Where did the name Little Egypt come from?

goshenEver since the winter of the deep snow, during 1830 – 1831, when the snow started in September and didn’t end until April, Southern Illinois has been known as the “The Land of Egypt”.  You see, the early settlers who struggled through that winter, and the poor growing season that following year, flocked to the roads leading down into this region to buy food.

Somehow, as we’ve read and been told, the settlers decided that they were like the biblical Israelites in the time of Joseph, going down into Egypt to buy grain.  Now, if you have ever wondered how the settlers made that great leap of logic, here’s how it might have happened:

  • One of the earliest settlements in Illinois was the town of Goshen, which is the present-day Edwardsville.

  • The trail leading from Shawneetown to Goshen was called the Goshen Trail and the land along the trail picked up the name; Land of Goshen.

The original land of Goshen was located in the delta of the Nile River and was considered the best and most productive land in all of ancient Egypt.  When Joseph brought his father’s family to Egypt the pharoah gave his brothers the Land of Goshen to settle.

So along with Cairo, which was laid out as early as 1818, and the Goshen Trail, the name of Little Egypt stuck. Since then other towns have picked up on the Egyptian names, including Thebes, Karnak, Dongola, and Carmi, which was named for one of the sons of Rueben, who went to live in the Land of Goshen.