Cape Girardeau County Missouri Genealogy Trails

One of the five districts into which Missouri was divided in 1804. On Oct. 1, 1812, it was organized into a county by proclamation; was reduced to its present limits March 5, 1849. Named for town located within its limits. The name is derived from that of Ensign Sieur Girardah, or De Girardot, who from 1704 to 1720 was stationed with the royal troops of France at Kaskaskia, and after resigning his position in the army became a successful trader with the Indians in the territory in and adjacent to the county, and whose trading post was situated at Big Bend at upper end of present town of Cape Girardeau.  

Jackson, county seat of Cape Girardeau County. Platted in 1815 on land purchased by commissioners from William H. Ashley. Aug. 13, 1813, John Davis, John Shepherd, Samuel G. Dunn, Abraham Byrd and Benjamin Shell appointed commissioners to select permanent seat of justice. "Its selection as county seat was a severe blow at the time to Cape Girardeau, which was the original county seat."
Named for Major-General Jackson, who was just at this time becoming prominent.

Allenville platted in 1869 and named for Thomas Allen, at the time president of the Iron Mountain and San Francisco R. R.

Appleton situated on Apple Creek, hence the name, was settled in 1824 by John McLane and John Scholtz.

Arnsberg, named by its inhabitants for Arnsberg in Westphalia, Prussia.

Blomeyer, a German family name.

Bowman, a family name.

Cape Girardeau, surveyed in 1806 by Bartholomew Cousin under the direction of the proprietor, Louis Lorimer, who settled here in 1793. Named in honor of original white trader located here, De Girardot. 

Pocahontas, so named for the Indian maiden of fame in the early settlement of Jamestown, Va.

[Source: How Missouri Counties, Towns and Streams were Named; By David Wolfe Eaton; Published By The State Historical Society of Missouri; Reprinted From The Missouri Historical Review; Vol. 10, No. 4. (July, 1916); COLUMBIA, MISSOURI; Submitted and Transcribed by Andrea Stawski Pack 2011}

Cape Girardeau County.—A county in the southeastern part of the State, bounded on the north by Perry County, on the east by the Mississippi River, on the south by Scott and Stoddard Counties, and on the west by Bellinger County. Its area is 368,450 acres; about 50 per cent is under cultivation, the remainder being timber land bearing valuable growths of oak, walnut, poplar, cypress and gum. The surface of the county in the southern part is level, with some swamp lands; other portions are undulating, affording good drainage, with hilly lands in the northeastern and northern parts. In the hilly sections the soil is gravelly and sandy, and in the valleys and bottom lands an exceedingly fertile black loam. Numerous small streams wind their way through the county. In the north are Apple Creek— which forms the northern boundary line— Little Apple, Hugh, Buckeye and Shawnee Creeks; in the east, Flora, Indian Cane, Cape and Cape La Croix Creeks, and in the central and western parts, Whitewater River and tributaries, Hubble, Caney, Byrd, Hahn and Crooked Creeks. Some of these streams afford good water power. The principal agricultural products are wheat, corn and other cereals, hay, potatoes, onions and other vegetables that can be grown in a mild climate. Fruit-growing has become an important industry. Apples, pears, peaches and grapes are cultivated extensively. In the year 1898 there were exported from the county 28,442 pounds of evaporated fruit and a large amount of small fruits. During the year there was also shipped from the county 128,990 bushels of wheat, 26,162,948 pounds of flour, 7,757,850 pounds of feed and 29,037 pounds of grass seed. Flour made from Cape Girardeau County wheat received the highest medal of award at Vienna, 1873, and Philadelphia, 1876. Owing to the abundant growths of native grasses, stock-raising in the county is a profitable pursuit. In 1898 the shipments from the county included 1,094 head of cattle, 5,458 head of hogs, 2,527 head of sheep, 16,022 pounds of wool, 109,886 pounds of dressed meats, 22,114 pounds of tallow and 137,125 pounds of hides.

