Long before Lewis and Clark stopped near Wickliffe in western Kentucky on their outbound trip to the west, Fort Jefferson had been built in 1780-81 by George Rogers Clark during the Revolutionary War as an outpost against British-led Indian attacks. It was also constructed to project the claim of the infant United States to a western boundary on the Mississippi River. Decommissioned within a year, records have been located detailing the day-to-day activities of those who lived in the fort or nearby.
The journal kept by Lewis indicates that the Corps of Discovery spent the night of November 14, 1803, at the junction of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, near present day Cairo, Illinois, where they remained until November 20. During the days the two Captains tried to determine the best location for establishing a military fort. They also each spent time taking astronomical readings to determine latitude and longitude, and they visited the site where Old Fort Jefferson had stood.
Below is artist Richard Day's reconstruction of Fort Jefferson as it appears in a book published by Kenneth C. Carstens, Ph.D., who operates Archeological Services.
This 90-foot cross in Wickliffe, Kentucky, at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, serves as a beacon for the hundreds of ships which ply the two rivers. The cross was financed by Donations from individuals in Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois, Missouri, and many other states, and also by those who purchased bricks in the pedestal supporting the cross, and on the "walking wall" in front of the cross.