Opening the Ozarks: A Historical Geography of Missouri's Ste. Genevieve District, 1760-1830

By Walter A. Schroeder | Go to book overview

13
An Exclusive American Community

The Bellevue Valley and Caledonia

Originally called Big Lick, the Bellevue Valley reportedly received the name Bellevue in 1803 from an anonymous “old Frenchman,” possibly François Azor dit Breton. The valley is a rolling, triangular lowland of some thirty square miles that lies three hundred feet below enclosing Ozarks ridges on two sides, but igneous Buford Mountain, one of the highest eminences in Missouri, rises an impressive eight hundred feet above the eastern side of the valley. Views in the valley are panoramic everywhere. The valley is not the product of river erosion. It is a structural graben, a down-dropped block of the earth’s crust within the general up-domed St. Francois region. This geologic origin is highly significant, because it accounts for the complete absence of lead from the valley, although it occurs abundantly in the surrounding hills. Early settlers in the mineral district did not know this, of course, and they vainly searched the valley for lead. Entrance into the valley is everywhere abrupt. Early entrance was from the north, from Mine à Breton, and there the drop into the basin is across an ancient geologic fault line that sharply defines the basin. Early settlers must have been impressed with the grandeur of the Bellevue as they entered it; its name was aptly conferred.1

The valley is watered only by small perennial streams, the headwaters of the Big River system. They provided adequate water for water mills, but nowhere along them were there any tight alluvial soils to hold sur-

1. Bellevue—Beautiful View: The History of the Bellevue Valley and Surrounding Area, 9; ASP-PL 8:73. The official post office spelling is Belleview, and other governmental agencies use that semianglicized spelling. The local historical society, however, prefers the original spelling (Robert George Schultz, “Postal Service in Territorial Missouri, 1804–1821,” 148). For the geologic origin of the Bellevue Valley, see W. A. Schroeder, “Landforms of Missouri.”

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