Trading at Arkansas Post
Written by: Matt Iglesias, Steven Marshall, and Cason Morgan
Overview: The song “Lowland Arkansas” on Charley Sandage‟s “Arkansas Stories
Vol.2” (www.arkansasstories.com ) introduces the concept of European traders in Arkansas.
While learning about specialization and trade, students arrange their desks into a trading post and
simulate trade among the Quapaw (Native Americans) and French settlers.
Background Information: Arkansas was not established until after the Louisiana
Purchase and it wouldn‟t be a state for another hundred years. It was only a territory at this point
of time. The area along the Mississippi River in what is now part of modern day Arkansas was a
marshy, muggy, and swampy land. So why would the European settlers especially the French
settle in this location? Why would they set up a trading post here as well? The reason is due to a
chain of events occurring as the French traveled down the Mississippi River to an area that is
near Wilson, Arkansas. There they encountered Indians who began attacking them. Just when
one of the explorers pulled out his Calmuette or peace pipe and the Indians understood this to be
a sign of friendship. The fighting ceased and the two alien parties befriended one another. With
this new friendship built, the Indians wanted the French to establish a trading post for the benefit
of both parties. The Indians for example had furs, buffalo tongue, and tallow as well as other
commodities that the French did not have. On the other hand the French had items for trade,
which the Indians did not have; such as guns, spices, and European style clothes. In economics
we know that voluntary trade benefits both parties. This relationship between the French and the
Indians, specifically the Quapaw, was a good one based on the exchange of goods at the
Economic Standards: Scarcity (http://ncee.net/ea/standards/standard.php?sid=1 ), Gain
from Trade and Specialization (http://ncee.net/ea/standards/standard.php?sid=6 ), Allocation of
Goods and Resources (http://ncee.net/ea/standards/standard.php?sid=3 ), and Supply and
Demand (http://ncee.net/ea/standards/standard.php?sid=7 ). List of standards is included at the
end of the lesson or you may go directly to the web links above.
History Standards: Students will understand that: Voluntary exchange occurs only when
all participating parties expect to gain. This is true for trade among individuals or organizations
within a nation, and among individuals or organizations in different nations.
Students can either dress as Quapaw or French Europeans. Construction paper can be
used to build head bands for the Quapaw and the French would have “beaver hats” and paper
sack vests. Pop sticks would be used as the guns that the French would trade with the Quapaw.
As for the Quapaw they will have jewelry, furs, certain medicines, and food to trade with the
French. Desks will be arranged together into a design of an Arkansas Trading Post.
1. Song “Lowland Arkansas” by Charley Sandage‟s Arkansas Stories Vol. II.
2. Arrange desks in a shape of a trading post with an opening where students can enter the center
area of the trading post.
3. The students will be divided into two equal sized groups, one represents the French trappers
and the other represents the Quapaw.
4. One copy of map of Arkansas.
5. One copy of map of lower Arkansas River valley (Bayou Bartholomew River).
6. One copy of Arkansas Post two capitals and two capitols: A 1900 View of the Post.
7. One copy of Arkansas Post is Neglected Shrine: A 1926 View of the Post.
8. One copy of original Arkansas Gazette newspaper 1819.
9. One copy of official Quapaw Early European Contact sheet 1600-1762.
10. One copy of picture of typical Quapaw Indian from the time period.
11. One map to find the Arkansas Post Park location today.
12. Construction paper (different colors and number depends on the class size)
13. Popsicle sticks - 40 at least.
14. Jewelry from an art project or old costume jewelry from home.
15. Furs from an art project before this one or pieces of brown paper bags to serve as furs.
16. Markers, pens, and pencils -- number will depend on number of students.
17. Paper one per student.
18. One picture of Quapaw welcoming French to village 1800‟s.
19. One Arkansas Post: an Important Part of Arkansas History paper.
20. One copy of The Establishment of Arkansas Post.
Optional: Costumes for student roles: The French could wear paper sacks decorated as leather
vests and the Native Americans can wear headbands.
Kids need paper and pencils to write down what it is that they are trading and those items,
which they are demanding.
Go to arranged designated area of desks that are the trading post.
