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Bill Eddleman

Host, Tales from Days Gone By

Bill Eddleman was born in Cape Girardeau, and is an 8th-generation Cape Countian. His first Missouri ancestor came to the state in 1802. He attended SEMO for two years before transferring to the University of Missouri to study Fisheries and Wildlife Biology. He stayed at Mizzou to earn a master of science in Fisheries and Wildlife, and continued studies in Wildlife Ecology at Oklahoma State University. 

Bill’s professional interests were in ornithology (the study of birds) and wildlife management. Upon earning his Ph.D., he worked for the Missouri Department of Conservation, did postdoctoral research at the University of Wyoming, and then joined the Natural Resource Sciences faculty at the University of Rhode Island in 1988. He moved back to Cape Girardeau to take a similar position in the Department of Biology at SEMO in 1995. He continued in the Biology Department and several administrative positions until retiring in 2016.

Bill has always had an interest in local history and genealogy. His familiarity with Southeast Missouri history was the primary reason he became Associate Director for the State Historical Society at its Cape Girardeau Research Center in 2017. At the center, he promotes donations to their manuscript collections, provides history-themed programs for groups in their 15-county coverage area, and assists patrons with research. His own historical research interests include mainly 19th-century Southeast Missouri history, especially the Civil War era and early settlement period. 

In his spare time, he serves as president of both the Missouri Birding Society and the Missouri State Genealogical Association. He and his wife Hope also reenact Civil War era history, and are active members of the Friends of Fort D in Cape.

 

  • Most settlements and communities in Missouri date back to the 19th century. Typically, an early settler or group of settlers either established the community or lent their names to it. However, it is rare to have more than one town founded by an individual. Judge Miles A. Gilbert was an exception. During his life he platted two towns: Cairo in Illinois and St. Mary in Ste. Genevieve County. Both prospered during Judge Gilbert’s lifetime but have fallen on harder times today, obscuring his importance.
  • A petition circulated in early 1898 to secure public subscriptions for the purpose of building a bridge. Eventually the campaign raised $10,000—half from donations and half from revenue bonds.
  • The Cape Girardeau area is usually not an area that people envision as the setting for an international spying mission. However, it was just that when a spy visited the area in 1796. Georges-Henri-Victor Collot was a 46-year-old soldier in the French Army.
  • The morning of May 27, 1873, began as a quiet, peaceful day in Ste. Genevieve. The Ste. Genevieve Savings Bank cashier, Dudley Harris, and young Firmin Rozier arrived to open at 10 a.m. Concurrently, four men rode into town, hitched their horses, and headed toward the bank.
  • Pascola in Pemiscot County was a small town in the early 1920s, with a population of about 420. The platting of the village occurred in 1894 upon construction of the railroad from Kennett to Caruthersville. Settlers had lived in the area since 1879, but incorporation of the town occurred in 1899.
  • We learn a lot from letters written home during war time. Often these were summarized or printed in hometown newspapers. The 1st Wisconsin Cavalry spent much time in Cape Girardeau during the Civil War. One cavalry soldier wrote a friend, and the recipient shared the letter with the Watertown News, a Wisconsin newspaper.
  • Robert W. Leslie, who went by his middle name of Walker, was the oldest son of William H. and Mary Leslie of the Gravel Hill area in Cape Girardeau County near the Bollinger County line.
  • Before the studio system and national theater franchises came into being after World War I, movie makers distributed motion pictures in two major ways. In the roadshow system, film makers entered into agreements with individual theaters. Theaters then sold tickets to generate revenue for the film maker and the venue. By limiting movie showings, theaters could drive up demand for tickets and enhance their prestige.
  • George Rogers Clark built Fort Jefferson on the east side of the Mississippi five miles south of its confluence with the Ohio in 1779 to control access and consolidate his forces. Shortly thereafter about 1000 Chickasaw and Cherokee besieged the fort. The defenders ran low on food, so a group of men stole out at night, crossed the river, and went 12 miles to Matthews Prairie in present day New Madrid County, Missouri. The goal was hunting buffalo.
  • Few traces remain today of what was the largest town in Carter County in 1920. Midco lay two miles north of Fremont and housed the Mid-Continent Iron Company smelter and chemical plant.