there before 1827. This became an important link with Kentucky. With the building of the Cape Girardeau Bridge in 1927, the ferry ceased to operate. 


Jackson was founded in 1815 in the highlands of the county, elevation 463 feet. The site set on land purchased from William H. Ashley. By 1818, the population was 300 or more. Although incorporated in 1819, the town had no organized government until 1828.

Jackson’s first established school was Jackson Academy in 1820. Because of the declining status of the school, in 1892, after the Methodist took control, the name was changed to Carlisle Technical School after a teacher, Rev .Wills Carlisle. When the Methodist released control in 1899, the Jackson Military Academy was organized later that year.

Jackson the seat of government was named in honor of Andrew Jackson. The county is now 586.29 square miles in size. The 2010 census population was 13,758 with five percent none-white. It is a principal city in the Cape Girardeau-Jackson Missouri-Illinois Metropolitan Statistical Area.

In 1910, Cape Girardeau County had a population of 27,621 residents with a taxable worth of $2,174,382. The value of manufactured goods that year was $4,150,667. Also the county exported over four-million feet of lumber, and a large quantity of limestone. The city of Cape Girardeau produced $2,773,432 in manufactured products, mainly shoes and flour. One-hundred-forty teachers directed students in 80 school districts within the county.

Cape, the River and Builder of Steamboats

At least one steamboat was built at Cape Girardeau in 1849. She was the side-wheeler, wooden hull 61 ton bell boat the Sampson. These crafts were planned for use in salvage work. Designed by James B Eads in 1842, they featured a diving bell. Because of the large Number of sunken craft in the Lower Mississippi, insurance company hired or used them to reclaim part of their losses.

In 1857, the side-wheeler Alfred T. Lacy was constructed at Cape Girardeau. He was one of the “Railroad Line” between St. Louis and New Orleans. From the deck of this steamer, Sam Clements learn the river as a cub pilot. Sixteen lives were lost near Island 16 April 26, 1860 due to a fire that destroyed to packet.

Right after the Civil War, the 1866, the center-wheel ferry Idona was built at Cape Girardeau. It was a 32 ton wooden hull vessel that went off the list in 1877.

Carrying these products to market was the Mississippi River, the St. Louis Iron Mountain and Southern, the St. Louis San Francisco, St. Louis Southwestern, and the Cape Gulf and Chester railroads. The city of Cape Girardeau was to become the headquarters of Little River Drainage District.

Cape Girardeau grew quicker than the rest of Southeast Missouri in large part because of the Mississippi River traffic. Many steamboats brought people and freight. The river also brought disasters to their door.

Not all of the boat engineers in the early years were equipped by training or personality suited for the job. Some steamboat owners, knowing the average life of their craft was short, in the face of boiler explosion, fires, and snags, had only four or five years, had them build cheaply. Thus they hired incompetent or second-rate engineers and people what would work for poor wages.

Yet many boat owners hired capable men with a sense of dedication to their work. For example, when the Talisman was rammed by the Tempest off Cape Girardeau on November 19, 1847, engineer Butler stuck by his engines as the pilot tried to bring the boat to the bank. With the water waist deep on Butler, the captain ordered him to abandon ship. The boat sunk within ten minutes. Butler refused to leave and died at his post. Loss of life during this mishap was 51, many of them deck passengers.

The General Pike was a side-wheeler built in 1851 at Cincinnati, Ohio, weighting 366 Ton. She operated mainly in the Louisville-St. Louis run for the U.S. Mail Line Company and commanded by Captain Isaac Jones On September 23, 1853; she was snagged and lost at Cape Girardeau.

The packet, James Montgomery had a complex life. A wooden side-wheeler built in 1856 at New Albany, Indiana at 536 tons. B. Russell was master in 1860 when she sank at New Albany in 15 feet of water. Three weeks later the Champion Number 4 was successfully raised. The James Montgomery sank again at Island Number 10 above New Madrid on January 2, 1861 with the Prince of Wales taking off her people. Again she was raised. On December 11, 1861, at Devil’s Island five miles above Cape Girardeau, she sank again. This was the final time.

The Continental hit the remains of the wrecked James Montgomery early in December of 1864 and sank, later raised and remained in the service of the St. Louis & New Orleans Packet Company until December 26, 1873. The 495 ton Paragon , heading upstream from Memphis to St. Louis on February 28, 1868, hit the wrecked James Montgomery tearing out her bottom and was lost. Water was two feet deep in her cabin and the hull badly twisted. Passengers remained on her roof for five hours until the Poor Boy came along and took them to Cape Girardeau.

In September of 1931 a U.S. snag boat removed a steamboat wreck below Cape Girardeau what was believed to have been the James Montgomery.

Of course, many steamers passed Cape Girardeau without any problems. She set on the banks along one of the busiest steamboat routes along the river; situated just north the mouth of the Ohio on the river just above the Lower Mississippi River Valley.

Three streamers carried the name Cape Girardeau. Steamboat War Eagle. after partially burning at the St. Louis wharf, was rebuilt and renamed Cape Girardeau. The 255 x 38 x 6 foot craft was owned by Eagle Packet Company and ran regularly in the St. Louis-Cape-Commerce trade under the oversight of Captain Buck Leyhe. In mid–July of 1910, she sank and was lost at Turkey Island about 50 miles below St. Louis.

The second Cape Girardeau was a side-wheeler that started life as the City of New Albany in 1892. This wooden hull craft was build for the Louisville and Evansville Packet Company made from parts from the former James Guthrie and sold in February 1899 to T. J. Moss Tie Company for the St. Louis Cape Girardeau trade and renamed New Idlewild replacing the Idlewild which had sunk in ice in 1893 at Kimmswick, Missouri.

The New Idlewild had been bought new by Eagle Packet Company and renamed Spread Eagle in 1894. The pilot was John N. Hamilton a former typesetter of the Hannibal, Missouri, Journal when Mark Twain worked there. She then ran the St. Louis-Alton-Grafton trade until 1910 when she became the Cape Girardeau to run the St. Louis-Cape Girardeau-Commerce trade. On October 21, 1916 she sank during a storm at Fort Gage below St. Louis. Within two hours, only the pilothouse was visible.

The third Cape Girardeau was a wooden hull stern-wheeler with a paddlewheel 22 feet in diameter with 28 feet buckets. Her engine came from Ferd Herold. While owned by the Eagle Packet Company she ran from Louisville to St. Louis starting in November 1923. On April 24, 1924, she was christened the Cape Girardeau. From 1925-1930 made the St. Louis New Orleans Mardi Gras trips. Sold in1935 To Green Line Steamer of Cincinnati who renamed her Gordon C. Greene.

Not all steamboats that were in the area of Cape Girardeau came to a bad end. The town grew and prospered thanks to the river traffic. Packets such as the Memphis,(also known as Belle Memphis) in1852, the Clara Dean in 1853, Jesse K. Bell on the 1856 St. Louis Louisville run, Adam Jacobs during her Memphis to St. Louis trips, The Idlewild on the St. Louis-Cape Girardeau-Commerce run, in 1892 when the steamboat Grey Eagle was making the St. Louis-Cape Girardeau-Commerce run, or D.H. Pike made the St. Louis-Cape Girardeau-Commerce trade.


Burfordville, another early Cape Girardeau county community, known early in its development as Bollinger’s Mill was located on Whitewater River. The mill operated there for many years was owned by Major George Frederick Bollinger one of the first settlers in the area about 1800. In 1900, it became an incorporated town.

Apple Creek

Apple Creek became the site of a mill and fledging community in 1824. Appleton was named for the creek at its door step. Alfred McCain constructed a grist mill there.


Pocahontas was another early Cape Girardeau community. The first settlers came in 1856 and organized a village in 1861 to be incorporate in 1893. The town suffered a blow when the Cape Girardeau and Chester bypassed it to the north.

Oak Ridge

Ten miles northwest of Jackson in Apple Creek Township, the settlement of Oak Ridge started about 1852. By 1910, the Cape Girardeau town of 256 residents operated a large flouring mill. A public school with several stores and a bank was established with a capital stock of $10,000 in 1904.

           Scott County

The Missouri Legislature created Scott County December 28, 1821. Missouri’s first U. S. Congressmen was John Scott hence the name. Scott was the second county formed in Missouri’s Southeast Lowland. Scott County, when the first Europeans arrived, was claimed by the Osage Indians who residing in the area until 1808. Until around 1820, The Delaware and Shawnee tribes also roamed the region

The Benton Hills makes up the northern part of Scott County. Their elevation is as high as 600 feet. Mississippi River bottom land and flat lowland make up the rest of the county. The bottom land include back-swamps (thick clayey sediment) with mixed alluvium braided streams, natural levees, and recent alluvial deposits.

Scott County was part of the original New Madrid County. The county had 277,760 acres. In 1910 one-half of them were in cultivation. Manufactured products that year had a value or $2,115,796, most of this came from lumber products. Flour, feed, and meal accounted for another $1,226,556. The county’s population was 22,372 with a taxable wealth of $5,773,958. Their 54 school districts employed 103 teachers.

Gray’s Point

Gray’s Point was a small community on the Mississippi River in the northeastern part of Scott County. It has also been known as Chain of Rocks, and Graysboro. The original name was Cape La Crox (Cape of the Cross) by early French traders and explorers because this is where Father F. Joliet de Montigny erected a cross and so maned it in 1699. Later, because of the arrangement along the river of a grouping of rock, it became Chain of Rocks. Also some early maps name them Cape a la Bruche or Broche, meaning split-like.

With the white men’s first settlement it became Ross’s Point, given for an early settler. When Captain Wm. Gray, a steamboat captain, settled there, the area became known as Gray’s Point.

Goose Pond

Scott County had to lake or ponds known as Goose Pond. One was west of Sikeston and the other west of McMullin in the south central part of the county. Neither has appeared on maps and was drained around 1900. They were so maned because of the great abundance of wild geese that used them.   

Bushey Prairie

W. D. Bush settled in Big Prairie before 1800. The name may have come from a blend of the Bush name and the adjective “bushy.” Bushey Lake Ditch is east of Blodgett and runs into Big Lake in northern Mississippi County north of Charleston.

Bird’s Hill / Bird’s Island

During flood season when the Whitewater and Little Rivers unite Bird’s Hill becomes an island. Stephen Bird, settle there in 1805.


Benton, five miles northeast of Morley the first county, became the county seat of Scott Count in 1878. Captain Charles Friend made the first settlement in 1796. It was laid out is 1822 on land owned by Colonel William Meyers. The community was named after Thomas Hart Benton, one of Missouri’s first U. S. Senators. A county court house was built on the public square in1883; a two-story stone building.

Most of the houses in Benton were simple log cabins when the stone courthouse was built. The first frame house was built in 1830 by Joseph Hunter. He came to New Madrid in 1805 locating on a land grant near New Madrid but leaving the area after a short stay to move to Big Prairie not far from Sikeston.

Benton Ridge runs from Benton to Commerce and maned for the town of Benton.

In 1845, a Catholic Church was organized in Benton. A house used for worship was constructed on property given the church by a gentleman named Meyers. This church burned in 1850.

Benton was incorporated in April of 1860. The town lost its corporation and was not revived until November, 1880.


Beechland was a large plantation, also called Watkins Plantation, in the central part of Scott County. It was established about 1870 by Nathaniel Watkins, a half-brother to Henry Clay, who Governor Jackson as brigadier general of the first military district in Southeast Missouri, appointed in 1861. He was soon replaced by General Jefferson Thompson. Watkins moved to Scott County and established Beechlands, so named for the beech trees growing near the house, living there until his death in 1876.


Salcedo was a small community in the southern edge of Scott County that was established in 1895 when J w. Baker purchased land there. A rural school in the area was known as Baker School, but when Louis Houck ran a railroad there he changed the name to Salcedo in honor of Don J. Manuel De Salcedo, the King’s Lieutenant, governor of Texas and Brigadier of the Royal Armies of  New Madrid  in 1803.

Scott County was serviced, in 1910, by the Belmont branch of the St. Louis Iron Mountain Southern, the Cairo Branch of the Frisco system and the main line running from St. Louis to Memphis and another Frisco Branch, the St. Louis and Gulf. Crossing the southern part of the county was the St. Louis, Southwestern.

Power’s Island / Big Island

Power’s Island was three miles long island in the Mississippi south of the town of Commerce. By the early explorers with Cumings in 1836, it was known as English Island. However, since 1844, maps have shown it as Power’s Island. Its name came from an early settler that owned the island. Locally it was known as Big Island from its size and with Big Island School located there.

Caney Creek

The name Caney Creek first appeared on the 1837 map of Cane Creek. This is a large creek in the western part of Scott County empting into Little River. It derived its name because of the large amount of cane growing along its banks. 

Power’s Island, also knows as Big Island, and is three miles long in the Mississippi south of Commerce. The English explorer Cumings named it Big Island in 1836; however, since 1844 it started appearing on maps as Power’s Island, maned from the major landowner on the island.

New Hamburg

In the 1840’s the third town founded in the Scott County New Hamburg and was settled by German immigrants. In 1848, a place of worship was built out of logs. A church built of stone in 1857 replaced this structure. During the Civil War, this church burned.


In 1788, German families settled in the Scott County area, near present day Commerce, to start a community called Zawapita with about 15 families before the name was changed to Commerce. Louis and Clark, on their way to the Pacific Ocean are reported to have visited Charles Finley an American, living in the area. From 1864 until 1878, Commerce, also long known as Tywappity Settlement, was laid out in 1823. The town started as a trading post on the Mississippi River Landing by 1803. In 1805, the first Baptist Church in Missouri was formed here.

Early on French settlers also settled in the area; elevation 328 feet. Commerce is apparently the third-oldest present site settlement in Missouri after St. Louis and St. Charles. In 1823, the circuit court ordered a board of commissioners to lay out lots. From 1864 to 1878, commerce was the county seat of Scott County.

Commerce was one of the few place in the Bootheel to have uninterrupted mail service during the Civil War as guerilla bands made delivery unsafe for northern carriers. Commerce along with the German settlement of New Hamburg was the two enclaves of Union sympathizers in Scott County.