Assign students to one of two groups: Europeans or Native Americans.
Markers and paper to document the trading taking place.
Maps of the Bayou Bartholomew River
Pen and paper to track their voyage to the Arkansas Post.
Grade Levels: 5th-8th.
Number of Class Periods: 1-2 Class Periods.
1. Make a trading post designed area with a group of desks.
2. Make costumes to wear for the French and Quapaw.
3. Make the entire costume including head band, jewelry, furs, and hats (beaver).
4. Divide the students into Quapaw and French.
5. Make map of the river or voyage to get to the Arkansas Post while showing the students
where this place is.
Introduction: ask the kids if they‟ve ever traded before? Or maybe even if any of them had ever
thought of what life would be like if instead of using money to obtain items, they had to trade
instead? Begin the lesson by first playing the track “Lowland Arkansas” by Charley Sandage.
This song is typical of the type of music of the time period. Tell the students to listen to the
words and ask questions at the end if they didn‟t understand a particular point in the song.
1. Divide the class into Quapaw and French trappers.
2. Read to the students the Quapaw paper for background information.
3. Several choices to read that reflect the French side of the Post.
4. Read the Arkansas Gazette and pass out a copy to every student.
5. Then have the two groups make lists of items in which they would like to obtain.
6. Allow the students to make a European vest out of paper bag sacks or make items for the
French traders. The Quapaw students will make head bands and decorate face/ each
7. Have an example of a built Beaver hat, headband, and vest.
8. Next have the students draw a map to show their voyage to the Arkansas Trading Post.
9. Once everyone is satisfied with their trade or time has expired have the students return
back to their “homes”.
10. Teach the students the Economic lessons of the exercise. For example ask if everyone
fulfilled their wants. Discuss with students scarcity (that you can‟t get everything that you
want). Ask the class if they gained anything from the trades that occurred. Discuss other
Economic terms that apply to exercise such as specialization and trade.
Discuss all the differences in two groups‟ interests. Bring up some of the main points like
scarcity and gain from trade. Challenge the students to think of any other economic terms that
apply to lesson.
Performance Task: Have the students write in paragraph from the economic terms they
learned in the lesson. The teacher will provide a writing prompt and discuss economics and
history in the same light.
4 Advanced: Student has demonstrated a clear and concise understanding of material.
Students have answered all questions correctly and have talked about terms that weren‟t
mentioned in lesson but do apply.
3 Proficient: Student has demonstrated a clear and concise understanding of the material.
Student has a working knowledge of how exchange/barter system works.
2 Basic: Student has demonstrated a basic yet, a clear and concise understanding of the
1 Below Basic: Student displays limited knowledge on understanding of the materials.
1. Geography- Map of Arkansas
2. Economics: Trade of Goods
3. Art- building costumes of the time period:
4. Anthropology-Customs of the area.
5. Music- The song from the disc.
6. Math-Distance they have to travel to the trading post.
Voluntary National Content Standards in Economics:
Content Standard 1: Scarcity: Students will understand that Productive resources are limited.
Therefore, people can‟t have all the goods and services they want; as a result, they must choose
some things and give up others.
Benchmark 1: People make choices because they can't have everything they want.
Benchmark 2: Economic wants are desires that can be satisfied by consuming a good, service,
or leisure activity.
Benchmark 3: Goods are objects that can satisfy people's wants.
Benchmark 4: Services are actions that can satisfy people's wants.
Benchmark 6: Whenever a choice is made, something is given up.
Content Standard 5: Gain from Trade: Students will understand that: Voluntary exchange
occurs only when all participating parties expect to gain. This is true for trade among individuals
or organizations within a nation, and among individuals or organizations in different nations.
Benchmark 1: Exchange is trading goods and services with people for other goods and services
or for money.
Benchmark 2: The oldest form of exchange is barter the direct trading of goods and services
Benchmark 3: People voluntarily exchange goods and services because they expect to be better
off after the exchange.
Content Standard 3: Allocation of Goods and Resources: Students will understand that:
Different methods can be used to allocate goods and services. People acting individually or
collectively through government, must choose which methods to use to allocate different kinds
of goods and services.
