Saturday, September 26, 2009

Mississippi River Connections

Hello, click here to see the google map of our current location at Kaskaskia State Historic Site, near Chester, IL.

We're continuing our trip down the Mississippi River.  About 60 miles south of St. Louis along State Highway 3, there's a point where the historic Lewis & Clark expedition and the legend of Popeye, the king of spinach, coincide. We arrived a couple of days ago, planning to enjoy the view of the river from Kaskaskia S.H.S. and investigate the home of some fictional friends.   As we approached the park we began to see signs for a music festival that followed our exact route. What a nice surprise. Arriving in time to get a good spot in the campground, we are ready for this weekend's Fort Kaskaskia Traditional Music Festival.
Meanwhile, looking around at our surroundings at Kaskaskia, we learned this site is historic in several ways. It is the point in 1803 where Meriwether Lewis and William Clark recruited twelve soldiers from the local fort and hired a few Frenchmen to help pilot their boats up the river on their assignment from President Jefferson."  Kaskaskia was a thriving frontier community, the center of much trade and travel from its settlement in 1703.  The village was also the first capital of Illinois in 1818-1819. Tragically, in 1881 a flood began a drastic change in the route of the Missisippi, washing away this home of many pioneers. In a few years time, Kaskaskia was under the river.  Now this commemorative site on the bluff is a beautiful spot to view the mighty Mississippi.

Along another stretch of the Mississippi shore, just six miles south on State Highway 3, is the quaint little town of Chester, Illinois.  The creator of Popeye, Elzie Segar was a Chester citizen, born in 1894.  He based his famous character on a local scrapper, Rocky Fiegel, who lived in the city from 1868 to 1947.  It all began with a performance in the local Thimble Theater in 1929.  Can't you just here it? 

"I'm Popeye the sailor man; I live in a garbage can......."  Looking around Chester it didn't take long to run into Popeye and Bluto.  On another block downtown we found Olive Oil, too.  All the touring and talking of spinach made us ready to look for a good local eatery.   After seeing the number of cars in the parking lot of Reid's Smorgasbord, we decided to take a chance. Even if we over-did-it, oh well, we could skip dinner.   Reid's was a super choice, $6.49 for an array of yummy choices. Including one of my favorites, crispy catfish. And we both indulged in the absolute best bread pudding ever, lots of cinnamon, well worth the calories!  If you're in the neighborhood, try it. There's spinach, too!

1 comment:

  1. Jerry and Nancy, I loved reading your comments about your stop in Kaskaskia. So the music fest is at Fort Kaskaskia? I remember the enormous walnuts! And I think we must have had lunch at the same yummy smorgasbord in Chester, Illinois!

    We went to Kaskaskia in 2006 on a history trip following the footsteps of the Revolutionary War hero, George Rogers Clark (the older brother of William Clark of the Discovery Expedition). In George's day, Kaskaskia was a thriving French village and one of the key towns on the Mississippi. Hence, it became Clark's first target in the Illinois campaign, seized in a surprise raid on July 4, 1778.

    We took a look around at a few historic buildings. The most interesting sight to use was the "Liberty Bell of the West," rung by the French villagers in celebration when tbey realized Clark and his terrifying Virginians weren't going to slaughter them.

    Did you know that this week marks the 200th anniversary of the mysterious death of Meriwether Lewis? The truth of the last days of this great American might never be fully understood. We have a Lewis & Clark blog (American Heroes) and will be blogging the anniversary of Lewis's death next week on a daily basis, with stories and book excerpts. We would like to invite you and anyone who is interested to follow along at


Hi: Thanks for your thoughts.