Bill Eddleman

Host, Missouri Bicentennial Minutes

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.


(From Louis Houck, History of Missouri Vol. 3, p. 266.)

The enabling act passed by Congress directed Missouri to draft a constitution. The acrimonious debates in Congress in which northern interests proposed to dictate terms of the state constitution alienated even some Missourians who favored restriction of slavery.

The enabling act delineated the number of delegates by county, with 41 total delegates. Delegate election occurred on the first Monday and two succeeding days of May, 1820. While both parties presented candidates to the voters, restrictionists were in the minority. Thus, voters elected strong pro-slavery men.

The issue of slavery delayed statehood until the inclusion of the Missouri Compromise in the bill. How did Missouri develop as a slave state before statehood?

Slavery by the French was initially small scale. Large-scale importation of African slaves began in 1720. Phillippe François Renault brought 500 slaves from Saint-Domingue to lead mines of southeastern Missouri. After the Louisiana Purchase, settlers from North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia brought additional slaves. While many slaves grew crops, hiring out of slaves was common.

Sketch from a daguerreotype, from: Louis Houck, History of Missouri, Vol. 3, p. 13.

The road to Missouri statehood was more than just a list of events, but involved many dedicated people. One of the key players in this quest was a Southeast Missouri man, John Scott.

Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.

Welcome to the Missouri Bicentennial Minute from the State Historical Society of Missouri. I’m Bill Eddleman.

The Congressional debate on the petition for Missouri Statehood continued in late 1819 and early 1820. Legislators introduced enabling bills in both houses of Congress, and Southerners made it clear they would block the application of Maine for statehood as part of the impasse.

State Historical Society of Missouri

Welcome to the Missouri Bicentennial Minute from the State Historical Society of Missouri. I’m Bill Eddleman. Over the next two years, I’ll be presenting short vignettes of the events leading to Missouri Statehood and some views of life in southeastern Missouri 200 years ago.