Benchmark 1: No method of distributing goods and services can satisfy all wants.
Benchmark 2: There are different ways to distribute goods and services (by prices, command,
majority rule, contests, force, first-come/first-served, sharing equally, lottery, personal
characteristics, and others), and there are advantages and disadvantages to each.
Early European Contact
Like many other Native Tribes, the Quapaw experienced a severe population reduction due to
European diseases. The Native Tribes were susceptible to many types of diseases because they
had never been exposed to them (therefore had never built a resistance to them). Also, they were
all genetically very similar and had similar immune systems. So, when the diseases hit, the
Natives were highly affected by them. Some estimates say that there was a 95% drop in
population all over the continent. In other words, for every 100 Native Americans, only 5
survived. In the late 1600s, the Quapaw were estimated to have a population greater than 5000.
Over a period of 80 years, their population had dropped to 700 due to a smallpox epidemic in
1699. Sadly, because of this massive population drop, much of early Quapaw history and lore,
which was passed on orally, died with its storytellers. Even today the Quapaw tribe doesn't have
as many members as it did in the early 1600s. By 1720, the Quapaw had abandoned one of their
villages because there simply were not enough people to maintain all four of their original
The French were the first Europeans to contact the Quapaw. They had colonies in the
northeastern part of North America and were interested in finding a trade route to the Pacific
Ocean. Two Frenchmen, Jaquis Marquette and Louis Joliet, followed the Mississippi River in
1673, hoping that it might lead to the Pacific Ocean. They stopped at a Quapaw village, where
they learned that the Mississippi flowed into the Gulf of Mexico. They returned home after
spending some time with the hospitable Quapaw.
In 1682, Robert De La Salle and Henri De Tonti were the next Frenchmen to contact the
Quapaw. When they arrived at a Quapaw town, they spoke Illinois (an Algonkian language, the
same language family spoken by tribes near French colonies in the northeast) to an Illinois
captive and asked who the people in the town were. The captive responded in Algonkian that
these people were the "Akansa." This was the origin of the name of the state of Arkansas.
La Salle, interested in having an ally in an area he felt might become important in the struggle
for dominance of the continent, established relations with the Quapaw. The Quapaw were happy
to become allies with a powerful colonizing nation who could supply them with weapons. The
Quapaw were faithful to their French allies in the tumultuous century that followed, when the
major Europeans powers were vying for control of the continent. The European powers often
used their Native allies to attack both their enemies and tribes allied with them. This struggle
ended with an English victory over the French in the Seven Years' War (also known as the
French-Indian War), when France ceded all land East of the Mississippi to the Spanish (1762).
For all intents and purposes, the French, whom the Quapaw had faithfully aided, were no longer
a presence in the Americas.
A Important Part of Arkansas History
Many events and places that have led to the shaping and constructing of Arkansas
throughout the years, but few have made as great an impact as that of Arkansas Post as a
strategic military and commercial center. Arkansas Post served as the beginning for Arkansas
History and played a vital role shaping Arkansas through several central turning points
spanning from French and Spanish occupation to present. The post was the first French
settlement and Indian trading post for the French during their rule over the area that would
become the Louisiana Purchase. It also served as the first Territorial Capital of Arkansas and
the first home of the Arkansas Gazette. It was a site for a Confederate Fort along the Arkansas
River during the Civil War. The moving of the Capital with the Arkansas Gazette following it,
fighting at the fort, and the Arkansas River eroding its banks and flooding the town ultimately
led to the destruction and abandonment of the town that was Arkansas Post. A revival of
interest has been seen in the recent years though, on a historical basis, which has lead to several
geological digs and the setting up of Arkansas Post Memorial.
Key events and time periods in the History of Arkansas Post are listed below with links to their
own pages. Each link provides a more in-depth view of their corresponding topic.