Poultry growing has been successfully carried on for many years, and in 1898 there were marketed 236,054 pounds of poultry, 81,240 dozens of eggs, and 4,168 pounds of feathers. The minerals existing in the county are iron ores in the eastern part, lead—but not in such quantities that it can be profitably mined— and ochre and kaolin in vast deposits. Great strata of marble underlie sections 'of the county in the eastern part. This is found varying from pure white to purple, red, yellow and black, all highly useful in the arts and for ornamental purposes, being susceptible of a fine polish. Of this marble was constructed the Louisiana State Capitol, and much of it has been used in the large buildings of St. Louis and other cities. The city of Cape Girardeau is over a formation of marble. A superior quality of brown sandstone is abundant in the eastern part of the county and has been extensively quarried for building purposes. The manufacture of lime and cement, principally at the city of Cape Girardeau, is an increasing business. During 1897, from Cape Girardeau, there were shipped 4,350 barrels of this product. The large tracts of timber of late years have given employment to thousands of laborers in the lumber trade, which adds much to the commerce of the county. In 1898 the exports of lumber were 4,688,780 feet and 4,032,000 feet of logs.

There are 58.05 miles of railroad in the county, the St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern passing through the southwestern part, with a branch to Jackson, the county seat, and the St. Louis, Cape Girardeau & Fort Smith (now known as the South Missouri & Arkansas), and the St. Louis Southwestern, passing through the southeastern section.

Cape Girardeau was one of the original districts of which the Territory of Louisiana was composed. Under Spanish dominion it was bounded on the north by Apple Creek, south by Tywappity Bottoms, east by the Mississippi River fronting the same for thirty miles, and with its western limits not defined. The territory then was the hunting ground and camp of tribes of the Shawnee and Delaware Indians, who had a number of villages, one of which, as late as 1811, consisted of eighty huts. As early as 1730 French miners and hunters had explored the country.

There is evidence to substantiate the claim that Cape Girardeau derived its name from one Ensign Sieur Girardot, who, from 1704 to 1720, was stationed with the royal troops of France at Kaskaskia, and who, upon leaving the army, became a fur-trader. His principal rendezvous was at Big Bend, about three miles above the present city, to which place the name Cape Girardeau was first applied.

However, he did not make a permanent settlement in the territory, nor was there any made until 1793, when Don Louis Lorimier fixed his place of residence at the present site of the city of Cape Girardeau. Lorimier was born in Canada, of French parents. For some time he lived in Ohio, later was a trader at Vincennes, then Fort St. Vincent, and in 1788 removed to the Ste. Genevieve district and took up his residence at Saline, about four miles west of the site of the present town of St. Mary's. He had cultivated the friendship of the Shawnees and the Delawares, and when he settled west of the river many of the Indians from the Illinois side followed him. In Canada he had married a half-breed woman, Charlotte Bougainville. This seemed to have endeared him to the Indians, with whom he had much influence. He was an uneducated man, could neither read nor write, but spoke the French, Indian and English languages and accounts of his life show him to have been the possessor of a keen sense of justice, a man of business sagacity and great executive ability. When he made his place of residence at Cape Girardeau many of his Indian friends followed and built villages near where he settled. In recognition of his valuable services to the Spanish Government, in 1794 he was made commandant of the post of Cape Girardeau by Baron de Carondelet, the Governor General of Louisiana, who also made him two grants of land, one of 8,000 arpens and another of 4,000, respectively, on October 26, 1795, and January 26, 1797. This land constitutes the site of the present city of Cape Girardeau. The grants to Lorimier were affirmed to his heirs by act of Congress July 4, 1836. In January, 1800, the Spanish made to Lorimier an additional grant of 30,000 arpens. Lorimier, as commandant of the post, manifested admirable efficiency.

