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About this collection

Before the 20th century, the southeast corner of Missouri was covered in swampland and lowlands that were under water during much of the year.  By the 1890s, with the disappearance of the American Western frontier, the wetlands became an area of interest for settlement and cultivation.  Between 1860 and 1890 in southeast Missouri, three important developments occurred that paved the way for drainage of the swamplands: the state transferred ownership of the swamplands to the counties; entrepreneurs built railroads in and out of the swamps; and large-scale lumbering operations began to clear the thickly-forested landscape.  By the early 20th century, national and regional changes fostered the growth of drainage activities.  Most of these early efforts were localized and uncoordinated.  In November 1907, however, the Little River Drainage District was incorporated by the Circuit Court of Butler County, Missouri.  Work on the district, which encompassed seven counties – Cape Girardeau, Dunklin, New Madrid, Pemiscot, Scott and Stoddard – began in 1914 and continued through 1928. Ultimately, the project resulted in the construction of 958 miles of ditches and 304 miles of levees.  In all, the extensive network of diversion channels, drainage ditches, levees and catch-basins, drains 1.2 million acres of land.

 

The Little River Drainage District digital collection largely consist of black and white images of the pre and post-drainage landscape of Southeast Missouri, construction work, workmen, equipment, and maintenance activities, 1916-1936.  Many of the images are undated.  The collection contains very few photographs of people, but does include occasional images of survey crews, life in the camps, Civilian Conservation Corps workers, and members of the Board of Supervisors, the LRDD’s governing entity.  Some of the images in the digital collection originally were contained in an album, which had some titled pages.  Page titles, when they exist, were recorded as part of the photograph’s “Title.”  Patrons who do not find the images they are seeking in the digital collection are advised to contact Special Collections and Archives at semoarchives@semo.edu.

 

To search the Little River Drainage District Records in thier entirety, please view the collection finding aid at:  Little River Drainage District Finding Aid or contact Special Collections and Archives at semoarchives@semo.edu.

 
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