Big Muddy River rises in Marion County and empties into the Mississippi at the southwest corner of Jackson County, an approximate distance of ninety-four miles. It winds through the northwest corner of Blairsville Township and was the means of bringing the first settlements to that part of the county.
The French gave its muddy waters the descriptive name Riviere au Vase, or river of mud when they first saw its mouth. They journeyed upstream to trade for peltry at the Indian camps, and built a rough shelter for their periodic visits near the present site of Blairsville.
The river yielded in importance as post roads and railroads developed the county, but its navigation is a recurrent dream that attracts the engineer with plans for cheap water transportation. Navigation of the Big Muddy was an early subject for politicians’ speeches.
The first action was the incorporation of the Avause River Navigation Company by the eighth general assembly on February 27, 1833. George P. Bowyer and Johnson Wren were the Franklin County members. The company engaged to build a dam, canal, and locks and were empowered to raise a capital of $25,000 in shares of $50 each. Although Williamson County had not been formed, several men who lived within its present area were directors of the company. William T. Ryburn of Fredonia, Samuel T. Russell of Foreville church, John T. Davis of Sarahville, Warrenton K. Spiller of Bainbridge and William A. Roberts of Roberts prairie joined the enterprise.
(Extracted from Pioneer Folks and Places, Barbara Barr Hubbs, 1939, on sale at the Williamson County Museum)