Transgressors of the law were dealt with without the accompaniment of display and red tape. One Robert Pulliam, charged with larceny, by Don Lorimier was sentenced to thirty lashes, to pay the expense of his trial, return the articles stolen and leave the district, and notified that if he returned he would receive five hundred lashes. Residents of the district were also notified to not give him shelter. Josiah Lee, "for leaving his wife and taking the wife of another man," was ordered to leave the district and the people cautioned not to harbor him. Lee was penitent and petitioned the commandant to allow him to remain to care for his wife and children, promising to do nothing in the future to offend the community. History does not record what action was taken upon this petition, but Lee's name appears upon the tax list of Cape Girardeau five years later.

A valuable assistant of Lorimier was Bartholmy Cousins, a native of France, a linguist of note, who had traveled much in the West Indies. He was secretary of the post and was given valuable grants of land by the Spanish government. He was a surveyor and was an intimate friend of Antoine Soulard. Don Lorimier's first wife bore him seven children, four sons and three daughters. She died March 23, 1808, and was buried in the cemetery at Cape Girardeau. After her death Lorimier married Alary Bethune, a half-blood French Delaware. Don Lorimier died June 26, 1812, and was buried beside his first wife in the town cemetery. His widow became the wife of Dr. John Logan, a resident of Illinois and grandfather of General John A. Logan.

First among the pioneers of the district was Andrew Ramsey, who, with his family and a number of slaves, moved from near Harper's Ferry, Virginia, and settled near Cape Girardeau. Among other first settlers were Nicholas Seavers, Jeremiah Simpson, Alexander Giboney, Dr. Elevens Hayden, Samuel Tipton, Abraham Byrd, Matthew Hubble and a number of families of Bollingers and Williams. Samuel Randol and family moved from Pennsylvania in 1797 and took up their residence on Randol's Creek. Abraham Byrd, a native of North Carolina, who had lived in Virginia and Tennessee, with his four sons, and their wives, located in 1799 on the creek which bears his name.

John Byrd, one of his sons, built the first still house, cotton gin and blacksmith shop in the district, and managed them until his death, in 1816. His brothers, Abraham, Jr., and Stephen, became prominent in both State and national politics. Stephen was a member of the first Territorial Assembly and a member of the State Constitutional Convention, and Abraham was a member of the State Legislature several terms, and in 1836, one of the presidential electors. William Russell, a native of Scotland, came with the Byrds from Tennessee and taught the first school in the Byrd settlement. Andrew Ramsey, mentioned herein, was a man of wealth and the owner of numerous slaves. He exercised much influence in the district, and through his efforts the first English school west of the Mississippi River was opened at Mt. Tabor, one mile from his plantation. Alexander Giboney was another prominent settler, and his descendants are numerous in southeast Missouri.

Colonel George Frederick Bollinger was one of the first settlers at White Water River, near the line of the county named in his honor. The thrift and prosperity of the settlers of Cape Girardeau County is shown by the record of the productions of this district in 1802. These were: Wheat, 2,950 bushels; corn, 58,990 bushels; tobacco, 3,100 pounds; flax and hemp, 9,200 pounds; cotton, 39,000 pounds; maple sugar, 19,000 pounds. In 1803 in the district were 2,380 head of horned cattle and 674 head of horses. That year the exports were: Three hundred and seventy-one barrels salt pork, 14 barrels lard, 8,675 pounds of beef, 1,800 pounds of cotton and 7,000 pounds of bacon. The population of the district in 1799 was 416 whites and 105 slaves; in 1803 the population had increased to 1,206, and in 1810 to 3,888. The pioneers were nearly all Americans, mostly from North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee. In 1796 there were not a half dozen French in the district. The first German settlement in Cape Girardeau County dates from 1834, when Otto Buehrman, a native of Brunswick, William Cramer and Rev. Frederick "Picker, natives of Hanover, located on a farm in the Big Bend. A year later William Bierworth, Daniel Bertling, Henry Friese and Chris Schotte arrived. The same year a number of emigrants from Switzerland settled in the county and founded Dutchtown. Three years later a German Evangelical Church was organized there.

