City Beat - Silt on the hills makes for good farming

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

It happened a long time ago, and because of it, the land in this region is fertile.

"During the Ice Age, when the glaciers stopped just north of where Anna, Ill., is located today, winds blew fine, fertile silt, called loess, on the hills. That is why the hills are useful for farming today," said Dr. Mike Roark, professor of geography at Southeast Missouri State University. He is an expert on the geography of Cape Girardeau, having taught the subject for 23 years.

Roark said the northern part of Cape Girardeau is the beginning of the Ozark Plateau. It has lots of hills and is used for dairy farming. The southern part of Cape is flat and is used for crops such as corn, soybeans, hay, sweet corn, and strawberries. Cape Girardeau is one of the most productive agricultural areas in the state.

Primary livestock are hogs, pigs, and cows. Common forms of natural vegetation include oak and hickory trees and natural grass prairies.

According to Roark, the climate of Cape Girardeau varies. The winters can be like the northern part of the United States or like the southern part of the country. The average temperature range is from minus-14 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter to 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer, with an annual average of about 57 degrees.

Average annual rainfall is about 45 inches and snowfall about 11 inches. The sun shines an average of 63 percent of the daylight hours.

Cape Girardeau is the world's only inland cape. It is in the southeastern part of Missouri along the west bank of the Mississippi River. The city is about 100 miles south of St. Louis and is on Interstate 55 and U.S. Highway 61.

Three of this country's greatest earthquakes, the New Madrid earthquakes, shook this region during 1811-1812 with magnitudes of 8.6, 8.4, and 8.7 on the Richter scale. They were felt as far away as Detroit, Washington, and Boston. Some low-magnitude tremors are still recorded today.

Most people think Cape Girardeau is on the New Madrid Fault.

"We are near the main fault line for the New Madrid Fault, but not on it," said Roark. "Instead, we are located on the nearby Jackson Fault."

"The city of Cape Girardeau is the largest and oldest city in Cape County," the professor said, "with a population of about 40,000 people."

Cape Girardeau's industry includes electrical appliances, furniture, clothing, limestone and cement. There are 29 industries with over 11,000 workers. Cape Girardeau is the retail, grocery, and medical center for a wide area of Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois.

A Frenchman named Jean Girardot established a trading post called Cape Girardot on a rock promontory that overlooked the Mississippi River. Roark said that Louis Lorimier was the person known for founding Cape Girardeau.

Early settlers to Cape Girardeau were of European descent with a high percentage of German, English, Scottish and Irish people. The Germans were mainly Lutheran or Roman Catholic; and the English, Scottish and Irish were Baptist or Methodist. There were two different waves of Germans. The first wave was from North Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky, and the second wave was from Northern Germany.

Established more than 200 years ago, Cape Girardeau has evolved from a trading post to a city known for its hospitality and its small-town atmosphere.

Without the silt on the hills from the glacier period, Cape Girardeau could not have become the thriving community that it is today.

Gunning is a student in Cape Girardeau public schools.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: