Herculaneum, Missouri, may not be the most well-known place in the United States, but it has a rich history, much of which is tied to the nearby Mississippi River. Here, we explore seven significant historical events that took place near or in Herculaneum.
1. The French and Indian War:
Although Herculaneum didn’t exist in the 18th century, the city's surrounding areas were heavily involved in the French and Indian War. Fort de Chartres, situated a few miles southwest of Herculaneum, was pivotal to French interests in the region. The fort was constructed in 1720 and was destroyed in the mid-1700s. Its ruins are now a State Historic Site and draw thousands of visitors each year eager to explore the site's rich history.
2. The Underground Railroad:
During the 19th century, Missouri was the site for a significant movement of enslaved individuals trying to escape to freedom. Herculaneum was part of the network of safe places along the Underground Railroad’s path. The residents of Herculaneum itself played a vital role in helping these individuals not only escape from slavery but also settling into their new lives.
3. Missouri's Statehood:
Throughout the early 19th century, Missouri was part of the larger Louisiana Territory, an unorganized territory with no political structure or leadership yet. In 1821, Missouri was admitted as the 24th state of the United States. Herculaneum was just one of many growing towns in the area during this time and benefited from increased trade and commerce due to this new development.
4. Steamboat Accidents:
The Mississippi River and steamboats were integral to the growth of the area surrounding Herculaneum. Still, these boats were also a source of great tragedy, with many riverboat accidents claiming countless lives. Some of the deadliest accidents occurred around Herculaneum and nearby towns, and historians gather critical insight from these events.
5. Civil War Battles:
As part of the greater St. Louis area, Herculaneum served as an essential military hub in the Civil War. The Battle of Frederickstown took place only 24 miles away from the city, and the Union Army relied heavily on the Mississippi River for transportation and continued operation.
6. The Building of the Eads Bridge:
Eads Bridge, named after its visionary creator James Eads, was opened in 1874 and stretched across the Mississippi River in St. Louis. Spanning over 1600 feet, the bridge was a feat of engineering that revolutionized transportation across the region. The ancillary work required to construct the bridge resulted in the mining of local sandstone, which contributed to the growth of Herculaneum's population.
7. The 1993 Flood:
In the summer of 1993, Herculaneum was flooded along with much of the Mississippi River's lower region. This event caused catastrophic damage to the town and its infrastructure, but the community came together to rebuild and recover. Today, the town boasts a state-of-the-art flood wall to protect residents and businesses from future disasters.
In conclusion, Herculaneum, Missouri, has a rich history reflecting the wider American experience. From key battles in the Civil War to vital transportation developments like the Eads Bridge, this town’s vital location on the banks of the Mississippi River has made it an essential part of the region's past and present.
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