First Light of History
     As an Historisizer, I am personally obligated to begin somewhere in the earliest of beginnings.  Please bear with me for the next few pages of Eureka Springs' pre-history.

The Spanish Conquistadors

Hernando de Soto (c.1500 – May 21, 1542) was a Spanish navigator and conquistador.  He participated in the conquest of Panama, Nicaragua, and Peru.  Later, de Soto led the largest expedition through what would become the Southeastern United States and the Midwestern United States in search of gold and silver and other valuable goods.   In the spring of 1541 they set forth and were probably the first white men to see and cross the Mississippi.  A journey up the Arkansas River and into Oklahoma disclosed no treasures, and, discouraged, they turned back to the banks of the Mississippi.  There De Soto died; he was buried in the river, so that the Native Americans, whom he had intimidated and ill-used, would not learn of his death.  He is presumed to have died on the banks of the Mississippi River near present-day Lake Village, Arkansas.

     With certainty, the earliest recorded history of the Arkansas region begins with the explorations made by Hernando de Soto.  From his expedition in 1542, the accounts of  the geography and the Indians present the first knowledge of the region.  The elaborate efforts made in quest of gold and riches form the initial recorded history of the area.  The Spaniards made other explorations, but it was left to the French to make the first permanent settlement.
     The Arkansas region, mainly embracing the present states of Arkansas and Oklahoma, was situated between the Illinois country on the north, and the Natchitoches on the South extending west to the Spanish possessions of New Mexico; consisting primarily of the area drained by the Arkansas, Verdigris and Canadian rivers.  This wedge-shaped country has had its own distinct history — separate and apart, but affected by the unfolding of the territories to the north and to its south.   Commonality was around the quest for riches,  trade with the Spanish in the Southwest and with the Indians;  and in seeking free land and mining for minerals.


The Founders from France

     When the French arrived, they sought settlement and possession.  Where the Spanish were cruel to the native Indians, the French were kind and embraced them as brothers and neighbors.
     Years of French explorations left many traces of their presence — by the naming of rivers, mountains, and settlements.  They especially left a marked influence upon the Indians with whom they came in contact.  The first French explorers in the Arkansas region were Father Marquette and Joliet, who came down the Mississippi River as far as the Arkansas River.  Father Marquette drew a map showing the course of the Mississippi River.
      While seeking the mouth of the river, on March 14, 1682, La Salle, upon reaching the Arkansas villages, took formal possession, and named the country for France as he planted a cross.  On that journey, La Salle gave his lieutenant, Tonti, a seigniorial grant of lands where Tonti built a house and fort in 1683.  (A century later, the French post commander, du Breuil, celebrated the hundredth anniversary of the Arkansas Post in 1783.)
     LaSalle finally arrived at the mouth of the river on April 9, 1682, when he once more erected a cross blazoned with the French Coat of Arms and proclaimed formal possession of the Mississippi River and all of its tributaries, and all of the lands, in the name of Louis XIV, King of France.  He named the lands Louisiana (Louis i ana) for King Louis and Queen Anna.  The French had a penchant for immediately christening everything they discovered.  
     On planning to establish a colony at the mouth of the Mississippi, LaSalle returned to France to make arrangements.  In the mean time, Tonti, descended the Mississippi River and during his return trip, made alliances with various Indian nations.  He reported, "When we were at Arkansas, ten of the Frenchmen who accompanied me asked to make a settlement on the Arkansas River, on a seigniory (land grant) that M. de la Salle had given me on our first voyage.   I granted the request to some of them.  They remained there to build a house surrounded with stakes.”
     LaSalle’s second journey to find the mouth of the Mississippi River resulted in his murder by some of his men while planning a way out of Texas.  A surviving member of the expedition, Henri Joutel lead a handful of survivors who sought to return to France by way of Canada.
     Joutel’s journal gave an account of Tonti’s early Arkansas settlement where only two Frenchmen remained of the original six who were appointed to stay there.  "Being come to a river that was between us and the village, and looking over to the further side we discovered a great cross, and at a small distance from it a house built after the French fashion.  We spied several canoes coming toward us and two men clothed coming out of the house . . . who the moment they saw us fired each of them a shot to salute us."  These two men according to Joutel, were Sieures Couture Charpenter, and De Launay, both of them of Rouen.
     Bartholomeu, the Parisian, a member of Joutel’s party, asked to remain at Arkansas, "because he was none the ablest of body."   To keep the news of La Salle’s death from the Indians was their great concern now.  When Joutel’s party left the Arkansas for the Illinois country, they gave the settlers their horses, "which would be of great use in hunting . . . and gave them fifteen or sixteen pounds of powder, eight hundred balls, three hundred flints, twenty-six knives and ten axes, two or three pound weights of beads;  M. Cavelier left them a part of his linen, hoping we should soon be in a place where we should get more;  and all of them having made their peace with God, by means of the sacrament of penance, we took leave of them."
     This was the beginning of one of the oldest French posts in the southwest; and from this post, France made treaties with the different Indian tribes in establishing defenses against the Spaniards from the Southwest, and the English from the Carolinas.  This contest for control of the frontier Indian tribes was one of the chief policies of both Spain and France in their quest for territorial possessions.
     The effort was demonstrated by the French as Indian traders and by the Spaniards, with Franciscan priests.  This contest to control the Southwest was fought along the Arkansas, Canadian and Red Rivers, to a large extent. The Arkansas Post served as a center for making alliances with Indians along the Arkansas River, and, later on, with those of the whole region.  By these treaties and alliances, France hoped to open up trade with the Spaniards in New Mexico.
     Simultaneously, a contest between the English and the French was ongoing.  By establishing the Arkansas trading post, Tonti hoped to forestall the English as well as the Spaniards.

