Alexander County

1968 Alexander County Profiles - Portion C

THE GRAIN BUSINESS OF CAIRO

By CLAUDIA HASLAUER

The raising of grain was probably started centuries ago by the Indians in the planting of corn, which was then called maize. The location of this planting may have been on the Sikeston ridge-south However, the commercial importance of Cairo and grain probably was given the most emphasis when the Illinois Central completed their line from Chicago to Cairo.

This line came through the main grain belt of the state of Illinois. In other words, it came through the flat prairie areas that were very rich in top soil and easy to cultivate. Therefore, the event of the railroad coming to Cairo enabled the grain merchant to bring his grain in by rail to Cairo, and have it sacked and loaded on barges or riverboats. This grain was then distributed along the reaches of the lower Mississippi River.

In those days there wasn't any grain that was raised in the south. However, the Illinois Central brought the prime of grain business into Cairo around 1880 and 1890. By the early 1900's there were thirteen elevators that had their facilities in Cairo. There were some oats and grain raised near here; however, the greatest source of oats was many miles north of Cairo. The fact that North and South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, and Northern Illinois poured tremendous amounts of grain through the Cairo gateway made the handling of oats at Cairo the chief industry at one time.

These oats were put into what we call a sulfur bin. The raw sulfur was burned and caused the oats that were light brown or even stained by weather to turn to a snowy white color. These sulfur bins and the smoke that went through these oats did not harm the feed value of the oats. That was the first tremendous movement of grain through the Cairo Gateway. Gateway - meaning that the railroads converged at Cairo and went across the Ohio River by the Illinois Central Bridge.

These oats were distributed throughout the Southeast. Also at Cairo there was a crossing that was done by boat. This was the means of getting trains across the river; and then in turn, these trains distributed the grain that was handled at Cairo to the Southwest. However, with the advent of the building of the Missouri Pacific Bridge at Thebes, Illinois, the ferry was discontinued.

At one time Cairo was the largest oat center in the world. This was because the South using great numbers of mules to cultivate cotton, needed oats to feed them. Cairo, being the nearest distribution point, was chosen as the place of purchase.

At one time a Mr. Harry Halliday of Cairo cornered the oat market - something that is almost impossible to do since that time. He owned all of the oats produced in the United States; either in actual product on hand, or he bought all of the futures in Chicago. When one controls a commodity, one has tremendous power, and makes millions of dollars. However, instead of taking his profits and getting out of the market, he stayed with the market; and finally, through his speculations in the grain market, Mr. Halliday died a pauper.

At this time some corn and wheat were raised in this area. For example, there were two flour mills in Cairo. These flour mills bought the local wheat and turned it into bread.

Why did Cairo suddenly seem to disappear from the grain market? With the arrival of gasoline in tractors, the South got away from the use of mules; and since then, the use of oats in the South has strictly been for feed of race horses and show cattle. Therefore, the movement into the southeast and southwest has practically been depleted. The importance of Cairo as an oat center, naturally diminished, and the elevators were unable to convert their facilities to other means due to the fact that practically all of Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois was still in the woods at that time. There was no local grain grown. Therefore, most of the elevators either burned or went out of business.

Cairo began to become an important center for grain in the early 1950's. The old grain elevators at Cairo had failed to convert their unloading facilities to unload trucks in an efficient manner. With the appearance of the big combines and trucks we have today, Cairo was by-passed with grain. Also, as the importance of Cairo as a grain center decreased, the people in the grain business either retired or transferred their operations to other places. With the occurrence of the large combines and tractors, the clearing of land in Southern Illinois, Southeast Missouri, and Kentucky started in the 1940's. Practically every tillable acre of land had been cleared in this area. Therefore, there were tremendous quantities of grain raised that had to be moved to market.

When this transition took over from movement of grain by wagon and rail to trucks, the elevators converted their facilities so they could unload trucks quickly. Another important factor in the resurgence of Cairo as a grain center was that the methods of transportation had changed. Barges came into the picture. Barge rates were about one-half of what rail rates were. Therefore, the elevators that were not on the river and could not load barges were handicapped.

With the development of barge loading at Cairo; land being cleared; the use of tractors and huge combines; the elevators at Cairo converting to unloading facilities so they could rapidly unload trucks and put the grain into barges or box cars; and the advent of large storage capacities added; Cairo came into its own as a grain center.

