Alexander County

1968 Alexander County Profiles - Portion E

DARIUS BLAKE HOLBROOK - SECURING A FOUNDATION

By JOYCE MURRY

Introduction

Darius Blake Holbrook was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts. He had been a prominent man in the city of New York for many years, and had great ability and large personal influence with all with whom he was associated.

Besides his work in establishing the city of Cairo, Illinois, and in securing the great land grant for the Illinois Central Railroad, he was associated with Cyrus W. Field in laying the first Atlantic cable.

He died in New York City, January 22, 1858. His wife was Elizabeth Thurston Ingraham; and their only child, now Baroness Caroline Holbrook Von Roques, married William Chandler, of the banking house of St. Johns, Powers & Company, of Mobile, Alabama.

Character

The second attempt to establish the city of Cairo seems to have been begun by Darius Holbrook. He was not an adventurer, a dreamer, or a man of merely schemes. 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 seemed too hard for him. Where others drew back he pushed forward. He had no patience with men who floated with the current. He would take advantage of it if it carried him toward the goal of his plans but if in the other direction, he turned against it and buffeted its waves with a faith and belief that seemed unconquerable.

Project - Cairo

Darius must have known all about this place or geographical point before he came here. He knew of the attempt and failure of 1818. He knew or soon ascertained who were the owners of the lands between the rivers; for nothing could be safely done without first acquiring good titles to the lands.

He knew the low site, the river floods, the abrasians and inroads upon the shores, the need of strong levees and of the clearing off of the dense woods. He knew that while the geographical point was all that could be desired, the proposed city must have a secure foundation, a safe and enduring site.

It was more than starting and building a city. A site had to be first provided. But he seems to have firmly believed that he and those associated with him could bring moneyed men to such a belief in the feasibility of the enterprise as would lead them to make all necessary advances of means.

It was then as it was in 1818 and is now, a question of money. As the first promoters in 1818 left everything to the control and management of Comegvs, so in 1836 to 1846, Holbrook seems to have been invested with unlimited authority. He was said to be not merely the chief representative of the companies, but the companies themselves.

If such was the case, it must have been due to the very general belief that what he wanted was needed and what he did not want was to be laid aside. He made two or three trips to London, and the great banking house of John Wright & Company became his company's financial representative in that city.

These bankers were at the same time the agents of our state for the sale of its canal bonds. Besides Holbrook, there were in London Richard M. Young, then one of our United States senators, and Ex-Governor John Reynolds, agents for the state and arranging with Wright & Company to take charge of the state's bond sales.

Daniel Webster was also there, and while there gave his written opinion to Holbrook regarding his company's title to the lands it had mortgaged to the New York Life Insurance and Trust Company to secure the payment of its Cairo bonds.

Holbrook did everything, was everywhere, saw everybody, legislators and capitalists and other men of prominence and influence whom he supposed might aid him. He secured in London large sums of money and must have used, here in Cairo, more than a million dollars. He and his company had great faith in their enterprise, and they determined to obtain titles to the land almost regardless of the price demanded.

Holbrook worked on faithfully even after the failure of Wright & Company. He must have known, however, long before the end came that his attempt must meet a fate not wholly unlike that which came to the Kaskaskia people in 1818.

The great London bankers had turned against Wright & Company and brought them to bankruptcy, and he knew that if he could not raise money on his Cairo bonds at the outset in this country, he certainly could not do it now that the whole financial world was in a state of suspense as to what would be the outcome of the monetary depression almost the world over.

Holbrook, seeing that he could go no further, set about finding what entirely new arrangements might be made by which he and those associated with him might save something out of the failed enterprise.

Obstacles to Overcome

A number of writers about Cairo have criticized him and some of them very severely. Not enough of the facts and circumstances, running through a number of years, enable people to express a very satisfactory opinion as to those matters about which he was criticized.

The work which he had undertaken was difficult in the extreme; he seemed to have firmly believed that he could accomplish it. After the first two or three years he must have seen more clearly the difficulty of the situation. These called forth only greater efforts on his part; but when it became more and more evident that the situation was growing more and more doubtful, he may have resorted to measures which seemed more or less inconsistent with that straight-forward kind of conduct about which all men speak well but which many of them find it exceedingly difficult to follow when overtaken by unexpected embarrassments.