Passing the Baton

     LaSalle's final voyage was an attempt to find the mouth of the illusive Mississippi River by way of the Gulf of Mexico.  Unsuccessful, LaSalle’s failure to find the mouth of the Great Mississippi caused the baton to be passed to Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d'Iberville, of French Canada.  According to Iberville's Journals, he was instructed by King Louis XIV,  to "go to the Gulf of Mexico,  locate the mouth . . . select a good site that can be defended with a few men, and block entry to the river by other nations."
     Having been aware of English commitments to establish a trading post upon the banks of the mouth of the Mississippi River, d’Iberville made the first move.  He commissioned and outfitted the Badine, the Marin and several slower vessels called travasiers, or transports.  With careful discretion and determination he selected his men.  Having gathered a prime staff including his brother Bienville; he picked Spanish-speaking Frenchmen, Spanish deserters from Mexico, and other French Canadian voyageurs.
     They left from Brest, France in October of 1698 and arrived at the Spanish controlled island of Santo Domingo in January of 1699.  Staying just enough time to take on new provisions and hiring fresh local hands, they left the coast lines westward while delving into each water inlet in search of the elusive mouth of the Mississippi River.  To further frustrate his journeys were the faulty charts and journals that were drawn from the former explorations of La Salle and from inaccurate Portuguese navigational charts.  Encountering Spanish ships in the Pensacola, Florida harbor, they continued westward to arrive at the Bay of Mobile.  During each careful scrutiny along the way Iberville would raise crosses and cut the bark of trees to establish their presence.  They also designed new journals and maps with the help of native Indians.  They encountered Ship Island on February 10, 1699, from where they made foraging landings on the mainland to make contact with the Indians.  On communicating with the natives they were told of the Mississippi River further west, so they set sail once more.

     As d’Iberville and Bienville encountered new Indian tribes, they quickly made allies of them.  The normal custom was a 3-day Feast celebrated by the Dance of the Calumet when the peace pipe was passed amongst the top leaders.  Then gifts were distributed consisting of knives, hatchets, axes, picks and mirrors, rings, beads and trinkets.  The Indians would offer food and teach the French their ways of Indian cultivation,  making pirogues, and describing the terrain and Indian villages for the map makers.