On November 1, 1861, Colonel Oglesby landed in Commerce with about3000 men with his soldiers exchanging shots with M. Jeff Thompson. Then on December 29, 1861, Thompson raided Commerce. On February 21, 1862, General Pope landed with 140 troops but left a week later with a force consisting o 26,153 men.

The island in front of Commerce was known as Cat Island from at least the time of Mark Twain; however, it has been absorbed by Powers Island to the south. A Methodist congregation was established in 1825 and without a Baptist church until 1900.

Located on the higher ground of Crowley's Ridge at 482 feet above sea level, Bloomfield is another of the older communities of the Bootheel. The Stoddard County seat of government was incorporated in 1835.The 2000 census numerated 1,952 people, 791 households with 533 families, living within1.4 square miles. This is 477 more citizen than the 1900 population.

      Stoddard County

Stoddard County was established on January 2, 1835 and was named for Amos Stoddard the first American Civil Commandant of Upper Louisiana. Bloomfield became the seat of government. Dexter is the largest city in the county. The county was taken from Wayne counties.

Twenty-five miles from north to south and averages over 30 miles wide makes it is one of the largest counties in Southeast Missouri with about 840 square miles. About 25% of the county is in the uplands of Crowley's Ridge which runs through the middle of the county; the remainder is in the Western Lowland and Morehouse Lowland of the Mississippi River Delta on the east.

The area of the county lay between St. Francis and Little River and to the south of Mingo the Big swamp.

When the Louisiana Purchase was made, this area was part of the Cape Girardeau District. This District was soon divided into two administrative townships. That part east of Castor River became Pipe Township, later Stoddard County. This area stayed under the jurisdiction of Cape Girardeau officials until Stoddard County was formed.

Bloomfield and Dexter

The first settlement in Stoddard County was in 1832 at Bloomfield and was chosen as the seat of government. First meeting the county court was held at the house of A. B. Bailey, on February 9, 1835; in the southwestern part of town. An early division of townships were Castor, Pike, St. Francois, and Liberty.

During the Civil War, the court house was burned during Price’s 1864 raid. However, the county record books had been removed by Major H. H. Bedford and taken to Arkansas. After the war all the books were returned without lost of a single record.

In 1875, several towns and villages existed in Stoddard County. Castor River was the main water course in the county. On the smaller feeder streams, small grist mills were operating in 1875.

For years there was strong revelry between Bloomfield Dexter and Bloomfield. For a Number of years citizens of Dexter tried to have the courthouse moved their community. To do this, the people of Dexter, in 1895, got a law passed giving Stoddard County two seats of government with Dexter the dominate one. On the strength of this law, Dexter constructed a two story brick court house. After a few years, this arraignment was found to be unsatisfactory. After this law was repealed, Bloomfield again became the county seat.

In 1910 one-half of Stoddard County was still in thick, dense timber. The value of manufactured items was $1,676,351 mainly from flour, lumber cooperage and cotton. With a population of 27,807 the taxable wealth was $6,452,077. Their one-hundred and seven school districts employed 151 teachers.

Timber and cotton, both bulk products, when ready for market required railroads for transportation. Stoddard County had the services of the Cairo branch of the St. Louis Iron Mountain, the Frisco, and the St. Louis Southwestern.

Weaverville / Plank Road

In 1840, John Weaver purchased the land where Spanish Mill once set. This became Weaverville. Little River was still not navigable as the channel was blocked with fallen trees as was the old passed from Little River to the St. Francis River. The land, if not under water, was soft and spongy.

Around the time Weaverville was established; a pole road was build from Little River, at Weaverville, to Clarkton in Dunklin County. Weaver constructed a crude bridge across the stagnant Little River to join up with the 16 mile road that ended close to the St. Francis River. In wet weather, the pole roads were more passable than none pole roads as poles were laid touching side by side to cover the surface of the road lifting traffic out of the mud.

Weaver’s bridge soon became a toll–bridge. One day a traveler attended to cross the bridge without paying. This resulted in a heated argument which turned into a fight. During the scuffle, the traveler shot and killed Weaver. The disputed toll was a nickel. (According to the computer site Measuring Worth, that nickel had $1.30 buying power in 2010).

After bring destroyed during the Civil War, the Point Pleasant-Clarkton road was rebuilt as a Pole Road, or Corduroy Road, in 1873 by a company lead by Albert Rittenhouse, Andre Godair, and Lis Godair. The reconstructed road was 10 to 12 feet wide with “turn outs” or switches were used for passing.

The pole road, when rebuilt became a toll road. Use of the road cost $2.00 for wagons going west, $1.25 for regular freight wagons, $0.75 for travels on horseback, and $0.10 for walkers. Doctors and mail carriers passed free. Conveys of Teamsters hauling freight to the Mississippi at Point Pleasant included cotton, peanuts, whiskey, and salt pork. Return trips west were stable foods like salt, flour, sugar, farm supplies, and household goods.

People from Tennessee and Kentucky going west into Arkansas were the most frequent users. This was an important route for the settlement of Arkansas.

Another plank road was planned for New Madrid County. Starting at New Madrid, this road was to run though “Paw Paw Junction”, present day Lilbourn, to West Prairie, what is now known as Malden. Twenty-six year old Otto Kochtitzky was sent by the Missouri Land Commission to Southeast Missouri to survey a route for the Little River Valley and Arkansas Railroad.  He selected to build between New Madrid and Malden. The Blanton Plank Road Company sold their right-a-way, charter and franchise to the Glasgow Ship Building Company.

Their announced plans at first were to build a pole road from New Madrid to Malden. Before construction could be started, the plans changed. They filed a plan with the New Madrid County to build a narrow-gage railroad on this route. With the county court’s approval the company proceeded. Construction started in October 1876 and was completed in February of 1879 and connected to the Cotton Belt Railroad that was built on the higher Crowley's Ridge. Before long this stretch of railroad was rebuilt to standard gage railroad and later extended from Malden to Cairo. Afterward, the Cotton Belt Railroad purchased this connecting spur.


In 1840, the New Madrid town of Boekerton was established four miles west of Portageville. Boekerton started life as Spanish Mill before being destroyed by the Earthquake of 1811-1812. In 1861 the Weaver family settled on the ruins and established Weaverville. This was the eastern terminates of the Pole Road between Clarkton and Mt. Pleasant.

In the late 1890’s an elementary school was established at Boekerton. In 1905 a post office set up and named after the prominent landowner, farmer, and lumberman, Boeker family. To bring lumber to his saw mill, Boeker build a five mile dummy railroad line into the woods. The 1912 flood destroyed much of the town and dummy rail line, which was not rebuilt. The post office was closed in 1921.

      Dunklin County

Dunklin County was created February 14, 1845 when Stoddard County was divided. In 1853, the northern boundary was moved from latitude 36 30 nine miles north. The territory included in this county, with the exception of the nine mile strip, was a part of the territory originally left in Arkansas, but was added to the Territory of Missouri through the efforts of J. Hardeman Walker. The name was to honor the Honorable Daniel Dunklin, governor of Missouri from 1826-1836. He came to Missouri from South Carolina in 1810 when he was 20 years old. He was elected to the first Constitutional Convention of Missouri in 1820.

On February 14, 1845, New Madrid County lost more territory when Kennett (Butler as it was then known) was selected the county seat of the newly formed Dunklin County. The county was named after Daniel Dunklin former governor of Missouri (1832-1836) who died the year before the legislature organized the county.

Established from territory from Stoddard County and New Madrid County; bordered on the west side the St. Francis River and the east by Pemiscot County and New Madrid County. On the north is Stoddard County with Arkansas on the south. Where the St. Francis River leaves the state into Arkansas is the lowest point in the state of Missouri. In 1853, the county was enlarged in the north by a nine mile strip and now contains 547.11 square miles.

As of the 1990 census, these historical Dunklin County communities no longer existed. Most of these maybe were just rural post offices, county churches, schools, fort, stage stations, mill or a river forge. The exact locations are unknown for Four Mile (10 in 1880 census), Lulu, Vincit (30 1880 census). Dunklin, with a population of 75 in the 1880 census is known to be located in the northeast part of the county, but exact map location is unknown

In 1910, Dunklin County’s manufacturing enterprisers produced $2,000,000 of production. Of this, Cotton brought farmers $510,000. Timber no longer was the leading industry. Cooperage production was third. Education was being to be more important in Dunklin County. There were 134 teachers in 74 school districts.

Branum’s Point

Branum’s Point was a settlement in the southeastern part of the county. In the 1830’s, Michael Barnum established a post office there and was active until 1904. A rural school here was maned for Jeff Barnum, descendant of the founder, was moved to Hornersville when Mr. Knsolving bought the land around 1910. Nothing remains of one of the oldest settlement in the county.

Buffalo Creek/ Buffalo Island

Buffalo Creek, in the southeast corner of Dunklin County, empties into Little River, like Buffalo Island was maned for the buffalo inhabiting the region. During high water, Buffalo Island formed by back water from Buffalo Creek and the St. Francis River. Both the Creek and Island name by James Baker and Wiley Clark early settlers.

  Cockle Burr Slough

This was a small swamp of slough in between Buffalo Slough and Big Lake (in Arkansas). Named by early settlers because of the Cockle burrs, pronounced and spelled “cuckle” by early settlers.

  Canaan Island

Canaan Island formed during flooding of the St. Francis River. It was named by early settlers that felt this was an opportunity become wealthy; that this was the land of Canaan., “God’s Promised Land.” It was not until about 1880 that it was settled.


Hornersville, in Dunklin County, was established in 1840 by William H. Horner in the southern part of the county in the center of the county near the Arkansas state line. Horner was the first merchants in the community. Before the Civil War its growth was slow. This spot was the northern limit of navigation on Little River.

With the coming of the Paragould Southeastern Railroad, the business community flourished. By 1912, there were a Number of merchants, several cotton gins, sawmills, and the Bank of Hornesville was charted in 1909. The Methodist and Baptist had established churches and a supported a school system.

Bridges Creek

In the northern part of Pemiscot county, east of Malden and north of Campbell was a small creek, on which A. D. Bridges Settled in 1844 which became Four Mile. Named by Mr. Bridges, Bridges Creek was drained in 1898.

  Cotton Plant

In the vicinity of Hornersville, was a small village whose start was with a store built by Judge E. J. Langdon and Billy O. Williams in 1848.At that time, a levee was being constructed on Buffalo Creek. When it got this name is not certain. It seems a stranger in the area noticed it was only cotton plants in that part of the county. Others say it was so name because it was the center of the cotton culture in that part of the state.

Cane Creek

Located in the northeast corner of Dunklin County, Cane Creek was so named for the abundance of cane growing along its banks. It was drained in 1900. In 1905 a rural school, along the eastern end of the creek and named for the creek.


In the 1840’s Kennett was established in New Madrid County, and was soon to be part of the newly established Dunklin County. The community was located in the southeast corner of the of Missouri, 20 miles west of the Mississippi River and four miles east of the St. Francis River and Arkansas.

White settlers build log cabins in the area in the 1840’s. They called their settlement Chilletecaux after the Delaware Indian chief living there. In the late 1840’s they changed the name to Butler. As Missouri had another post office name Butler, there were mail delivery problems. So, in 1851, they named it Kennett, after the mayor of St. Louis, Luther M. Kennett. With the coming of the railroad in the 1890’s, and the development of the Little River Drainage District, the area started growing.

Around 1829, Howard Moor became the first white man to settle in Dunklin County. He settled on the Kennett-Malden Prairie just south of Malden to get out of Niger Wool Swamp. The first “clapboard” structure was constructed by M. Gibony in 1844 and used as a grocery store. As with the rest of the Bootheel at this time, settlers were few.

During the Civil War, the town was visited by both armies. Sometimes it was the stopover of non-regular-solders and other lawless men. At war’s end, only a small village was left. Rebuilding the population was slow. The town was too far from a railroad and the Mississippi. Most of the trade was with Girardeau, the nearest river point.

  Brown’s Ferry

The St. Francis River bordered the western edge of Pemiscot County. In the northern central area was Brown’s Ferry on St. Francis River. It was given the name of the family that operated it. Later the ferry was replaced by a bridge taking the name Brown’s Ferry Bridge.  

Four Mile Island

Four Mile Island was a in the northern part of Pemiscot County in the St. Francis River. It was named, like other island in the river by early settlers according to the approximated distance from the county seat, Kennett.

  Campbell (Four Mile)

A small town, Campbell in located in the north-central part of Pemiscot County. Major Rayburn and other, who moved from Four Mile, settle on what became the junction of the Cotton Belt and Frisco in 1844. They called it Four Mile with the arrival of the Cotton Belt Rail road. Major Rayburn, in1886, along with railroad officials laid out the town and named it for Alexander Campbell, Rayburn‘s friend, who was a member of the first county court.


In the northeast part of Dunklin County; one of the original townships, created in 1845 with the creation of the county, Cotton Hill Township, was a settlement named for an old trading post or settlement of Cotton Hill, which became Malden.

With the Cairo and Texas Railroad going from Cairo and Popular Buff, Dexter became the trading point for Dunklin County. With Malden, becoming the western terminus of the St. Louis, Arkansas and Texas Railway a short time later, which was to become the St. Louis Southwestern, Malden, became a more important trading center.

In 1891, E. S. McCarty and Associates constructed a rail line from Campbell on the St. Louis Southwestern into Kennett. Louis Houck soon acquired this line and eventually extended it to Caruthersville, thus given Kennett an outlet to the river. Later when the railroad was extended south to the Dunklin County seat, the population grew rapidly. In 1900 the population was 1,509 growing to 3,033 by the 1920 census.

In 1877, the Little River Valley and Arkansas Railroad were extended from New Madrid to end at Brom Beckwith’s cotton field. This became the western terminus of the railway encouraging a town, Malden, to be built there. On April 22, 1887, Malden as incorporated.

In 1880, Malden had along Main Street, four stores and five salons. March 19, 1889, the town was incorporated to become the City of Malden.

Cockrum wis small village in the southwest part of Dunklin County stated as a settlement around 1850 by Pleasant Cockrum and James Baker. A post office was located here until 1904.