Observation shows that most men in times of severe financial trial and when failure seems impending, will turn aside here and there and do this or that and the other thing which they would have before severely criticized. Holbrook was determined that his enterprise should not fail, and it was a long time before he could see anything but success ahead of him. What he did at Washington and Springfield and New York, even as late as 1849, shows that his hope was not entirely gone, although his Cairo City and Canal Company had already sold out to the Cairo City Property Trust.

It may not have been strictly accurate to speak of Holbrook as having begun the second attempt to start a city here. Breese, Gilbert and Swanwick seem to have first moved in the matter and to have sold to Holbrook, late in 1835 or early in 1836, an interest in their land entries here of August and September, 1835, and this seems to have been the first introduction of Holbrook to the proposed scheme. From that time forward, he became the leading spirit of the enterprise, long drawn out and beset with many difficulties.

Conclusion

From January 16, 1836, to February 10, 1851, there is the period of something over fifteen years, during all of which Holbrook never swerved an inch in his devotion to the city of Cairo. The very best years of his life he had put into his attempt to establish it; therefore, one must readily agree that the Cairo of today owes its existence more to Darius Blake Holbrook than to any other man.

HISTORIC COURTHOUSE AT THEBES - MONUMENT OF DAYS GONE BY

By JANA OGG

Henry Barkhausen, an architect who once served the king of his native Germany in that capacity, was one of the early settlers of Alexander County. After losing his job in Germany, he moved here in 1838, settling on a section of land at the foot of a series of bluffs, which is now the village of Thebes.

After Alexander County was organized separately from Pulaski County in 1843, and the courthouse at Unity burned, the county seat was moved to Thebes.

In January of 1846, L. L. Lightner, who had been appointed to draw plans for the building, drew up a contract, and Henry Barkhausen, by virtue of his education and experience, was given the contract to build a courthouse. This courthouse, still standing today as a monument to the ability of its builder, was completed in 1848.

The walls are of unhewn sandstone, laid in mortar. The timbers are of local lumber, hand-hewn to size, the boards for the floor and the roof were hand sawed, and the hand shaven shingles were split from native timber.

The walls were plastered inside and out with plaster made of local material. Lime from near-by deposits of limestone was burned and mixed with sand and hair.

After being burned, the lime was stored in a pit and allowed to ripen for an entire winter. After more than one hundred years this outside plaster has shown almost no deterioration.

The building has a front porch in southern colonial style, and the contract price was $4,400.

The building was built on the brow of a bluff overlooking the Mississippi, and at once became a landmark to help rivermen guide their boats in the treacherous channel through the "chain of Rocks," the break of the Mississippi River through the Ozark range of hills. Although it has suffered from lack of care, it is still, well known to rivermen, and it still helps them guide their boats.

After being finished, the Thebes courthouse played an important part in history. According to legend, it is the site of Abraham Lincoln's first speech, while he was still an unknown lawyer, and it holds the echoes of the voices of such men as the "Little Giant", Stephen A. Douglas; the Union General and United States Senator from Illinois, John A. Logan; and others of more than local fame.

Recorded history says Dred Scott was imprisoned there, escaped, and made his way over the "Devil's Backbone" road to freedom and safety at Anna, where he caught a tram to the north.

Later his name was written permanently in history by the Dred Scott trial decision.

To reach the courthouse, prisoners, lawyers, judges and witnesses had to go by steamboat around the point, and thirty miles up the Mississippi to Thebes.

There everyone unloaded and made the steep climb up to hill to the courthouse, beautiful in its simplicity.

As evening drew near, the crowd came back down the long hill, minus the prisoner, who was locked safely in the dungeon with two foot thick walls of earth and rock dividing the cells.

If the river was low; gorged with ice, as it often was; or if a sudden storm whipped up - well, justice had to wait another day.

The delays of this system became intolerable and so in 1860 the county seat was moved to Cairo.

Since then the old courthouse has gone through various stages of use and disuse. It has been used as a Methodist Church, a library, a town hall, and a residence.

In recent years it has stood empty and ghostlike - its windows broken - its stone steps askew - its paint peeled - a monument to a day that has all but been forgotten.

Edtior's Note: The Thebes Woman's Club chose the Court House as a crub project and, with the help of civic organizations and citizens of Thebes, it has undertaken restoration of the building. A museum is housed there, also.

GOOSE CAPITAL OF THE WORLD - HORSESHOE LAKE

By JEFF PATTON

Foreword

Man is a creative being, always trying to improve on and build things. Often in his strife for progress he destroys many of nature's beauties and creatures, and, when the project he desired is completed, it is not always equal in majesty to that which he destroyed.