MORE THAN 100 YEARS IN EDUCATION

By PAMELA HENRY

Built for the children of the township, Cairo's first schools were considered modern at that time. As the population grew, the need for new and better schools became evident. Now, more than 100 years later, the citizens are still trying to give their children the best in education.

From 1836 to 1842, Cairo, no doubt, had one or two private schools, although there are no records of them today. The first public school was built in 1854, however, and since then Cairo has had many noted schools.

In 1863 the Catholics built an $8,000 "Female Academy of the Sisters of Loretto." Wrecked by a storm, it had to be rebuilt and was unable to hold classes until October, 1864. Under the superintendency of Mother Elizabeth Hayden, a Sister of Bishop Spaulding, the academy flourished, and many daughters of prominent Cairo families were educated here. The school burned about 1880 and was rebuilt and greatly improved but was discontinued some years later.

The German population also built a private school in 1863. This school was for the purpose of teaching German without religious bias and was called the "Frei Deutsch Schule." This $4,500 school had about 75 pupils and was maintained by private subscriptions.

Among the largest contributors were A. B. Safford and William Schutter.

On September 1, 1863, the first public school in Cairo opened. This was a frame building consisting of one room. Its first teacher was Charles T. Lind, who was required by contract to, not only teach, but to provide the fuel for the school. Later this building was used for the education of Cairo's Negro population.

In 1864 the first high school was built. It was a three story brick building and was considered a great improvement over the first public school building. Later this school was converted into a grade school, Douglas Elementary, and had remained a grade school until this present school year (1965 to 1966).

During the same year, a two story frame building, consisting of four rooms, was erected for the Negro children. This dual school system was a result of the Negro sentiment toward the White people; they were quite sensitive on the pigment points. However, their attitude changed during the 1880's. They are said to have marched on the white schools; but they caused nothing more serious than a great annoyance and interruption to the schools.

Since these two schools were built, the Cairo school district has built other schools to accommodate the population of Cairo. For the white population, Safford, 1867; Lincoln, 1892; Elmwood, 1908; Cairo High, 1926; and Cairo Junior High, 1949 were built. The Negro schools were: Washington Elementary, 1872; Washington Junior High, 1941; Bruce Elementary, 1900; Sumner High, 1926; and Garrison Elementary 1941.

In June of 1965, the citizens of Cairo passed a referendum for new schools. This referendum calls for three schools to replace the ten schools mentioned above. It will relinquish the dual education system. According to this referendum, eight additional classrooms, a large cafeteria, and a multi-purpose room will be added to the present Washington Junior High School. A new elementary school - consisting of 18 classrooms, a cafeteria, and a multi-purpose room - will be built on the lots between 31st and 33rd Streets.

An addition connecting the present Cairo High School and Cairo Junior High will also be built; this will house all Cairo students in grades 7 to 12. Garrison Elementary will be retained for use as administrative offices and maintenance shops; Sumner High School will be retained for future use as a vocational school for students.

This referendum is a fine example of the progress that has been made in the schools of Cairo; and as long as there are children in the city of Cairo, the citizens will continue to make progress in the educational system.

THE REBIRTH OF A CHURCH

By CYNTHIA HENSHAW

The Protestant Episcopal Church of Cairo, Illinois, was originally named Christ Church and located on Fourteenth Street.

While the Civil War raged on, a church petition was presented to change the church's name to the Church of the Redeemer. After and during the Civil War, the church was used as a hospital for Union soldiers, as Cairo was headquarters for General Grant.

The church was relocated to Sixth Street on September 28th, 1886, where ground was broken. On December 7, 1886, the corner-stone was laid.

The architecture was of rich, Gothic design. The construction was of warm, brown sandstone; this was obtained from Makanda, Illinois.

Prize possessions in the church included an organ purchased at the World's Fair in St. Louis, Missouri. This organ won a gold medal for tone, and for being a Johnston tractor-action organ. Priest vestments of red brocade silk, hand embroidered by nuns in Belgium were also purchased at the World's Fair. Other valuable articles included altar linens imported from Belgium, imported nativity figurines from Germany, large life-size crucifix, and stained glass windows depicting different events in our Lord's life.

All these prize possessions were present in the church on a cold, dreary Saturday morning, the seventh of November in 1953. Father Stone arose to say prayers, when he pulled the shade up and opened the window, flames were shooting upward into his face.

He could not believe his eyes, the church was on fire.

The interior of the church was gutted along with most of the exterior. Lost in the fire was the organ, vestments, altar linens, and the large crucifix.

