Lewis & Clark Expedition
During the winter of 1803-1804, Captain Meriwether Lewis and Lieutenant William Clark camped near the mouth of the Missouri River in Illinois, preparing to begin their search for a route to the Pacific Ocean. They purchased supplies and waited for news that the Louisiana Purchase had been completed so they could continue. William was the younger brother of George Rogers Clark, who had captured the northwestern frontier from the British during the Revolutionary War. On their way to establishing their camp near St. Louis, the expedition stopped at numerous sites along the rivers bordering southern Illinois. They were in Shawneetown, picked up men at Forts Massac and Kaskaskia, and stopped in Cairo. In November 1803, continuing up the Mississippi River from Cape Girardeau, they observed the Big Muddy River, noting mines of pit coal on the banks that served regional blacksmiths and artisans.