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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Near Cairo in Alexander County, Illinois — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)
 

Cairo, Illinois

 
 
Cairo, Illinois Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Craig Swain, March 17, 2009
1. Cairo, Illinois Marker
Inscription.  Pierre Francois Xavier de Charlevoix, a French Jesuit, reported as early as 1721 that the land at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers would be a strategic location for settlement and fortification. Nearly a century later, in 1818, the Illinois territorial legislature incorporated the city and the Bank of Cairo. But Cairo was then only a paper city, and plans for its development came to a standstill with the death of John Gleaves Comegys, the leading promoter of the corporation.

The area's commercial potential again captured the imagination of Illinois leaders and eastern investors in the 1830's. New city promoters incorporated the Cairo City and Canal Company and made elaborate plans for levees, canals, factories, and warehouses. The first levees failed to hold back the rampaging rivers, and financial difficulties slowed the commercial boom. Company policy to lease, not sell, city lots also retarded expansion. With the first sale of lots in 1853 and the completion of the Illinois Central Railroad from Chicago to Cairo late in 1854, the city began to prosper.

When the Civil War began, both Northern and Southern strategists
Cairo, Illinois Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Shane Oliver, May 1, 2021
2. Cairo, Illinois Marker
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recognized the military importance of Cairo. On April 22, 1861, ten days after the bombardment of Fort Sumter, troops arrived to hold Cairo for the Union. They established camps on the land south of Cairo, and the city flourished as a troop and supply center for General Ulysses S. Grant's army. Although the city bustled with wartime activity, non-military commerce was reoriented along east-west lines.
 
Erected 1964 by Illinois Department of Transportation and the Illinois State Historical Society.
 
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Industry & CommerceSettlements & SettlersWar, US Civil. In addition, it is included in the Illinois State Historical Society series list. A significant historical month for this entry is April 1761.
 
Location. 36° 59.245′ N, 89° 9.013′ W. Marker is near Cairo, Illinois, in Alexander County. Marker is at the intersection of Washington Avenue (U.S. 60/62) and Fort Defiance Road, on the right when traveling north on Washington Avenue. Located at the entrance to Fort Defiance Park, in a parking area for the State Highway Patrol office. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Cairo IL 62914, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Critical River Confluence (a few steps from this marker); Cairo Connection (a few steps from this marker); Lewis & Clark
Marker and Kiosk at the Park Entrance image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Craig Swain, March 17, 2009
3. Marker and Kiosk at the Park Entrance
The kiosk provides information on the Great River Road in Illinois. The road is a auto tour route paralleling the Mississippi River.
(a few steps from this marker); Historical Survey Marker (a few steps from this marker); Lewis and Clark in Illinois (a few steps from this marker); Great River Road Illinois (within shouting distance of this marker); The Mississippi River Bridge (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); The Ohio River Bridge (about 500 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Cairo.
 
More about this marker. There is an identical marker (with a few minor changes in the inscription) that was placed north of Cairo and the unincorporated community of Urbandale (on Illinois Route 37) in 1986.
 
Guide to Randolph, Jackson, Union and Alexander Counties image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Craig Swain, March 17, 2009
4. Guide to Randolph, Jackson, Union and Alexander Counties
Guide to Madison, St. Clair, and Monroe Counties image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Craig Swain, March 17, 2009
5. Guide to Madison, St. Clair, and Monroe Counties
Cairo River Port image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Craig Swain, March 17, 2009
6. Cairo River Port
Looking from the nearby US Highway 62 Bridge crossing to Kentucky. The river port at Cairo is still an active stop for barge traffic. Due to an oddity of river geography, the bridge here crosses to the northeast into Kentucky, with the town of Cairo surrounded on three sides by the states of Missouri and Kentucky.
Fort Defiance Park image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Craig Swain, March 17, 2009
7. Fort Defiance Park
Statue of General U.S. Grant image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Craig Swain, March 17, 2009
8. Statue of General U.S. Grant
Standing outside a visitor center and state police station is this statue of General Grant.
Great River Road Marker Kiosk image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Shane Oliver, May 22, 2021
9. Great River Road Marker Kiosk
The Great River Road Markers are no longer standing.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 6, 2021. It was originally submitted on May 27, 2009, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 3,798 times since then and 111 times this year. Last updated on January 24, 2020, by Jason Voigt of Glen Carbon, Illinois. Photos:   1. submitted on May 27, 2009, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.   2. submitted on June 2, 2021, by Shane Oliver of Richmond, Virginia.   3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. submitted on May 27, 2009, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.   9. submitted on June 2, 2021, by Shane Oliver of Richmond, Virginia. • Devry Becker Jones was the editor who published this page.

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Oct. 7, 2022