The first thing Father Stone did was to form a building committee which included the vestry. The next step was to get an architect and a contractor. The architect was Gale Henderson of St. Louis, Missouri, the contractor was Kenneth Evans, also of St. Louis. Mr. Evans worked side by side with the vestry.

The members of the parish signed pledge cards stating how much they would donate for one hundred and fifty weeks. The church had to borrow money from the bank, and for collateral they used the pledge cards.

With the money obtained from the bank, they paid off the contractor. The loan from the bank was repaid in a year and a half.

The new church's design is Tudor-Gothic. The total cost of rebuilding and completely refurnishing the church, installing stained glass windows, organ and air-conditioning is estimated at well over $100,000.00.

On a beautiful Monday morning, the twenty-third of June in 1958, the Church of the Redeemer was consecrated by Bishop Clough, presiding Bishop of Springfield.

The bell which rang out to signify the consecration was once a prized possession on the James Montgomery, that was used as a troop transport to carry soldiers to the Battle of Belmont. When the boat was sunk in 1861, Captain Halliday secured the bell for the church which was being remodeled and enlarged, partly through the contributions of soldiers stationed at Cairo in the first year of the Civil War. The church was still on Fourteenth Street.

During the fire, this bell was removed and stored until the new church could be built. It is now installed in the belfrey.

TWO OUTSTANDING CAIRO CITIZENS

By JOHN HILBOLDT

Two of Southern Illinois' most prominent and most distinguished lawyers were Judge William H. Green and his son Reed Green. Their family's ancestors are listed among the first settlers of Virginia and pioneers of Kentucky. The family can be traced back to an aunt of George Washington, and William H. Green's mother was related to the celebrated pioneer and Indian fighter, Simon Kenton.

William H. Green moved to the city of Cairo in 1863. Having been admitted to the bar in 1852, he formed a law partnership with William B. Gilbert of Cairo, setting up their offices in the same building General U. S. Grant had used as Civil War headquarters. He was the principal council for the Illinois Central Railroad, and in 1865 he was elected Circuit Judge for three years. His political career also included two terms in the State House of Representatives during which he was chairman of the Judiciary Commission. After four years in the popular branch he was elected to the State Senate for two years. The Democratic Party was his chosen political faith, and he was a delegate to the National Democratic convention six times. Judge Green also served as a member of the State Board of Education for more than thirty-five years.

After moving to Cairo, Judge Green erected an elegant Greek Colonial home which was designed by J. C. Cochrane who was the architect of the first Capitol Building of the State of Illinois. Being constructed of hickory carried to the city by flatboats, the interior of the house contains walnut woodwork, indoor shutters, hardwood floors, and an inlaid wooden floor in the library.

The home contains a kitchen and dining room in the basement; music room, formal dining room, and huge library on the first floor; and four bedrooms on the second floor.

One of the unusual characteristics of the home is the ceiling in the library which is metal that has been expertly stained to appear to be natural wood. The home has recently been sold and reworked; and being so carefully constructed it should continue to give years of comfort to its owners.

Mr. W. H. Green's son, Reed, was born on September 22, 1865. He grew to manhood in Cairo and became one of Alexander county's most prominent and highly respected citizens. He was educated in Cairo schools, Southern Illinois Normal University, and Wesleyan Law School in Bloomington. He read law in his father's office and other Southern Illinois law offices; he was admitted to the bar in 1886. As his father had been, he was interested in politics and was elected to the House in 1888 and again in 1890. In 1892 he was elected to the Senate for four years and retired as an office holder with a "deep and keen interest in fighting for the principles and promoting of the Democratic Party."

After his father's death in 1902, Reed Green set up his own offices where "he developed a magnetic eloquence, an extensive acquaintance throughout the county and a sound legal foundation of being one of the ablest jury lawyers in this section, to which he added an increasing knowledge or corporation law which established him firmly in that sphere of legal practice. One of Mr. Green's strongest wishes was for a jury reform bill which he felt a sincere desire for and which was passed after his death. He was a member of the Cairo Bridge Commission and was instrumental in building the two bridges which cross the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers at the southern tip of Illinois. Active in various civic activities, he was attorney for a number of insurance and railroad companies, legal advisor to business firms, director of many Cairo enterprises, and director of the Cairo Association of Commerce.

