By John R. Fordyce, Lt. Col. U.S.R.C.
Arkansas Gazette 1919
We have, of course, no written record of the period before the coming of the white man, but from a study of the geology and topography of the country as well as the relics of the early men which we find in their graves and mounds, we can easily recall the past, and tell with great exactness the routes of travel and the commodities used in trading.
The geological map of our State shows that if a line were drawn from the northeast corner, all that part lying to the northwest of this line is mountainous and rocky, and that to the south and east, alluvial and almost free of rocks. Geologists tell us that the Gulf of Mexico used to cover the lowlands and that the shores of this ancient gulf were along this diagonal line. This, of course, was probably long before the coming of any men to this earth. In those days the ice caps probably covered the earth as far south as St. Louis, and the melting of these great sheets of ice and the floods which followed, washed down the vast amounts of earth which filled up the old gulf and made the lands of the State to the south and east of this diagonal line. The streams cut their beds through this deposit.
The great weight of this deposit caused the earth’s crust to crack and violent earthquakes followed at intervals. These disturbances caused the earth to sink in some places and rise in others, changed the course of river, and washed away part of the surface of the ground. The earthquakes of 1811 and 1812 were the last great ones which caused many changes and were the first which the white men experienced in this region.
From a closer study of the courses of the White, Current, St. Francis, and Mississippi rivers, geologists have concluded that the Mississippi River once ran down the tributaries of Current river and emptied into the Ohio river above the present mouth of White river. Then came an earthquake with changed the course so that the Mississippi followed down the present line of the St. Francis river, and the Ohio and Mississippi joined just above where Helena now stands. Still another shake-up occurred, and the Mississippi broke over into the Ohio at Cairo, Ill.
Before the Coming of the White Men
These changes have taken hundreds and perhaps thousands of years, and during that time various tribes and types of men have lived and died, leaving their mounds and relics for us to wonder over. Looking back into the dim vistas of the past, the modern is apt to think of all of these old tribes of men as having lived at the same period, whereas they lived at different epochs, separated from each other by hundreds of years. A curious thing is that exactly the same reasons for locating a path or trail appealed to these primitive men that appeal to our best engineers today, and their reasons for choosing a village site were the same as ours in locating the site of a city today. All the old books on travel tell of the paths which threaded the country everywhere in the days of the Indians, and near most of our modern cities in the Mississippi valley are old mounds, which show that at some period in the past Indian villages had been located there.
The Indians lived where the conditions of life suited their tastes and where it was easiest to obtain the necessities of life. Their hunting trails radiated outwardly to their tribal hunting grounds. Trading trails led to the villages of their friends and war trails led to the enemy territory. The hunting trails followed the migrating trails of the buffalo and elk and were used most in those seasons. The trading trails went in the direction of other villages and, as a rule, followed high ground and were on the watershed between river valleys. The springs along the sides of the ridges were the source of the creeks and they furnished water for the traveler. The grass stayed green longer in the fall and came out earlier in the spring along these creeks; therefore, the immediate neighborhood was a good place for game. When it was necessary to cross a large stream, it was more likely to be fordable at the fork of some large creek on account of the gravel and sand bars usually formed there. The ridge roads were dry and much more free from thick bushes and briars. The traveler could see down on each side, watching for game as well as enemies, and make much better time than if he had to be crossing streams and fighting through the bush. Instance is on record where a runner averaged seven miles per hour for over 42 consecutive hours along one of these ridge trails.
The early wagon roads of the first settlers followed these ridge roads. As a general rule, these traces followed the path of least resistance. Thus we find that an Indian path followed our diagonal line almost exactly, as this was the base of the hills and the old shore line and at most points the streams were small. The general trend of the trail led from large Indian settlements on Red river, and on into Texas. This trail crossed the Arkansas river at Little Rock and followed along the Fourche tributaries, until it crossed the backbone ridge, which separates the waters of the Arkansas and Saline rivers. Governed by the law of least resistance, the Indians always followed up the long, easy ridges and crossed the mountains at the lowest gap. This trail, which has been called the Great Southwest Trail, crossed the Red river where Fulton now is. From there it divided and went on to many Indian villages. A ridge of high ground ran all the way to Sante Fe, N.M., and a traveler could stay on it without having to cross a single large stream.
