Louis Lorimier was the first European settler of Cape Girardeau, Missouri
Louis Lorimier, born in the Etienne parish of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, came into the world on March of 1748, and died on June 26, 1812. It is widely accepted that he is the founder and first European settler of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, where he later served as the Spanish Land Commandant. Louis Lorimier is also recognized as the founding father of at least two Missouri counties: Cape Girardeau County, and Bollinger County, Missouri. Lorimier lived during a dramatic and tumultuous period for the Cape Girardeau area, one in which its national ownership was transferred in rapid succession from Spain to France, and then to United States through the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.
Cape Girardeau County was originally settled by a mix of French Canadian and Shawnee refugees who had fled with Lorimier from Pickawillany in the Ohio Country. Lorimier had familiar and intimate ties to the French and Shawnee refugees who helped him settle the area.
Charlotte Bougainville, Lorimier’s wife from Ohio, was born in January of 1758, and passed away in March 23, 1808. She was half French and half Shawnee, and she was thought to have been have been the daughter of Louis Antoine de Bougainville from the time of his North American campaigns in the French and Indian War. In Pickawillany, Lorimier had shown support for the British and led Shawnee and Delaware Indian raids against the growing American presence. Lorimier’s raids had led to an attempt by George Rogers Clark to exterminate the Indians there. Lorimier escaped with his life, and soon afterwards moved to the Spanish-held lands west of the Mississippi. By that time the earlier indigenous tribes of that area apparently were no longer present, most likely due to their lack of resistance to European diseases such as measles and smallpox that had been carried in earlier by European settlers along the Mississippi River.
In November 25, 1803, Captain Meriwether Lewis met with Mr. Lorimier, while in Cape Girardeau County, shortly after the Lewis and Clark Expedition had started. Captain Lewis commented favorably on one of Lorimier’s daughter’s in his personal notes and it was thought he had an eye for her.
The second county in which Lorimier played an important role of influence was in Bollinger County, for which he arranged the granting of Spanish land to George Frederick Bollinger, his family, and twenty other German Reformed families from North Carolina, including the Limbaugh family. This was technically an illegal transaction, since Spain had required that Lorimier allow only Catholics to settle in that area. However, Lorimier had been favorably impressed by George Frederick from an earlier visit he had made, and was willing to make an exception and reshape the rules for him and his settlers.
Other places of interest and significance named after Louis Lorimier are Loramie Creek in Ohio, where Lorimier had his trading post, based on an English spelling of his name and nearby place names such as Fort Loramie, Ohio and Lake Loramie State Park also derive from his name.