The first political division of Cape Girardeau County was made in 1806 for the purpose of taxation. Lines were defined, "commencing at the upper corner of the northern boundary line of Louis Lorimier's large tract of land on which he resides; thence by said boundary line one mile; thence in a straight line to the old road to Andrew Ramsey's; thence in a straight line adjoining, and above the plantation of John Patterson; thence to the mouth of Byrd's Creek; thence due west to the western boundary line of the district."

The first assessors were, of the northern district, Chas. G. Ellis and Abraham Byrd, and of the southern, John Abernathy and Frederick Bollinger.

In 1807 the district was divided into five subdistricts: Tywappity, German, Byrd, Cape Girardeau and St. Francois. Tywappity included nearly all of what is now Scott County; German about all of Bollinger and a part of Madison, Cape Girardeau and St. Francois all of the settlements now in Wayne County. By act of the Territorial Legislature, October 1, 1812, Cape Girardeau District was organized into Cape Girardeau County. The present limits of the county date from March 1, 1851, when part of it was cut off for the organization of Bollinger County.

On the 10th day of March, 1805, the General Court of Quarter Sessions for Cape Girardeau District was organized, and the judges commissioned were Louis Lorimier, Thomas Ballew, Christopher Hays, Robert Green, John Geuthing, Frederick Limbaugh and John Byrd.

Joseph McFerron was appointed clerk of the court and John Hays sheriff.

Members of the first grand jury were Henry Sheridan, Ithamar Hubble, Matthew Hubble, Elijah Whittaker, Martin Rodeney, Samuel Pew, James Earls, Joseph Waller, John Taylor, Daniel Harkelrode, Louis Lathein, John Petterson, James Boyd, William Boner, John Abernathy, Samuel Randol, James Currin, Robert Crump, Frank Bollinger and Samuel Bradley.

The first indictments were against William Harper for assault "upon Raccoon, an Indian of the Delaware tribe," and against Baptiste Menie for robbing the store of Waters & Hall. At the June term of the court a license was granted Edenston Ross to keep a house of entertainment at Hubble's Mill and permits given to Louis Lorimier and Thomas W. Waters to run ferries across the Mississippi River.

A proclamation by Governor William H. Harrison directed that the first courts for the district be held at Cape Girardeau and that proposals be received for the location of a permanent seat of justice. Louis Lorimier made a proposal to give in fee-simple to the district four acres situated north of his dwelling, furnish timber for the building, and give $200, and thirty days' labor of a man for the erection of the courthouse. He also agreed to reserve certain tracts of timber for the use of the inhabitants of the town of Cape Girardeau, which he then proposed to have laid out. His proposal was accepted and the Governor named Cape Girardeau as the fixed seat of justice. The court of quarter sessions, January 13, 1806, appointed a commission to lay off the town and locate the sites for public buildings, and another commission to let a contract for the building of a courthouse and jail.

Members of the first named were: Anthony Haden, Christopher Hays, Edmund Hogan, Robert Hall and Benjamin Tennille, and of the latter, John C. Harbison, John Geuthing and Pierre Godair.

At the next term of court the plan of the town was approved, and it was ordered that three acres of the public square be divided into lots and sold. The jail, built of oak logs, one foot square, and its dimensions twelve by twenty-five feet, and nine feet in height, was completed in December, 1806. The contractor became insolvent and the courthouse was never built, and the jail was a failure, in 1812 the grand jury making it a subject for report, as it was so poorly constructed that prisoners easily escaped from it. In 1812 Cape Girardeau District was succeeded by Cape Girardeau County, and the seat of justice was changed. From March, 1814, to the following year sessions of the court were held in a meetinghouse, on Thomas Bull's plantation, about one mile and a half south of the present town of Jackson. Circuit courts were established in 1815 and the court of common pleas abandoned.