     On Monday, March 2, 1699, as a storm was pounding their schooner, the French, while attempting to seek haven, coincidentally discovered the mouth of the Mississippi River.  The following day they celebrated Mardi Gras with a Catholic Mass and raised a cross as a symbol of their manifestation.  There, they planted one of a series of the Fleur-des-Lys.  They traveled further upriver in order to verify that the wide turbulent body of water was actually the Great Mississippi.  They traveled past Baton Rouge and then retraced their voyage to return to the Gulf by way of the Rigolets.
     While making the initial exploratory trip up the Mississippi River, sites were anxiously sought for in order to build a fort.  To this end, d’Iberville sent forth men to sound and chart the coastal bay waters during March and early April of 1699.
     D’Iberville continued exploratory trips, seeking to establish peace agreements with local Indians who were settled along the Pearl River and north of Lake Pontchartrain as well as the area of Pascagoula.  Bienville was sent to the west and Sauvole was sent to the east.
     Together, d’Iberville and Bienville ascended the Pascagoula River and met with the Indian tribes of the Biloxi, and further north, rested at the village of the Pascagoulas.
     In April 1700, Fort Maurepas was completed (at present day Ocean Springs, MS) where d’Iberville had left 80 men behind to man the fort and several small garrisons were sent to the mouth of the Mississippi and at Mobile Bay.
     After completing his third voyage, upon his return from France on December 15, 1701, d’Iberville instructed Bienville to relocate the Fort Maurepas garrison to Mobile Bay, where some men had previously been sent to live with the Indians.  D’Iberville spent the whole month of March supervising the construction of  Fort Louis de la Louisiane on the Mobile River.
     D’Iberville instructed Louis Juchereau de St. Denis to explore the southwest, thus, in 1714, the French founded Natchitoches as an outpost on the Red River to trade with the Indians and the Spanish in Mexico. The City of Natchitoches is the oldest permanent settlement in the Louisiana Purchase, located at the head of navigation on the Red River.


Company of the West Indies

     In 1715, the Scot financier John Law united the profitable fur trade of Canada with other trading companies and created a holding company called the Company of the West Indies, which was given the monopoly over foreign trade for France.  The company took ownership of all the mines and all the land along with the right to grant land to stockholders, providing that they settled and improved their possessions to the benefit New France.
     After restoring Bienville as governor, John Law sent three ships with supplies, provisions, merchandise, money, and more than 700 emigrants.  He also sent a public works engineer, Chevalier Leblond de la Tour, to help layout the new settlements.
     Concessions were sold to shareholders in many locations throughout the vast French Louisiana Territory, from New Orleans to Minnesota.
     The colonization of Louisiana sustained a heavy blow, when Law’s financial scheme collapsed.  However, renewed interest in Louisiana brought men like Bernard de la Harpe, Le Page du Pratz, and Du Tisne.
     Law’s Company had given Bernard de la Harpe a tract of land on the upper waters of the Red River, and, in 1718, he started out to take possession of his grant.  Leaving New Orleans in December, 1718, he arrived at the mouth of the Red River on January 10, 1719.  When he arrived at the lands occupied by the Nassonite Indians, he immediately made alliances with them, which was accomplished when the Nassonites, Cadodaquins, Natsooe and Natchitoches sang the ceremonial Calumet in passing the peace pipe. After the feast, La Harpe gave them gifts in keeping with negotiating a contract for Indian trade.  La Harpe constructed a block house, there among the Nassonites, to be used as a storage house.  
     Du Rivage and six other Frenchmen were sent out with a large amount of merchandise to make alliances with the Indians in the Southwest.  Du Rivage was instructed to find out the nearest Spanish settlement.
     La Harpe considered one of the best places in Louisiana for a Trading post was at the mouth of the Canadian River, where the French could thus obtain control of trade with the Padoucas and Aricaras tribes.  The Spaniards had been trading with the Indians in this region in horses and cattle.

