Steam Boating on Little River

Big Lake was formed in 1811 by the first of a series of the four earthquakes known as the New Madrid Earthquakes. Littler River flows into it just south of the Missouri-Arkansas state line. Little Rivers flows out of Big Lake to join the St. Francis River near Marked Tree.

Steamboats operated on Big Lake (Arkansas) from an early time. One of the early runs was from Hornersville, Missouri, (head of navigation on Little River) to Marked Tree, Arkansas.  The Annie Mae, owned and operated by Captain Joe Horner was also a big hunter on Big Lake. His steamboat carried passengers, mail, and wild game to market. It sank in 1903 in Big Lake’s Gar Hoe.  

Other steamboats operated along this route. In 1866, the Glenville and the Modock, the Ike, and the Edwin Marshal operated at different time. The Edwin Marshall (originally called the John W. Paterson) hull was constructed on Big Lake by Captain W. C. Marshall and taken to Marked Tree to install its machinery.

In the early 1900’s, Ed Daughterly and Jake Rice operated a fishing camp at River above Buffalo Creek. It was located about half way between Big Lake and Marked Tree. At times as much as 10,000 pounds of fish were caught in a day using nets. Captain Marshall picked up fish the men had packed in ice and put on barges to take to market. The first such shipment consisted of 50 barrels each containing about 200 pounds.

The fishermen were paid one-and-one-half cents per pound for game fish and on cent for buffalo and catfish. Captain Marshall supplied the fishing tackle, half the men’s provision plus $20 a month. He also bought a thousand dozen ducks from market haunter at Big Land and sold them in St. Louis for between #.50 the $6.50 per dozen.

Kennett (Dunklin County)

Kennett was set on the site of an American Indian village long before the county was settled. Just as the Native Americans fount this a desirable location, so did early settler. Early settlers constructed rough, small log cabins near the present location of the town’s site. When the community became official, they gave it the name of a Delaware (Lenape) Tribal chief, Chilletecaux who was living there at the time.

When Dunklin County was formed in 1845, Chilletecaux was chosen as the county seat. Because the name was so hard to pronounce and spell, it soon was changed to Butler. Eventually, because the mail was often directed to Butler County, the community had another name change to Kennett in 1851.

In 1862, during the Civil War, Dunkin County adopted a resolution to secede from the Union. The county became known as the “Independent State of Dunklin.”  Union troops in 1863 briefly occupied Kennett and guerrillas’ raiders constantly roamed the area. With the war’s end, Kennett was no longer a prospering settlement. Most of the town had to be rebuilt.


Otto Kochitizky

In 1903, Otto Kochitizky published “Map of the Lowlands of Southeast Missouri”. It included Bollinger County, Butler County, Cape Girardeau County, Mississippi County, New Madrid County, Pemiscot County Scott County, Stoddard County, and Wayne County. This eventually was to make up the Little River Drainage District.

Founding members of the Little River Drainage District used Kochitizky’s map and hired him to be the first Chief Engineer of the District. He consulted with two other prominent drainage engineers of the time, Isham Randolph and Arthur El Morgan. Together they developed the official plan for drainage in 1908. The Little River Drainage District Corporation was established in 19076 by the Butler County Circuit Court. Between 19909 and 1928, the district constructed nearly 1,000 miles of ditches ad 300 mile of levees to drain 1.2 million acres of overflowed and swamp land in Southeast Missouri.

Crowley’s Ridge

Crowley’s Ridge begins south of Cape Girardeau near Commerce. Going west in an arch to swings back entering the Mississippi River near Helena, Arkansas. During the last period of glaciation some 15,000 years ago, Massive buildup and melting of the glaciers resulted in great floodwaters way beyond modern imagination created the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers as marginal ice melt streams.

At this time the Mississippi was west of Crowley’s Ridge with the Ohio running along the eastern side. This early route may have followed the present path of the St. Francis River. With the end of the last ice melt, the Mississippi joined the Ohio just south of the Thebes Gap near Cairo, Illinois. The remains of this narrow band of uplands became known as Crowley’s Ridge.

Crowley’s Ridge is a unique landform. It is effectively isolated as an island located in the middle of an ocean of land. Animals and plants living in the area were cut off and secluded from their normal migratory patterns. Thus, a number of rare and endangered plants and animals are native to the ridge. Rarest of the various natural communities of the ridge are plants that occur along the trickles, runs and springs. Some of the examples of these rare and exquisite plants are nettled chain fern, yellow fringed orchid, umbrella sedge, black chokeberry and marsh blue violets.

One of the earliest recorded cemetery in the New World is found in Green County, Arkansas, on Crowley Ridge. The Sloan site was excavated in 1974; this was both home and burial ground for a small group of Native Americans who live here approximately 10,500 years ago. This small nomadic group live in semi-permanent village. And established the earliest documented cemetery in North America.

S.N.I.C.K.E.R (Same Names In Cities, Kingdoms, Empires, & Regions)

From a reference book of American city names

Sikeston – Missouri: only one town in the United Stated with that name.

Morehouse (1) Missouri        

Cape Girardeau (1) Missouri 

Blodgett (1) Missouri

Caruthersville (1) Missouri

Dexter (9) Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Missouri, and New York

Bloomfield (9) Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania.

Anniston, (2) Alabama and Missouri

Hayti (2) Missouri and South Dakota

Holland (9) Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Ohio, and Texas

Parma (4) Idaho, Michigan, North Carolina, and South Dakota

Bell City (1) Missouri

Advance (2) Indiana and Missouri

Essex (5) Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Missouri

Benton (11) Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Wisconsin

East Prairie (1) Missouri

Dudley (3) Georgia, Missouri, and Pennsylvania

Hornersville (1) Missouri

Senath (1) Missouri

Whitewater (4) Kansas Indiana, Missouri, and Wisconsin.



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    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


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    Little River's Geographic Past