French and Spanish Explorers in S.E. Missouri

De Soto was probably the first European who saw the Mississippi River at Chickasaw Bluffs, a few miles below Memphis. He was the first European to set foot on Missouri soil. Before the Revolutionary War, traders were using the New Madrid area as camping spots to trade their furs and skins.

In 1762 France had by secret treaty ceded all the land west of the Mississippi River to Spain. In 1762 Colonel George Morgan, a former American army officer, was passing down the Mississippi River through Spanish territory. He obtained a large Spanish grant and published a prospectus of the city which he proceeded to layout.

In January 1789 Col. George Morgan left Fort Pitt with 70 other Americans in four armed boats. Their destination was the Spanish territory on the western banks of the Mississippi where they intended to start a colony and become the subjects of the Spanish crown. Also in 1789, after the payment of a large amount of money, the Spanish had reopened the Mississippi River to American commercial traffic. However, Morgan had advised against opening the river to Americans. He thought if Americans could only go as far as New Madrid it would build up his colony. Morgan hoped that his town would become the marketplace for the trade of American merchandise.

In 1800 the territory entered French hands once again, and the dream of a new and glorious France in the New World was revived.

The New Madrid district was begun in the winter of 1786 by Francois and Joseph Lesieur who were Canadian trappers who wished to start a profitable fur trading business with the Indians. The place soon became known as L'anse a graisse (cove of fat). The land was extremely fertile. The vast forests were swarming with game.

The land that Gideon sits on was a virgin forest and swamp. The cypress trees stood so tall and thick that at noon it looked like the dark of midnight in the swamp.

For a picture of what a fur trapper's cabin looked like

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Last up Date 11-15-99