Wednesday, June 21, 2023

JUMPING OFF - Mississippi River Towns


JUMPING OFF - Mississippi River Towns

Post by Doris McCraw
aka Angela Raines

Photo property of the Author
In the expansion of the West, the journeys began somewhere. Some people sailed to the West Coast, others came from Mexico while others came West across the plains. In order to reach those plains, the Rocky Mountains, and the coast they had to cross the Mississippi River. Additionally, commerce and travel in the early days depended on waterways. So important was this route that canals were built to connect various rivers and bodies of water.

This post will look at some of those river towns, especially between the years of 1800-1860 in the states of Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri.

Most know of St. Louis, now known as the 'Gateway to the West', but there were other towns that had their fair share of river traffic.

Galena, Illinois, in the northern part of the state, is located on the Fever River, deep enough for steamboats to navigate when they began running along the upper Mississippi. The town began because of lead. Founded in 1818, it was an important port and trading post until the Civil War. On a side note, General Grant arrived in 1860 and lived there until the war. He returned in 1879 and remained until 1881.

Nauvoo, Illinois, is best known for the jumping-off point of the Mormons (LDS) on their westward trek to Salt Lake City. The town, however, had other iterations being located on the northern part of the Des Moines Rapids. Since the rapids were unpassable with heavy ladened boats, they were offloaded downriver in another river town, Warsaw, Illinois, and reloaded near Nauvoo to continue their northern journey.

Kaskaskia, Illinois - Wikipedia

Kaskaskia, Illinois, has a unique history. When the current site of the town was founded, and at one time the territorial capital of Illinois, the Mississippi River was three miles away. By 1881, when the Mississippi flooded yet again, the town found itself an island on that mighty river, for the channel along the river had changed.

LeClaire, Iowa, has a long history, located where the Mississippi makes a turn to the West. It is also near the beginning of rapids in that area. It also had a boatyard and built a number of riverboats.

Guttenberg, Iowa, like Galena, Illinois had lead which was mined. There was also a ferry, and later it became a rail town serving the farms in the area.

Fort Madison, Iowa, began life as a fort, the spot having been recommended by Zebulon Pike during his expedition to locate the headwaters of the Mississippi in 1805.

Hannibal, Missouri, is probably best known as the hometown of Samuel Clemmens (Mark Twain) and Margaret Tobin (Margaret 'Molly' Brown). It was primarily a steamboat landing and after the Civil War, a landing for the logging taking place in Minnesota and Michigan.

New Madrid, Missouri, was founded in 1789. Probably best known as the center of the earthquakes that rocked the Mid-West during 1811-12. There was also a Civil War battle on an island near the town, known as the Battle of Island Ten.

Sainte Genevieve, Missouri, was part of a series of settlements by the French during the early to mid-1700s. It was a river port, shipping iron ore, marble, and granite from the mines in Missouri.

There are many stories of towns in this tri-state area. Below are links for those who want to spend time learning about the Mississippi River and the towns whose life and death are closely tied together by this waterway.

Other resources you might like:
"The History of Warsaw Illinois" by Brian Stutzman
"Cahokia- Ancient America's Great City on the Mississippi" by Timothy R. Pauketat
"On Shaky Ground: The New Madrid Earthquakes of 1811-1812" by Norma Hayes Bagnall

Until Next Time: Stay safe, Stay Happy, and Stay Healthy.


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