When the First Bank and Trust Company was organized in 1907, he was named a Director and Vice President, and in 1917 he was named president. As his father was, he was deeply interested in the school system and was a member of the Cairo Board of Education. He succeeded his father in 1902 as a member of the Cairo Public Library Board on which he served until his death in 1937.

Judge William H. Green and Reed Green were two outstanding citizens of Cairo, Alexander County, and Southern Illinois. The works they performed during their lives have lived after them and will continue to show how their farsighted judgment has benefited the area at the tip of Illinois.

Note: The beautiful Victorian Green home is at 603 Walnut and is now the home of Mr. and Mrs. Russell Turner.

"THE DAY HAS COME! ! THE OPERA HOUSE OPENS TONIGHT"

By JOHN HILBOLDT

The Cairo Opera House, planned by I. B. McEifatrick & Son of Louisville, Kentucky, was begun on the 20th of September 1881 after bids had been received from many large cities all over the country. The building was completed two months later with large store rooms in the front which had been suggested by Captain Thomas W. Shields of Cairo who was part owner of the building. The walls, considered the strongest in the city, were built on foundations eight feet wide at the base; and in construction 900,000 bricks were used with the building measuring 100 feet long, 65 feet wide, and 85 feet high.

The seating capacity was about 1500; the parquet circle furnished room for about 600, the dress circle 300, the gallery 500, and each of the 4 boxes 30. The floor slanted in such a way that the stage could be seen clearly from any point in the building. The stage, 35 feet by 40 feet by 55 feet, was at the south end of the building with dressing rooms on each side and underneath. The circular rows of chairs, which were made specially by the Chicago Store Stool Company, had seats which folded up when not in use; and when down they provided a convenient hatrack underneath for gentlemen's hats.

The ornamental columns, ginger bread work, and woodwork were all prepared on the grounds and illustrated a rare artistic skill. There were busts of Milton and Shakespeare over the boxes and beautiful, light fresco paintings of the latest style on the walls, which was in great contrast to the large theatres of the east that were usually dark and gloomy. The paintings gave every part of the building a bright, cheerful appearance.

The gas lighting equipment of the Opera House was considered the most perfect of its kind in the country. The lovely chandeliers of Cairo who was part owner of the building. The walls, considered The huge 60-jet chandelier had an elegant porcelain reflector which threw almost blinding light rays upon every person in the audience, after the gas was instantly turned on by electricity.

The carpeting was crimson with small black figures, and for increased quietness, the stairways were covered with cocoa matting. The window and box curtains were also crimson with crimson colored velvet covering the balustrades and trimmed with gilt.

The acoustical properties, which are most important of all in a theatre, were perfect as everything else in the building. All sounds, even whispers, could be heard distinctly and clearly in all parts of the auditorium, and in this area the Opera House was considered superior.

The steam heating system consisted of beautiful heaters placed where they were suitable to give the best possible warmth. There was no danger of fire since stoves had been replaced by the newer steam pipes and radiators.

The stage machinery was the newest and latest improved of the time with the most complete scenery sets available. The stage was dominated by the exquisite drop curtain given to the Opera House by the citizens of Cairo. The scene was from a royal castle with a balcony in the left hand corner containing tile floors and low fancy railings. Blending into the background was a river and mountain range making a "beautiful perspective view." Most curtains in that time were hung so as to roll up; but the Opera House curtain was hung in a way that it would slide up, and it did it with hardly any noise.

Many plays were performed there including: Mascotte, the first program starring Fay Templeton; Hamlet and Virginus, starring a "great tragedian," Blake; Ben Hur; The Wanderer; Uncle Tom's Cabin, and Irving Berlin's Music Box Revue, the last production.

Unfortunately the Cairo Opera House was destroyed by fire on February 6, 1947, and the era of great productions and prominent actors faded into the past. It was often boasted by citizens that the stage could hold the largest company of performers in the country. This was never disproved in its 58 years. And as a Chicago gentleman who had traveled and visited many amusement houses in the United States stated, "It was especially a credit to the city of Cairo and a lasting monument to the public spirit of those of her good citizens who have contributed so liberally of their time and means toward it."

THE GREAT RACE FOR CAIRO

By STEVE HOPKINS

On the twelfth day of April of the year 1861, Fort Sumpter was fired upon and on the following day the fort was surrendered. This event marked the beginning of the War Between the States.

Since war was definitely apparent to both sides, the North and the South, they each began to carefully study the geographic features of the border states. Cairo was seen to be a very important point on the division line between the revolting and adhering states. The importance of the position had been spoken of by such men as Charlevoix, General Hamilton of Canada, and General George Rodgers Clark as a great means of defense against foreign invaders.