Raglin Slough

In the southern part of the county was a large swamp, or slough. Indians claimed this slough, like many others, was once a large fissure which was elevated by the Earthquake of 1811-1812. In 1850, Monroe established a small settlement here. It became known as Ragline of Ragland Slough.


This was a small settlement in the south central part of Dunklin County and first named Byrds after a large land owner in the area, A. R. Byrd. A post office under the name Byrds was there from 1896 to 1915. Louis Houck was building a railroad in the area and wanted to use the name Arbyrd, Mr. Byrd objected to the double use of his name so a new name had to be adopted for Byrds, which was the terminal of Hock’s railroad. So they coined a new name by using the first tow syllables of Masseur Buchanan, Coburn and Davis, who were farmers on Mr. Byrd’s property. From1918 to 1929 a post office was located here.

     Mississippi County

Mississippi County was created on February 14, 1845 by the Missouri Legislature in the same piece of legislation that formed Dunklin County. Charleston was chosen as the seat of government of the new governmental district. Like the rest of the bootheel, most of the settlers, mainly farmers, came from Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia searching for cheap and fertile land.

The commissioners organized this territory, which was cut off from the southern part of Scott County, on April 21, 1845. They met in the store of Henry G. Cummings until a court house was built in 1852. Charleston was selected as the county seat. The boundaries

The first known settlement seems to have been about 1800 on a Spanish Land Grant near Bird’s Point by Joseph Johnson. Other early settlements in the county were on Mathews Prairie, called at the time St. Charles Prairie. Even while it was mainly swampland, Tywappity Bottom had several settlers make a home there.

St. James Bayou was the largest stream in the county cloying into the Mississippi River near the New Madrid County line.

  Bird’s Point

Bird Point, and early name, was a small but important ferry landing on the Mississippi River not far south of the Mouth of the Ohio. Under the Spanish government, in 1800, John Johnson received orders from the Spanish governor Henry Peyroux to settle the point. In 1805 Abram Bird purchased Johnson’s holding there. Early commercial records from between 1830 to 1835 spell the name differently, including Bird’s Landing, Byrd’s Landing, Illinois Point once, and only once was it called Bird’s Point.

Mathews Prairie

Mathews Prairie is a large prairie that was settled in 1801 by Edward Mathews from Lexington, Kentucky. This prairie was settled before Mathews arrived there. Indians also had settled on the raised section of grasslands. The Spanish called it Carlos Prairie or Charles Prairie, as early as 1770.


Beckwith was a famous Mississippi River ferry landing. Newman Beckwith came here in 1812 from Virginia. On some maps it has been noted as Beckwith’s Landing or simply Beckwith’s.    

Black Bayou

Black Bayou was small tributary of St. James Bayou. It was dry except during high water. The name came around 1812 probably because for the dark appearance of the sluggish stare and the thickness of the forest.


Located on U.S. Highway 60, Charleston, Mississippi County Seat is located a little north and west of the center of the county. The earliest know settler was Humphrey Warren who came to the area around 1830. In 1837, they town was laid out by John Rodney by Randol, Moore, and Barnard.


This early settlement was started sometime between 1837 and 1844 them abandoned shortly after 1859. At times the village has been referred to as Baldwin’s Village.

Tywappity Bottom

Three railroads served the county in 1910. They were the Belmont Branch of the Iron Mountain (this was a road started by Louis Houch) the Cairo, Arkansas, and Texas Branch of the Frisco, and a main line of the St. Louis, San Francisco Railroad.

People were becoming more concerned about their children’s education. The county supported 74 school districts and 134 teachers in 1912.


Bertrand is a Mississippi County village laid out in 1859 by Colonel H. H. Deal, S. D. Golder, and Wm. Billington and named for a capitalist interest in a railroad crossing here, Mr. Bertrand.

It was located on the Cairo Branch of the Iron Mountain Railroad six miles from Charleston. Elevation is 322 feet above sea level. The first bank in town was chartered in 1906 according to the 2010 census, less than two percent of the residents or non-white.


Greenfield was a Mississippi River ferry landing and became a station on the Cairo, Arkansas, and Texas Railroad. In 1867 it was known as Birdville, after a prominent family, so the community would not be confused with Bird’s Point. The name Greenfield was used until 1879 to be forgotten.


This was a small settlement near Wolf Island and established as a landing site on the Mississippi River. From 1868 to 1910, a post office was active here. In 1918, the post office was reestablished and operated until 1930. The original settlement and school has long since been claimed by the river. L. B. Medley ran a ferry and general store there about 1884.


Anniston was a small town but large enough to support a post office between 1891 and 1893. At this time the community was known as Hainley’s Switch, named for mill owner Jocob Hainley, who had a log loading station Tennessee the Cottonbelt Railroad. When a post office was reestablished in 1895, the name was changed to Anniston.

Tarr’s Store 

This was a post office and trading post on Wolf Island in 1895. Thomas S. Tarr was storekeeper and postmaster. In reality, this post office was officially part of Kentucky, but it was locally considered as part of Mississippi County because of its location.


Located just outside the Bird’s Point – New Madrid spillway slightly north of the center of the Mississippi County, Wyatt was first settled by Sam Keen on what became Pevey Switch when the railroad was built in 1881. A few years later, a post office was established and named Manes for Ben Manes. The name was changed to Smithton, for I. N. Smith, Sr., in 1891. Postal authorities objected has the name had been preempted by a Petttis County post office. Therefore, the name became Hunter for a large landowner, W. H. Hunter, living in Benton, Scott County. From 1893 to 1895, this post office carried the name Payne. Then the name was changed again in1896 Wyatt for large lad over William Wyatt, honoring William Wyatt.

Point Pleasant

After the New Madrid Earthquake, in 1846, had begun rebuilding after being laid out and potted by Wm. Summers. By 1853; a post office was again located there. In 1860, a larger town was planned and platted. At first the caving was just south of the main part of town. Caving gradually extended up the river until many of the houses had to be moved away from the river. Then the caving grew in speed that the houses could not be moved fast enough to save them.

Because of the caving banks of the Mississippi River, the community never grew. When settlers realized this seems to be an on-going problem they could not solve, many of the residences moved to the growing town of Portageville which was becoming more important since the Frisco Railroad ran through it.

 Pemiscot County

Pemiscot, the last of the Bootheel Counties to be formed, was created February 14, 1851.  Caruthersville was the second community designated as the county seat. Pemiscot’s 512.41 square miles and was the last area taken from New Madrid County. The lowest point in the county, at 290 feet, is in the southern part of the county.

Pemiscot County established in 1851, from the southern part of New Madrid County. The name, Pemiscot, is thought to come from an Indian word meaning “liquid mud”. Early residents in the county used the Mississippi to reach markets. Roads were all but unknown.

Physiographical, Pemiscot County as part of the Mississippi River Delta has three main physiographic regions. In the eastern part of the county is the Mississippi River Flood Plain. It runs along the Mississippi River from New Madrid County to the Arkansas State line in the extreme southeast corner of Missouri.  Here the land level to gently undulating to include remnants of old channels and lakes left from frequent overflows. 

In the west is the Little River Basin. Originally the Little River carried drainage from Cape Girardeau, Bollinger, and Wayne counties from the eastern Ozarks as well as overflow from the Mississippi River. Two old natural levees systems intersperse throughout the county. Under natural conditions, an estimated ten-percent of the county was permanently ponded before the Little River Drainage District. Small, slow-moving, sluggish streams, for example, Elk Chute and Little River, frequently overflowed their channels during that time.

The St. Francis Level District was established in 1893. They started building levees from New Madrid to the state line. Early levee constructed were only partly successful. This was caused because the early levee was only seven feet high, later being built to eleven feet and taller.

In 1910, 30 million feet of lumber being exported from the county with only one-sixth of Pemiscot County in cultivation. Manufacturing produced $1,662, 959 that year. Lumber, followed by cotton, cooperage being the main products produced. The population was 19,559 with taxable worth of $3,369,219. The county supported 70 teachers in 48 school districts.

The first settlement in the county was Little Prairie located a short distance south of the present town of Caruthersville. A settlement started in 1794 by Francois Le Sieur settling there from New Madrid on a large Spanish Land Grant.

The Frisco rail system, including several Frisco Branches, was the only rail system in the county. The county supported 48 school districts in 1910 with 70 teachers.

  Pemiscot Bayou

Pemiscot Bayou in Mississippi County Arkansas was named for a band of Algonquian Indians originally from a river in Maine. During Spanish control, this group came into the area, possible as hunters. It is easy to believe, their hunting ground extended to include the northern part of present day Missouri. Colonial records sometimes call the Missouri band Abenakis, a generic term for Algonquian tribes of Maine and New Brunswick, meaning “easterner.”

The Democratic Party completely controls politics on the local level in Pemiscot County. Democrats hold every elected position in the county. As in most rural area of Missouri, voters in Pemiscot County generally vote for socially and culturally conservatives principle. Yet they are more moderate or populist on economic issues.

As of the 1990 census, these historical communities no longer existed. Most of these maybe just rural post offices, county churches, schools, fort, stage stations, mill or a river forge. The exact locations are unknown for Brinkerhoff Choctaw, Erwin, Fairbanks, Fourteen Bend, Hall, Kauffman, Keokuk, Littles, Saint Fernando Fort, State Line, Westbrook,(small settlement in southwest part of the county and site of a sawmill of John Westbrook.) and Wilbur.

  Shiloh Church Pemiscot County

 A rural church formed in the northern part of Godair Township, not far from New Madrid County in 1857 given a biblical name from I Samuel 3:3.

Wolf Island

Wolf Island, an unincorporated community in eastern Mississippi County. It is located on Route 77 some nine miles east of East Prairie.

The community was founded around 1792 and named for Wolf Island (Island Number5) in the Mississippi River, which is no longer an island, but part of Kentucky. It has been suggested the name for both the island and community came from the large number of wolves present there in the late 18th and early 19th century. Wolves have long since disappeared from the state.

Wolf Island was once a hideout for criminals. After leaving Cave-In-Rock in 1799, Samuel Mason’s gang of river pirates relocated to this island.

Cottonwood Point

Cottonwood Point, a small town established in Pemiscot County at the towhead of Island Number 18 on the Mississippi around 1830 as a ferry landing. In 1867 a post office was established after the town became a flourishing shipping point for furs. The name came from the formation of land that ran out in to the river at a point and from the cottonwood trees growing there


Braggadocio is an unincorporated community in Pemiscot County and located eight miles west of Caruthersville. Founded in 1847,it was a flourishing village in 1865 with a post office since 1886.

There are three theories about the origin of the name. One is the first settler in the area was name Bragg, his wife’s name was Docio; combined for the name. Another suggestion, another is similar, a settlers wife Docio was such a beauty and he bragged so much about her, he was “Bragging on Docio.” Another idea, the most unlikely for these backwoods to know about, the settlement was named for the vainglorious knight and horse thief Sir Braggadoccio in Edmund Spencer’s The Faerie Queen. Mocking name of this type were fairl common in Missouri at this time.


The year 1848 saw beginnings of Portageville being established in the extreme southern end of New Madrid County. At that time Edward Meatte and Charles Davis established a small trading post there. Their establishment was a 20 x14 x16 foot log cabin. Attached to the trading post was a small log cabin used for the owners living quarters. After 1851 the business traded hands several times before Robert G. Franklin brought it. He later sold it to Bob LaFont then Dr. Harvey acquired it sometime later. At an unknown earlier time, the trading post became known as “Shin Bone”.

After the Civil War, the DeLisle Brothers Edward, Alphonse and maybe Umbrose, saw the potential of the small village and bought the store. They paid $100 for the store (which in 2010 had the buying power of $1,520 according to Measuring Worth) in cash, and two mules and a wagon.

Crosnel and Wiseman were the surveyors hired by the DeLisle brothers to lay out a village next to Portage Bay in 1888 or 1889. Having seen the narrow streets in Memphis they insisted the streets be wide enough for street cars.

The post office was established in 1872 and apparent named for the stream nearby. Along this watercourse roamed Portage Ponies. Some believe these were horses left by settlers that hurriedly left the area 60 years before during the violent earthquakes.


In April of 1851, the town of Gayoso was laid out in Pemiscot County northeast of Hayti on a bend in the river at the 850 mile marker north of Head of the Pass, Louisiana. It was named to honor Spanish Governor Don Manuel Gayoso of Louisiana. Although not a single house was standing on its 50 acres, it was designated the county seat. In 1854 a small frame building on the public square was constructed for use as a court house. It was in use until 1873 at which time George W. Carleton had it moved to be used as a stable.

In 1859, Robert E. Clowd the county’s first medical college graduate, moved from Point Pleasant to Gayoso.  This was three years after the first hotel was built.  And the same year a school was build and an Englishman was hired to teach there.

Like many communities situated on the banks of the Mississippi River, the changing current claimed Gayoso. With the removal of the seat of government to Caruthersville, what was left of the community has since faded in importance.


The Pemiscot County town of Cooter was established in 1854. It was first settled as hunting and fishing camp on Pemiscot or Cagle Lake. Among the game shipped were coots, members of the duck family. Some say it was maned for this animal. Other say it was named for the Coutre family, early settlers in the area who are thought to have emigrated in the mid-1700 from France. From 1883 to 1890, the name of the town and township was spell Coutre or Couter in county records after a short stay at Ste. Genevieve, Portell Coutre traveled southward along the Mississippi. By 1795, he had a general merchandize store in the area of present-day Cooter.

In 1924 the post office department changed to name to Coutre to avoid confusion with Cooper in Gentry Count. After a year, the spelling Cooter was resumed.

The elevation is 262 feet. The community sets on 0.osquare mils of land. The 2000 census placed the population at 440 residents, of which 98.18 percent were white.


The population of Pemiscot County grew after 1857 with the establishment of Caruthersville. Caruthersville (225 alt.) is the seat of Pemiscot county situated on a bend of the Mississippi River and now protected for flood by an earthen levee surmounted by a concrete wall.

The Eclipse, built in 1901, a part of the Lee Steamship Line of Memphis made a regular run to Caruthersville. This ended at 7:00 pm September 12, 1925 when the steamer hit a snag opposite Osceola, Arkansas, The crew and pass angers made it to safety over a sandbar.

