Area historians uncover details on expedition

Sunday, June 8, 2003

Local historians say archives discovered in the past year prove four explorers who participated in the Lewis and Clark Expedition lived in the Cape Girardeau District following the unprecedented western exploration.

Jane Randol Jackson, director of the Cape Girardeau County Archive Center, revealed the finding to about 75 people Saturday at the Cape Girardeau County Genealogical Homecoming at the Show Me Center.

The homecoming was one of Cape Girardeau's celebratory events surrounding the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition's arrival in Cape Girardeau.

"This is the first large group to hear about this information," Jackson said. "I discovered the information about a year ago. It is a real cue."

The Cape Girardeau District now consists of Cape Girardeau, Bollinger, Wayne, Madison, Scott and Stoddard counties.

The address of George Drouillard, chief hunter for the Lewis and Clark Expedition, was recorded on county land records as being in Cape Girardeau. In addition, Drouillard was the nephew of Louis Lorimier, the owner of the Red House trading post and founding father of Cape Girardeau, Jackson said.

Land records also indicate that Alexander Willard, assistant blacksmith for the exploration, bought a house on the corner of Merriwether and Fountain streets after the completion of the expedition. He sold the house in 1810.

John Ordway, sergeant and second-in-command after Lewis and Clark, bought property in the Tywappity bottom region south of Commerce, Mo., after the completion of the exploration, Jackson said.

Hog theft

Another hunter for the expedition, Reuben Field, also lived in the area and was once accused of stealing hogs, court documents show, Jackson said. The jury found Field not guilty, and documents show he sued and collected $1,000 from his accuser.

Bill Eddleman, homecoming chairman, said he was unsure where the four men joined the expedition, but they likely settled in the area when it was over.

About 25 groups set up information tables at the homecoming event, allowing visitors to learn about the distinct culture of Cape Girardeau.

"This is a chance for people to get together and learn about local history and genealogical resources," said Eddleman, chairman of the event.

Participants of the event interested in learning about the region's past toured the rows of tables and listened to Jackson's presentation.

"The history in this town is just terrific," said Susan Swartwout, English professor at Southeast Missouri State University. "But that's not surprising, considering this is the only inland cape in the United States and there was a big trading post here."

Recent transplant Lynn Mendenhall, Cape River Heritage Museum board member, said she was surprised.

"Before I moved here, I would have never thought a small town like Cape would have had so much history," Mendenhall said.

Lewis and Clark arrived in Cape Girardeau on Nov. 23, 1803, and were greeted by Louis Lorimier. After staying one night in Cape Girardeau, the expedition continued north towards St. Louis.

Other plans to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the historic occasion will take place Nov. 21 to 23, with activities including a re-enactment of the arrival in Cape Girardeau, a parade down Main Street and the grand opening of the Red House Interpretive Center, a replica of Lorimier's home.

335-6611, extension 127

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