The two rivers, Mississippi and Ohio, were the roadways of that time for supplies and troops. So it was figured that the side to first get to Cairo would control the rivers and hold an important point in the middle of the great division.

On the fifteenth of April, three days after the first shot at Fort Sumpter, President Lincoln called out the 75,000 three months' old soldiers to report to duty. Governor Richard Yates of Illinois took prompt action after receiving the following telegram from Simon Cameron. Secretary of War:

Washington, April 15, 1861. His Excellency, Richard Yates:

Call made on you by tonight for six regiments of militia for immediate service. Simon Cameron, Secretary of War.

Four days later Governor Yates received another telegram:

Washington, April 19, 1861. Governor Yates: As soon as enough of your troops is mustered into service, send a Brigadier General with four regiments at or near Grand Cairo. Simon Cameron, Secretary of War.

Governor Yates, upon receiving the latter dispatch, sent a telegram to General Swift asking him to raise as strong a force as possible. Yates asked that this force be ready to march on a moment's notice.

Forty-eight hours after the dispatch was delivered to General Swift the word was given to move out. On the morning of April 21 at eleven o'clock, 595 men left Chicago under the direction of General Swift.

Four groups did not make it to Chicago in time to leave with Swift, but followed him the next day. These forces together consisted of 313 men. So a total of 908 men were sent to Cairo.

This is what is said about the arrival by Mr. A. H. Burley, of Chlcage, in his account of "The Cairo Expedition":

April 21, 1861, the expedition started from the Illinois Central Railroad Station (Chicago) - the military train passed unheralded the length of the state and rolled into Cairo to the astonishment of all and the rage of many of its citizens .... Knowing the sentiment of the people, the fear was that they would destroy the long, wooden trestle-work across the Big Muddy River, which they could have rendered impassable in an hour by burning it. There was also fear that the Rebels would seize Cairo, as being a point of great strategic importance. It was afterwards learned that Cairo would have been seized in forty-eight hours, had its occupation been delayed .... the first armed forces sent out in the West was that sent to Cairo, and it was sent from Chicago.

The Confederates had made their way to Columbus, twenty miles below Cairo and had started to Cairo. The South was to a disadvantage for they were on foot. Had it not been for the Illinois Central the North would not have beaten the Rebels. I quote a few lines from General Clark E. Carr's The Illini, in which he tells in his words of the immediate action taken to fortify Cairo.

Governor Yates received a telegram from the Secretary of War requesting him, as soon as enough Illinois troops were mustered in, to send a force to occupy Cairo. He did not wait for troops to be mustered in. In less than forty-eight hours he had General Swift of Chicago flying down upon a special train of Illinois Central Railway, with four batteries of artillery and six companies of infantry, and the most strategic point west of the Alleghanies was safe in our hands. Cairo was from that time forward the central point of all the movements of our armies on the western rivers. The movements for its occupation was not made a day too soon.

Having secured Cairo as their own, the Union started building a permanent base. General Ulysses S. Grant had his headquarters here from September of 1861 until February of 1862. The Naval Headquarters of the Western Flotilla was also set up in Cairo and remained here for the full four years.

On the fourth day of September, 1861, Grant arrived in Cairo. About the sixth or seventh of September, he gathered some men and a few boats, hurried to Paducah, Kentucky, and took possession. Just about eight to ten hours away was a Confederate force of three to four thousand soldiers on their way to Paducah from Columbus. Having seized Cairo enabled the Union to seize Paducah and several other places.

It has been pointed out and should be stressed that if the Union had not had such quick action the Confederates would have seized Cairo. If this had happened there would have been a big difference in the war.

If both sides wanted Cairo so badly, it must have been a very important and strategic place. There, I think the residents of Cairo and the surrounding area should be proud and honored to have a city that played such an important part in the Civil War.

CAIRO'S RAILROAD EMPIRE 1851-1910

By BARBARA JOHNSTON

Few people realize how important railroads are to Cairo's history. They played a major role in her beginning, development, and financial success.

Cairo was a perfect spot for a transportation center. Its location was unique, because it is at the exact point where the boundaries of the Official, Southern, and Western Classification Territories meet. Because it was in such a strategical place, many railroad companies came to and through Cairo.