The first session of this court in Cape Girardeau County was held in May of the above year, in a building located upon the William H. Ashley plantation on Hubble's Creek. Fifty acres of this land, in 1814, had been purchased by commissioners appointed to secure sites for county buildings. The house upon it was used as a court room until 1818, when, at a cost of $2,450, a large barn-like building was erected. Two years previous a jail had been built, costing $1,400. This, in 1819, was burned, and another one built, at a cost of $1,994. The structure was used until 1849, when a two-story building was erected, which was torn down ten years later and was replaced by a more suitable building.

The prosperity of the county demanded that a new courthouse be built, and in August, 1837, the county court appointed as commissioners to superintend its erection, Edward Criddle, Nathan Van Horn, Ralph Guild and Ebenezer Flinn. The building was constructed of brick and stone, was forty-five feet square and two stories in height, with cupola. It was occupied until 1870, when it was burned. The same year the present building was erected, at a cost of about $33,000.

Two executions are recorded in the annals of the county.

The first punishment for a capital offense was in 1828, and was the execution of Pressly Morris for the killing of Zach Wyley in Scott County, the case being tried in Cape Girardeau County on a change of venue. Morris was hanged in Jackson, just east of the cemetery. Owing to circumstances bearing upon the murder, public sentiment was not in sympathy with the decision of the court.

At the December term of court, 1832, Isaac Whitson was indicted for the murder of John M. Daniel. Whitson and Daniel had been drinking in a saloon at Jackson, and left the place together. Next morning Daniel was found by the roadside, bullet wounds showing the cause of his death. It was known that, while at Jackson, Whitson was armed, and the evidence before the court was mainly circumstantial. Whitson was convicted and his execution by hanging took place January 30, 1833, Rev. Thomas P. Green, one of the early Baptist ministers, preaching a sermon at the gallows.

Like other settlements in southeast Missouri, the pioneers of Cape Girardeau were principally Catholics. Father Rosati was a missionary priest who held services in the early days. His fervent preaching and charitable ways gained him many friends, and brought back into the fold recreant professors of the faith. The first Catholic parish was not organized until 1836 and Father Odin was installed as pastor.

In 1808 a local preacher of the Methodist Episcopal Church was appointed to attend the Cape Girardeau District. Two years prior to this the first Methodist society west of the Mississippi was formed about three miles west of Jackson, by William Williams, John Randol, Thomas Blair, Simon and Isaiah Poe, Charnel Glasscock and the Seeley family. About 1808 they built a church of poplar logs and had a camp ground near by.

The first sermon preached in Cape Girardeau was in 1809 in the house of William Scripps, by Samuel Parker, Methodist, and presiding elder of the Indiana District. Of the Protestant denominations the Baptists were the first to locate in the district. In 1796 Thomas Bull, his wife, and Mrs. Lee, his mother-in-law, settled a mile and a half south of Jackson, all fervent Baptists.

In 1798 Rev. Thomas Johnson visited the Bull family, and while there performed the first Protestant baptism west of the Mississippi, the person baptized being a Mrs. Ballew.

In 1805 Rev. David Green, of Virginia, settled two miles south of Jackson, and July 19, 1806, organized the Bethel Baptist Church, and in October a meetinghouse, built of roughly hewn logs, was erected on the Bull farm. In 1812 this was replaced by a. larger building. The first church to be built in the district by the Presbyterians was the "First Church of Apple Creek," organized by Rev. Salmon Giddings, May 21, 1821. It had forty-one members at that time. The Rev. Thomas Horrell, from Maryland, was the first Episcopal minister to settle in Cape Girardeau District. He located in the town of Cape Girardeau in 1818 and held services in the houses of members of the church. No church was built until 1876, when Rev. George Moore, of New York, organized a congregation.