A glance at the map of our State shows that nearly all of the larger rivers flow from northwest to the southeast. The Great Southwest Trail, therefore, crosses these rivers and all of the lateral trails were the hunting trails of the Indians who lived in the eastern part of the State and of those who lived over in Mississippi and in Tennessee. The buffalo and elk used to winter in the low river bottoms, where they lived off the green leaves of the cane and the grasses. They followed up the river valley in the spring and crossed the ridges into the great prairies of Oklahoma and Kansas and prairies of Oklahoma and Kansas and beyond. The Natchez, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Creek, Caddo and Quapaw Indian hunting parties followed them and returned later with hides, furs and meat.
Before the days of horses, they probably went out on foot, and returning, they constructed “bull boats” made by stretching buffalo hides over a frame of saplings tied together by sinews. When large boats were needed the hides were stitched together and made water-tight by tallow. Dugout canoes were made by burning cottonwood logs, and thus the hunters brought back the winter’s supply of jerked of dried buffalo meat. The meat supply was certain and comparatively easy to get; therefore the towns located near the big rivers grew in size and were advanced in civilization.
The Cherokee hunting trail probably started about New Madrid and made its way westward into the head waters of White river, and thence out into the prairies. The Cherokees would come down the Tennessee river into the Ohio and then down the Mississippi. The Chickasaw hunting trail probably crossed the Mississippi near where Memphis now is, followed a natural low ridge over to a point on the St. Francis river near Wittsburg, and then divided into five trails. One trail went to the northwest and crossed White river about where Newport now stands, and thence on up the north bank of White river. Another crossed White river near Augusta and probably followed the watershed between the waters of White river and Little Red river. From Early hunting stories, this was probably the bear hunter’s trail. The third crossed White river near DeValls Bluff, and joining other trails, followed up the north bank of the Arkansas river. A fourth crossed White river about where the Roe ferry now stands; one branch turned north and joined the Arkansas river trail; another turned south and led into Arkansas Post. The fifth trail followed down the waters of the St. Francis river and came out at Helena.
These last two were Chickasaw war trails, by which the Quapaw villages located near Arkansas Post and Helena. These two tribes were always at war.
The Choctaw and Creek Indians probably crossed the Mississippi river near Luna Landing, or Point Chicot, went westward toward Camden, and thence over into the Red river country. The Natchez followed up the Ouachita river and probably met the Choctaw hunting trails at Camden. The Caddo Indians lived on Red river and hunted to the west and north and southwest.
Indian Trade Routes
In the mounds across the river from Little Rock and east of Argenta I have found ornaments and objects made of pure copper. The copper from which these were made is found only in the Lake Superior district, and without a doubt it was passed from tribe to tribe along the Great Southwest Trail. In the same mounds came conch shells, which undoubtedly came from the Gulf of Mexico.
One of these ridge trails ran eastward from the fourth Chicakasaw bluff, where Memphis is situated, to a ridge which divides the waters of the rivers tributary to the Alabama river from those of the central and western rivers of Mississippi. This ridge came out to the Gulf of Mobile, and was an easy way to reach the gulf. Some trails ran east of Memphis, and reached across the ocean near Savannah. Some followed the general direction of the Tennessee river, and still others reached into Kentucky. Along all of these trails the first white settlers on the Atlantic coast carried on trade with the Indians, and the Indians used them before the advent of the whites.
The Caddo Indians were famous as makers of bows. They used the Bois d’Arc, or mock orange tree, and other Indians traded for these, giving even a horse in exchange. Salt was extracted at several places by evaporating saline water and was always an article of exchange. Skins, and shawks were made from bark, or perhaps from cotton fibers, were also exchanged. Shells of all kinds and beads made of various stones were traded. Flint, from which arrow heads, spear heads and various tools were made, was quarried near Hot Springs, and no doubt exchanged for various things with the tribes living over in the low countries, where there was no suitable rock for such purposes. Eagle, turkey and other feathers were exchanged also. A lot of pottery was used, but it is probable could not be easily transported. Baskets and mats probably were exchanged.
The DeSoto Expedition
When DeSoto’s expedition reached the Mississippi river, probably at Memphis, Tenn., it was met at the river by the chiefs of the Indians who lived on the Arkansas side. They came in huge war canoes, made from trees, and hollowed out by burning and scraping. The chiefs sat in the stern protected from the sun by a canopy and gayly decked out in skins and shawls and feathers.
