We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

A History of the City of Cairo

By John M. Lansden

Publication Year: 2009

Lying at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, Cairo is a city that looks both south and north. Its location was to become vital to the North during the Civil War, and its character was shaped by its southern experience. Cairo was incorporated in 1818, the year Illinois was admitted into the Union.

Published by: Southern Illinois University Press

Copyright Page

pdf iconDownload PDF (22.5 KB)
p. i-i


pdf iconDownload PDF (10.1 KB)
pp. ii-iii

Table of Contents

pdf iconDownload PDF (78.9 KB)
pp. vii-x

List of Illustrations

pdf iconDownload PDF (23.1 KB)
pp. xi-xii

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (152.0 KB)
pp. xiii-xvi

Cairo is as far south as you can go and still be in the state of Illinois. The city is located at the far tip of Illinois, where the Ohio River joins the Mississippi on its unending flow into the distant Gulf of Mexico. Today Cairo lives secure behind the mighty levees that protect it from ravage by the two rivers. But it was not always so. For although Cairo exists because the two rivers, and generally owes whatever measure of prosperity it enjoys to the rivers, it has also suffered enormously because of them. Indeed, the city has a never ending lovehate relationship with the Ohio...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (69.7 KB)
pp. xvii-xviii

I have lived in Cairo forty years and during all that time have been engaged in the practice of the profession of the law. I ought, therefore, to be fairly well acquainted with what has taken place, during that time, in and concerning the city and which was worthy of record or of a place in its history. For many years I have preserved papers and documents relating to the city, not at first with a view to writing a history thereof, but just as anyone would preserve papers or documents he regarded as of more than usual interest. These have so accumulated that I have felt I could in no other way do a better service for the people of Cairo than by using them and...

read more

I. Sketch of the Illinois Country

pdf iconDownload PDF (263.8 KB)
pp. 13-17

The geographical position of this place, at the junction of the two rivers, requires, it seems to me, a somewhat full account of the attention given it before any attempt was made to establish a city here, which was in the year 1818. This account may, therefore, be called the introductory chapter.
The colonial grants to Virginia of May...

read more

II. Early French Explorers and Missionary Priests

pdf iconDownload PDF (488.7 KB)
pp. 18-26

Though so often told, and now getting to be somewhat of an old story, it seems somehow naturally to fall into line with every account of places and points on the Mississippi River; and hence we beg to be allowed to refer briefly to some of the old French explorers.

read more

III. The Illinois Territorial Government

pdf iconDownload PDF (296.9 KB)
pp. 25-29

It would be interesting to stop here and speak of the contest in and out of congress to prevent the division of the Indiana territory and the organization of the territory of Illinois, and of the public men who lost or won in the heated controversy; but space will not admit of this being done.
President Madison, March 7, ISOg, appointed Nathaniel Pope, of the territory of Louisiana, the secretary of the territory; and April 24th, he appointed Ninian Edwards...

read more

IV. The City of Cairo of 1818

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.3 MB)
pp. 30-38

The act of Congress of May 18, 1796, provided for the appointment of a surveyor general, and prescribed fully how surveys of the public lands should be made and for the sale thereof at not less than $2.00 an acre. This price continued until its reduction to $1.25 an acre by the act of April 24, 1820, which discontinued sales on credit. Rufus Putnam was the first surveyor general and held the office from 1797 to 1803. Jared Mansfield succeeded him and filled the position from 1803 to 1813. He was succeeded by William Rector, who held the position from 1813 to 1824. In 1817, Mansfield...

read more

V. Cairo's Site and Place from 1818 to 1836

pdf iconDownload PDF (126.3 KB)
pp. 39-40

Now taking leave of the City of Cairo of ISI8, let us note some of the important events which took place in the state during this period, from I818 to 1836. During that time the administrations of Governors Bond, Coles, Edwards, and Reynolds, and two years of Governor Duncan's term, had passed. The population of the state had increased from 55,211, in 1820, to about 325,000, in I836. Alexander County was the first new county created by the legislature. It was established...

read more

VI. The City of Cairo from 1836 to 1846--The Illinois Central Railroad Co. of 1836--The Illinois Exporting Co.--The Cairo City and Canal Co.

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.8 MB)
pp. 41-57

Many years ago I was in the office of Judge Thomas Hileman, of Jonesboro, Illinois, for whom I had charge of important litigation, to which he was a party. I was looking over the books in his office and saw a small volume which had the signature of H. W'. Billings on the first blank page and the signature of D. B. Holbrook on the next page. Judge Hileman had found the book in the court-house yard, where it had been dumped with a barrel of old papers and documents. The book had probably last belonged to Mr. Cyrus G. Simons, a prominent lawyer of Jonesboro many years...

read more

VII. The Cairo City and Canal Co.--Succeeded by the Cairo City Property Trust--Cairo from June 13, 1846, to December 23, 1853

pdf iconDownload PDF (318.3 KB)
pp. 58-62

Holbrook had taken the lead in everything relating to the organization and operations of the Cairo City and Canal Company, and now that it could go on no longer, he took the lead also in its transformation into another company or concern to take up the work the other had to lay down. He no doubt regretted the alternative of going on and into utter bankruptcy, or turning over the enterprise to others; but seeing that it was unavoidable, he accepted...

read more

VIII. Cairo's Site and Its Abrasions by the Rivers--Levees and Levee Construction--Highest Known Floods

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.5 MB)
pp. 63-78

Ever since the government survey of our township in 1807, it has been known that while the Ohio River shore remains fairly stable and unchangeable, the Mississippi, on the contrary, devours its banks and changes its current from place to place unless restrained in and by some of the various means adopted to stay its ravages. There is now no telling when it was first observed by persons in anywise interested here that the Mississippi side of this site needed to be watched and its cutting away by the river carefully guarded against. The matter received close attention at the beginning of the Holbrook administration in I836. So carefully had the situation been examined that it was strongly urged in and...

read more

IX. Low Lots and Grounds--Seepage--The Linegar Bill--Street Filling--City Indebtedness

pdf iconDownload PDF (391.8 KB)
pp. 79-84

While our levees have effectively protected the city from overflow for fifty years, we have not been able to adopt any plan to prevent seepage. The underlying strata of sand at and below a certain depth are full of river water, whose level rises and falls with the rise and fall of the waters in the rivers. The rivers unite in these subterranean waters. The natural earth surface of the city presents a number of ridges, generally extending across the city in a southeast and northwest direction. One crosses 3d, 4th...

read more

X. The Wharf and Wharfage--Riparian Rights

pdf iconDownload PDF (330.4 KB)
pp. 85-89

The paved wharf as it now exists extends from the south line of 4th Street to the north line of 8th Street, a distance of ten hundred and eighty (1080) feet. The paved face of it extends nearly to low-water mark on an angle of about eleven degrees to the plane or level of Ohio Street adjoining; and the distance from the street line to the paving at or near low-water mark...

read more

XI. Geological Formations--The Signal Station--The River Gauge--Temperatures and Rain-Falls

pdf iconDownload PDF (331.2 KB)
pp. 90-95

The geological formations of that part of the valley of the Mississippi extending from a point or line a few miles north of Cairo to the Gulf, and of the width of a few miles at Cairo and of many miles at the Gulf, is well known. This long- strip of land or country is a kind of widening trough, into which the flowing waters have carried an ocean of sand and silt for ages. It is said that an arm or bay of the Gulf, in very early times, extended...

read more

XII. The Illinois Central Railroad

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.4 MB)
pp. 96-112

It may be said we need nothing more concerning the early history of the Illinois Central Railroad, so much having been already written. We think, however, that what we shall say herein about the road and especially about its origin, will be found neither superfluous nor inappropriate. A full and complete history of the road might be written which would contain little about the city of. Cairo..