But this is not always the case. In some instances man actually helps nature and her off-spring. By his ingenuity and skill he can succeed where nature has failed and bring from the biblical rock of neglect a torrent of beauty and usefulness. Such is the saga of Horseshot Lake.

The story of Horseshoe Lake begins many years ago with the mighty Mississippi River. As it threads its way southward to the Gulf of Mexico, the river twists, called an ox-bow, was cut off from the main channel. This ox-bow was like the ancient Roman god Janus, for it had two faces. It contained water only during the rainy season and almost completely dried up during draught periods.

In 1927 the Illinois Department of Conservation decided to make Horseshoe into a game refuge for Canadian geese. For this purpose the department purchased 3,500 acres, which included all of the island and most of the lake. Much of the land on the island was then put into a grain crop to provide food for the expected birds. A dam was constructed across the south end, and in this way the lake was enabled to hold water all year long.

The lake was thus made into a veritable paradise for the birds and they soon began to converge on it from their natural wintering grounds on sand bars and islands of the Mississippi.

As the number of geese increased so did the number of hunting clubs in the area. When the annual harvest of geese became excessive, the Conservation Department became alarmed, and, in 1939, it began a long term management program. In 1945 the season closed after only five days with a harvest of 5,000 geese. In 1964 the entire Mississippi Flyway was closed to goose hunting, but in 1947 only the 18,000 acres adjoining Horseshoe was closed to the taking of this magnificent bird.

The Department sensed the need for expansion and in due course bought land in nearby areas. This increased the size of the refuge at Horseshoe to approximately 7,000 acres.

With these measures being enforced the goose population increased steadily until by 1954 it had swelled to 170,000. The special protective zone was therefore abolished, and in its place there were now special hunting regulations. The population continued to increase and presently during the season it will vary from 150,000 to perhaps 200,000.

Beginning in 1961 Illinois and Wisconsin established "kill quotas" which prohibit an excessive kill of geese.

The economic importance of the hunting season in this area cannot be overstated. The net income of the more than thirty private hunting clubs in the area totals many thousands of dollars and forms a large portion of the residents' incomes. Restaurants, hotels, motels, and filling stations in the area also do a tremendous volume of business during the season which begins in middle November and ends about the first of January or as soon as the quota is reached.

Preparation for the season begins many months before it actually starts when the hunter phones in for reservations at the clubs. As the first geese begin to arrive, the farmers rush to harvest their crops, dig their pits, and set up their blinds.

Opening day nears and the hunters begin to flood in. The club owners pray for rain and moonless nights, for it is under these conditions that the honkers fly best.

The long awaited day finally arrives and long before dawn the roads are crowded with the cars of hunters on their way to the clubs. Shooting begins with the rising of the sun and most club operators insist that the hunters be present at least 45 minutes early. The operator briefs the hunters. "Don't shoot until sunup. No high shooting. Be careful and everyone will get two geese." They then receive their pit numbers, pile into the jeeps or trucks, and are carried swiftly into the fields. As the sun rises the men open fire. One pit gets two, another three! Many club operators now use two-way radios and in this way keep in touch with observers who watch the different fields. As the hunters get their geese they stand up, and the observer picks them up in a jeep. They are returned to the club house. Hopefully this will be a good day and everyone will "shoot out" by 3 o'clock closing time.

This is repeated over and over again throughout the season.

Horseshoe appeals not only to the goose hunter but to the angler as well. The lake is amply stocked with crappie, bluegill, and large mouth bass. Anglers flock to the lake in the summer, and in the winter a disappointed goose hunter often finds consolation in the fine fishing.

In recent years there have been numerous improvements around the lake. All of the lakeside roads have been either blacktopped or improved. New campsites have been installed. Also a large pavilion, equipped with twilight lights to permit nighttime parties, has been erected on the lakefront.

All in all it is not hard to see why Horseshoe is as famous as it is in the sports world. And it is easy to understand why thousands of sportsmen every year converge on Horseshoe Lake, Illinois - Goose Capital of the World.

FORT DEFIANCE STATE PARK

By LESLIE PIERCEALL

Little do people know of our unique and interesting state park or the reason for its existence. Most people refer to it as "The Point." From its beginning as a Union stronghold until the end of the Civil War, Fort Defiance played a very important part in the success of the Union Army.

The first man to conceive and build a fort at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi was Sileur Juchereau de St. Denis in 1702. It was over a century later that Fort Defiance was established to aid the Union Army in the War.

