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New Madrid, Missouri

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This entry in the "For Namesake"[1] Blog is about the town of New Madrid, Missouri. Incorporated in 1808 It is believed to be the oldest town west of the Mississippi River, albeit it is not too far west. It has an interesting history. A series of strong earthquakes that nearly destroyed the entire region began 202 years ago this December.

 

New Madrid, Missouri (36.586449, -89.527855) http://aMAP.to/newmadrid-missouri

 

New Madrid, Missouri is a town of 3,116 located in New Madrid County along US Route 61/62 in the southeastern corner of the state. It lies on the Mississippi River, about 40 miles southwest of Cairo, Illinois. It is the county seat of New Madrid County. Interstate 55 passes to the north and west of New Madrid. The closest universities are Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau and a campus of the University of Tennessee at Martin, Tennessee.

 

Francois and Joseph LeSieur, Canadian trappers, who came to the area to hunt and trade with the Indians living in the region, made the first settlement at the site of what would become New Madrid in 1783. They named their village L’Anse a la Graise which means “cove of grease”, most likely referring the abundance of game in the area. The Spanish gave Colonel George Morgan a grant of land that included this region. He promised to populate the region and dreamed of founding a great city that would be the capital of a principality. He traveled to this spot in 1789, and had the land surveyed for a grand village that he named New Madrid, after the Spanish capital city. His detailed plan called for wide streets with specific areas set aside for parks, churches and schools. To entice settlers to move there he promised to give the first 600 settlers’ half-acre city lots and five acre outlying lots for the sum of $1, if they would build a home and reside there for one year. His plan worked and the town of New Madrid was born. [2] It was formally incorporated in 1808 and is believed to be the oldest city west of the Mississippi. In December of 1811 the first of a series of great earthquakes, three of which reached a magnitude of eight on the Richter scale, struck the region. The quakes were so numerous and severe, it was said that by the end of the winter of 1812, only a few houses within 250 miles of the Mississippi River and the town of New Madrid remained undamaged. [3]

 

In New Madrid you may visit the Hart-Stepp House Art Gallery, Higgerson School Historic Site, A. B. Hunter, Sr. Mansion (1910), Hunter-Dawson Home State Historic Site, Kochtitsky Home (1880), Mississippian Indian Temple Mound, New Madrid County Courthouse, and the New Madrid Historical Museum. Nearby Caruthersville has the Armory & Art Center, Aztar Riverboat Casino, Caruthersville Recreation Center, Historic “Lighthouse” Water Tower, and the Lady Luck Casino. Near East Prairie is the Towosahgy State Historic Site, a prehistoric Indian village and trade center. Sikeston offers the Begg’s Pumpkin Patch, Columns Monument, Cotton Country Murals, Flyway Hunting Club, Southeast Missouri Agriculture Museum, Sikeston Depot and the Sikeston Race Park.

 

There are several wildlife areas in Missouri near New Madrid, including the Donaldson Point Conservation Area, Mingo National Wildlife Refuge, Seven Island Conservation Area and Ten Mile Pond Conservation Area. There are also two Missouri State Parks in the area; Big Oak Tree State Park and Lake Wappapello State Park. Across the River in Tennessee are Lake Isom National Wildlife Refuge, Reelfoot Lake, Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge, and Reelfoot State Park. Just north in Kentucky is Columbus-Belmont State Park.

 

Notable residents from New Madrid County include Eric Hurley, Major League Baseball pitcher; Peter C. Myers, former United States Deputy Secretary of Agriculture; Alfred C. Sikes, former chairman of the United States Federal Communications Commission; Robert Vaughn, author; and Thomas Wilson, former Chief Executive Officer of the Boeing Company. All are from the larger city of Sikeston.

 

Cairo, Illinois, another Namesake town, is located 40 miles to the northeast of New Madrid, along the Mississippi River.

 

Notes:

 

1. http://www.amzn.com/B00CBM6JFK

 

2. Douglass, Robert Sidney History of Southeast Missouri (Chicago, IL: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1912) p.81-87

 

3. http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~monewmad/nm-history/history-2.htm

 

Picture: Bog Oak Tree State Park near New Madrid, Missouri

Picture Credit: (Knowledgeum at en.wikipedia CC-BY-SA)

 



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