July 29, 1946, the ferry crossing the Mississippi River collided with two oil laden barges near there. This night time accident happened 50 yards from the Missouri shore. Ten people, possible more were believed to perish in the collision. Thirteen others occupants of the ferry were saved after the ferry overturned dumping at least five vehicles and their passengers into the water.

Caruthersville, according to the 2000 Federal Census contained 6,168 residents living within 5.2 squares mile with the racial makeup of 66.08 percent white. The elevation is 276 feet above sea level.

When Missouri was added to the United States, the original border proposal was to be an extension of the 35⁰35’ parallel north and met the border between Kentucky and Tennessee. This would have excluded the Bootheel, placing it in Arkansas. As it is now, the Missouri Bootheel is the southeastern most part of the state. This part of the state boundary between Arkansas on the south and west, divided here by the St. Francis River, and Missouri runs along the 36⁰ north latitude formed a shape, in relation to the rest of the state, resembling the heel of a boot.


Included, strictly speaking, the Bootheel includes the counties of Dunklin, Pemiscot, and New Madrid. In the popular mind, the Bootheel often used to include the entire southeastern Lowland of Missouri, including all of the Little River Valley Counties included this part of the upper Mississippi embayment included parts of Butler, Mississippi Ripley, Scott, Stoddard and the extreme southern portions of Cape Girardeau and Bollinger counties. Sikeston and Kennett are the largest cities in technical Bootheel; Cape Girardeau is in the largest city in the Little River Valley.

The Bootheel is on the northern edge of the Arkansas –Mississippi Delta culture that had produced the Delta blues. A large black population makes it dissimilar to the rest of rural Missouri. Within the area is a unique rural black culture reflected in its music, churches, and other traditions of the South. The black population ranged from about 26% in Pemiscot County to 15% in New Madrid County, and 9% in Dunklin County.

Not so long ago, the Bootheel had a reputation for lawlessness. Remote settlement along the river banks and deep in the swamps miles from paved roads provided the environment for moon shining and bootlegging. Sawmill in the swamps, with extremely hard working conditions, attracted non-genteel types, course, and heavy drinkers as a workforce.

Most of Missouri’s citizens relate more to the mid-west in outlook, culture, and work ethic. However, the farther south in the Bootheel you travel, the more its citizens indentify with the South.

Economically the area is one of the more impoverished parts of Missouri. While there is some manufacturing in the area, the economy is primarily agricultural related. With an alluvial past, the rich soil is ideal for growing soybeans’, rice, corn, and cotton (the northern edge of the cotton belt is just about the New Madrid County line). Some “truck crops” are grown, especially various melons, especially watermelons, corn, squash, and tomatoes. Livestock is raised only on a limited scale, in contrast to most of the state.

Caruthersville had its origin in La Petit Prairie a French trading post whose site near Caruthersville was destroyed by the New Madrid Earthquake then washed into the river. Settled about 1794, when Francois Le Sieur, a fur trader that a decade earlier had established a post at New Madrid.  He was attracted by this wide, fertile bottomland.

In 1857 the town was laid out in Pemiscot County near the old village site of Little Prairie by G. W. Bushey and Col. J. H. Walker. Its name came from honoring Sam Caruthers, of Madison County. Early merchants included Harrison and Christie and Davison and Edwards.


Sikeston in Scott County was established in 1860. This was the last community formed in the bootheel until after the Civil War (1855) before town was established. The “Baker House owned later by Lee Hunter, used as an early school. Today, the elementary school on that property carries his name.

The first landowner in the Sikeston area was a Frenchman, Francis Paquette In 1829; the Stallcup family acquired the land. John Sikes married into the Stallcup family in 1859, gaining control of the family holdings. In anticipation the completion of the Cairo and Fulton Railroad, Sikes in April of 1860, had a planned city platted and surveyed. He saw the Spanish King’s Highway as being a source of the outlaying areas for carrying freight to the railroad.

Sikeston, the largest community in Scott County was first settled in 1800 but not laid out as a town some 60 years later by John Sikes on the Cairo and Fulton Railroad.

Sikeston is located mainly in Scott County, yet, a very small portion of it is in New Madrid County. Its location is nearly half way between St. Louis and Memphis. Located on Sikeston Ridge uplift started from settlement dropped by the Ohio River some 9,000 years ago, it was raised slightly by the quakes of 1811 and 1812. The first house build in Sikeston, 318 Baker Lane, is believed to have been build five years before the Civil War.


After the Quakes become Quieter

Tywappity Bottoms

New Madrid County

John Hardeman and the Bootheel

Little Prairie and the Formation of the Bootheel

Post Earthquake Settlements


Fanatical Pilgrims

Cape Girardeau County

Big Bend

Big Lick



Cape, the River and Builder of Steamboats


Apple Creek


Oak Ridge

Scott County

Gray’s Point

Goose Pond

Bushey Prairie

Birds’ Hill / Birds’ Island




Power’s Island / Big Island

New Hamburg


Stoddard County

Bloomfield and Dexter

            Weaverville and Plank Road


Dunklin County

Branum’s Point

Buffalo Creek / Buffalo Island

Cockle Burr Slough

Canaan Island


Bridges Creek

Cotton Plant

Cane Creek


Browns Ferry

Campbell (Four Mile)



Raglin Slough


Mississippi County

Bird’s Point

Mathews Prairie


Black Bayou


Tywappity Bottom





Tarr’s Store


Point Pleasant

Pemiscot County

Pemiscot Bayou

Shiloh Church, Pemiscot County

Wolf Island

Cottonwood Point








Unstable Times When the Earth Trembled

        The Three Big Shocks

While the people of New Madrid were well aware of the dangers the river presented, however, the threat from below the earth’s surface surprised everyone. The evening of December 15, 1811 was clear and quiet and life was normal. There was no indication of what the morning darkness would bring.

 While the river announces its threat by a slow rise, there was no warning; the inhabitants of the areas were suddenly awakened by the groaning, creaking, and cracking of   the timbers of their houses. The earth suddenly started shaking and producing a loud noise.

Unexpectedly, the earth started spewing water and sand along with a substance resembling coal. Sulfur scented cloud rose to announce what many thought was the end of the earth. The buildings they were in started dancing before falling apart. They were awakened by the crash of falling chimneys. Furniture was moving as if a large hand was pushing it across the room. All of this and more happened at 2 A. M. as they groped through the darkness to the door to rush out into the cold December morning.

The repeated shocks lasted the night keeping the settlers from returning to the useless protection of their now weaken and damaged cabinets. They remained shivering and terrorized in the dark winter cold until morning.

Daylight brought little improvement to their situation. Early morning brought another shock. It was preceded by a low rumble and proved to be as severe as the previous. The ground rose and fell as earth waves, not unlike long low swell of the sea. As it moved along the ground giant trees tilted until their branches interlocked and opened the soil in deep cracks.

Landslides slipped down steeper bluffs and hillsides while large areas were uplifted and larger areas sunk and filled with water. Ground water rose through fissures and accumulated from obstructions of the surface drainage.

On the river, great waves were created which overwhelmed many boat and flipping keelboats while lifting others and dropping then high upon the bank. As water returning to their channel it broke off thousand of trees and carried them into the Mississippi.

During December 16th and 17th, the shocks continued at short intervals and gradually diminishing in intensity as time passed. The land had only a short retrieve.

         Permanent Physical Changes

Much the same thing happened on December 16, 1811, January 23, and February 7, 1812 during a series of earthquakes, starting near the newly formed Big Lake in Arkansas and moving east to end in New Madrid County, Missouri. The combined total of energy released made it the largest earthquake in American history equal to energy of 100,000 atomic bombs like those used to end World War II.

People felt the quake along the east coast where it rang church bell in Boston and woke people sleeping on the second flood in Charleston, South Carolina. Aftershocks lasted for month.

The area most directly affected by the earth tremors which produced uplift, sunken lands, fissures, sinks, sand blows, and landslides extended from a line from Cairo, Illinois westward and south just above Memphis and to the west along Crowley's Ridge. Alluvial terraces and uplifts have been described as a result of the earthquake. The topography of the area was changed. Old familiar landmarks were no longer to be found.

One fault under the Mississippi River caused an uplift that temporarily blocked the current. The newly formed damn trapped the water causing it up back up enough to give the appearance of the current running upstream.

 Other uplifts included the Tipton Dome extending from south of new Madrid to Reelfoot Lake; just south of the Arkansas  line was the Blytheville Dome; and the Little River Dome some 20 miles southwest of Blytheville. Sikeston Ridge with 15 feet uplift (?), is thought by some scholars’ to be a continuation of the Tipton Dome.

While some of the land was lifted up, other parts sunk. The four principal areas of sunken lands are mainly outside Missouri in the depression as Reelfoot Lake, Tennessee and Big Lake, St. Francis Lake, and Tyronza Lake in Arkansas.

A large area along the St. Francis River in the area near Lake City and Market Tree, Arkansas is known as Sunken Lands. This lowland is 11 miles long and up to two miles wide in the southern end.

A subsided area along Little River southeast of Kennett, formerly called Lake Nicormy had since been drained by a canal is located in Missouri. New Madrid was no longer on a high point looking over the river; here the elevation was lowered some 15 to 20 feet.

Decypri was the name of a large deep pond in the center part of New Madrid Township formed by the 1811-1812 earthquakes. Until 1823, it was known as Earthquake Lake. About that time the name Bayou de Cyrie or Bayou de Cypriere (a rare word meaning cypress grove or swamp) was used; named for the cypress swamps in the area. After the 1912 flood, it was locally known as the Washout when a deep hole formed or washed out the stream and it disappeared.

In New Madrid, one settler tells that during one of the quakes at night he ran in terror from his cabin. The shaking so surreal, he knew his cabin would fall on him. In the darkness, he unexpectedly ran into a water channel that was not there when he went to bed. Daylight revealed a bayou that had ran beyond his outhouse now flowed between it and his cabin.

On December 16, 1811, river men sleeping on their flatboats at the foot of Chepousa Creek, just above New Madrid, awoke to the roar of surging rushing waters, lifting them, pushing them wildly only to drop them then to lift them again. Some of the flatboats were left on dry land when the shaking stopped. Others were never seen again.

        February 7, 1812

An ice jam on the Ohio Falls near Louisville broke up shortly after December 17 shake. Then backlogs of steamboats were able to head towards the Mississippi. Those heading for New Orleans tied up at New Madrid on the night of February 6, 1812. At 3:45 a.m., February 7, the fault under the river became active creating a temporary dam followed by a waterfall as the backing river washed over the blockage.

On February 7, 1812, in the flashes of light, they say downstream, between Island Number 8 and New Madrid, a mountain of water rising against a barrier that had not been there before. The water pulsated, formed giant whirlpools, whither as if in torment as it rose higher and higher. They waited in fear as the wall of water grew. Buffered by an animated, unbelievable force from below, the river reversed direction and lowed upstream.

That same day the damn river topped the barricade in the river to form a waterfall. The force was so great that a grove of cottonwood and willow trees on a two and a half mile long island was stripped of leave and branches leaving them pointed downstream.

Dawn approached with a purplish, unnatural light. The river was churning and roiling. The color was an unbelievable red color as if it had just washed a giant wound, and thick with mud and mixed with foam.

        More Damage

Sand mixed with water shot into the air like fountains. One of the large sand blow areas in is Mississippi County Arkansas south of Manila and east of Caraway near the Miligan Ridge community.

What had sounded like artillery fire the residents of New Madrid say had came from jetting, hissing discharges exploding from funnel like holes in the earth pushing up heated water shooting up to some 30 feet or more into the air. Rumbling from under the earth was continually unnerving. A sulphurous smell tented the air and flavored the water.

Then the quakes came. Many of the residents evacuated to New Madrid along with other settlers from the north. At Spanish Mill, the earthquakes destroyed the building. They could have been rebuilt; however, the land was permanently altered. Little River no longer flowed with sufficient current to power the mill. Passage to the Mississippi River was cut off by the closure of Bayou Portage and Portage Open Bay Little River was no longer navigable. Drainage channel to the St. Francis River was blocked with permanent log jams. The east west overland road was now under a 16 mile swamp that ranged from two to four feet of water. Spanish Mill was isolated by the quakes reshaping of the land.

Flat-topped mounds and prairies 20 to 30 feet above the general area surrounding lowland are known as terraces. Some believed the Sikeston Ridge resulted from the actions of the 1811-1812 New Madrid Earthquakes: (so named because New Madrid was the largest settlement in the quake area). However, Sikeston Ridge is several thousand years older. Whitewater, for a short time, was the name that seemed applied to the entire Little River system shortly after the New Madrid Earthquake of 1811-1812.

        Wading to Safety?

With the first major earthquake on December 16, the small village of Little Prairie in Dunklin County (near the present town of Caruthersville) was especially hard hit. During the continuing trimmers the village began to sink until two to four feet of had covered it.

Yawning abysses hissed, seethed, bubbled and babble boiling up from below. The muddy water was slowly filling with material from below. Vapor like steam arose from the pit to permeate the air with stench of sulfur and rotten vegetation.

Crevasses were everywhere. Cracks would sometimes open and then slap shut. Groundwater was shooting over tall tree. Some of the large tree would split from the bottom up as the ground parted under them.

Around noon another great shock hit town. The ground began to liquefy causing the town began to sink.

As many as 100 people were forced to wade eight miles in the cold weather to higher ground. With children on their shoulders, carrying what few provision they salvaged, they stumbled through muddied waters always wondering if the next step would drop them into a submerged crevasse of if they would trip over a tree stump loosing the few belonging they had left, if not their lives.

Wild animals, snakes, wolves, possums and raccoons, and all kinds of creatures were also trying to escape and find safety. On Christmas Eve, after walking through the destroyed swamp forest for eight day, the group arrived at New Madrid to fine the village destroyed and the people living out-of-doors. By luck, no one from Little Prairie was killed; however, the town was lost forever.

One black man fell into a sand blow crater and drowned engulfed by quicksand and ground water. Six Indians near the river during one of the major quakes at night drowned. They were caught by a massive-cave in and forced into the Mississippi. A crevasse of over 100 feet wide and more than a mile long opened between their house and their smokehouse. They awoke to find the Pemiscot River flowing between the house and smokehouse. This crevasse opened just a few steps from their cabin.

          Lost Towns

Other towns were lost because of the series of earthquakes. Big Prairie, Arkansas, founded in 1797, home of 20 families, near present-day Helena, Arkansas also disappeared in a similar fashion. During the spring floor of 1812, New Madrid being of a lower elevation was swept into the Mississippi.

On December 20th, the steamboat New Orleans, the first steamboat down the Mississippi was tied up to island 32, near the present site of Osceola, Arkansas. During the night, people on board the steamer were not awakened when the island they were tied to for the night disappeared.

As to be expected, many during the worse of the earth’ trembling, though the world was coming to an end. In their bargain with God, that if they were left alive, they would straighten up their lives were full filled for a while. Church attendance increased, for a short time. After the earth became quiet, after the threat lessened, so did the remembrance of the promise.

Native Americans also saw the earthquakes as a sign from their God, the Great Spirit. The violent shaking of the land was a sign the Great Spirit was not just angry with them but was furious because they had forsaken the old ways of their fathers and adopted the lifestyle of the white man. Many quietly left the area leaving most of their possessions behind; in some cases this was a lot.

Immediately following the earthquakes, a mass migration of the population of New Madrid deserted the territory just west of the river. From a population of over 3,200 before the event, there were less than 100 before the worse of the trimmers ended.

As late as 1818, New Madrid was described as being sparse of population. Visitors found that little had been done to clean up the mess nature had created. Brick chimneys still lay scattered where they had fallen. Fallen buildings still were as they had collapsed. Water spouted up from the earth shooting in all directions. Sink holes were common. Trees leaned together with their limbs intertwined. Other trees were split, some twisted and torn from their root.

Yet, the few people that remained in New Madrid had to hold court for that part of Southeast Missouri and the Arkansas District. Two badly supplied stores were open, as was one tavern and the post office.

         Measured on the Ricker Scale

The first of a series of earthquakes struck a 2: AM December 16, 1811 with an estimated strength of 8+ on the Ricker Scale. This quaked was centered just east of Big Lake in Arkansas.  At 7:00 another shock north Blytheville, almost as strong (8.0) as the first followed by another at 11:00 just south of Caruthersville (Little Prairie): again estimated at around 8.0. January 23, 1812 at 9:00 AM, an estimated 8+ was center north of Hayti and south of Marston shocked the area. Just south of Marston, on February 7, 1812, at 3:15 in the morning, the last big one, 8.8 terrorized the area. (Some of these estimates are questioned by some seismologist at the Memphis University Earthquake Center). Aftershocks continued for at least ten years.

Shortly after the earthquakes started, a Louisville engineer, Jared Brooks created a crude seismograph with an ensemble of spring and pendulums with pens that recorded seismic actives 24-hours a day. From December 16, 1811 to March 15, 812, he noted 1,874 tremors. Of these, he classified eight as violent, ten quakes as severe, and 35 as moderate, but alarming. The others were either called generally perceptible or barely perceptible.

For every tremor felt in Louisville, three to five may have been experienced in and around New Madrid. Speculation has it the Number of aftershock was from 6,000 to 10,000 and they did not end in five months. Eliza Bryant a survivor of the New Madrid earthquakes stayed there and wrote in 1816,”It is not four years since the big quake, and we still feel slight jarring now and then.

        Area’s Earthquake History

The 101-mile stretch of Interstate 55 between Benton, Missouri and Blytheville, Arkansas is sometime referred to as “Earthquake Alley.” Minor trimmers are so common there is a 30 % chance of one occurring every day. The active New Madrid Earthquake Zone includes western Kentucky western Tennessee, northeastern Arkansas, southeastern Missouri and southern Illinois.

In 2006, the Arkansas Archeological Society in their work at Eaker Air Base in Blytheville, Arkansas documented earthquake series around AD 900 and again around A. D. 1450- 1470. Researcher Margaret Guccione from the University of Arkansas finds the Mississippi River path changed significantly at this time. Another major series of quakes happened around A. D. 300. Tree ring studies in Reelfoot Lake and the St. Francis Sunken Lands show seismic activity occurred in A. D. 1682 and A. D. 1321.

Excavation at Towosahgy Mound 2 has produced evidence of earthquakes as early a A.D. 400. Evidence suggests another quake destroyed a temple in about 1400.

The first known written record of activity in the New Madrid Seismic Zone came from a French missionary traveling up the Mississippi River as part of a party of explorers. He recorded that at 1 PM, on Christmas Day 1699, when near the present day site of Memphis, the party experienced the ground shaking for a short while.

        Nuttall and Cuming Record of the Events

A famous naturalist Thomas Nuttall wrote a journal of his travel down the Ohio into the Mississippi River then to the Arkansas River. It is filled with valuable details about the land and people he met.

On December 21, 1818 he spent the night ten miles above New Madrid moored opposite to an island, Island Number Seven (?) that had been reshaped by the quakes six years before.

Nuttall, the naturalist, visited New Madrid in 1820. The morning he arrived he wrote in his journal that both side of the river was lined with logs. Some were stationary while other large logs were moving and almost wrecked their boat. He considered the town was now an insignificant French hamlet with little more than about 20 log houses. Prices of food staples he complained were too high. The earth was still trembling, sometime two or three times a day.

The next day, around noon, the Nuttall party reached New Madrid. He described the town as an insignificant French hamlet with about 20 log cabins and stores miserably supplied with prices inflated.  The surrounding land he described to appear to be of good quality. Because of the frequent aftershocks, two or three being felt daily, were discouraged for settling there.

The next day, the 23rd, they arrive at Point Pleasant, about six river miles below New Madrid. This place and several islands below were greatly changed by the earthquakes and had consequently been abandoned. He was impressed by the flatness and superior quality of the land. Here the island and sand-bars at the present water level were almost innumerable and connected with the land. During the shaking, the land, Nuttall was told had sunk ten feet.

On Christmas Day leaving Point Pleasant they found the river free of “material” obstacle, except the enormous moving log (or sawyer), which for the moment threw us into terror. These sunken trees became more frequent as they moved downstream.

The next day, the 26th, they were about ten miles below Little Prairie when a violent storm caused them to tie up to an island. The storm continued throughout the night. Nuttall wrote he became afraid the river would bread their cable and set them adrift in the dark and upon some to the many snags and sawyer in that part of the river. Setting off the next day, no other person or settlement was recorded until Memphis was reached.

Cuming visited New Madrid in 1808, returning in 1830 to record the changes since the earthquakes. Earlier, the town contained about 1000 house dispersed over a plain some two miles square. Twenty years later, the Mississippi has encroached half-a-mile inward forcing the inhabitants to move back and slightly downstream. The citizenry is made up of a mixture of French Creoles from Illinois, United Stated, and Germans.

H wrote, they have a lot of cattle, yet they seem poor. While there is still some Indian trade for furs and pelts but is of little importance. Dry goods and groceries’ are priced enormously high. Militia officer’s uniforms are dirty and ragged. The church building was going to decay had has no preacher.


Unstable Times When the Earth Trembled

The  Big Three Shocks

New Permanent Physical Changes

            February 7, 1812

More Damages

Wading to Safety

Lost Town
            Measured on the Richer Scale

Area’s Earthquake History

Nuttall and Cuming’s’ Record of the Events


       Zadok Cramer’s Navigator: 1812

In 1801, Zadok Cramer started publishing information for people interested in traveling down the Ohio, Mississippi, and Missouri rivers and the interior of the United States. He constantly enlarged and corrected his original edition, of the Navigator going through 12 editions in 25 years. These editions were practical guilds about the rivers, building flatboats and piloting them. Descriptions of the towns and village help the travelers plan ahead.

The following is a paraphrased version of Cramer’s account of the Mississippi River as its passes along Southeast Missouri from the mouth of the Ohio River.  I am using the Eight Edition of the Navigator published in 1814. The islands are numbered from the mouth of the Ohio southward.

His information came from river travelers, mainly, flatboat pilots returning north. While not totally accurate, it was the best information available at the time. Many of these islands no longer exist being destroyed by the river, the 1811-1812 Earthquakes, or are now part of the mainland.

Five miles below the Ohio is Island Number 1. It lay close to the left shore; opposite it on the same side of the river, and just above Mayfield Creek, stands the abandoned Fort Jefferson. This island was about one mile long, and the channel cannot be mistaken, being at tll times on the right side of the island. Now it is behind the levee as part of the Kentucky floodplain.

Islands Nos. 2, 3, and 4 were all small islands that lie near the left shore just below other with the channel to the right. These islands start 11 miles from Island No 1. Now, they are behind the levee on the Missouri side of the river and considered part of Kentucky.

Twenty miles below the Ohio are the Iron Banks or Mine au Fer on the Kentucky side of the river. This is a bluff mixed with an iron colored earth of very find sand and clay. This bluff is 25 feet high and mile lone and constantly falling in the river. Flat boats were warned to avoid the eddy near it and watch for sandbars.

Wolf Island or Island No 5 was five miles below. This is just south of Belmont, the site of a Civil War battle. This large island is nearer the Missouri side splitting the current to both sides with the main channel on the left. Now Island 5 is part of Kentucky, the levee enclosing it west of the river, where the levee takes a 7.88 mile swing into Mississippi County Missouri.

A Mr. Hunter lived on Wolf Island which was six miles long on its left side and ten mils long on the Missouri side. It contained 1500 acres of first rate land, well timbered with a beautiful grassland covered Prairie rising high and dry in the middle and well suited for cattle. A proud gambler, also a farmer lived, was the island’s only resident.

Thirty-four mils below the Ohio is Island 6 which is still one the Missouri side of the channel. South of this is Island 7, which in now attached to and part of. Then a mile below is Island 8, instead of being four miles long as Cramer listed, it is in a curve and some 16 miles long and part of Fulton County Kentucky. Following three miles downstream is Island 9 It lies outside the levee in Kentucky. None of these have any features pertaining to the core of this volume.

Island Number 10 became the site of a Civil War battle in late March and into April that opened the Mississippi River into Memphis, after destroying Fort Pillow in Tennessee.

The river now comes from a northern direction to make a long loop back towards the north, called Hotchkiss Bend. In this bend between the two channels, as part of the farmland of New Madrid County is now Island Number 10. Hotchkiss Ben runs slight to the northeast for about 21 miles before turning a large slow curve back to the south and east. At this point, the channels are only about three-quarters of a mile apart.  At the top of this curve sets New Madrid. Before the earthquake, the town set to the east a couple of miles.

In 1814, according to the Two miles above Island Number 10 a bayou run out of the Missouri side and comes in again three miles below the island. Cramer expressed the view that in a few years the river may make this a safe passage and form another island. From the entrance of this pass or bayou, there was a fine view of New Madrid. New Madrid is now situated on the northern part of this bend, slightly to the southwest of center. Before the series of earthquakes it set east of that. However, at that time the land sunk about ten feet, making that location undesirable.

At New Madrid there was in 1814, a creek called Chepousa River. At the head of the creek about 25 miles behind the town is a lake. This creek empties into the Mississippi just above the town affording a good landing for river crafts. East of New Madrid, St. John’s Bayou empties into the Mississippi.

Between the channels of this large loop, you have Kentucky. However, to get to it, without crossing the Mississippi, you have to go through Tennessee.

Island No, 11 is also part of the landscape of New Madrid County. It is at the foot of the straight run just before the river turns south and slightly to the west.

In 1814, Island Number 12 set on the right side of the main channel. The bar was changed during the quakes. The eastern ended of this landmass is about seven miles from Reelfoot Lake. Blue clay had been thrown up along with mineral coal, with an open pit visible. Today, this Island is part of Tennessee on the other side of the river.

Island 13 is at river mile 865 from Head of Pass, Louisiana, east of Little Cypress Bend. It too is part of Tennessee.

In 1814, Island Number 14 was about three miles long and set in the middle of the river. Since then, parts of the island are on both side of the Mississippi.

About 10 miles east of Hayti is Little Prairie Bend. The town of Little Prairie set here on the river before the Earthquakes destroyed it.  At that time Island 15 set close to the Missouri side of the river. Now it is part of the Tennessee landscape.

Three miles below Caruthersville are Islands Number 16 and 17. Number 16 lay close to the Missouri side of the river. Opposite it was Number 17. The river has shifted enough to make both of them part of Pemiscot County.

At least one steamer has met a bad fate at Island Number 16. The Sunny Side, a side-wheeler burned here on November 13, 1863 with 1,130 bales of cotton along with a large loss of life.

Just a short ways downstream were Islands 18 and 19. Number 18 was a large, about three miles long along the Missouri bank, on the opposite side was Island 19. Cramer claimed this island was 115 miles below Cairo. Now they are part of Tennessee. The packet Colonel Dickinson was lost near Island Number 18 on September 13, 1853.

Ending at the Arkansas line was Island 20. According to Cramer it was a two mile long island in the middle of the river. Today, it is five miles long and shared and part of Pemiscot County Missouri and Mississippi County Arkansas.

        Thomas Nuttall: December 1818

Thomas Nuttall, F.L.S., Honorary Member of the American Philosophical Society and of the Academy of Natural Sciences, &c., started his adult life as a printer’s apprentice in Liverpool, England. Leaving school at age 14, he did not know Latin, Greek, and French, the languages essential to the science of botany. While working as a printer, he taught himself and gained mastery of these basic tools while printing the pioneer work of Alexander von Humboldt and his French colleague Aimè Bonpland.

He came to America in 1808 with the purpose of finding plants as yet undescribed or little known. His desire was to into the wilderness of the continental reached of North America. The Indians, he called Aborigines, knew these places that few white men did.

On his trip researching A Journal of Travels into the Arkansas Territory During the Year 1819, he left Philadelphia on October 2, 1818 carrying few resources, personal items, but with his indispensable “Pocket Microscope” for examining botanical and paleontological specimen. On an earlier trip up the Missouri River with John Jacob Astor trappers in 1811, he had carried a gun which he found handy for digging plant specimens. The French Canadian boatmen though him fou (crazy). He was incapable of fear of the still savage and largely unexplored frontier of the American West.

