On Nov. 23, 1803, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark arrived at Cape Girardeau, a trading post established in 1795 by Louis Lorimier, the Spanish-appointed Commandant of the Cape Girardeau District. Here, Lewis, co-commander of the expedition, left the keelboat to pay and official visit to Commandant Lorimier. The remaining party, under the command of Clark, who was feeling ill, continued upstream about two miles and camped on a point of land that was the site of Lorimier's original post, which probably constructed in 1793.
Lorimier established himself at what came to be known as Old Cape Girardeau about 1793, and then moved two miles down river to what came to be known as New Cape Girardeau. A large band of Shawnee who followed him from Ohio settled nearby. The Spanish welcomed these Natives American newcomers, hoping potential American incursions from across the Mississippi.
Capt. Lewis found the commandant and his family at a horse race being held nearby, and after Lorimier settled a heated dispute with fellow gamblers over the results of one of the races, he invited Lewis to join his family for supper. The party returned to Lorimier's residence, known as the "Red House," to enjoy the commandant's hospitality.
After supper, which Lewis said was "really a comfortable and desent one," the captain bid the family an affectionate farewell and was conducted by one of Lorimier's sons on the three-mile horseback ride up to Old Cape Girardeau where he rejoined his companions and the boats.
Louis Lorimier was a French Canadian who had supported the British and their Indian allies during the American Revolution. His trading post on a branch of the Miami River had been burned by men under the command of Gen. George Rogers Clark (brother of expedition co-leader William Clark) in the early 1780s. Lorimier then relocated to Spanish Louisiana in the late1780s with a group of Shawnee and Delaware Indians, who became known as the "Absentee Shawnee."Meriwether Lewis described Lorimier as a cheerful man with a thick, long mane of hair that fell nearly to his knees. He guessed Lorimier was about 5 feet 8 inches tall and about 60 years old, but had scarcely any gray in his hair. Lewis was also much taken with Lorimier's mixed blood Shawnee Indian wife and their handsome children. Lewis later secured an appointment to the recently founded United States Military Academy at West Point for two of Lorimier's sons.
"...landed at the cape and called on the Commandt. [Louis Lorimier] and delivered the letters of introduction which I had for him, from Capt. Danl. Bisselle, and a Mr. Drewyer [expedition hunter and interpreter, George Drouillard?] a nephew of the Commandt's....On my arrival at the Comds dwelling I was informed that he had gone out with his family to attend a Horse race he himself being as I afterwards understood a party to the race...The district of Commandant Lorimier estends from the grand bend of the Mississippi to Apple River without limitation back this settlement extends the distance of sixty miles W. from the river as far as the river St. Francis.... The estimated distance by the french watermen to New Cape Jerd: is 42 miles from the mouth of Ohio..."
Meriwether Lewis, Nov 23, 1803