The movement toward Cairo in April, 1861, was part of a major operation to the South and West. Eleven days after firing on Fort Sumter, April 12, troops were garrisoned at Cairo in an old distillery building and ordered to block Confederate River traffic and guard the stronghold from seizure by the enemy.

On May 10, 1861, Cairo, Ill., was one great military camp known as Fort Prentiss, Col. B. M. Prentiss, who had been elected Brig. Gen., was in command of the camp. By June 1 the camp was almost in finished condition and was well on its way to being a fortress. Surrounding the camp were smaller armed camps commanding the levee approaches from all directions.

Camp Macalister, on the Ohio bend of the levee, guarded the Ford from surprise attacks upstream while Camp Smith on the Mississippi bend of the levee and Camp Haughtling three miles above guarded the fort from attacks by way of the Mississippi River.

By the last of June, a proud Stars and Stripes flew from the flagstaff of Camp Defiance. Black muzzles of cannon protected the harbor from any attack throughout the war.

In September, 1861, General Prentiss was succeeded by Ulysses S. Grant, who brought with him several regiments to man the fort. In November the name was officially changed to Fort Defiance.

Other important things took place in November. By then Grant, who was entrusted with the task of holding the area around Southeastern Missouri, had collected more than twenty thousand partially trained men.

During Grant's stay in Cairo (from September 1861 to February 1862) the Union Armies staged an attempt to dislodge the Confederates from Southeastern Missouri. The battle of Belmont - Columbus, Ky., saw the Union soldiers stand up to the Confederate forces with great success.

Navel Headquarters of the Western Flotilla maintained at Cairo's Fort Defiance during the four year struggle. Along with the Naval base an important telegraph station was located at the fort. Training grounds for countless regiments of the Army were in use daily. Many thousands of men passed from Cairo on their way to their respective missions in the War.

Throughout the War Between the States, Fort Defiance was a blessing to the Union forces but a "thorn in the paw" to the Confederates.

When hundreds of soldiers at Fort Defiance became ill with malaria, dysentery, typhoid, and smallpox, Mary B. Safford made a name for herself as the "Cairo Angel" by volunteering her services to help establish camp hospitals in order to care for the sick and wounded. "The Cairo Angel" helped to transfer soldiers from the battlefield to hospitals at the fort. She was the first woman to establish fort hospitals and then transfered the men to them.

After the War, guns stayed at Fort Defiance for some time, but being unused, the fort soon fell into decay.

Now there is left to Cairo no vestage of the original fort, but the name is proudly borne by the state park at the same confluence of the two great rivers, the Ohio and the Mississippi. The cooling shade trees, the ever present breeze, the changing moods of the mighty Mississippi, and the Ohio provide a pattern of day or night beauty. People are refreshed by the setting of the rivers, unending fleets of river commerce great argosies of the air, and a large city of three States with sights of the two bridges.

Fort Defiance was dedicated by the Governor of Illinois, William Stratton, on Sunday, July 3, 1960. In his dedication speech, he praised the beauty of the new state park that has captured men's minds since the beginning of time, and he said that it was but fitting that such grandeur be shared by the people.

Today the "Old Fort" - or as it is known to us now "The Point," serves as a place to picnic or just relax in an atmosphere of cool, quiet peace with the two great rivers continually moving on their way to the Gulf.

1858 - CAIRO INUNDATED

By DONNA PROFILET

"The levee is broken - flee for your lives!" was the cry of the Cairo people on Saturday, June 13, 1858, when the levee on the Mississippi side of the town gave way.

For several days previous to this widespread disaster, it had been predicted by many who were familiar with the character of the levees, that the town was in constant danger. The people paid little attention to these warnings because they had been lulled into a feeling of security by the fact that during the past 15 years they had escaped submersion. As a consequence, the flood came upon many of the people unexpectedly, leaving them only time to escape with their lives,

A force of 500 men were as soon as possible, placed upon what was known as the "Old Cross Levee", an embankment running from the Ohio to the Mississippi in the upper portion of the city, with the hope that they would be able to fill up the openings which had been cut on the lines of the streets and stop the flood of this embankment. But the waters poured in so rapidly and came with such a strong current that this attempt was reluctantly but necessarily abandoned.

The poor women and children were seen wringing their hands and crying in utter helplessness. One woman was seen running with a piece of stove-pipe under one arm and a cheap looking-glass under the other, on her way to the Ohio levee, weeping in the greatest distress. Confusion was turned loose, and the people living in the one-story buildings saw death staring them in the face.