     The contest for the control of North America was drawing nearer and nearer to an end.  The Indian on the frontier had borne the greater part of the burden.  Two hundred and fifty years of contact with the white man, and the white man’s superior methods of warfare and diplomacy had made the Indian a tool, merely to be used in getting possession of the Territory.  As that possession was gained, the Indian was pushed on to newer frontiers.  The true pioneer of North America was not the European, but the Indian.  For the first three hundred years, he blazed the way for the white man on every frontier.  He was the buffer between hostile tribes and hostile nations.  None of the European nations realized the importance of the Indian as a frontiersman.

     Du Tisne was charged with making alliances with the Indian tribes on the Osage, the Missouri, and the Arkansas Rivers.  He made an alliance with the Pawnees on the Arkansas, where he bought Spanish horses and planted the French flag in their village.
     These expeditions made it possible to trade with the Spaniards in New Mexico, as a result of preserving peace among the Indians by creating alliances.  Thus a major objective of the expeditions between 1718-1724.  
     La Harpe, Du Rivage, Du Tisne had crafted peace treaties and alliances among thirty different nations in the western part of the Louisiana Territory.
     Law’s Company of the West appointed La Harpe to open up the Arkansas River as a highway to Spanish territory.  In reporting the expedition, Lieutenant Dumont reported that:  "In 1721, . . . . we had the satisfaction of traversing a very beautiful country, fertile plains, vast prairies covered with buffalo, stags, does, deer, turtles, etc.  We saw rocks of jasper marble at the foot of which lay slabs cut by nature’s hand, others of slate and talc, very fit for making plaster.  I have no doubt there are gold mines in the country, as we discovered a little stream which rolled gold dust in its waters."
     France had, at last, accomplished her purpose of making possible a highway to the Spaniards of New Mexico, which she had definitely started, by establishing the Arkansas Post, and by making treaties with the Arkansas.  A second course of action was taken by La Harpe in 1719, when he made alliances with nine tribes, collectively called Touacara, in addition to a major treaty between the Comanches and the Jumano.
     The Arkansas and Canadian rivers became the international highway between the French and the Spanish in the New World.  With the close of the Seven Years’ War, the Indian realized that the aggressive English farmer would take the place of the French hunter and trapper.

The Capitol at Biloxi
     Following a severe 1719 hurricane –  in 1720, the fort at Mobile was ordered to be abandoned at all haste.  Mobile was evacuated and was established as a simple outpost, while Dauphin Island was left as a way station.
     New Biloxi was started with teepee type shelters until log houses could be built.  As new emigrants arrived in 1720, Bienville issued more than 3000 persons small Concession grants throughout New France territories along the Mississippi Valley, mid-west and as far as Minnesota.
     Even as a new Fort St. Louis was being constructed at New Biloxi, Bienville continued to persuade the council to use New Orleans instead, but again, he was outvoted and New Biloxi was built as the seat of government, while establishing Deer Island as a temporary shelter for immigrants.
     After New Orleans was finally determined as the French Capitol in April 1722, Bienville began his process of moving to New Orleans.  He sent word to Ship Island to have all incoming ships from France to start using the Mississippi River and to send existing stored supplies to New Orleans.  By May 1722, all goods and provisions as well as the dismantled garrison were shipped to New Orleans from Biloxi.  Only a company of soldiers and a few families who had settled near the fort grounds continued there.


New World Contestants

The French
     Early French influence in the New World was initiated in Canada, having founded Quebec in 1608.  At the Gulf of Mexico, d’Iberville realized the need to establish a fort in order to protect France’s claim to the Mississippi River.  This resulted in seeking out a safe harbor with adequate deep waters to anchor their ships.  In sounding for a deep-water channel, they favored Biloxi Bay  where they selected a settlement site on Wednesday, April 8, 1699.  They cleared the land and built a fort for protection of the garrison which would remain to protect their claims.  This was at the present town of Ocean Springs, Mississippi, across the Bay from present-day Biloxi.
     Due to hurricanes and a desire to seek high ground safety for a French capital site, Iberville moved the Flag two more times before settling at New Orleans as the  permanent seat of government.
     D’Iberville chose old Biloxi as the first Capital of Louisiana in 1699, followed by Mobile in January 1702, and later returning west to new Biloxi, and then finally moving the French seat of government to New Orleans in 1721.
     Large grants of land on the Mississippi river and along this coast were made by the French government on the condition of colonization.