After DeSoto had crossed the river, he found well defined trails, and even bridges over the smaller streams. The Indians were able to direct him to various parts of the country, and the settlements were so close together that he marched all day without getting out of sight of some village. These people had a high degree of civilization, and not only made clothes of skins and woven work, but also pottery, which the Spaniards considered as good as any they had in Spain.
Through his interpreters, DeSoto always inquired about the country before he started out, and learning in what direction it was most inhabited and also the character of the country and people. He himself had been on the Pizarro expedition in Peru, and likewise had many of his men, so they were always trying to discover where gold was to be found. They found great quantities of pearls and of course all sorts of skins, shawls and feathers.
It is not likely that an expedition the size of DeSoto’s would start out through the woods or over the prairie without following some sort of trail, and for that reason, we can always assume that they followed some of the well known trails. We have shown about where these trails were located from a study of the topography, and therefore DeSoto’s route through Arkansas ought not to be hard to reconstruct. In the hill country there probably had not been much change in the topography, but in the country east of Crowley’s Ridge there may have been several earthquakes which changed the course of the river during the time which intervened between DeSoto’s expedition (1540 – 1541) and the coming of the first French explorers (1683 – 1896).
The Indians moved about and probably did not live in the same places. Towns were burned by their enemies. At times the temple on the mound in the center of the village was struck by lightning, and the Indians, fearing that the Great Spirit did not approve of the location, moved the town to another place. Sometimes a plaque would cause the death of many of the people, and the living would burn the houses and move away. The trails to these abandoned and soon-forgotten villages would disapper and grow up in underbrush. The migrating trails of the buffalo always remained and also the trading trails from one part of the country to another for both of these trails followed lines of the least resistance, and, as we shall soon see, they later became the highways of the white men and the lines of their railways.
The remaining men of DeSoto’s expedition left the country by building ships of wood, using their armor and weapons to make spikes to hold them together. Thus the first ships to be build in North America were made in Arkansas.
Early English Travel
I have placed the period of early English travel before that of the early French because from all the reference I can find, I believe that before their coming came white traders from Charleston, S.C. and from Savannah, Ga., over the Indian trails, bringing their goods to trade with the Indians. These men were not the trained observers and writers the early French explorers were, and we, therefore, have very few written accounts of their travels. But we know from the few writings of men who lived with the Indians and traded with them, that goods for trading were brought out on horses and the large streams were crossed by swimming the horses, and rafting the goods across. It is doubtful if any of the early traders crossed the Mississippi. They came to the Chickasaw and Choctaw Indians, who kept the guns and implements of war, and who probably passed on to the Quapaws and the other Arkansas Indians those things they did not want.
The Early French
Father Marquette and his party were perhaps the first Frenchmen to come down the Mississippi river from Canada. They carried their bark canoes across the watershed from the small rivers tributary to the Great Lakes into the streams which flowed into the Mississippi. They found the Quapaw Indians delighted to see them, and most anxious to establish an alliance. The Indians thought this was their chance to get guns and other implements which the Chickasaws had already acquired from the English.
The Quapaws became the firm firends of the French and never had a break in their friendly relations. La Salle and his party came out soon after Marquette.
When DeTonti was coming back from his trip to the mouth of the Mississippi, where he had gone to meet LaSalle, who was expected there from France, he established a post near the mouth of the Arkansas, at a point which later became Arkansas Post. This became the first white settlement in the Mississippi Valley. The Gazette began its long life in the oldest town in the Mississippi Valley.
The French coming from the North used the birch bark canoe, but they soon adopted the dugout or pirogue, as the danger of running on a snag and breaking the birch bark was too great. Their travel was almost exclusively by water, and the suffering from mosquitoes almost unbearable.
La Salle missed the mouth of the Mississippi and was wrecked on the coast of Texas. Trying to make his way overland to Canada, he was murdered by his mutinous men, but his brother and several others continued their journey. Hearing of the small white settlements made by DeTonti at the mouth of the Arkansas, they set out for it. This proves the fact that trails ran to the southwest and that they were then in use, for the settlement had only been established a short time. This route ran through Waco, Tex., cross Red river at the Caddo village below Fulton, Ark., probably went through Camden, Ark., and thence on to the Arkansas Post. These men used horses which they got from the Texas Indians. Both the horse and the hog were probably found wild in Arkansas at this time, for the DeSoto expedition had liberated both when they sailed away down the Mississippi. DeTonti gave La Salle’s party canoes and men to paddle them back to Canada.
