White River 1824 - 1831

This is a Working Document.

Below are newspaper articles & surveys of the White River from 1824 - 1831.  I have transcribed all articles as published. Grammar & spelling are true to the time era.

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     Distressing Calamity - Last week we received the unpleasant intelligence, that an uncommonly high and sudden rise of White river, and some of its tributary streams, took place during the early part of this month, which has been particularly destructive and disastrous in its effects, on the property of the citizens of that section of our Territory. The water, we have been informed, rose in some places, from 10 to 15 feet higher than it has ever been known before. A great number of plantations have been inundated and laid waste - and the fences, and in some instances the houses entirely swept off, together with corn, fodder, &c.  &c. The number of cattle, and stock of every description, which has been drowned, is almost incredible; in some instances persons owning large stocks, have lost nearly, the whole, and few have escaped without some loss.
     In this general calamity, we regret to learn, that the flourishing little town of Batesville has not escaped. It has been nearly inundated. At the tavern house of Charles Kelly, Esq. the water rose so as to cover the first floor, and the family was obliged to retire to the second story for safety. At Col. Boswell’s store, the water was up to the top of his counter; and a small warehouse, in which he had a considerable quantity of peltries, &c. was carried entirely off by the current, together with its contents. Col. B's loss, we understand, is at the least calculation, from two to three thousand dollars.
In consequence of the unusual high stage of White river, there was no crossing at either of the ferries in the neighborhood of Batesville, during neat two weeks previous to the 15th inst. This accounts for the failure of the mail from that quarter.
The Arkansas Gazette
Arkansas Post, Arkansas
Tue, Jan. 27, 1824 · Page 3


     Last Saturday's northern mail brought us nothing from beyond Batesville, the mail north of that place having failed in consequence, it is supposed, of another extraordinary flood in White river and its streams, which has been produced by the late excessively heavy rains.
     The rise in White river, we understand, was nearly as great as that in January last, and almost as destructive in its effects. The former rise, it will be recollected, carried off the fences from many plantations and improvements in the neighborhood of Batesville – these had, in most cases, just been replaced by new ones, which have now, in their turn, been swept off by the late rise; and, to add injury, some of the plantations have been seriously damaged, by a considerable portion of top soil being also washed away. We sincerely regret to learn, that has again been almost completely inundated, (and that the water was about three feet in depth I will be recollected, carried off the fences from many of the plantations and improvements in the neighborhood of Batesville these had, in most cases, just been replaced by new ones, which have now, in their turn, been swept off by the late rise; and, to add to the injury, some of the plantations have been seriously damaged, by a considerable portion of the top of the soil being also washed away. We sincerely regret to learn, that Batesville has again been almost completely inundated, and that the depth was about three feet in depth in the Court-House at that place.

Arkansas Gazette
Arkansas Post, Arkansas
16 Mar. 1824, Tue    Page 3


    We learn from White river, that the oldest settlers on that river have never known it to be so high at any former period, as during the late extraordinary rise. Bottoms that have heretofore been considered secure from inundation, have been completely overflowed; and besides the distressing loss the people have sustained by the destruction of their crops, many of them have lost great numbers of their cattle and other stock.

     A gentlemen from Izard county, informs us that the Little North Fork of White river was sixteen feet higher than it has been since the first settlement of the country. 

