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Cairo, Illinois (Hayward)

Gazetteer/Almanac

John Hayward, Gazetteer of the United States of America… (Philadelphia: James L. Gihon, 1854), 311-312.

Cairo, Is., Alexander co. Situated at the junction of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, 266 miles S. from Springfield, 522 S. E. from Cincinnati, and about 1000, by the course of the river, N. from New Orleans.  From a survey of the great physical features of the western country, in connection with a prospective estimate of the immense resources of wealth which are to be rapidly developed there, the locality of this place appears to possess the most remarkable advantages for becoming, at some future period, the seat of one of the largest and most important cities in North America.  Being near the geographical centre of the great Mississippi basin, and at a point which the Creator, by the convergency of its great navigable channels, seems to have pointed out for its social and commercial centre, it cannot fail, unless from local difficulties it should prove impracticable to found a city here, of being at length the commercial emporium of the west.  Its only disadvantage is in the too slight elevation of the delta on which the place is built, above the rivers, by the junction of which it is formed, which exposes it in its natural state to be overflowed by their waters at the period of their highest floods. This has hitherto prevented Cairo from realizing in any considerable degree the magnificent results which its projectors have anticipated.  But it is intended ultimately to obviate this disadvantage entirely by raising a levee, or artificial embankment, similar to that before the city of New Orleans, by which the inundation of the delta shall be prevented.  Considerable progress has been made by the "Cairo City Company " towards the accomplishment of this necessary improvement; and their operations, which were for a time suspended for the want of pecuniary encouragement, are again resumed, and will doubtless be prosecuted to completion, under the impulse likely to be given to their enterprise by the success of other schemes of internal improvement.
The "Cairo City Property" embraces in all about 9500 acres on this dela between the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, with the levees, work-shops, foundries, saw mills, dwellings, hotel, and other buildings on the premises.  1200 acres embraced within the proposed corporate limits of Cairo, are wholly enclosed by levees, raised above the higest known floods; and the enclosure for nearly 4000, including the above, is partly completed.
One of the correlative enterprises of internal improvement, upon which those interested in the prosperity of Cairo depend for encouragement,is the incorporation of a company by the state of Illinois for building a railroad from Cairo, through the centre of the state, to Peru, at the southern terminus of the Illinois and Michigan Canal; and thence, by branches diverging N. E. and N. W., to Chicago, on Lake Michigan, and to Galena and Dubuque, on the Upper Mississippi. A long portion of this road is now in process of construction. For the furtherance of this important enterprise Congress, by an act passed in 1850, has granted to the state of Illinois the right of way for the construction of this road through all the public lands where it may pass; and also "every alternate section of land designated by even numbers, for six sections in width on each side of said road and branches," to be sold for the purpose of its construction.  The grants are made on the conditions that the work shall be begun and carried on simultaneously from both ends of the route, and that the whole shall be completed within 10 years from the date of their enactment. Similar grants are made, by the same act, to the states of Mississippi and Alabama, for the construction of a railroad south, from Cairo to Mobile, on the Gulf of Mexico. The construction of the Illinois Central Railroad has been undertaken with spirit by the state, and will doubtless be completed within the time fixed by Congress.
Thus it will be seen that much, very much, is to be anticipated for the future growth of Cairo.  Having, as computed, "upwards of 20,000 miles of river navigation" on the Mississippi, Ohio, and Missouri, and their tributaries, all centring here, with a navigable channel open to New Orleans at all seasons, and being "at the terminus of the great Central Railroad of Illinois, which is to form the most direct and rapid route of communication between the South-Western and Northern States," and about midway between the great lakes and the Gulf of Mexico, between which an entire communication by railroad, through this place, will ultimately be completed, it is evident that the local disadvantages above referred to cannot long oppose an insuperable obstacle to the causes so powerfully conspiring to render Cairo a great centre of intercourse, traffic, and exchange for one of the most extensive and productive regions of the world.

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How to Cite This Page: "Cairo, Illinois (Hayward)," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/19048.