Establishment of the first Arkansas Post
French rule of the Arkansas Post
Spanish rule of Arkansas Post
Arkansas in the American Revolution
Early rule of Arkansas Post by the United States
Arkansas Post as territorial capital
The move of the capital and dwindling of Arkansas Post
Arkansas Post in the Civil War
After the Civil War to Current Day
The Arkansas Post Memorial Museum
Arkansas Post has been there through much of the important time periods and events in
Arkansas history. It provided a start to Arkansas History when Henri de Tonty founded it in
1686, although a few years later, the original post was abandoned. While in the hands of the
Spanish, Arkansas Post was the only site of a revolutionary skirmish in Arkansas, although the
skirmish took place several months after the end of the American Revolution. It served for
several years as the only white settlement west of the Mississippi River, and was a vital trading
post and commercial port and settlement along the Arkansas and Mississippi River for over a
century. It was also the site chosen by the Confederates to protect the mouth of the Arkansas
River from Union. It is now today a National Park showing a vivid, diverse view of Arkansas
history. Arkansas Post is not only a piece of history, it is a vital piece of Arkansas history, and
there might never have been a placed called Arkansas without it.
Other useful links:
Arkansas Post National Memorial will provide even more information on this topic. It is
the National Parks Services web page for Arkansas Post. It provides some history plus
information about the Memorial and on visiting the memorial.
About the Author
The Establishment of Arkansas Post
Around 1682, Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle claimed much of the central interior of North
America for France with a vision of establishing trading post up and down the Mississippi
River (Arnold 5). When la Salle visited the Arkansas 1682 as he and Henri de Tonty explored
down the Mississippi River and up the Arkansas River, the local Quapaw Indians knew
Arkansas as Arkansea. It was at this time that Henri de Tonty, one of la Salle's lieutenants,
asked for a piece of the area found by la Salle and himself while traveling part of the way up the
Arkansas River (United States). La Salle granted him the wish, and in August of 1686, de
Tonty settled ten of his men near the Quapaw village of Osotouy about thirty-five miles from
the mouth of the Arkansas (Arnold 5). Arkansas Post was the first European settlement in what
would later become Jefferson's Louisiana Purchase, and for about a decade, was the only white
settlement west of the Mississippi River (Arnold 6).
This replica cross commemorates the founding of Arkansas Post by
Henri de Tonty (McCutchen, Cross). It is located on the on one of
the banks where the town looks out on to the Mississippi and
In 1686, Henri de Tonti established a trading post known as "Poste de Arkansea" at the
Quapaw village of Osotouy. It was the first semi-permanent French settlement in the lower
Mississippi River Valley. The establishment of the Post was the first step in a long struggle
between France, Spain, and England over the interior of the North American continent.
Over the years, the Post relocated as necessary due to flooding from the Arkansas River,
but its position always served of strategic importance for the French, Spanish, American,
and Confederate military. Spanish soldiers and British partisans clashed here in the 1783
"Colbert Raid," the only Revolutionary War action in Arkansas.
Arkansas Post became part of the United States following the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.
By 1819, the post was a thriving river port and the largest city in the region and selected
as the first capital of the Arkansas Territory.
During the Civil War, Confederate troops tried to maintain tactical control of the confluence
of the two rivers, and in 1862 they constructed a massive earthen fortification known as
Fort Hindman at the Post. In January 1863 Union troops destroyed the fort, ensuring
control of the Arkansas River.
Today, the memorial and museum commemorate the multi-layered and complex history of
the site. Located on a peninsula bordered by the Arkansas River and two backwaters, the
site offers excellent fishing and wildlife watching opportunities.
Arkansas Post Visitor Center
Open All Year 8:00a.m. to 5:00p.m.
View all Facilities »
The History of Arkansas Post
Arkansas Post's three-hundred year history is a rich and
complex story. Diverse peoples, including the Quapaw Indians,
European explorers such as De Soto and La Salle, hunters and
traders all contributed to making Arkansas Post an important
frontier outpost from the 1680s to the late 1700s. Transferred to
the United States in the Louisiana Purchase, Arkansas Post was
transformed from a sleepy French community to a bustling town
during the two years it served as capital of the Arkansas
While little visible remains of this vibrant place in American
history survive, Arkansas Post has many stories to tell. The Artist's conception of the first
following links explore various aspects of the history of Arkansas Post, 1686. This painting
was part of a series done by a St.