The Spanish
     The Spanish had been first to the New World and had taken possession of most of South America and the Carribean islands, as well as Mexico and all the lands west of the Rocky Mountains including the vast territory of New Mexico.
     In 1779, the Spanish appropriated East Florida and West Florida and hoisted their colors adorned by Lions and Castles.  The Spaniards held the Louisiana Territory until the year 1800, when it was ceded back to France.  Napoleon couldn't hold it against the English so he decided to sell the vast Mississippi Valley territory to the United States on April 30, 1803.

The British
     With political restructuring in Europe, the New World lands were becoming influenced by the ensuing war games resulting in coastal area ownership being shifted from one European national control to another.  The British took possession away from the French in 1773.  They then took a part of Florida and part of Louisiana to create the fifteenth colony that they called West Florida.  When the original 13 colonies rebelled in 1776, the two Florida colonies remained loyal to King George III of England.

Columbus' voyage in 1492 revealed a previously unknown continent and "set in motion . . . a staggering sequence of exploration and conquest.  Within a decade of Columbus' death, the entire length of the coast from Honduras to Pernambuco had been mapped, and all the major West Indian islands, save Barbados, had been explored by Europeans.” . . . G.V. Scammel



The Indians

     As D’Iberville and Bienville encountered new Indian tribes, they quickly made allies of them.  The normal custom was a 3-day Feast celebrated by the Dance of the Calumet when the peace pipe was passed amongst the top leaders.  Then gifts were distributed consisting of knives, hatchets, axes, picks and mirrors, rings, beads and trinkets.  The Indians would offer food and teach the French Indian cultivation, making of pirogues, and describing the terrain and Indian villages for the map makers.
     The early Spanish and French explorers encountered various tribes in the Louisiana Territory as recorded in Iberville's Journals.
     One of Iberville's entourage, Andre Penicaut, recorded that "during the spring of 1700, Iberville reported contacts only with small groups (of Indians), a male hunting party in one instance;  and small extended families, one of which was traveling with stored maize and beans."  Although native villages were located well inland, the Indians established coastal sites during their seasonal encampments.
     As D’Iberville and Bienville encountered new Indian tribes, they quickly made allies of them.  The normal custom was a 3-day Feast celebrated by the Dance of the Calumet when the peace pipe was passed amongst the top leaders.  Then gifts were distributed consisting of knives, hatchets, axes, picks and mirrors, rings, beads and trinkets.  The Indians would offer food and teach the French Indian cultivation, making of pirogues, and describing the terrain and Indian villages for the map makers.
     The Indians still remained shy of the white man as a result of their encounter with the Spaniard, DeSoto.  During DeSoto's 1540s trek through Florida and crossing the Mississippi River, he killed all Indians he came in contact with.  It was the French settlers who finally made friends with the Indians, and by 1730, the many Indian tribes and the French accepted each other as equals.
     During the early 1700s, a small number of Frenchmen had spread out along the bayous, the bays and the rivers.  The French Canadians were not like the other colonists.  From the first days of settlement they took the comely Choctaw women as concubines and the young girls of the Natchez and Chickasaw as slaves.  They adamantly insisted that they had to have women to do their washing and their cooking in order to make sagamité from corn and to maintain their cabins.  No military order and no religious edict could keep them from the Indian girls.  As time passed, small dusky half-breed children were found playing about their cabins.  They would grow up to be approved by the racially tolerant French Canadians.  However, this fact became concealed as the new immigrants began to criticize the practice.  Needless to say, some intermarriages had produced significant and  powerful Indian-Creole leadership.

     Indians referred to the Ozarks as the "Land of Blue Skies and Laughing Waters."


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