Private schools were established at Jackson and Cape Girardeau prior to 1819. At Jackson the earliest teachers were Dr. Barr, Edward Criddle, Mrs. John Scripps and Mrs. Rhoda Ranney. The history of the establishment of these schools is given in the sketches of Cape Girardeau and Jackson. The number of public schools in the county now is ninety, with one hundred and eight teachers in charge of them, and the school population is 8,099. The permanent school fund is $38,054.66.

The population of the county in 1900 was 24,315. The estimated wealth of the county is $10,500,000.
The townships in the county are:
Apple Creek;
Cape Girardeau;
White Water.

The principal cities and towns are:
Cape Girardeau;
Oak Ridge;

Cape Girardeau Expedition.—In the spring of 1863 General John S. Marmaduke, with 4,000 Confederates, marched from Batesville, Arkansas, into southeast Missouri on what is known in Confederate history as the "Cape Girardeau Expedition." Taking possession of Patterson, whose small garrison, under Colonel Smart, evacuated the place on their approach, the Confederates appeared before Cape Girardeau on Sunday morning, April 26th, and sent to General McNeil, the Union officer in command, a demand for surrender. This was promptly refused and the attack was begun by the Confederates under General J. O. Shelby, Colonel John Q. Burbridge and Colonel G. W. Thompson, of Missouri, and Colonel Carter, of Texas, with eight pieces of artillery. The Federals made a gallant defense, meeting the attack outside and in front of their works. The guns of the garrison were efficiently served and their fire told severely upon the ranks of the assailants, and the Confederates, seeing the hopelessness of the attack, withdrew under a heavy fire, leaving their dead and wounded on the field.

St. Vincent's College.—A college located at Cape Girardeau, under the direction of the Lazarist Fathers of the Roman Catholic Church. It is the outgrowth of St. Mary's Seminary founded near Perryville, in Perry County, in 1819. Bishop Dubourg, of New Orleans, under whose jurisdiction was the Catholic Church in Missouri, anxious to see established a school for the training of young men for the priesthood, purchased 640 acres of land at the Barrens, and upon the tract had erected a number of log buildings for school purposes. The seminary was opened in 1819 with Father Andries in charge. In 1820 he died and was succeeded by Father Rosati, who later became Bishop of St. Louis. For some years it was conducted as an ecclesiastical school and later was opened to those desiring to pursue academic and classical courses.

In 1843, St. Vincent's College was established at Cape Girardeau, and St. Mary's became a preparatory school, teaching only academic studies, theological and other higher studies being pursued at St. Vincent's. In 1866 a fire destroyed some of the buildings of St. Mary's and the college was transferred to Cape Girardeau and absorbed by St. Vincent's, where both ecclesiastical and lay courses were taught. From the old St. Mary's Seminary were educated many who rose to prominence—among them Archbishop Odin, the second Archbishop of New Orleans; Bishop Timon, who was first president of St. Vincent's College, later Bishop of Galveston and first Bishop of Buffalo; Bishop Lynch, of Montreal; Bishop Ammot, of Los Angeles; Bishop Ryne, of Buffalo; Michael Dominic, Bishop of Pittsburg; Drs. Brennan and Hogan, of St. Louis; Rev. Father Ryan, the "Poet Priest of the South;" General Firmin A. Rozier, of Ste. Genevieve, and numerous others who have held prominent places in public and private life. In 1849 St. Vincent's College building was injured by the explosion of 1,500 kegs of gunpowder on the steamer "Sea Bird." In 1851 it was unroofed by a heavy wind. The college is beautifully situated on an elevation overlooking the river and is surrounded by magnificent grounds, always carefully attended. The value of the buildings is $75,000. The library connected with the college is one of the finest college libraries in the State, embracing more than 12,000 volumes and nearly 3,000 pamphlets, and valued at $20,000.

[Source: Encyclopedia of the History of Missouri Volume 1: Edited by Howard Louis Conard; Publ. 1901; Transcribed by Andrea Stawski Pack.]

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