Between 2 and 3 o’clock in the afternoon of November 17, 1818, Nuttall’s skiff, along with three others long thin roll boats, left the Ohio River to enter the Mississippi.  To their surprise they found the Mississippi River full of floating ice. Because of the spastic behavior of their boats, they headed to the Kentucky bank where they stayed overnight in the company of people making passage down river.

The bank were we landed was dominated by cane break, some of which measured upwards to 30 feet high. They grew so thick they were impenetrable, growing so close together they cut off the sunlight needed by other vegetations for growth. In the area a legumes grew seeds that produced coffee-bean what were eatable when parched a produced a substitute for coffee greatly inferior to chicory.

On both sides of the Mississippi and Ohio remains uninhabited because of the constant threat of flooding. Various kinds of game abound in the areas, particularly deer and bear, turkeys, geese, and swans with a host of aquatic fowls. With the exception of white pelicans, the other wild life is found in many parts of the America’s.

On our first night at the junction of the two major rivers, we were visited by a couple of Delaware Indians and joined later by a hunting party of Shawnees visiting the region from west of St. Louis. One of the visitors entered Nuttall’s cabin to join the Europeans for supper. A larger group of Shawnees joined last night’s guess for dinner the next day. They wanted to purchase gunpowder. Being well mannered, they were reluctant to drank spirits, however when they did, the night was full of yells and riot.

While the Delaware and Shawnee are adjoining neighbors and rivals, while they were in camp, they showed no jealousy. The Delaware did caution Nuttall against the Shawnee among whom they were continually hunting and maned them as rogues. Nuttall, however, found them all equally honest in their dealing with him. Never the less, the history of the Shawnee on many occasions had proved to be as the Delaware characterized them.   

After breakfast on the morning to the 19th, the entire party camped at the mouth of the Mississippi resumed our adventure by entering the floating ice and headed downstream. While there were dangerous ice floats to avoid, as well as many sunken trees, the river was less formidable than we feared. It quickly became apparent that negligence of incaution could sudden lead to a disaster which frequently happened in the fast moving current.

Shortly before sunset, we came to an island where other travelers were camping for the night. We tried to land close to the two boats; however, the swift current carried us some distance below them and placed us on a shallow and marshy sandbar. Nuttall entered the icy water and made efforts at dislodging their boats. He was not strong enough to refloat the boat, even using a pole for leverage. Two of the boatmen traveling with them offered to help for five dollars, which he paid. Soon they were again afloat. About 100 yards downstream, they make camp in the dark.

Daylight showed them the dropping river had left then again grounded on the bar. The boatmen, the night before had assured them the night before with false promise about with they were left. Without the strength and ingenuity to return they boats and supplies to the river, the boatmen floated pass them without an offer to help. They had been cheated out of five dollars.

Hoping that unloading the boat would allow them to move them closer to the water, they stay started. They were pretty far along in the task when the owner of another boat paid a visit. He offered false sympathy when he heard how we got in such a plight and express dislike for all boatmen.

They stopped for breakfast when they were about half finished unloading their craft. While they were still eating, to two Yankees returned. Again, they were very friendly. One suggested the only way off the Wolf Island was to wait for the river to rise. This turned out to be a way to offer a good price for his services. Now, the one that offered his services put a three dollar price on his help. After much haggling, Nuttall reluctantly pain eight dollars. The boats were unloaded and within 15 minutes the boats were in the water. The boatmen failed to live up to helping reload the boats.

That day, the 20th, was far advanced before Nuttall’s party left the island. Some ten mile downstream, they stopped for the night. This time care was taken to insure they had deep water.

The land on both sides of the Mississippi appeared low and uninhabited. Iron-Banks was the only exception. Located east of the river on the Kentucky side, the cliffs were called Mine au Fer by the French. The steep banks easily crumbled into power and good for making pottery. An upper layer an reddish-brown color of iron rust, then a layer about 12 inches thick of a pink clay, and below this was a white colored material commonly, but falsely, considered chalk.

As the farther downstream Nuttall traveled, the move common bald Cyprus became. He knew this to be a symbol to the presence of annual flooding and consequent swamps and lagoons. As of yet, Spanish moss was not present. This plant he associated with the prevalence of unhealthy humidity.

After starting their voyage at dawn they floated without stopping. Nuttall saw the river as truly magnificent while viewing the river banks as gloomy solitude with no visible traces of the present of man. They drifted pass any number of unnamed and uncounted islands he believed were during high water, submerged.

Nuttall had visited New Madrid in 1811 with John Bradbury, the English botanist and Henry Marie Brackenridge of Pittsburgh on his return for the upper Missouri Nuttall missed the December 16th earthquake, but Bradbury, being short of money had taken charge of a boat laden with lead headed to New Orleans witnessed it all, including the destruction on New Madrid.

Arriving at New Madrid the next day about noon, where they found what were exorbitant priced trade goods, which were in short supply. The people still lived in fear as it was not uncommon for two or three tremors daily. On to the 1811trip, he examined some prehistoric remains. These low mounds were still present along with broken pieces of pottery.  

On the 23rd, Nuttall arrived at Point Pleasant, another French village about ten river miles south of New Madrid. Here he noted and named an erect, fairly annual herb he called the Catalpa. This plant he believed to be indigenous to the forest of the area and a native to the area.

Evident here and below still showed great evidence of the earthquake. Visible evidence remained of the consequence of being abandoned. Nuttall viewed a large chasm, which he was told was made when an elevated column of river water rushed in.

The land was flat and he considered of superior quality. He recalled he had seen no high ground since they passed the Iron-Banks. In this area, islands and sand-bars were numerous and many connected with the land.

Nature here provided much; yet, the Canadian squatters here live in miserable circumstances. They raised no wheat, and scarcely enough maize for their support. Superfine flour sold here for $11 a barrel. The men dressed in blanket ponchos, buckskin pantaloons, and moccasins.

After leaving Point Pleasant on Christmas Day, Nuttall’s party floated along without encountering any obstacle except an enormous moving logs which, for a moment filled them with terror. These submerged trees became more and more numerous. Historical accounts of this region say this was once a thickly inhabited by natives, not so in 1818.

They arrived that evening at the remains of the settlement of Little Prairie. Here they found only a single house, the rest, together with their foundations, soon after the earthquake had been swept away by the river. Like at New Madrid, the land here had sunk ten feet below its formal level.

The day after Christmas, about ten river miles below Little Prairie, at storm stopped our progress as we settled in for the night. Towards evening, the storm increased in violence and continued so throughout the night. As the storm grew in intensity, Nuttall became fearful the cable anchoring their boat would break and be set afloat among the many snags and sawyers which obstructed the river.

On the 27, the storm broke about noon and the northwest wind moderated. The party continued as usual, then for about 12 miles downstream they dodged through a river filled with island and trucks of trees. No signs of habitation whatever since they left Little Prairie.  


Visitors Reports                  

Zadok Cramer’s Navigator

Thomas Nuttall: December, 1818

Life on the frontier

Migration into the Bootheel during the 19th century and early 20th century was slow and steady. In spite of the vast amount of water covering the area, settlers managed to locate an area that was above the water most of the year. Many stopped on the Malden-Kennett Prairie 

Mostly it was males moving to the western frontier that settled in the area. Some were seeking adventure. Others were young men escaping a questionable past. In the east, most of the arable land had been in use for generations, or was worn out from too much use. Thus, to find available land that was rich meant going west to the frontier.

The attraction of land was especially true to ambitious young men. For them, from what that heard, of land rich beyond belief. A place they could raise a family and leave a legacy for his sons.

Arriving in the new land had to be culture shock. This shock must have been especially true for the young wife. The vast wilderness must have been a freighting sight; nothing but trees and water being so far from her past experiences. Having left a much more civilized place for this rough backwoods wasteland must have broken many of a young wife’s heart. To know this was to be her home never to see her parents again, maybe not even hear from or about them was sad, but this was depressive.

After a home site was selected, usually close to the trees that would be used to construct a cabin, the job of clearing the land would start.  Much has been written about the neighbors helping build living cabins. This may have been true after to population increased and the lumber companies started working the timber, but when the population was spotty, with no neighbors living within miles, each family had only their members to relay on.

 By necessity, most of the early houses were rugged, how unrefined depended on the skill and strength of the builders. Underbrush cleared out. Trees were cut, size depending on how far they were to be moved and where they would be placed in the structure. Some of the earlier structures were not much more than a lean-to.

Early houses were small square structures, usually sixteen to eighteen feet square with one room serving as living, bedroom and kitchen. Constructed of round logs with the ends notched in a simple saddle form was the standard construction pattern. Roofs consisted of split shingles, and pieces of shingle were sometimes used to chink the spaced between the logs. They may attach a lean-to. Later, when more help was available, they may build a double log cabin connected by with a “dog path.” Using rough hewed logs to build the wall left many cracks, crevices that let in light, rain, and insects. Time sometimes passed before the settlers found time to mud in these opening. Usually, there was only a door, no windows, cut on the south side of the cabin.

One of the important priories was growing food. The area cleared for a cabin became space for the first crop, corn and foodstuff. A sharp pointed stick was used to punch holed into the ground into which grain and other seeds would be placed. Each year a little more ground would be cleared. Nearly equal acreage of corn and cotton was raised. Corn was used for making meal for breadstuff and also for feeding the hogs, from which the other main food came from, pork.

Six acres was about what one field hand could take care of. In the early days, everyone worked, men, women, children, and slaves if available. Sometimes a small garden was near the cabin. This offered a seasonal break for the staple of corn and pork.

In the lowland, there was cane to be cut and roots to be dug out. The sharp point could easily penetrate body parts if pressured contact was made. After the cane was dried, usually after two months, it was burned.  This was generally done on a windy day. The wind drove the extremely hot fire to burn the lower branches and bark off of larger trees, killing them. Ashes covered the ground leaving it ready for planting.

Along the waterways of the delta, cane grew in abundance and almost impossible to go through, even on a horse. Hunters looked at these cane breaks differently than did the farmer. The hunter saw these growths as a place to find game. Bears, deer, and bison would seek refuge and find forage in canebrakes. To the farmer, these growths of cane represented a fertile bottomland that was higher than the surrounding area. This was land that could be cleared by burning the vegetation.

Field work was not done after they harvested the crops, usually sometimes in January. This was the time to clear more land, to bring it into production. Clearing the new ground was hard labor. Stumps had to be grubbed, removing the stumps left from the year before. Trees had to be fell and burnt and then the reins removed.  These new stumps had to be deadening then left to rot. They had to dig ditches to drain the lowlands. They needed dikes to protect the crops. Cotton stalks had to be cut down. Fields needed plowing for the new crop year. Even with the help of horses, or oxen, all these jobs required hard, exhausting manual labor.

Plows came later after the settler became more prosperous. Even with the trees removed, plowing was a painful job for a couple of years. Hidden below ground was a network of roots. Not only was the plow hard to hold in the ground requiring strength and stamina but it was a boring to walk hour after hour behind a horse or mule. When the plow point slipped under a hidden root, often, the plow handle would be jerked from the man’s grip to be thrown in his rib case.

Women and children also had jobs outside the house. They were expected to burn bush and logs, cut and clear bush, beat down cotton stalks, pick up chunks, use a hoe to remove weeds for crops and gardens, picked cotton, feed and watered the farm animal, milked cows, tinted the garden, and countless other jobs. The woman also took care of the house, cleaned the clothes, (and in some cases, card the cotton for use in the spinning wheel, weave the cloth before making cloths) cooked the meals, and have responsible for care of the husband and children. The older girls were expected to help the wife around the house, especially take care of the smaller children.

Corn made a perfect first crop. No special preparation of the ground was needed. The seed could be placed in holes jabbed with a sharp stick, then trampled into the ground. It would grow with little or no cultivation. Corn was a basic food for man and beast. After the first crop, the ground required some plowing before they could plant the next crop. They could make a forked hardwood sapling into a crude plow. One side of the fork was cut about a foot-and-a- half long, sharpened and served as the share. The other fork was left long enough to be the beam. A cross beam was added and they made a plow. Roots in new ground made this instrument very difficult to use, breaking it easily.

Corn harvest was labor intent. This took place before they gathered the cotton while the weather was still warm. The corn grew tall, usually taller than a man’s head. Very little, if any, breeze reached anyone working away for the end-rolls. In the lowlands this air was humid.

The corn harvest started just before the leaves started turning yellow. This operation required the stalks to be stripped from the ears down and placed in piles between the stalks to dry. A homemade sled was pulled through the field, a few days later, to gather these leaves, now known as fodder. Tied in bunches, the fodder is hung up to dry. During the winter, this fodder will be used as animal feed. Next, the tops, corn tassels, are cut off next to the ears of corn. These tops were then chocked, (tied together). Nude stalks now stood in the field supporting the ears of corn. After the first frost, the ears, shucks and all, were snapped from the stalks and stored in a crib made of rails. Corn shucking, (removing the protective leaves from the ears), would come later.

Milking the cows was considered women’s work. The mother and all the male members of the family would have been horrified for male to be caught at this task. His manhood would have been questioned.  He could have helped, like distracting the cow with food, and his masculinity would not have been questioned. Yet, it was considered all right for a boy to churn cream into butter.

In Arkansas and Louisiana, with a few drifting into the Bootheel, during the first half eighteenth century, a large number wild horse roamed the woods. These animals, while difficult to capture, could be broken and turned into useful farm animals.

Hogs also run wild in the forest. Some of these may have been ancestors from animals they escaped for the de Soto Expedition. Here, we are not talking razorback, but domestic animals that roamed free. During the summer and early fall, the increased availably of food in the woods allowed these animals fatten. Groups of male would take salt and their barrels in to wood to kill the hogs. Thus, meat would be preserved and available for the next year.

During the colonial period, religious and political leaders idealized the woman who was pious, hard working, and deferential to authority. Women, who lived in the Missouri bootheel during the early days of American’s occupancy, by necessity, were hard workers. They had little choose.  Conditions were primitive. This included the environment they lived in, the houses they occupied, and the lack of comforts they had. Simple survival meant hard labor under crude conditions. Parts of the Southeast Missouri Delta remained in a frontier condition into the twentieth century.

