Fort Jefferson Historic Site & Memorial Cross of KY at the Confluence

The Fort Jefferson Memorial Cross is a 95-foot memorial that stands high upon a bluff at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. The history of the cross begins in 1937 when a few members of a community choir erected a small wooden cross on a hill at the Ancient Buried City site (now known as Wickliffe Mounds Research Center) in Wickliffe. In 1951, the cross was enlarged and bulbs were lit during Easter and Christmas each year. When Murray State University purchased the Wickliffe Mounds site in 1981, it became necessary to seek another location for the cross. It was then that the idea was born to build a cross tall enough to be seen from the states of Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky and would be lit at night.

The highest point along the river was Fort Jefferson hill and in 1989, the 38-acre property came up for auction. The Wickliffe City Council purchased the tract and leases two acres for use as a site for the memorial cross. In 1990, a committee selected the name Fort Jefferson Cross at the Confluence because of the location above the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and the idea of “flowing together” of the citizens of the tri-states who would be asked to financially support the construction. The term “Memorial” was added when it was decided that the project would be used to honor the memory of loved ones.

Representatives of the 51 churches in Ballard County were invited to serve on a countywide committee to oversee funding of the cross with 23 churches accepting a role. A fund raising goal of $150,000 was set. By 1992 with less than $22,000 raised it was decided to selling of granite bricks to be placed around the base of the cross. People could purchase bricks to honor loved ones or to have their family names inscribed on the bricks.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held on May 22, 1994 with coverage from both TV and newspapers. By the time the cross was completed in 1999 the total cost had exceeded $300,000. The Cross site is used for many purposes. There have been weddings, memorial services, candle light services on September 11, and the annual Easter sunrise service. It is a popular site to visit for residents and people passing through on Highway 51. The bluff offers a very good view of the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers and is a Lewis and Clark Expedition historic site.

Location

Contact

US Highway 51
Wickliffe, KY 42087
GPS: 36°57’23.81″N -89°5’31.67″W
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The Lewis and Clark Connection

The journal kept by Meriwether 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, 1803. During these days Lewis and William Clark 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 on November 18 they “Set out early this morning with a canoe and eight men in company with Capt. Clark to visit and view the ground on which Oald Fort Jefferson stood;”.

Fort Jefferson was established in 1789 by George Rogers Clark, the older brother of William, naming it for Thomas Jefferson, then governor of Virginia. The fort was abandoned the next year.

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