Illinois Central Railroad Is First

The trustees of the Cairo Property wanted to find some way to build up a city at the meeting place of "Father Mississippi" and "La Belle Ohio." Judge Sidney Breese, originator of the Illinois Central Railroad Company, met Mr. Darius Holbrook, a major incorporator of Cairo, at Vandalia in 1835. Mr. Holbrook proposed the plan of the formation of a company to construct a railroad and build the city. So the present city of Cairo and the Illinois Central Railroad were started at the same time and by the same men. The Illinois Central Charter was procured January 16, 1836, and construction began immediately; but all did not go well.

Among the many difficulties and hardships that ensued was the problem of a Mr. Dutcher, who was hired by the Illinois Central Railroad Company to build a new levee at Cairo. His tactics were suspicious and justifiably so. In 1854, as the Mississippi rose rapidly, Dutcher made no effort to hasten his work of filling the gaps in the wall. Samuel Taylor, Trustee of the Cairo City Property Trust, was convinced that Dutcher's delay was deliberate, so he hired men to finish the levee in time. Dutcher fled before his treachery became generally known. But the railroad went through and was finished in 1855. Cairo immediately began to prosper.

This railroad company did much for Cairo. In 1858 it established a steamboat line between Cairo and New Orleans. Also from 1887 to 1889, it built the railroad bridge across the Ohio.

Mobile and Ohio Railroad Company

This company was chartered in Alabama in 1848. The road was finished as far as Columbus, Ky., twenty miles south of Cairo. The Mobile and Ohio originally had been designed to extend to the Ohio River near Cairo; but under pressure of the Civil War, construction problems and regional jealousies, Columbus was used as the northern terminal. During this time, this twenty mile gap was filled by the running of steamboats between Columbus and Cairo. Then in 1882, the extension was built and put into use.

Kentucky and Tennessee Railroad Company

The company was incorporated in 1870. In 1872 it agreed with the Mobile and Ohio Railroad Company to build this railroad and to lease it to the Mobile and Ohio. The Kentucky Company was to build its section of road from a point opposite Cairo to some point on the Mobile and Ohio. In 1880, it constructed a railroad from South Columbus to East Cairo. The Mobile and Ohio Railroad ferried its cars directly across the river to the incline of the Wabash Railway Company below the Halliday Hotel. The Illinois Central ferried its cars two or three miles south of this spot before the Illinois Central Railroad bridge was built in 1889.

Cairo and St. Louis Railroad Company

This railroad was chartered February 16, 1865. Because the company found it difficult to arrange for the construction of its railroad, the actual construction didn't take place until 1871 and was finished in 1875.

The company did not do well, so it leased its property to the Mobile and Ohio. Now the extension from Cairo to St. Louis prospered.

To economize, this company discontinued the expensive practice of transferring cars across the Ohio at Cairo by railroad ferryboats. Instead the Mobile and Ohio arranged to use the Illinois Central Railroad bridge. This method of transfer across the Ohio gave an all rail line from Mobile to St. Louis, with Cairo as a major transfer point.

Cairo and Vincennes Railroad Company

Cairo legislature incorporated this company on March 6, 1867. Work began in 1868, but was forced to stop because of forfeitures. It was completed in 1873.

For a number of years, the company occupied Commercial Avenue throughout its whole length. This practice was discontinued in 1886 when a change was made by a city ordinance. The railroad followed the same course of action as the Cairo and St. Louis and was leased to the Big Four, the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway Company. The Big Four operated on the same track as the previous company.

Cairo and Thebes Railroad Company

This company was organized in 1905. While the Illinois Central had a direct connection with Thebes, general feeling was that a more direct line would be desirable. The depression of 1907 halted the work almost entirely, so the road was not completed before 1910.

The railroad caused controversy because of its location. It extended into the city as far as 15th and Washington Avenue, where the stations were established. John Lansden mirrored public opinion when he stated, "A railroad yard with its smoking engines and its noise close to a public library will certainly not suffer by the presence of the library ..."

By 1910, Cairo had become quite a railroad center. There were six major lines running to and from Cairo to as far away as Chicago, St. Louis, and Mobile; or as near as Thebes and Vincennes. These roads gave Cairo transportation advantages equaled by very few other places in the country.

Cairo's big railroad era is gone now, but the value and importance of her railroad history can still be seen. If it wasn't for the railroads and their influence, Cairo would not be on the map today.
 

Extracted 30 Dec 2017 by Norma Hass from Alexander County Profiles, published in 1968, pages 27-37.


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