Arkansas Post: Louis newspaper commemorating
the 100th aniversary of the Louisiana
Learn more about Arkansas Post: Purchase.
The Commandants of Arkansas Post
The Arkansas River and the Development of Arkansas Post
1900 Arkansas Gazette Article on Arkansas Post
1926 Arkansas Gazette Article on Arkansas Post
Read the first issue of the Arkansas Gazette, November 20,
Online Books about Arkansas Post:
Special History Report: The Colbert Raid
The Founding of Arkansas Post
Historic Structure Report: Montgomery's Tavern and
Johnston & Armstrong's Store
EXPERIENCE YOUR AMERICA™
National Park Service Updated: Wednesday, 14-Jan-2004 15:37:55 Eastern Standard Time
U.S. Department of the Interior http://www.nps.gov/arpo//history/index.htm
Privacy Notice Webmaster: Park Staff
Disclaimer and Ownership
Two Capitals and Two Capitols: A 1900 View of the Post.
At the time this article was written, a new Capital building was under construction in Little Rock,
intended to replace the Old State House, built in 1836. This new capitol was a political hot potato,
and then Governor Jeff Davis had actually ran for election on a platform promising to stop the
This article, published just years before the Arkansas River would change course and cut off the
Post, depicts the community in its final state of decline. By this time there were already few
surviving remains of the old town, and the author provides an excellent capsule glimpse of the
state of the town, such as it was.
Of particular interest is the interview of two elderly women who had spent their lives at Arkansas
Post. Survivors of the French community, they have a unique outlook on how the Louisiana
Purchase effected the Post - "oh, but they had good times until the Americans came and begun to
Two Capitals and Two Capitols.
During a brief stay with friends in the vicinity of Pendleton, in Desha county, last week, the “new
capitol” celebration at Little Rock became the subject of conversation, and naturally branched to
the first territorial capital, Arkansas Post, where the government was organized in July, 1819.
“The post is only five miles from here, and I believe the Arkansas Gazette was started there,”
remarked one, “on the 20th of November, 1819?”
“Well,” said another, “as the Post is so near, and today is the 18th of November, let‟s take a ride
over there tomorrow and celebrate the anniversary, Tuesday, by taking a look over the ground
and seeing what is left of the town and its people.”
The proposition was acceptable to all, but there was only one starter on the afternoon of the 19th.
Undismayed by the rain, which overtook him about three miles from the Post, he persisted, and
reached comfortable quarters at the hospitable home of Madame Forreste at the Post just before
After supper a long and interesting conversation about old times, people and events was held with
Madame Forreste and Mrs. Farrelly, widow of Thos. Farrelly (nephew of Col. Terrence Farrelly),
who was visiting the madame. The names of many old settlers, French and American, were
recalled and numerous anecdotes and incidents related in which they figured. Among them those
of the Notrebes, father, wife and son, the Desruisseaux, a female member of which family
became the wife of Jas. H. Lucas, later the famous banker of St. Louis; the Bogys, one of whom
became a United States senator from Missouri; the Barraques, Bons, Imbeaus, Lefevres,
Vallieres, Vaugines and the early Americans, Harold and Joseph Stillwell, who arrived at the Post
in the latter years of the eighteenth century. But your columns have previously told all that in the
eighty-one years they have been in business, and they shall not be further taxed.
From this talk it was soon apparent that the investigator had but a small task before him on the
morrow. The old town and its original people were “all gone,” as Madame Forreste pathetically
expressed it – “all gone – in the river.” The two ladies were, perhaps, the only representatives left
of the two classes of people who dwelt at and in the close vicinity of the Post prior to the passage
of the act of congress creating the territory of Arkansas. Madame Madeline Forreste was the
daughter of Jean Jourdaloe and Cecile Julien, his wife, both parents descended from ancestors
who came with the first French settlers. Those of her father came with Bienville and Iberville by
way of Louisiana, where his relatives still live, and those of her mother from Canada, with
LaSalle and DeTonti. The descendent of these have dwelt upon Arkansas soil from the earliest
colonial – say 1680. Col. Terrence Farrelly settled at Arkansas Post in 1818 and later, on his
plantation only a few miles distant, which is still the property of his descendants, who are
numerous, one being on the editorial staff of the Gazette.