Canadian French trappers and Jesuit priests began to come into the country. The priests were educated men, trained to observe and record the events as they saw them, and it is for this reason that the records of this time are so full. Missions were established at all of the larger Indian villages. Father Poisson was assigned to Arkansas Post, but was killed at Natchez, where he had gone on a visit to the local priest, the Natchez Indians having rebelled against French rule and massacred nearly all of the settlers.
A French colony was finally established at New Orleans and the era of river journeys began. These expeditions were started for the purposes of exploration and to obtain beef, hides and bear’s oil. Rumors of gold and other minerals as well as of emeralds up the Arkansas river added interest and mystery, which was all that was needed to spur on the adventurous French. The Quapaw Indians were great travelers and stories are recorded where men of that race had wandered as far as the Pacific ocean. War parties of the Chickasaw had attacked the Mexicans in Chihuahua.
That great exponent of high finance, John Law, seeking to give stability to his “Mississippi Bubble,” established a colony of Germans at Arkansas Post. This colony, abandoned by the failure of Law, was just breaking up in 1720 when Bernard de LaHarpe reached the Post on his trip upstream from New Orleans – almost a hundred years before the founded of the Gazette at that place. On this trip LaHarpe went as far up the Arkansas river as Big Rock, or Fort Logan H. Roots. He ascended the western spur just above where the quarry is now, and looking up the river to the west, he saw the pinnacle of Maumelle and other hills in that direction. He was so impressed with the country that he took possession of it in the name of France and called the hill on which he stood the Rock of France. How fine a tribute to his memory it would be if some of our patriotic societies would erect a boulder an an appropriate inscription to LaHarpe on the parade ground at Fort Logan H. Roots.
The Chickasaws looked on all these French activities with great displeasure, this settlement being no doubt encouraged by the English traders from Savannah and Charleston, who saw their markets being cut away from them. These Indians used to fire on and cut off the French parties as they passed the Chickasaw bluff (Memphis). The Chickasaws sent war parties against the French and Quapaws at Arkansas Post. As we have seen, their war trail crossed the St. Francis river below Wittsburg and the White below Clarendon, opposite Roe. An old reference calls this point the Chicksaw Crossing. Both of these points of crossing were below a large fork of the river, St. Francis bayou and Cache river.
The French stood this as long as they could, then organized a large army of Quapaws, Canadians and Frenchmen from New Orleans, and marched against the Chickasaw towns in north Mississippi, but they were defeated by the Chickasaws and a few English. The French came down the river from Canada and up from New Orleans in ever increasing numbers, and soon there were small settlements at intervals along the river, almost from Chicago to New Orleans. All of the smaller rivers had been explored and settled at points of advantage. Many curious names of mountains and streams on our maps of today can be traced to French names, spelled the way our early English settlers thought they sounded. Mazzarn mountain and Mazzarn creek near Hot Springs were named by the French Mont Cerne. Glazypole creek was Fourche Glazier de’Paul. Some of our names were translated, as Little Rock, from Petite Roche. Some were changed, as Ecore Fabre to Camden.
One of the most curious caravans which ever came into our State was a traveling circus which came up Red river from New Orleans, and landed on the watershed ridge trail across the river from Fulton. From here they went across the plains to northern Mexico.
Both the Red and the Arkansas were favorite rivers down which the buffalo hunters carried their skins, jerked buffalo meat, and bear’s oil to New Orleans. They went up these valleys on the watershed trails or on the trails parallel to the banks, and when ready to return, they made boats of hides and poles, or dugouts, just as the Indians had done for countless centuries before them. The St. Francis hunters of elk and bear outfitted themselves at Helena, returned there to trade and to send their skins down to New Orleans. The Post was, of course, headquarters for returning hunters, both from the Arkansas and White rivers. Ecore Fabre served the hunters up the Ouachita, and the first news of the famous Hot Springs probably reached the French that way.
About that time hunters of a new race began to make their appearance. They were fair haired and blue eyed and carried long knives and longer rifles. Down the rivers of Kentucky and Tennessee they came, building their forts in these parts of the country. The Chickasaws welcomed them as allies who could help hold the French in check, and soon the Indian trails were given names such as Glover’s trace and the Natchez trace. This last had a spur which went over to where Vicksburg now is.