These frontier women raised very large families. Large families were considered an economic necessity. Early marriages were common. Knowledge of birth control was scarce. Children followed soon after marriage. In 1840, frontier women were the most prolific in the nation. The birth rate, based on children under ten for every thousand women between sixteen and forty-four, was higher there than in any other state or territory and 43 percent higher than the United States as a whole.

These women were products of their environment, depending on time and place. Some were crude, they smoked and chewed tobacco, drank whiskey, gambled, and cursed and swore as heartily as any man. If this were the only pattern of behavior, they knew, the only example they had, this how they behaved. Like people everywhere, this is only part of the picture. Women who moved in from an older, more settled region, they behaved differently. Some women sought out religious services and showed a more female nature considered the ideal womanhood.

Loneliness caused by separation from other family members was a major problem for many immigrant women. The first year, especially was very difficult for some ladies. Living among strangers, seemly in a hostile environment, cut off from family, for many young women this was the removal of all the security they had known, a form of abandonment. This seemed especially true at night, notably, when the wolf’s moans sounded so lonely. Cut off from the established societies that they knew, women sought to reaffirm their experience and identity by establishing and maintaining a circle of females for care and companionship. In doing this, they copied the familiar. As near as their current circumstances would allow, they replaced the institutions and environments they left behind.

Being too religious did not fit the frontier male’s idea of masculine behavior. Men, believing women were more spiritual than men, gave women the responsibility for the family’s religion. Women, therefore, were the main force in establishing religion and educational institution on the frontier women had plenty of things to occupy their time. Despite being busy, women sought out the companionship of other women. These relationships, helped relieve the loneliness of missing family members. Through these new relationships with other women facing similar problems and concerns, they built new support systems.

Besides their housework, the women provided the garden; hunted picked wild berries and helped gather nuts for the winter’s store. She gathered herbs to made most of the simple home medicines needed by the family. After the morning chores were done, she helped her husband pile brush when he was clearing fallen trees. Many a frontier woman could plow as straight a furrow as her man. Often she used the family cow to pull a plow. Taking it home at night, she then milked her for her children’s supper.

Clothing her family demanded much of her time. On the raw frontier, everyone had cloths made from animal skins. Preparing to skins required much time and hard work. As the family moved for the hunting and fishing economy, they would often plant a small patch of flax. They rotted in water and then the men broke the fiber. Women then would spin these course strands into a threat, which they would then weave into cloth before they could make cloths from it.

        Spanish Mill

Spanish Mill was another of the earliest settlements in the Little River Valley. Established in the late 1700’s, it was strategically located for a commercial center between the St. Francis River and the Mississippi A small port on Little River, Spanish Mill was 17 miles southwest of New Madrid and some five miles west of present day Portageville in New Madrid County.

        Point Pleasant

Another New Madrid County village was Point Pleasant an old settlement on the Mississippi were Indian villages existed from early times. A flat-boat could leave the Mississippi River and travel west to Little River at Spanish Mill.  Just north of Point Pleasant (about 15 miles south of New Madrid and northeast of Portageville, and eight miles northwest and across the river from Tiptonville, and Reelfoot Tennessee) and Island Number 11, Bayou Portage joined eight river miles south of Point Pleasant at Steward Landing.

River traffic could enter an inlet at just north of Point Pleasant. Or keelboats could use Steward Landing eight river miles south of Point Pleasant. Keelboat entering this inlet could enter Cushion Lake (forming part of the southern bounty of New Madrid and Pemiscot counties).  From there they could go to a plain where it joined with Bayou Portage to form Postage Open Bay (near the present southern New Madrid County line) which went all the way to Little River. At Spanish Mill, boats worked up and down Little River or take a distributaries (drainage channel) west to work the St. Francis River.

Little River at this time had enough current to power a mill at Spanish Mill. The settlement was a trade center. There was a store and market for barter of goods. Located on a commercial water way, the future looked good.


Gordonville is one of the oldest settlement is Cape Girardeau County. Settlers first came to the area in 1795 when the Spanish controlled the region. It set on a small stream east of Cape Girardeau and south of Jackson.

In this area, Bethel Baptist Church was organized July 19, 1806 by Rev. Daniel Green and is considered the first permanent church organized in Missouri. The first building was erected in October, that year, on land belonging to William Bull on Hubble Creek. Bethel means “House of God.”

One of the earlier names given to the settlement was Davis Mill, so maned from the mill operated as late as 1827 by Greer W. Davis. When the mill was taken over by the Peoples’ family, the village was referred to as People’s Mill until as late as 1874. Sometime between 1876 and 1886 the name Gordonville was given to the post office that was established in Samuel Gordon’s store.

A short distant to the west is Hubble Creek. In 1910, the Bank of Gordonville was capitalized with $10.000 along with several churches with the town setting on the Jackson Branch of the Iron Mountain Railroad.


Millersville is a community on the eastern bank of Whitewater River in the western part of Cape Girardeau County. It is an unincorporated community located six miles west of Jackson. Elevation 429 feet.

John Miller came to the area in October, 1803 with the Swiss German immigrants led by Colonel Frederick Bollinger. In 1803, he went up Big Whitewater and settled in Spanish territory. Along with his sons, Jacob and Isaac, they received permits to settle on the land. John Miller claimed nearly two square miles while Jacob and Isaac each claim 350 arpents claims.

The Millers were Scotch-Irish. With 12 children, the village grew quickly. The mocking name “Toad Suck” was given the village’s name until 1860 when a post office was established and named Millersville for the family.

In 2010, the population was 1,288, mostly decedents of John Miller. 

     McKendree Chapel

The first Methodist Church, McKendree Chapel, organized west of the Mississippi River was organized in 1806 on land granted to William Williams in 1798 three miles east of Jackson. It is believed to have been organized by Rev. Jesse Walker at the mouth of the Cumberland River and maned by Bishop William McKendree, Presiding Elder of the Kentucky District in 1801. McKendree was the first American born bishop, , was an officer in the revolutionary War and was present at the surrender of Cornwallis.

     Caney Creek

Caney Creek starts in Bollinger County and enters Cape Girardeau County from the west to empty into Little Whitewater River. Daniel Sexton settled on Caney Creek in 1798.  Its name, like Cane Creek, Cane Bayou and Cane Spring Creek, came from the large amount of cane growing along their banks.

      Byrd’s Creek and Settlement

Amos Byrd settled on a creek that flowed through the central part of Cape Girardeau County around 1799. He settled some 16 miles northwest of Cape Girardeau. A small settlement grew up around him. Thus the village and creek was maned for him.


Burfordville was a Cape Girardeau County village eight miles southwest of Jackson on Whitewater River. Major George Bollinger and other Swiss German immigrants settled there around 1800. Bollinger established and maned Burfordville for John Burfordville; however, it was not incorporated into 1900.

     Cape Girardeau County’s Covered Bridges

Whitewater River boasted two covered bridges. In 1938, there were only eleven such bridges in Missouri. The Burfordville Covered Bridge was built a few years after the Civil War. The Allenville Covered Bride Cape Girardeau County’s second. It was built in 1869 and condemned as unsafe in 1894, but remained as a landmark.

      Little Whitewater River

A tributary to Whitewater River, Little Whitewater River starts in Bollinger County flowing eastward to join the larger stream in southwest Cape Girardeau County near Burfordville.       

        Little Prairie

Little Prairie was first settle, near present day Caruthersville, in 1794 by Francois Le Sueur, on a Spanish Land Grant. He builds on a ridge touching the river and surrounded by rich soil, timber and game. Having friendly relations with the Delaware Indians in the area, there was a profitable trade. By 1799, the population was 78; by 1803, it Numbered 103.


Besides Little Prairie, in what is now Pemiscot County, there were three or four settlements. One was Gayoso. This was the oldest community in the county. Originally it was planned and named as the county’s seat of government by Albion Crow from Scott County, William Sayers of Mississippi County, and W.S. Moseley from New Madrid County.

The courthouse land was purchased from J. A. McFarlin with the town laid out in 1851 by William Bigham. A Spanish official, governor of Natchez Don Miguel Gayoso de Lamos, had the town named after him when he builds a small stockade near New Madrid in 1795. Because the river was constantly washing the town into the river, the county seat was moved to Caruthersville in 1900. A post office remained at Gayoso, from 1904 to 1910, when the community washed away for the last time.

Another community was on Little River in the western part of the county. A third village was just north of a lake known as Big Lake; while the fourth was on Portage Bay. The earthquake all but destroyed these communities and they were depopulated.

     Big Lake

Big Lake was one of the largest lakes in the county. There were to Big Lakes; the largest being called Pemiscot Lake, once covering 18,000 acres around 1900 it was drained.

Big Lake was part of a group of large lakes. Franklin Lake, also known as Cagle Lake in 1883 being maned for an early settler, “old man Cagle. Cagle Lake was one of the earliest lakes drained in the area. J. E. Franklin brought a large trace of land which include this lake and begin in 1898, using pumps, to drain the lake; location known as Pumping Station. The project was a failure until he started ditching. Just the name of the lake was changed and also attached to the nearby community; neither exists any longer.

Solitude appeared on a map until 1867on the northern end of Big Lake. In 1868 a post office was established there and discontinued sometime between 1876 and 1886. Floods may have been the cause of its demise. The name may have come because of the loneliness caused by its isolation.

   Pemiscot Bayou

Pemiscot Bayou was a large bayou which one extended almost the entire length of the count. .Being drained, little remains of the original stream. However, the name is still used on court records, maps and in reference to drainage districts, but it is not in common usage. Part of this waterway in the south central part of the county is now referred to as Gibson Bayou locally so maned after local landlord Newberry Gibson.

Seven mile Bend was a large bend in Pemiscot Bayou in the south-central part of Pemiscot County. Its name came for the length of the curve or bend in the bayou.

Willowpole Bridge was an old bridge made of willow pole on Pemiscot Bayou. The succeeding steel structured over the ditch retained then name. Because the road was redirected, the bridge was abandoned; also known as Criddle’s Bridge from a nearby resident.

        Wolf Bayou

The upper end of Wolf Bayou was called Sancil and flowed near Gayoso to empty into the Mississippi River. The name suggests a swamp and wilderness a place suitable for wolves and once was the habitat for these animals.

          Early Settlements Along King’s Highway

These were not the only settlements in Little River Valley along the King’s Highway several settlements had sprung up, farmers working the land, and scattered groups of Native Americans. Some of them in Scott County; among the first was in the vicinity of Sikeston. Captain Charles Friend also settled in Scott County with his family near Benton. Both of these men had trading post.

The Kings Highway, at best, it was only passable during dry weather. At this time, it was a dirt road. It did have one advantage; it was built on Sikeston Ridge. Unlike to Lowland on either side of the ridge, the soil was sandy. As little effort to maintain the road, it was rutted and washed out in places. Other roads throughout the region were not much better than animal trails. This in fact was how they started. A man on a horse could travel them. In the Lowland, the trails’ paths often were confusion and traveled with hope.

        River Travel by Flatboats

The Mississippi River which has so much influence on the land was travel by small boats or flatboats were used if larger objects needed to be carried. Flatboats, or keel-boats, were larger gangly craft powered mainly by the rivers current. These were large rafts, usually with a rough log cabin, some time with a pen for a milk cow. Most time they were used only as a one-way vessel, downstream.

The river was too deep to use poles to push them back upstream against the current.  Usually the wood used to construct them was broke apart at the destination and sold. Time was also a factor. The downstream trip on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers took a lot of time. The overland trip back consumed even mort time.

        Steamboats Introduced

In 1807, Fulton built the first steamboat, the Clermont. It was a great success on the Hudson River. Use of steamboats on the Mississippi River had to wait until 1811 when a company of men in Pittsburgh constructed the New Orleans

This boat made a trip from Pittsburg to New Orleans and for a short time was involved in transporting goods on the Mississippi River

Within five years other boats were built to travel up the Mississippi above the mouth of the Ohio. The first was General Pike, commanded by Captain Jacob Reed. The second steamer to go north at the mouth of the Ohio was the Constitution, reaching St. Louis in 1817. Before long a steadily flow of other steam power boats follow in its wake.

Steamboats possessed remarkable advantages of the keel-boat. Almost as soon as they hit the water, they were being studied for ways to make them more valuable as carries of freight as well as passengers. One great advantage they had over flatboats was their ability to return back upstream carrying a load of revenue bearing goods. Yet they were impractical and dangerous. Still, they were a great improvement over keelboats.

The change brought by the steamboat was remarkable. Not only did they lower the time necessary for at journey, but also lowered the cost of moving products from city to city. While freight was still costly, it was now not nearly as pricy as keel-boats.

        Morals on the Frontier

At this time in this county, life was hard. To survive in the backwoods where there was little law, violence was not unknown. American settlers, being more adventurous, were spread over a wide part of this area proved more difficult to govern than did the French and Spanish in the area. When problems and trouble arose, Americans had a tendency to physically settle it. Under American rule the population was far from being quiet and free from disturbances as it had been under the over site of the Spanish.

To many of the early American settlers, the Sabbath was not a day of rest. Owing to the lack of religious instruction, there was a period of considerable lawlessness. Public opinion was lax in restraining vice and immorality. One popular vice was gambling which was exceedingly popular and perhaps the most prevalent form of amusement.

Foreign travelers visiting Southeast Missouri often were amazed at what they thought most expressed the lawless condition of the region that of dueling. Not all layers of society used the method of pointing guns at each other to settle disputes. It was the professional men, especially lawyers and others that regarded themselves higher on the social scale as to look down with contempt of any man who appealed to the law for the settlement of difficulties. Gentlemen were expected to settle their own troubles.

The first known duel in the Bootheel was at Cape Girardeau in 1807. Joseph McFerron and William Ogle met on Cypress Island opposite Cape Girardeau. McFerron an Irishman with a good educator was a clerk of the Cape Girardeau District Court. Prior to this he had been a teacher and merchant. The cause is unknown concerning their disagreement. However, Ogle challenged McFerron to a duel. McFerron had never even fired a piston, but accepted the challenge. The duel resulted in Ogle being killed while McFerron escaped unhurt.