Madame Forreste was born and her childhood passed on her father‟s farm at the west end of old
South Bend, now a lake, which years later became a part of the Ben Desha, afterward Clay,
plantation, noted in steamboat days as the “show plantation” of the Arkansas river. It is believed
it is now the property of Maj. Sam Churchill. In her childhood, said Madame Forreste, “it was the
most beautiful, the most charming home of the whole world.” She described her father as being
“an awful wild fellow, but good, good, good.” In those days, said she, “there was no want for
fresh meats every day of the year, and in the greatest variety. There were buffalo, deer, elk, bear,
antelope, squirrels, prairie fowls, wild ducks, geese and pigeons in the woods, and in the river and
smaller streams and lakes were fish in limitless abundance. There was e-v-e-r-ything one could
wish.” The women and girls, men and boys had nothing to do but to have a good time. They had a
free living at their doors for the picking up. “oh, but they had good times until the Americans
came and begun to build fences.” And so the talk went on until a late hour, when madame
suggested that Mrs. F. was an invalid and it was time for sleep. The investigator, though not
weary, professed willingness and asked where he should go.
“I will put you in the pe-e-g pen; not in the chicken coop,” said the hostess, as she pointed the
way to quarters, which were comfortable, but of state-room like dimensions.
“I hope there is no other pig to go in with me,” said the guest.
“N-o-o,” she said, laughing, “this is the chicken coop.”
The rain pattered a lullaby on the roof and was a material factor in a pleasant night‟s sleep,
untroubled by dreams of Quapaws or Osages, nor French or Spanish adventures.
The first discovery was that the old town had almost wholly gone into the river. There was not a
single house left standing, and no ruins of any proportions. Not a vestige of the French or Spanish
town as seen by Notrebes, Phillips, Harrold and Jos. Stillwell of the old citizens and subjects, and
Allen, Horner, Andrew and Jno. R. H. Scott, Robert Crittenden, Wm. E. Woodruff, Roane,
Lewis, Dave McKinney, Steven F. Austin, Oden, Russel and Matthew Lyon of the new-comers,
on the morning the first issue of the Gazette was printed remains. The caving river bank during
the eighty-two years since the new comers landed has carried the river over and past the original
town site for a distance of more than a mile. The old houses are all gone. Of the handsome brick
house built in the late 30‟s, for the use of the branch of the Real Estate Bank, which stood as late
as 1863, several blocks north of the steamboat landing, the foundation site remains, near the
present river bank, and a few wheel-barrow loads of brickbats, which have not yet been
requisitioned for modern uses. When Gen. J. McClerndan‟s and Sherman‟s army and fleet had
got through with Gen. Churchill‟s defenses, in the winter of 62-3, the big guns of the fleet were
turned especially upon the conspicuous bank building (supposedly because it was constructed of
brick and looked respectable), and knocked it “hither and yon.” In like manner they destroyed by
fire wantonly of many houses of respectable appearance in the town and country adjacent to a
distance of several miles. Some twenty acres or more of the old town site is still unencroached
upon by the river. The trend of the caving bank being to the east and north, what remains is
rendered bare and worthless by the washing of storm water, which has cut it into gullies, ridges
and flats which resemble the desolated Colorado Canyon country in miniature. Of the fort so
gallantly held by Gen. Churchill, in carrying out to the letter the orders of Gen. Holmes, a small
corner remains, to the northeast of the old town a quarter of a mile away; also some vestiges of
The old cemetery has long since gone into the river, and the remains of the old French and
Spanish settlers have been washed down with the current of the Arkansas and Mississippi rivers,
and lodged all along the way to the gulf, where they await the final resurrection.
The bodies of the Federal soldiers, killed in the battle, were long since removed to the National
cemeteries, but the graves of the Confederates remain; and unless some other disposition is made
of them soon, will be undiscoverable in a little while. Men who fought so well for their cause
deserve more generous treatment from the country for which they gave up their lives.
The new town, of 100 or more inhabitants, is situated to the northeast, adjacent to the old site.