Our war of the Revolution came on, and the English Tories, seeking refuge among the Cherokee and Creek Indians, lined these Indians up agains the American pioneers, causing many bloody fights. Some of these Tories, fleeing from the vengeance of the Americans, crossed the Mississippi and became the first English settlers of Arkansas. (Natural Steps settlement and perhaps others.) A band of Cherokee Indians who had murdered some white traders on the Tennessee river, fearing the whites, seized the boats of the traders, floating down the Tennessee, Ohio and Mississippi, landing about the mouth of the St. Francis river. These Indians settled there, but later made their way across country to where Russellville is now. They became known later as the Western Cherokees.
After the purchase of Louisiana by the United States, the Americans began sending out exploring parties into the new territory. President Jefferson had heard of the wonder of the Hot Springs on the Ouachita, and sent out a small military expedition under Drs. Dunbar and Hunter of Natchez,Miss. These men cross from Natchez to Monroe by land, went up the Ouachita by boat to the mouth of the Gulpha creek, and then by land to the Springs.
Captain Zebulon M. Pike and Lieutenant Wilkinson started from St. Louis toward the West. After they reached the Arkansas river, Pike went on and continued his explorations, while Wilkinson, after making a dugout canoe from a cottonwood tree, and a bull boat, drifted with a few men down the Arkansas river and thence to New Orleans.
American settlers began to come. The Cadron settlement was formed and these men cut a road from their settlement a distance of fifty miles toward the east to the Wattensaw bayou. Here they found an Indian trail, which led directly to the Post of Arkansas. This was the hunting trail of the Quapaws and led up into the Osage Indians’ country. A branch from this trail led along the north bank of the Arkansas to the Cherokees. These Cadron settlers are entitled to the credit of making the first Arkansas highway.
The War Department began to establish military posts at various strategic points: Monroe on the Ouachita, Ft. Smith on the Arkansas, and Ft. Towson, Oklahoma, on the Red River. These posts were reached by boat, but the troops stationed there explored on horseback the various Indian trails.
The American Settlers.
The period following the War of 1812 was one of expansion to the West. Settlers began floating down the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers, coming across the mountain traces and coming up the Mississippi. Arkansas was first a part of Missouri, then made into a separate territory. It was extremely difficult for settlers to get into the region. The reason for this is clearly shown from a study of the topographical and geological map.
All down the eastern side of the territory we find the country cut up by many rivers, subject to overflows and containing many swamps. These difficulties made it almost impossible for settlers to cross the country in wagons, except at certain times of the year. We have seen that practically the only path into Arkansas from the east, was north of the mouth of St. Francis River on a slight ridge running west from about opposite Memphis, to the St. Francis River. On this ridge was the Chickasaw trail, used by war and hunting parties. In times of overflow, it could not be used. This trail was most important because the Fourth Chickasaw Bluff was the outlet to the west of all the Tennessee territory, and Glover’s Trace from the Nashville settlements led out here. The swamps along the Mississippi side formed a barrier along the east bank, until they reached Vicksburg. Here a branch trail led east over the Natchez Trace. These swamps formed a barrier which proved most effetive in preventing the emigrants from coming into Arkansas.
The early settlers, who came down the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers, came in large flat boats or keelboats. These flat boats could float down stream, but it was almost impossible to push or pull them up stream. The keelboats were long and narrow and were better for upstream travel. The settlers, therefore, who came down the Ohio and turned up the Mississippi, were soon tired out trying to make headway against the current, and landed as soon as they could. The high ground around Cape Girardeau and New Madrid became the ports of entry, and the roads leading back from these places became the highways into the state from the northeast.
The old Southwest Indian trail was the path of least resistance, and in consequence, it became the settlers’ road into Arkansas. This road run far enough to the west to avoid the swamps and the network of small rivers that abound in this part of the country. It entered Arkansas at Hix’s Ferry, across Current River, so this point may well be called the northern gate of Arkansas. Sometime when we begin to mark the important places in the history of our state, I hope that Hix’s Ferry will get an appropriate monument.
This old road became the military road from the north to the Mexican border, then just across the river from Fulton. It crossed the White River between Batesville and Newport, the Arkansas River at Little Rock, the Saline River at Benton and the Ouachita River at Rockport. Rockport, however, disappeared when the railway town of Malvern grew up. The road passed through Washington and crossed Red River at Fulton. It was the route of the early immigrants into Texas. The Government made it into a military road, cut out the trees, and did a little work here and there to make it passable. The road would have been the southwestern branch of the great National Highway had this been continued across Indiana and Illinois.