Soon through the streets in great force came the muddy waters, carrying logs, fences, trees and lumber; and night settled upon the sad scene. In the darkness and soon in the waters itself, were families making their way to the Ohio Levee. By daylight Sunday morning, there was no dry land to be seen inside the levees, and by noon the waters inside were of the height of the rivers.

Some of the one-story buildings in the low grounds of the town presented only their roofs above the water.

In every quarter of the city, skiffs, canoes and floats of every kind plied industriously from house to house, removing women and children furniture, goods, etc. to the Ohio Levee. The plank walls were sawed into convenient sections and used as floats, and every imaginable species of craft were improvised for the occasion.

Altogether about 500 persons were driven from their homes, and the little strip of the Ohio Levee, the only dry spot for miles around, was crowded with men, women and children, dogs, cattle, plunder, wagons, carts, etc. from one end to the other. Many people made their way in rafts and skiffs and also left on steamboats for the highlands making their absence from Cairo permanent.

Some families were made destitute by the flood, but these were so promptly provided for by the more fortunate citizens that no real cases of suffering ensued. Charity was offered the people from other cities, but the plucky Cairoites said, "No, we can and are providing for our own people".

There was no perceptible rise in the rivers after the breaking of the levee, and the waters began rapidly to recede. In less than two weeks the city was dry again, and every day the citizens were returning to their homes. Logs and rubbish were cleared from the streets, houses were repaired and re-painted, and fences re-built . After a few months the prominent marks of the flood had been cleared away - wiped out forever.

The two years following the submersion of Cairo formed probably the most trying period in her history. Real estate dropped from its former high figure. The shock public confidence had received prevented investments, and business being in a measure deadened. Rival interests eagerly proclaimed the downfall of the city, and confidently predicted it would never rise again, and there were many in Cairo and out of it who were ready to believe the blow had proved effectually crushing. But the repairing, widening and strengthening of the levees and expending vast sums in this work soon created a better feeling and helped to inspire confidence. By the end of the second year of the overflow, property had about regained its former value and the business of the city its accustomed tone. As time wore past, the heights and proportions of the levees Increased, confidence in the habitableness of the locality gained its original status.

This tragic flood occurred 108 years ago. Cairo has never been flooded since, although many cities along the Ohio and Mississippi have been inundated. Cairo is now protected by the strongest levee system in the world, under the supervision of the United States Corps of Engineers.

THE MAGNOLIAS

By PEGGY ROBERTS

The house which stands at 604 Twenty-eighth Street in Cairo, once sheltered a President of the United States and from the numerous magnolia trees which surround it, takes its name - the Magnolias.

Built in 1858 by Colonel Samuel Staats Taylor who was the first Mayor of Cairo, the house was constructed with a wood frame over brick and followed the general lines of southern architecture of that day in its wide, sweeping veranda which runs three-fourths of the way around the house.

The President who held a press conference in the parlor at the Magnolias was Theodore Roosevelt and the year was 1907. On October 3, the President, who was making a tour from Washington to Memphis in the interest of a deep waterway from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, stopped at Cairo overnight on his way to St. Louis from Memphis.

There could be no doubt that Roosevelt was made comfortable at the Magnolias. The ten room house, which was built before the Civil War swept over the land, was meant for gracious and leisurely living. Every room in the house, with the exception of two kitchens, has its own fireplace. In the guest room which was President Roosevelt's, the fireplace is a soft yellow glazed tile. Fireplaces in the first floor rooms are black marble with black walnut mantle pieces.

The Magnolias was built around immense halls and both the first and second floors are prepared in two shades of red. The proportions of the rooms are gracious; the drawing room has double entrances flanked by white colonnade, and the reception hall is large and stately.

The Magnolias was meant for entertaining guests, for banquets, for parties. Its facilities were not overtaxed when it came to entertaining a president.

Colonel Taylor lived in the house until his death in 1896. George Parsons who was Mayor of Cairo (first elected in April of 1905, then in April 1907, and then re-elected in April, 1909) when President Roosevelt visited, bought the house from the Taylor estate and the house and grounds were again gay with guests and entertainments.

In every community the moral and the material must go along side by side. In every city there should be good schools, and other institutions of learning, good churches, good societies and other means and sources of culture, plenty of good water, good lighting, and good streets. Mayor Parsons was interested and very active in securing many of these.

