November 8, 2005
SIUC & Cairo remember the past:
Lewis & Clark sculpture dedication set for
By TOM WOOLF
CARBONDALE, IL -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale
officials and Cairo-area citizens will gather at the confluence
of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers next week to celebrate
discoveries old and new.
Dedication ceremonies are set for 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov.
16, for the Lewis & Clark Memorial Sculpture, installed in
August at the confluence of the two mighty rivers in Fort
Defiance State Park. A reception will immediately follow the
dedication at approximately 10:45 a.m. at the Cairo Custom House
Museum, site of a Lewis & Clark exhibit. The public is
welcome at both events.
Speakers at the confluence will include SIUC Chancellor
Walter, V. Wendler, Cairo Mayor Paul Farris, Alexander County
Commissioner Angela Greenwell and SIUC professor Robert H.
Speakers at the Custom House will include David V. Koch,
associate dean emeritus from SIUC's Morris Library, Bill
Harrell president of the Cairo public library board, Louise Ogg,
coordinator of Lewis & Clark activities for Alexander County
Tourism, SIUC graduate student Carla Smith, and Wendler.
"The grant that funds this project was made possible
largely because of the efforts of Illinois Senator Dick
Durbin," Wendler said. "SIU President James E. Walker
has also recognized the historic importance of this project and
has been very supportive of our efforts here since the
project's inception. SIUC and the people of Cairo have a long
history of working together and we are very pleased to be
involved in this study that will bring more people to Southern
Illinois and Cairo to learn about Lewis & Clark."
The sculpture and Custom House exhibit – along with an
exhibit at the Cairo (Safford Memorial) Public Library and a
traveling exhibit – are among the results of a "Lewis
& Clark at the Confluence" research project funded with
a Library of Congress grant. Project leaders Swenson, an
associate professor of architecture at SIUC, and Koch, now
emeritus director of Morris Library's Special Collections
Research Center, realized their common interests in the Lewis
& Clark adventure during the 2003 bicentennial of the
explorers' Voyage of Discovery.
Swenson and Koch noted that relatively little research existed
on Meriwether Lewis and William Clark's days on the Ohio
River in Illinois. Many of the men who enlisted in the journey
were from Illinois, and the group spent five days in mid-November
1803 at the confluence, gathering data and beginning the process
of mapping the river route to the Pacific Ocean.
At that time, the confluence was the furthest location in the
west that had been accurately mapped and for which longitude and
latitude were known.
"Because the geographic location near present-day Cairo
was such an important landmark, and because Lewis and Clark had
just joined together several weeks earlier, the confluence became
the place where they trained each other in their respective
skills – Lewis with celestial navigation and Clark with
land surveying," Swenson said.
In addition, international politics at the beginning of the
19th century centered on the area, as the new states, England,
France and Spain competed for land, resources, trade and military
Key goals of the project included: Finding as much original
material as possible to document the activities of Lewis and
Clark and their group around the confluence of the rivers;
determine the exact location of the confluence in 1803 and mark
it; and document and preserve materials so other researchers and
travelers to the area could learn more about the Voyage of
The confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers today is
actually about two miles south of its 1803 location. Project
leaders agreed that placing the sculpture at the current
confluence is most appropriate as it matches the scene described
in William Clark's first map of the entire expedition.
Evertt A. Beidler, a graduate student in SIUC's School of
Art and Design, created and fabricated the sculpture.
One of the most exciting discoveries of the project was the
location of Cantonment Wilkinson-Ville, the largest military post
in the new U.S. The camp housed nearly half of the U.S. Army
during 1801-1802. A Pulaski County resident allowed a portion of
his land, which overlooks the Ohio River, to remain unplanted so
staff archaeologist Mark J. Wagner and other staff members from
SIUC's Center for Archaeological Investigations, could
examine the site during 2003 and 2004.
Wagner concluded that this is a major, historically
significant site that reveals much about the U.S. military at the
beginning of the 19th century. In addition, at least nine
soldiers stationed at the base became members of the Lewis and
In the abstract of his report on the project, Wagner wrote:
"The cantonment, which contained over 1,300 soldiers at its
peak, represented a staging ground for an invasion of the lower
Mississippi River in the event of war with France and Spain. The
war never occurred, with the cantonment being abandoned by the
Army by late 1802."
The archaeological team found remains of the camp, as well as
uniform parts, military items, glass and ceramic kitchen
"The cantonment was only occupied for 18 months, so it
gives us a real tight look at what the U.S. Army was using in
1801-02 and a good idea about what Lewis and Clark were
using," Wagner said.
Swenson also noted that the project brought many people from
the University and the region together.
"A continuing partnership between faculty, staff and
students at SIUC with individuals and groups in southernmost
Illinois can result in change that is meaningful to the region,
builds personal relationships between members of the University
and the communities, and benefits the research and education
community as well," he said.
Shaping cooperative ventures is among the goals of Southern at
150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the long-range plan
the University is following as it approaches its 150th
anniversary in 2019.