We easily see that the location followed the line of least resistance, because a road any more to the west would have had to cross the spurs of the hills and the valleys would have been deeper. If it had gone further to the east it would have gotten into low lands and swamps.
Besides the Southwest Trail, others led off across the northern border of Arkansas, and came down through Fayetteville, on to Fort Smith, and from thence to Fort Towson. Part of the Long expedition followed this trail from Fort Smith over to the Mississippi River (in 1819) and at about the same time, the English botanist, Nutall, went from Fort Smith to Fort Towson. Other trails went southwest from White River via Clinton to the Cherokee settlements near Russellville.
The flat boat settlers who continued down the Mississippi River pulled their boats up the St. Francis River, landed at various places along Crowley’s Ridge, or stopped at Helena and then went overland up the Ridge. This Ridge is a strip of high ground from the Missouri line to Helena, broken in only one place, where the old Mississippi River cut through into the Current River tributaries. The top of the Ridge is not any higher than the ground on our prairies and at Memphis. It is all of the old glacial deposit, which once covered the land from the hills of Arkansas to the high ground in Tennessee which has not been washed away.
The crest of this ridge was, no doubt, the location of an old Indian trail, and later of the trail which led to Arkansas Post and Helena from the north. It is now followed by the Missouri Pacific, Cotton Belt and Frisco Railways.
Arkansas Post was located on the first high ground up the Arkansas River, and, as we have seen, it was the site of the site of the first settlement in the Mississippi Valley. Flat boat settlers floated down the Mississippi to the mouth of White River, and then, by going a short distance up that river, they came to the cutoff which joined the White and Arkansas. Canoes could make the trip to the Post within three days. At the Post, the settlers could buy or rent horses and wagons which would take them up country, or they could engage French boatmen, who would help pull their boats up stream. If the river was too low, they stuck on sandbars, and if too high, they couldn’t go against the current. They could also take a route which led through the prairie to the north and crossed White River at Roe Rock, over the old Chickasaw war trail, or they could follow the Quapaw hunting trail up to the headquarters of Wattensaw Bayou, past the present towns of Stuttgart and Carlisle, and thence join the Southwest trail, leading to the north, or to “The Rock.” Another road led along the north bank of the Arkansas River. Across the river at the Post on the south bank, trails led to Luna Landing, or Lake Village, and to the southwest, toward Ecore Fabre (Camden). This is the trail which the brother of La Salle followed from southern Texas.
A great many of the early settlers landed at the Post and traveled to south and western Arkansas over these trails. Another trail led along the south bank of the Arkansas River toward Pine Bluff.
Landings were made below the mouth of the Arkansas River at Luna, Gains, Point Chicot, etc, and these points soon came into prominence. Many of our early settlers in southeast Arkansas came into the state via these gateways, sometimes going all the way to the western boundary overland, and meeting those who had come down the Great Southwest Trail.
The coming of the Steamboat.
When the steamboats began to ply the Western waters, the settlements began to grow by leaps and bounds. Upstream travel was now easy. Settlers could come to New Orleans by sea, then put their belongings on board steamboats to be landed at almost any point they pleased. They could go up Red River as far as the Great Raft, or up the Ouachita River. Many came from the older parts of the south with their families, negroes and stock to settle our southern counties. Settlers from up the Ohio and from St. Louis also came down the river by steamboats. Boats went up the White, the St. Francis and the Arkansas as far as Fort Gibson.
The Gazette of that time was full of wonderful dreams of the great developments which were to follow the introduction of steamboats by the opening up of the towns of Arkansas to the ports and great cities of the world as well as the western river towns of the country. It soon became apparent that Little Rock, located on the river and also on the Great Southwest Trail, was a better point from which to reach the back country than Arkansas Post. Besides that, it was on higher ground and much healthier. It outgrew Arkansas Post, and so the Gazette moved and soon was going full blast in its new home.
Along in the thirties, the Government began to move the Creek, Choctaw, Cherokee, Chickasaw, and other Seminole Indians through Arkansas into the Indian territory, now Oklahoma. This travel of the Indians was under military escort both by land and by steamboat. Many are the tales of the early settlers of this great migration. The feeding and moving were done by contract and these contractors did not give the Indians as much to eat as they needed. The marches were forced, regardless of the condition of the Indians, and many of the old people, women and children, died from the terrible hardships.
