A Directory of Towns, Villages, and Hamlets
Past and Present
of Cape Girardeau County, Missouri

Compiled by Arthur Paul Moser

Cape Girardeau County

Cape Girardeau District

The settlement of Cape Girardeau dates from 1793. The name, originally applied to the "Big Bend" above the city, was derived, it is tolerably certain, from that of Ensign Sieur Girardot, who from 1704 to 1720 was stationed with the royal troops at Kaskaskia, or possibly from that of his son. The name last appears on the records at Kaskaskia, signed to a marriage contract, in 1775. The following scrap from the diary of Matthew Clarkson, a fur trader, afterward Mayor of Philadelphia, who visited the Illinois as early as 1766, indicates that Girardot, after resigning his position in the army, became a successful trader among the Indians:

"Mons. Jeredot, the elder, who has been a trader for many years among most of the Indian Nations about the River Mississippi, informed me December 22, 1766, that the Osages live on a river of the same name, which falls into the Missouri from the south, at the distance of about sixty leagues from its conflux with the Mississippi."

It is, therefore, reasonable to conjecture that "Mons. Jeredot" had a trading point in the Big Bend, or at least, that he made this cape a rendezvous while trading with the Indians on this portion of the Mississippi. His name thus became associated with the cape, and in its application to a place became Girardeau. But Girardot was a trader and not a settler, and it is a French Canadian, Don Louis Lorimer, to whom the honor of making the first permanent settlement is due. (--History of Southeast Missouri, 1888, Goodspeed, p. 257.)

The court of general sessions of the peace for Cape Girardeau District was organized on the 19th of March, 1805.

In accordance with the following proclamation, the first courts were held at Cape Girardeau:

"Whereas, by my proclamation of the 1st day of October last, it was declared that the seat of justice for the District of Cape Girardeau should be at such a place as should be thereafter be determined...I do hereby proclaim that the Courts of Common Pleas, of General Sessions, and the Orphan's Court...shall, until otherwise directed, be held at Cape Girardo..."

Given under my hand, and the seal of the Indiana Territory of Vincennes, this 1st day of January, 1805...

By the Governor,

William Henry Harrison

(--History of Southeast Missouri, 1888, pp. 316, 317, 318.)

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