In Cairo, one of its greatest needs was good streets. There were many high board sidewalks built on stilts above the seepwater. Some of these streets were greatly improved by means of permanent and substantial pavement. These were: Ohio, Twenty-eighth, Sycamore, Poplar, Elm, Second, Walnut, Twenty-first, and Thirty-fourth Streets. Washington Avenue was developed into a beautiful spot.

Many beautiful trees were planted along the Avenue by Mayor Parsons. He also did much to beautify St. Mary's Park, directly across the street from his Magnolias. Then too, there was the building of a large sewer on Commercial Ave. from Second to Thirty-eighth Street and the other outlet sewer on Tenth Street.

In spite of great expenditures on sewer system development and street improvement Mayor Parsons added about $35,000 to the city's annual revenues by obtaining an increase of the saloon license from five hundred to one thousand dollars.

In 1918, the Magnolias was sold to Herman Weber, who with his sister, Mrs. Frederic Wilde, resided there until his death in October, 1958. Mr. Weber owned and operated the highly successful Weber Dry Goods Co. on 5th and Commercial. Mrs. Weber was the organist for the Lutheran Church.

The Weber children spent many hours playing under the front porch, the old servants' quarters. The small playhouse located in the backyard which was built for Mr. Weber's daughter (Alma), was later converted into her art studio.

After Mr. Weber's death in 1958, the house was turned over to the Weber children. Lester Weber, of Cairo, sold his interest to his brother, Harold Weber, of Cape Girardeau, who is now the present owner.

The beautiful Magnolias, which for a century was filled with the excitement of many great parties and entertainments, now stands silent.

WALLS OF PROSPERITY

By SUSAN RYAN

Since Cairo was located at the confluence of the mighty Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, spring floods were an almost yearly danger. The construction of a levee system was very important for the welfare and safety of the townspeople.

The first known levee was built in 1818 - when Cairo was first being settled - by William Bird around his trading house. This fortification proved to be very efficient and for years it kept out the surging waters.

Because of Bird's ingenuity and good fortune, the construction of levees around the entire town became the particular work of John C. Comyges, who was planning a trip to Holland, in an attempt to bring Dutch laborers to Cairo, to construct our levees as they had built their famous dikes. All went well until Comyges became ill and died; without his encouragement the other parties became disagreeable and the needed enterprise was abandoned.

1835 was the magic year for Cairo, as this was when work on her levees was begun. Little did anyone know that this was to be the beginning of new prosperity for this growing community! Anthony Olney was appointed General Superintendent of this task. A Major Duncan had made all required surveys and reported that an earthen embankment of five feet in height would secure the City against the highest swells of the rampaging river. When the embankments were completed, they consisted of levees along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers joined at a southern point (near confluence of the rivers), and also a cross levee - completed in 1843 by Miles A. Gilberts - connecting the other two, and thus encircling the entire city. The completed levees enclosed approximately 600 acres of land and their height was about seven or eight feet above the average terrain. Since the construction of this levee system at no time have flood waters entered into the City of Cairo.

The following year, 1844, the levees protected the City from one of the greatest floods in recorded history. Cairo was the link between St. Louis, Mo., and New Orleans, La. During this time of destruction and desolation the entire Ohio and Mississippi Valleys received some form of malady - except within the protected walls of Cairo. Inside the levees food was plentiful while com and cotton were harvested within the protective embankments. This incident again makes it clear why Cairo was well known as "Little Egypt."

Further work on the levees was limited until 1878 when abrasions from the current of the river forced a low levee of 3 to 4 feet to be built between 18th street and 2nd street, along the Ohio shore. This levee was thought to be the greatest protection against flooding waters. But the extremely high waters of 1882-83 gave evidence that an even higher levee should be built. In 1897 another 3 feet were added to the levee, this being called the "old stone depot levee." This levee once more saved Cairo from destruction.

The people of Cairo were not contented with the "depot levee" and in 1912-13 the levee was raised to 54 feet. This held back the terribly high waters of 1927 and 1937 - when the levees almost gave way and the town was evacuated.

After the 1937 high water the present concrete levee walls were raised to the height of 65 feet above low water level.

As the people of Cairo look up at their levees they should feel a deep sense of security, for these walls have long protected these as well as their ancestors. As the flood waters rage and devastation is high, the people of Cairo can stand behind their "walls of prosperity" and give thanks to those, who for so long, strived through many hardships, in order to make her levees a reality.

Extracted 30 Dec 2017 by Norma Hass from Alexander County Profiles, published in 1968, pages 47-57.


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