There are two or more stores, one of them, that of Mr. Henry Jones, carrying a heavy stock, and
several smaller buildings. The adjacent country is very productive, and with better facilities for
approach on the river side, a large commercial business ought to be transacted at this point. It is a
very remarkable fact that a locality which has held so important a place in the history of
Arkansas, and French exploration, enterprise and daring, around which cluster so many memories
of renowned men from Marquette, Joliet, LaSalle, DeTonti and LaClede from the seventeenth
century to the American cession, to say nothing of the names famous in territorial and state
annals, should have descended to the unimportance of a country village. It is to be hoped that the
extension of the Stuttgart and Arkansas River railroad, which is projected to strike the river at that
place, or the creation of a new county, will give back to the old post something of its prestige.
In the early morning of the 20th, there was a magnificent double rainbow in the eastern sky,
visible from the Post, each forming a perfect arch at the same time. Some hours later, while on
the road to Gillett to take the cars for Stuttgart, almost a repetition of the phenomenon appeared,
the difference being that the two perfect rainbows showed in the western sky, at an interval of
only an hour between occurrences. The observer does not recall a similar instance on the same
day. May he not, therefore, be considered excusable for taking all as an augury, portending a new
and bright future for the ancient capital of the territory, as well as a show of promise of the future
growth, prosperity and greatness of the new capital city and state now celebrating the foundation
of the new capitol? And, further, for expressing the hope that the legislature that meets in January
next will take action for the preservation of the old capitol and its square, as the one spot in
Arkansas round which are gathered memories and affections that are dear to the people of every
county, almost every township in the state. How greatly we would value the old capitol of it now
stood at the Post of Arkansas. By that measure will it be valued if it continues to stand in site
eighty-one years hence! It is strictly classical in design, barring the so called improvements at the
north end, and has beautiful surroundings. Let‟s destroy the unsightly north addition; tumble the
group of measly Filipines from the roof into the river; subtruct a new foundation and preserve it
ARKANSAS POST IS NEGLECTED SHRINE: A 1926 View of the Post
This article, published in late 1926, served as a clarion call for preservation of the site of
Arkansas Post. When the State Legislature passsed the bill creating the Arkansas Post State
Park thrree years later (1929). Reporter Fletcher Chenault was awarded a position on the
comission responsible for developing the new park.
ARKANSAS POST IS NEGLECTED SHRINE
First Territorial Capitol Was Cradle of Arkansas History.
NOW IS 240 YEARS OLD
In Danger of Reverting to Wilderness Unless Steps Are Taken to Rescue It From
By Fletcher Chenault
(Staff Correspondent of the Gazette.)
Arkansas Post. Nov. 10. – As you stand in solitary contemplation on the bank of the river at
Arkansas Post, you are thrilled by the thought that here is a spot of vast significance on the
scroll of passing years. So strangely was its history interwoven with the history of Arkansas
and the Louisiana territory, so long was its prestige maintained as the furthermost post in the
wilderness, you wonder how a commonwealth could, in the days of its prosperity, neglect
such a venerable shrine.
During the 240 years of its existence, Arkansas Post alternately prospered and declined under
four flags, but its greatest significance to our generation is the fact that it was the cradle of
Arkansas history, the first place west of the Mississippi river where the republican form of
government took root and prospered. Long before George Washington was born, long before
Patrick Henry thundered defiance to tyranny, in a day when only a wilderness marked the spot
where Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, Memphis and New Orleans now stand, Arkansas Post
was the home and habitation of white men. Next to St. Louis, it is the oldest United States
post office west of the Mississippi river.
Spot is Deserted.
Arkansas‟ shrine! And it will revert to the wilderness from which it came unless the state, or
some patriotic organization takes steps to rescue it from oblivion. Arkansas Post still exists,
but the Arkansas Post of today is a modern settlement near the old fort and in no wise related
to it. Mounds of broken and scattered brick overgrow with briars and surrounded by an open
field mark the spots where the first territorial capital and the old bank once stood. They are the
only sites that can be identified, and they too will disappear unless the ruins are marked with
Did you know that the United States government for 132 years has maintained a reservation
of 147 acres on the spot where the old Village of Arkansas stood? Most of this land has caved
into the river, but the river receded and left a bar overgrown with cottonwoods and subject to
overflow. A triangular section of a few acres remains on the high ground and it is on this spot
the capitol and the state bank were located. The government should deed this land to the state
and it should be maintained forever as a state park.