read more

XIII. Maps and Plats

pdf iconDownload PDF (331.6 KB)
pp. 111-136

Before referring to the maps and plats of Cairo as made by the land companies which desired to start and establish a city here; I desire to call attention to a list of old French and English maps which show the early existence here of a French fort, probably the very first structure ever erected at this point or place. These old maps might have been very properly given in that part of the book where I have spoken of Sieur Charles Juchereau de Saint Denis and his...

read more

XIV. The Ohio and Mississippi Rivers--The Territory Drained--The Ohio River as a Boundary

pdf iconDownload PDF (252.0 KB)
pp. 116-119

In July, 1847, the Trustees of the Cairo City Property issued their first pamphlet circular, entitled "Circular and other Documents relating to the Cairo City Property at the Confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi River, Illinois" New York: H. Cogswell, Printer and Stationer, 19 & 21 Merchants Exchange, 1847. The pamphlet contains 41 pages, and its table of contents is as follows: 1st, Skeleton Map of the United States; 2nd, Circular by the Trustees, 14 pages; 3rd, Map of the Site of Cairo...

read more

XV. The Health of the City

pdf iconDownload PDF (475.4 KB)
pp. 120-127

Like many other things which were once true of the city but which have largely passed away, the health of the place, in early times, was by no means good ; but it was never as bad as was represented. The ground was low and the point for six or eight miles up the Ohio River and twelve to fifteen up the Mississippi was covered with a very dense growth of trees of all sizes and kinds known to this section of the country. The undergrowth was almost impenetrable, so much so that one wonders how Arthur Henrie and his...

read more

XVI. Cairo During the War 1861-1865

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.4 MB)
pp. 128-137

It is quite impossible to say much concerning Cairo during this period of four years without also saying much about the war. Those years, however, were so full of events relating directly to the city as to require a separate if not a somewhat full account. The census of the year 1860, one of the most remarkable years in the country's history, shows the population of Cairo to have been 2,188, of whom 55 were negroes. It had no doubt increased a few hundred and probably had reached 2,500 in the month...

read more

XVII. Churches

pdf iconDownload PDF (616.1 KB)
pp. 138-147

St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church.-Under the supervision of Rev. C. M. Collins, C. M., of Cape Girardeau, who occasionally visited Cairo to minister to the Catholic people here, a frame church building, about thirty-six feet square, was erected upon posts at the intersection of 18th and Ohio Streets, in 1838. The bell was hung in the forks of a tree in front of the church. This was no doubt the first church building of any kind erected in Cairo. The records of St. Patrick's parish show that Father Collins baptized nineteen persons in 1840, eighteen in 1841, four in 1842, and three...

read more

XVIII. The Schools

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.3 MB)
pp. 148-152

During the existence of the Holbrook administration from 1836 to 1842, when the population of the town ranged from less than a hundred to two thousand people, there were no doubt one of two schools in Cairo. They were private schools, sustained by the individual subscriptions of the parents of the pupils. We have not been able to find any record or writing about such schools; but Mr. Moses B. Harrell, in his short history of 1864, names one or two individuals who taught school here then. As in many other cases, a very thorough search would no doubt bring to light...

read more

XIX. The A. B. Safford Memorial Library--The Woman's Club and LIbrary Association--St. Mary's Infirmary--The United States Marine Hospital

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.2 MB)
pp. 153-156

The Woman's Club and Library Association was organized in 1875, and in 1877 it established a subscription library in one of the rooms of what is now the First Bank and Trust Company Building. In 1882, the club tendered the library to the city for the use of the people as a free library; and the city, highly appreciating the offer thus made, accepted the same by the passage of ordinance No. 88, July I, 1882, entitled "An ordinance to...