A more famous duel between Southeast Missouri citizens was between took place between Thomas H. Benton and Charles Laucas. The first duel between them took place in august, 1817. During the action, Benton was wounded in the knee and Lucas in the neck. The firing of shots would normally end the conflict. Not this time. Benton, when ask if he was satisfied, he demanded a second duel.

After reconciliatory efforts were make, Benton still demanded a second duel. They met on Bloody Island near St. Louis on September 27, 1817. This confrontation ended in the death of Charles Lucas and satisfied the honor of Benton.

With 1798 came settlers to Tywappity Bottoms; James Brady James Curran, Charles Findley, Edmund Hogan, Thomas, John, and James Wellborn and the Quimbys. The first settler at Commerce arrived in 1788. Thomas W. Waters set up a trading post in partnership with Robert Hall and they also ran a ferry service.

In 1800, Bird’s Point saw its first settlement when Joseph Johnson settled in the area. At some point in time St. Charles Prairie became known as Matthews Prairie. Early settlers include Edward Mathews and his sons Edward, Charles, Joseph, James and Allen, Charles Gray, Joseph Smith John Weaver, George Hector, and Absalom McElmurry. In 1805, Johnson sold his land to Abraham Bird whose name was given to Bird’s Point.

        Other Antebellum Settlement

Other early settlements within the present boundaries of New Madrid County were made along Lake St. Ann, St. John Bayou, at Lake St. Mary and on Bayou St. Thomas. These were trade centers for the farmers and trappers in the area. Grist mills were found in some of them.

In what is now Pemiscot County there was also several smaller settlements. One was in the Vicinity of Gayoso, one north of Big Lake, another on Little River, and fourths on Portage Bay.

Americans Move In

Life on the Frontier

Spanish Mill

Point Pleasant

Gordonville ,


McKendree Chapple

Caney Creek

Byrd's Creek and Settlement


Cape Girardeau County Covered Bridges

Little Whitewater River

Little Prairie


Big Lake
Pemiscot Bayou

Wolf Bayou

Early Settlements Along King’s Highway

River Transportation by Flatboats

Steamboats Introduced

Morals on the Frontier


Bird’s Point

Other Antebellum Settlements


          Tribes Forced West by Federal Government

Pressure by the United States government forced many tribes to move westward. Some entered Missouri. The Spanish were tolerant of smaller tribes moving in. However, they were not charitable to larger groups with a history of warring on one another. The new comers presented trading profits to the merchants who welcomed them. The Shawnees settled near Cape Girardeau under the supervision of Louis Lorimier.

Sometimes small bands for Indians for a tribe entered individually. In the 1870’s groups of Delaware arrived in southern Missouri.

After the Revolutionary War, Cherokee warriors killed white immigrants at Muscle Shoals Alabama, for forcing the Native Americans off their farms; they were forced to move and settled on the St. Francis River near Helena, Arkansas in 1794.

In 1811, Cherokee Chief Skaquaw, “The Swan” told his followers about a vision he had one night while leaning against a stump watching a comet. He told how lighting suddenly flashed from all four directions to form a small light at his feet. Using a wood chip, he picked up; because it was “tame fire,” it did not burn his hand. Then two children, one from the east and another from the west, came to him and put him to sleep when they perfumed the air. While asleep the Great Spirit advised him to lead his people out of the St. Francis River Valley before disaster struck. After one of the children blew out the fire, Skaquaw awaken. After he told his tribe what he had seen in his vision, they left and thus escaped the New Madrid earthquakes.

The Mississippi River received its name from Algonquian-speaking Indians. For example, Ojibway, missi is “big” and sippi is “river.” The Algonquian term, Meact-Chassipi, has been translated to mean “The Ancient Father of Rivers.” Ny-Tonks,” Great River, was the Quapaw name for both the Mississippi and Ohio.

        Five Civilized Tribes

Contrary to common concept, Many of the members of the “Five Civilized Tribes,”− Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole−lived in urbane towns complete with well laid-out streets and public building. Many also lived on farms or plantation and some owned black slaves. Some were educated in law or the arts; they owned businesses, dressed in western clothes and lived in houses or cabins much the same as their white neighbors. As they were not considered citizens of the United Stated, they made their own forms of government, including constitutions and laws. Theirs was a shadow government, a nation, within and make treaties with the United States. Small groups of these tribes were scattered throughout the New Madrid Seismic Zone.


A few miles to the west of Chillicothe was another Native American city it passed close to the now-extinct City of Chillicothe, located north of Cape Girardeau. Chillicothe was one of the regional centers of the Shawnee Nation with a population of around 500 residents. The “Child-li-co-a-thee,” in Shawnee means “big town where we live.”

Several places in Southeast Missouri have Indian names. Chilletecaus River in Dunklin County, Jim Ease’s camp in New Madrid, and Seneca Slough to name a few.

Apple Creek later became the dividing line between Perry and Cape Girardeau counties. Along this stream were the principal locations for the larger Native American villages. This was the location of Chillicoathee.  Along this creek were villages of both the Shawnees who had a hatred for both the Americans and the Delaware.

In New Madrid County another of the large Indian settlement was Maisonville. Near Point Pleasant was another large Indian community. Dunklin County was the site of Chilletecaus. Kennett now set on that village’s site. It was situated on a branch of the St. Francis River.

In 1811, the Native American population was larger than of those of European decent throughout the Central Mississippi Valley. White settlers in the Cape Girardeau area did not feel safe when they ventures away for their settlement alone.

        Creek Indian Threat Ended by the Delaware

Generally the relationship between the whites and the native cultures were friendly and they traded and got along. This was not always true.  Shortly before the Earthquakes of 1811-1812, a war party of Creek Indians under the leadership of Chief Captain George crossed the Mississippi some four miles below Little Prairie. Their plan was to capture Little Prairie and then destroy New Madrid. The Delaware in the area came to the white settles aid and stopped the attack

        Government Treaty with Native Americans

In 1808 the United States government made a treaty with the Osages. Both sides agreed the natives would give all lands east of a line from Fort Osage on the Mississippi down the Arkansas River to the Mississippi. This left the Osage land only on the Missouri River. In 1825, another treaty they give up all land claims in Missouri.

In 1815, understand they were given the land in a treaty with the Spanish Government, the Shawnees and Delaware moves west, crossed the Mississippi to the Cape Girardeau area. They believed the area on the Castor, St. Francis River, and White River had been promise in consideration of their removal. Ten year later, the Shawnees gave up the Spanish Lands grants in the Cape Girardeau area promised in 1793.

The Delaware, in 1829 also gave up all their Cape Girardeau land rights. They joined the Shawnee moving west. By 1832, both tribes relinquished the rights to all improvements and land in Missouri.

Not all Indians left the area in 1832. One of the last bands to leave was those living near the village of Chilletecaux near Kennett. This group stayed until the wild game disappeared to the point it was impossible to live by hunting.

        New Madrid

On October 1, 1812, the Missouri Territorial Legislator created New Madrid County along with the counties of Cape Girardeau, Ste Genevieve, St. Louis, and St. Charles. These were the first counties formed in Missouri

The first European settlement in this district was made in 1783 by Francois and Joseph LeSieur. They were two Canadian trappers and traders who came to the area of New Madrid to hunt and trade with the Indians. They set up a temporary trading post, “L’Anse a la Graise” which means “Cove of Grease.”

The settlement was founded by LeSieurs. Its setting on the east bank of the Cha-Poosa Creek which was the early name for St. John’s Bayou was an ideal location for a village. The ridge upon which it set was one of the most fertile and desirable parts of Southeast Missouri. This uplift extended to the foot of the Scott County hills.

From its founding in the 1780’s New Madrid was in important town. From then to its near ruin during the earthquakes, its location literally controlled the boat traffic on the Mississippi from the mouth of the Ohio to Natchez and New Orleans. At the time of the earthquakes, New Madrid was the third largest river town between St. Louis and New Orleans with a population of about 1000: Ste. Genevieve, Missouri 1,200 people, Natchez Mississippi 3,000 residents. Scattered throughout the county living mostly in isolation were some 3,200 people within her trade area.

Located on the west bank of the river, New Madrid was set in the middle of a 25 mile bend. From its setting, it commanded a good view of the river in both directions.  From upstream, the town would be viewed for six miles and the river could be seen for ten miles.

        Spanish Control

Before 1800, while still under Spanish control, a 12 acre lot had been set aside for the King’s use in the middle of the city. Ornamental trees were planted here and walk laid out for the general public’s use. The town founders envisioned streets 120 feet wide with a large park at the town’s center. The population was made up mainly of French and Spanish settlers along with a few American traders with a few Native Americans living in the backwoods.

Under Spanish rule, New Madrid was also a military post. During this time, New Madrid had three military organizations. Two militia companies were supported by a company of dragoons (heavily armed cavalrymen). The rulers were concerned about American intruding into their territory. As they saw the Americans as being aggressive and they wanted to control their influence. They desired to keep them out.

On July 25, 1795, The Post of San Fernando de las Barrancas was established on the Forth Chickasaw Bluffs (Memphis) by the Spanish governor of the Natchez. Like all Spanish post on the Mississippi frontier under their control they were governed under the Laws of the Indies which allowed local commanders to make rules to adjust to local situations.

Commandant Barrancas set up his new command at Memphis, by issuing 66 local regulations, which in effect were laws. Regulation 11 concerned acquiring meat rations. As no system is in place to acquire fresh meat, shipments of salt meat from New Madrid will be used.

The division of a squadron of cruiser posted between New Madrid and Memphis was the subject of Rule 33. This flotilla will be available upon request from the fleet commander.

In matters of defense was covered in items 34 and 35. In this mater, cooperation with the Commandant of New Madrid and his Cruisers is the policy. If the post is in danger of attack, the commandant at Arkansas Post (near the Mouth of the Arkansas River) will be notified asking for help and at the same time word with be sent to New Madrid with the same notice. Friendly Indians will also be asks for help offering them payment.

Captain McCoy was a prominent man in New Madrid coming to the settlement with Morgan. After becoming a Spanish officer he commanded a Spanish galley, or revenue boat. Several operated in the area. This fleet was charged with executing all Spanish laws including stopping all river traffic to take an explanation of their business in the region and to collect a mandatory tax.

McCoy was in command of the boat that captured the infamous Mason Gang. This was a group of robbers and river pirates that had operated for several years plundering not only the river traffic but also isolated settlers in the region. After the Gang was returned to New Madrid, they were transported to New Orleans. On the return trip back upriver, while Mason is his men were seizing the boat Captain McCoy was wounded. In 1799 McCoy became commandant of the New Madrid post. Latter, he was commandant at Tywappity Bottom.

The French settlers, the Spanish accepted. Many of them lived like the natives and were not seen as a threat. In 1796, the pastor at New Madrid became responsible for ministering to the people of Arkansas.

Early in May of 1793, part the military attachment was pulled out and sent to Arkansas Post to destroy the Osages. Then under American rule, New Madrid became the administration center for Arkansas from 1808 to 1812.

The Catholic Church in New Madrid began in 1789 after Father Gibault arrived from Ste Genevieve. A building was erected in 1799 and dedicated to St. Isidore. After Gibault’s death in 1802, the building fell into disrepair and was washed into the Mississippi River in 1816.

Alliot in an 1803 trip through Louisiana made some observation about New Madrid. He thought it a charming little village of three score resident located 100 leagues (a league equaled about three miles) below Belle Riviere (Ohio River) The Fort l’ance a la Graice housed 150 soldiers. This was the first place (he claimed) where wheat was raised. On the meadows there were cows and steers grazing and the inhabitants were raising hogs and fowls. In the forest there were an abundance of all sorts of wild game.

The United States government, by 1805, had established post offices at Cape Girardeau, and New Madrid. Mail delivery was once a week. Postage rates were very high. The distance a letter or parcel was carried, not a fix rate based on weight, determined the postage.

Between 1805 and 1812, cotton was the staple crop grown. At that time corn became the principal crop.

Early in the region’s history, its reputation was not good. Its populace included counterfeiters, horse thieves, murders, debt dodgers, and others escaping from the law. Life on the far western edge of European civilization was rough needing hard people to settle in the backwoods away from more civilized conditions.

With the start of 1811, the merchants and traders at New Madrid saw only a prosperous future. They had a water route to the Little River Valley and beyond to the St. Francis River Valley. Not only was this a fertile trade region for their merchandise, but it also produced a large trade in furs as did the area across the Mississippi. The river also brought in trade and from flatboatmens heading both directions.

Native Americans Meet Europeans

Tribes Forced West by Federal Government

Five Civilized Tribes


Creek Indian Threat Ended by the Delaware

Government Treaties with Native Americans

New Madrid

Spanish Control

    Having grown up on Little River, I have been fascinated with it. Over the past several years, as a local historian, this area has been a special interest. 

     These areas have been treated much like step-children by Jefferson City and Little Rock. They seem to believe nothing has ever happened here.  Our history has been long and varied. Hope you enjoy my trip.  

    Near Puxico is the swampy Mingo Wildlife Refuge. One hundred and fifty year ago, most of the Little River Valley appeared that way. This valley covering two million acres was part of the largest wetland in America.

    Floods frequently intimated the Valley. Between 1815 and 2011, 15 major floods covered or threatened the area.

    Timber companies came in at the end of the 19th Century to clean cut the forest. Louis Houck, a Cape Girardeau lawyer and railroad builder, envisioned a rail network that covered the wetlands.

    Little River Drainage District (LRDD) Corporation was established in 1907 by an act of the Butler County (MO) Circuit Court. 

    Between 1909 and 1928 the LRDD dug nearly 1000 miles of ditches and constructed 30 miles of levees to drain 1.2 million acres of swamp and overflow land in Southeast Missouri. More dirt was moved than in building the Panama Canal.

    One surprise I had was the number of settlements in the area before 1811-1812. Another was the water connection between the Mississippi River and the St. Francis and I had no idea that Little River had enough current to run a grist mill.

    Norman Vickers


    January 2015
    November 2014
    October 2014
    April 2014
    March 2014
    January 2014
    December 2013
    November 2013
    October 2013
    September 2013
    August 2013
    July 2013
    June 2013
    May 2013




    Little River's Geographic Past