01 September 2008

Beyond the Mississippi

In keeping with the prevailing geography along the shores of the Rivers of America, this crate for the Cape Girardeau Mercantile is in perfect step with others in presenting the aura of the Mississippi. Cape Girardeau is named for after Jean Baptiste de Girardot, a French soldier who established a temporary trading post in the area in 1733. Settlers took a bit longer to make their way to the river city, not establishing themselves there until 1762 with incorporation coming in 1808.

Cape Girardeau is the only inland cape in the world. Although a portion of the actual cape, a land mass surrounded on three sides by water, was destroyed sometime in the 1800s to make way for the railroad a piece of the namesake cape resides upon the bluff of Giradot’s trading post, overlooking the Mississippi River.

In 1835, as steamboats began making their way up and down the river, Cape Girardeau became the largest port between St. Louis and Memphis. Mark Twain discussed the city in his 1883 Life on the Mississippi. From Chapter 25 – From Cairo to Hickman:
“Cape Girardeau is situated on a hillside, and makes a handsome appearance. There is a great Jesuit school for boys at the foot of the town by the river. Uncle Mumford said it had as high a reputation for thoroughness as any similar institution in Missouri ' There was another college higher up on an airy summit--a bright new edifice, picturesquely and peculiarly towered and pinnacled--a sort of gigantic casters, with the cruets all complete. Uncle Mumford said that Cape Girardeau was the Athens of Missouri, and contained several colleges besides those already mentioned; and all of them on a religious basis of one kind or another. He directed my attention to what he called the 'strong and pervasive religious look of the town,' but I could not see that it looked more religious than the other hill towns with the same slope and built of the same kind of bricks. Partialities often make people see more than really exists.”

Today, Cape Girardeau is a regional hub on the river, with a population of 37,000. Known for its past as a bend in the river, it has found a place in a bend of the Rivers of America, where the population of the world comes to visit.

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