Book tells swampy history of Canalou, MO - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Book tells swampy history of Canalou, MO

Written By: Mike Shain

CANALOU, MO (KFVS) - Canalou is a small town with an interesting history.

A story of people building a community from a swampy wilderness. This Heartland story began more than a century ago in the Bootheel.

The story was told in a book called "Canalou: People, Culture, Bootheel Town," and was written by Canalou native and former newspaper reporter Dan Whittle.

It's a collection of stories about the author's experiences growing up and living in the Missouri Bootheel.

In the book, it talks about some late pioneers who came from every state in the Heartland. They came because the swamp offered opportunity.

The Center for Regional History at Southeast Missouri State University published Whittle's book in 2013.

Sikeston, Mo. businessman Richard Montgomery finally got around to picking up a copy of a book left on his office desk, a book about Canalou.

"I figured this couldn't be that good," he said.

The book was Whittle's first person accounts of ordinary people facing hard times, hard work and succeeding most of the time.

"I'm proud of my ancestors who braved the swamp, went in after the timber, survived diptheria, typhoid, panthers, bears," said Whittle.

Montgomery wrote a check to the university to buy 500 Canalou books for school libraries around the Heartland.

"The history of our area gets lost sometimes," he said.

On Wednesday, Oct. 22 the gift was officially presented at Southeast Missouri State University-Sikeston. It also kicked off Whittle's two-day book tour.

An interesting side note, once the swamp was drained a hundred years ago, the emerging land offered new opportunities and new challenges. A growing town had needs, so Canalou hired its first lawman.

"This gentleman came across the Mississippi River on the run from the law," Whittle said. "He'd shot a deputy sheriff in Kentucky. He had experience with firearms, so they hired him as the fist constable in downtown Canalou."

You can buy the book for $20 at the Center for Regional History, from or at area bookstores, including the Book Rack and the Sikeston Depot Museum.

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