Some years ago I talked with a Cherokee, a Mr. Teekee (Six Killer) of Tahlequah. When a boy, his mother had related to him that the old people had told her how the trail of the Cherokees was marked by “a grave every mile.” When they climbed the foothills of the Ozark Mountains and looked back down their trail for the last time and realized that the Country of their Fathers lay behind, they were filled with sadness. Their sighs mingled with the south of the winds in the pines. The Indians were gone forever.
The Choctaws, long accustomed to cross the river in bands on annual hunts, migrated over their hunting trails into their new homes. The Chickasaws followed their old war trail for the last time, crossed the St. Francis at Wittsburg, the White at Roe Rock and went thence to the West.
After steamboat travel became well established, there grew up at the mouth of White River a town called Montgomery’s Point. Here, travelers destined for Arkansas left the Mississippi River steamers and waited for a boat which would take them up the Arkansas River. There was an old steamboat tied up there which acted as a wharfboat, and there were houses on shore which served as hotels. Many are the tales of gambling and carouses which were carried on here.
The troops for Mexico marched from Memphis over the old Chickasaw war trail, now made into a military road. Others came down the Southern trail and uniting at Little Rock they continued down into Texas. Others marched down through Fort Smith to Fort Towson and thence south.
The Southwest Trail again came into use as a war trail when the Texas troops of the Confederacy marched north to help hold back the invaders from that direction.
The Coming of the Railways.
The coming of the steamboats had made travel by river seem like flying. Railway construction began and travel by land again came into popularity. A short line had been built before the Civil War toward Memphis from Little Rock, but this development was stopped by the war. The thirty-year period that followed after the war was one of great railway development for Arkansas.
There is one curious thing which I want to call to the attention of the reader: Take a look at the map of the early highways of Arkansas, which all the old natives say followed Indian trails. At first sight you will think you are looking at a map of the present railways of the state, so closely do the railways follow the lines of the old highways. It is, therefore, to those old Indian warriors, hunters and traders, who located these trails, that we are indebted as locating engineers for railways of today. The Missouri Pacific, from St. Louis to Texarkana, follows the line of the Great Southwest Trail. The Cotton Belt follows Crowley’s Ridge trail, crosses the White River at Roe, and follows various parts of other trails to Texarkana. The Rock Island starts out of Memphis and parallels the old Chickasaw trail which is almost exactly shown by the Missouri Pacific line to Wynne. Most of our railways follow either war, hunting, or trading trails.
The Coming of the Automobile
This article would not be up to date if some mention were not made of the automobile and the great enthusiasm it is causing in the country for good roads. The last legislature may well go down to history as the good roads session. More than 7,000 miles of road, costing more than $80,000,000 are planned. When these roads are finished there will be no backwoods country in Arkansas, but all parts will be accessible and our state will develop as fast, if not faster than neighbor states. The great natural barriers of swamps on the east and mountains on the north will be broken down, and good roads will bring thousands of settlers and tourists from the north and east. Our state, thrown open to the public at last, with its splendid climate, rich soil and wonderful natural resources, will become leader among the states of the Union.
Old Books of Travel.
I am indebted to the old books on travel and exploration for the facts of the foregoing article and it would be far more interesting if I could have quoted them word for word. In that way, the reader would have lived over again the journey with their authors and have seen how they suffered from the almost unbearable hardships. He would have rejoiced when new scenes came into view, around some bend of the river, or spread out before him from the top of the hill.
I am indebted to Branner’s Geology for the facts on geology. To those who wish to read for themselves on the subject, I refer to the narratives of De Soto’s expedition. The Journeys of Marquette and La Salle, French’s Historical Collections of Louisiana, The Jesuit and Allie Relations, Pickett’s History of Alabama, Malone’s History of the Chickasaws, Josiah Flynt’s Travels, Washburn’s Life Among the Cherokees, Nuttall’s Journals, Featherstonhaugh’s Travels Through the Slave States, Old Files of the Arkansas Gazette, Pope’s Early Days in Early Arkansas, J.H. Shinn’s History of Arkansas, Fay Hempstead’s History of Arkansas, Early Western Travels, Books of Long’s Expedition, and Bradbury’s Travels, The Narrative of Zebulon M. Pike, Gerstraecker’s books on Hunting in the Wild West, Diary of Major Gains, and many articles in the Arkansas Historical Society’s publications.