Many people locally have asked me why did communities in places like Stoddard begin so late when the rest of the state was being populated? The answer to that is simple, geography. The lowlands that surround Stoddard County and other counties along Crowley's Ridge were insulated by the thick and vast swampland on each side. Travel to and from Stoddard County from one of the river communities was mostly by canoe and often time consuming. It was not practical to ship large quantities of anything across the swamps, this forced Stoddard County to be linked directly with Cape Girardeau for trade. Had the swamps not been present, the southeast region of the state would have been settled along the same timeframe as the rest of the state.
The largest influx of settlers to southeast Missouri before the Civil War occurred during the late 1830s and 1840s. The majority were of English or Scots-Irish (non catholic Irish) descent that originally settled in North Carolina and Virginia. In the late 1820s North Carolina was no longer seen by many as the land of opportunity. Large landowners, land disputes, and rising taxes led to a large migration of North Carolinians to Kentucky and Tennessee where many families stopped for several years before continuing on to southeast Missouri in the late 1830s and 1840s. Other large groups traveled by route of the Ohio from the northeast, many of these settlers were German and they mostly settled the northern regions of southeast Missouri. Nearly all of those that settled in the bootheel of the state were of Southern origin, many even bringing along their slaves. Slavery was mostly held to the river counties, but small numbers were transported inland to Dunklin and Stoddard counties.
Many communities along the Cape Girardeau and Chalk Bluff trail along Crowley's Ridge formed during this period. Communities such as Bloomfield, Clarkton, Sikeston, Hornersville, Kennett, West Prairie, Spring Hill, and many others sprang up as small hamlets. By the 1850s many towns flourished in the region and the prospect of railroads fueled growth until the beginning of war in 1861.