The only move ever made to preserve this historic spot was by the Pine Bluff Chamber of
Commerce, which placed a stone tablet near the ruins of the old capitol. How many things
could be done by the state, by the D.A.R., and even by the Arkansas Gazette, which could
place a marker on the spot, or near the spot where William E. Woodruff launched this
venerable sheet on November 20, 1819.
Graves Are Unmarked.
With Lloyd LaFargue, whose great-grandfather came from France to Arkansas Post more than
a century ago, we wandered through the old cemetery in search of the spot where Henry W.
Conway of territorial fame was buried. Scores of unmarked graves are seen, the last resting
place of men and women whose names were familiar ones in those early days, “unhonored
and unsung.” Just exactly 99 years ago young Conway was killed in a duel with Robert
Crittenden. His grave was covered by his brother, Gov. James S. Conway, with a marble slab
on which was recorded the history of this man‟s career as a Revolutionary patriot, but this
slab was shattered by lightning and the broken bits mostly carried away by souvenir hunters.
Unless the state, the D.A.R., or some other organization, takes the pains to replace this slab,
the grave of Conway, delegate to Congress, will become unknown to future generations. It
should be dedicated on November 9, 1927, the 100th anniversary of his death.
The home of L. S. Jones an Indiana Republican, who has been for nine and 20 years the
postmaster at Arkansas Post, worthy successor to that Eli J. Lewis, who opened the office 100
years ago, sits on one of the outer trenches of the old Civil war fort. The main Confederate
defenses long since went into the river. When postmaster Jones decided to level part of the
low line of breastworks to make a garden he employed an old Negro who had been a slave of
Colonel Moore, C S. A. As the aged Negro attacked the breastworks with a spade, he said: “I
nevah figgered when I help put up „ese breswuks I‟d tear „em down agin to mek a gard‟n for
On the site of the old capital is a cistern walled with brick, and not far away is a deep well,
also lined with brick, and both are examples of perfect masonry. Here and there are scattered
bits of earthenware and rare old china, and little mounds where brick chimneys stood, and that
is all that remains of Arkansas Post on the spot where Henri DeTonti, a lieutenant of Robert
Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle, raised the lilies of France 240 years ago.
Here in 1722 Bernard de la Harpe who discovered and named La Petit-Roche (Little Rock)
found “only a trading and military post among the Indians.” Here came Don Joseph Valliere
as Commandant under Spanish rule in 1795, and in 1804 the Stars and Stripes were raised
while through the forests the Indians were startled by the roar of saluting guns.
It was not until 1808 that Gov. Meriwether Lewis at St. Louis established the law of the
republic at the frontier post, and the records of that event, and all subsequent events, many of
them inscribed in French, are in the vaults of Arkansas county at DeWitt. Then it was that the
authority vested in the King‟s sword gave way to the Bill of Rights of the constitution. It
struck a responsive chord alike in the breasts of freedom-loving Americans and freedom-
loving French living in peace and harmony, intermingling and intermarrying at this distant
Here moved the urbane, suave, polished French gentleman, Frederich Notrebe, soldier of
Napoleon, who sheathed his sword and threw away his commission when the Little Corporal
began to dream of smashing empires. Here was William E. Woodruff, staunch herald of law
and order and moulder of public opinion. Here died Pierre Laclede, founder of old St. Louis,
and Don Joseph Valliere, Spanish grandee. Here, on December 26, 1820, came Gov. James
Miller, hero of Lundy‟s Lane, with a great fanfare of trumpets and a flag on which was
inscribed the motto: “I‟ll try, sir.” Here, on January 11, 1863, after a gallant resistance against
great odds, Gen. T. J. Churchill surrendered the fort to Gen. J. A McClernand and the fourth
flag again was raised to fly forever.
Here is the shrine Arkansas forgot.
Originally published in the Arkansas Gazette, November 11, 1926