read more

XX. The Trustees of the Cairo City Property--The Trustees of the Cairo Trust Property--Some of Their Civil Engineers--The Cairo Newspapers

pdf iconDownload PDF (600.9 KB)
pp. 157-166

With the exception of Col. Samuel Staats Taylor, none of the Trustees have ever resided in Cairo. All of the others have resided in New York City, except Thomas S. Taylor, one of the first two, who resided in Philadelphia. The trustees, or some of them, may have visited the place now and then; but we have nowhere seen any notice of the fact. Mr. Miles A. Gilbert was in charge here from June, 1843, to April, 1851, about eight years, although...

read more

XXI. Cairo in Servitude to Land Companies

pdf iconDownload PDF (138.1 KB)
pp. 167-169

In law we have what are called dominant and serviant estates. Cairo's existence, both corporate and otherwise, has always been that represented by the latter of these conditions. The limitations upon her corporate life and action and upon her people have been of a peculiar nature, and have to a greater or less degree interfered with her growth and prosperity. These have changed somewhat from time to time, but have not yet disappeared. She never had a civil government of her own until 1855, when she was...

read more

XXII. The American Notes

pdf iconDownload PDF (388.1 KB)
pp. 170-176

Charles Dickens landed at Boston the 2Ist of January, 1842, and returned home from New York about the same date in the following June. He was, therefore, in the United States five months. He came in a steamer and returned in a sailing vesseL His reception at Boston was altogether a hearty one. The banquet given him at New York on the eve of his departure was all that he and his closest friends could have hoped for. He came to lecture and to stimulate the sale of his books, but chiefly...

read more

XXIII. The Town Government of Two Years and the City Government of Fifty-Three Years--The Seventeen Mayors

pdf iconDownload PDF (2.0 MB)
pp. 177-189

Although generally spoken of as a city, Cairo never became a city until the passage of the act of February 11, 1857. An attempt was made in 1852 to incorporate the town or village as a city, but the Trustees, having the bill in charge, desired to include in it a clause requiring the first board of aldermen to be chosen by the legislature and to hold their positions for five years. The member of the legislature who presented and urged the bill...

read more

XXIV. Darius B. Holbrook--Miles A. Gilbert--Samuel Staats Taylor--William Parker Halliday-Halliday Brothers

pdf iconDownload PDF (2.4 MB)
pp. 190-207

Darius Blake Holbrook.-The second attempt to establish a city here seems to have been begun by Darius Blake Holbrook, of whom we have already frequently spoken. He was not an adventurer, a dreamer, or a man of schemes merely. Force of character, strong will, ceaseless activity and enterprise, initiative, ability to bring others to see things as he saw them, were only some of his remarkable endowments. These characteristics were noticeable at all times. Nothing within the bounds of reason...

read more

XXV. The Growth of "The Three States"

pdf iconDownload PDF (94.1 KB)
pp. 208-210

The taking of the census every ten years by the general government has came to embrace so. many things besides an enumeration of the inhabitants of the several states and territories that it seems there is now no telling to what it will not hereafter extend. It is to be hoped that it will not became so encumbered that its usefulness will be materially impaired. Whatever it was or has been, it aught now to be fairly reliable, at least...

read more

XXVI. Alexander County and Its Other Towns, and Its Earliest Settlers

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.4 MB)
pp. 211-216

The territory of the county was a part of St. Clair County, when that county was organized by Governor Arthur St. Clair March 27, 1790. It became a part of Randolph County, which was organized by him October 5, 1795. It became a part of Johnson County, when that county was organized by Governor Ninian Edwards September 12, 1812. It continued a part of Johnson County until January 2, 1818, when it became a part of Union...

read more

XXVII. Harrell's Short History--The History of Alexander, Union and Pulaski Counties

pdf iconDownload PDF (168.7 KB)
pp. 217-219

In the preface I have spoken of the short history of Cairo, written by Moses B. Harrell in 1864, and constituting the first fifty pages of a city directory of that year. It is an excellent history, condensed, of course, almost to the utmost limit. Mr. Harrell was perhaps the only man in Cairo who could turn out such a piece of work in the short...

read more

XXVIII. Other Railroads--Illinois Central and Thebes Railroad Bridges--The Cairo Harbor and Bacon Rock--The Ferries: Cairo's Need of

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.6 MB)
pp. 220-230

Railroad Companies-Cairo has become quite a railroad center. The roads together with the rivers reaching southward and northeastward and northwestward give us transportation facilities equaled by very few other places in the country. The railroads centering here are of such importance to the city as to require a short account of each one of the same. Besides the Illinois Central...

read more

XXIX. Cairo Banks--Building and Loan Associations--The Custom House--The Halliday Hotel--The Springfield Block--The Court of Common Pleas

pdf iconDownload PDF (2.5 MB)
pp. 231-239

Cairo Banks.-On the 2d day of March, 1839, the legislature granted to the Cairo City & Canal Company the right to use the banking privileges granted by the Territorial Act of January 9, 18I8, to the City and Bank of Cairo, the tenth section of which required the banking business of the corporation to be transacted at Kaskaskia; hence, the reason why the bank bills represented on the opposite page were issued at Kaskaskia. Bills were issued from time to time and to such an extent that the legislature...

read more

XXX. Extracts from Books, Pamphlets and Letters

pdf iconDownload PDF (951.5 KB)
pp. 240-254

There has never been, in all probability, a time since the year 1750 when there was not a small settlement of some kind here, a house or cabin or two or three of them and now and then more of them. They were erected, of course, on timbers high enough to be above the spring floods. Trees of all kinds and suitable for every purpose were near by, and to the hardy woodsmen it was easy enough to construct suitable cabins to shelter their families and the few ...

read more

XXXI. Fort Jefferson--Bird's Point and the Birds

pdf iconDownload PDF (361.2 KB)
pp. 255-260

Too the people of Cairo, Fort Jefferson has so long been one of their very few places for outings that we are justified in giving a short sketch of it here. It seems that the matter of the establishment of a fort at or near the mouth of the Ohio River was taken up by General George Rogers Clark and Col. John Todd with Governor...

XXXII. Miscellaneous Papers--Judges of the Supreme, Circuit and County Courts--Members of the Legislature and Other Bodies--County, City and Other Officers--Lists of Early Residents of This City, Etc.

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.1 MB)
pp. 261-279

read more

XXXIII. Cairo as a Business Place or Point--The Future of the City

pdf iconDownload PDF (309.6 KB)
pp. 280-284

The geographical position of Cairo is certainly as favorable for business purposes as nature has anywhere afforded the people of the country, at least so far as inland points are concerned. The low site and the abrading rivers have been great drawbacks. As to these features of our situation, it has always been a question of money, much money, to put us on an equality with other places. They have no doubt turned away men and capital, which would have sought the place time and time again, had these...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (108.1 KB)
pp. 285-286

In almost all cases I have given the names of the authors from whom I have quoted. Where they are not given, it will be observed that the matters stated are of such a general historic nature as to require no reference to authors. Hence it is, there are no footnotes nor anything in the nature of a bibliography. I am indebted to many persons for favors shown me in the prosecution of my work. Mayor George Parsons gave me every opportunity to examine the books and records of the Trustees of the Cairo City Property and of the Trustees of the Cairo Trust...


pdf iconDownload PDF (765.5 KB)
pp. 289-303

List of Sponsors of This Edition

pdf iconDownload PDF (39.4 KB)
pp. 305-306

Back Cover

pdf iconDownload PDF (868.4 KB)

E-ISBN-13: 9780809386598
E-ISBN-10: 0809386593
Print-ISBN-13: 9780809329366
Print-ISBN-10: 0809329360

Page Count: 344
Illustrations: 33 b/w halftones
Publication Year: 2009