The Arkansas Gazette
Arkansas Post, Arkansas
Tue, Oct. 10, 1826 · Page 3


For the Arkansas Advocate
            Is about sixty miles square, and contains as is supposed, a population of about 2500 souls, is well watered by springs, creeks, and rivers, and highly deserving the attention of those who are desirous of both good and pure water. Within the last seven or eight years, the population has changed; those who were then residing here, depending solely upon the range and the game for a livelihood, were compelled to give way to others who have become free holders and permanent settlers. On the East, Black River runs along its borders a distance of sixty miles, is navigable for Steam Boats at all seasons of the year, and presents to view, large bodies of first rate bottom and uplands, with an unbroken and never ending range for stock of all kinds. On the Smith side it is watered by Little Red River for upwards of fifty miles; this river empties into White River, is about 60 yards in width, and though 150 miles in length, is navigable for only about 60 miles. A view of this stream and the rich barren lands by which it is skirted for many miles on each side, inferior to none in Kentucky with its numerous springs and clear running creeks of the purest water, give at once the strongest evidence of its character for health. At the head of this river, is a tract of country said to be sufficiently large for a county; level and rich, yet almost unsettled: by some it is called the Rich Woods, by others, New Kentucky. There are several sulphur springs on Little Red River, which are said to be beneficial in many diseases, and are good …..sorted to by the neighboring farmers. Not far from these springs, is a cave. Consisting of very large quantities of Borax chrystalized and almost in a state of purity – that the cave was in ancient times much resorted to, and its contents carried off in large quantities, is evident, from the fact that the fragments of baskets are still found in every direction in the cave, and covered with Borax.
The country watered by this little river, does not appear to have attracted the attention from emigrants to which it is entitled. It is not however improbable, but that the inhabitants, comprising a part of Independence, Pulaski and Conway counties, will at the next session of the Legislature, asked to be stricken off into a separate and different county; then having a name peculiar to itself, will soon acquire a character abroad, and give rise to inquiries calculated to develop its value and advantages. White River is about 250 yards in width, and runs through the country for 80 miles, affording the most delightful situation for building and farming; it water is clear as chrystal, and so transparent, that the smallest pebble may be discerned at the depth of 20 feet. The fish which this river abounds are of the finest flavor, and not like these in most streams, hidden from view, but are seen gliding through the water in every direction; travellers and emigrants all unite in pronouncing  it the most beautiful stream they have ever beheld. Its tributaries, many of which may almost be called rivers, present numerous mill seats, and advantageous sites for machinery of every kind.
Batesville, the seat of justice, is a thriving, busy little village in the centre of the county, on the north side of the river, it has now 3 stores, 3 brick buildings, besides others, and a court-house which would do credit to any part of the Union. I should not forget the jail, which though as an appendage of the court-house, has had but one tenant in five years. In addition to its numerous advantages, the Land Office for the northern part of the Territory is located here, which calls to a continual throng. Batesville is about 100 miles by land from Little Rock, and 400 miles from the Mississippi by water. White River is navigable at all times for Steam Boats of any size, to its junction with Black River, 20 miles from Batesville, for several months in the year, 20 miles above; and there is no question, but that should an appropriation ever be made, and judiciously expended, in the improvement of the river, the whole of Izard and Washington counties, would be enabled to receive their supplies and export their produce by water.
            There is much in Independence county to interest the botanist and mineralogist; for in addition to lead, and particularly to iron ore, which is inexhaustible, and could be worked to great advantage with a small capital, there are appearances of other minerals, the quality and value of which are unknown. A little stream called Lafferty’s creek, abounds in various kinds of earth, which answer excellent proposes in dying; also minerals which are supposed to be valuable; many attempts have been made to analyze them, but as yet, with the limited means at command unsuccessfully. It is much to be regretted, that some person competent to the task, would not spend a few weeks in examination of them, I cannot believe that his labors would be wholly in vain. It is not only the man of science, who willing by diving into the secrets of nature to find much interest to him, but here too, I would invite the invalid to come, for the restoration of health by attending Sulpher Springs on Wolf Bayou or creek, about 12 miles above Batesville, which are pronounced by competent judges, to be superior in strength and efficacy, to the far famed-springs of Virginia; its operation upon the system is almost immediate, and its effects truly astonishing. The principle diseases, for which they are most resorted to, are the ague, the fever, and affection of the liver; it is here too, that the epicure should come, for he may eat without injury, and indeed the water gives a zest to the appetite which nothing else can do. There is another spring near Batesville, also much resorted to, the efficacy of which is much confided in.
Hitherto the upper part of the county alone, has been spoken of; the lower part, its fertility and rapidly increasing settlements should not be forgotten. On the north side we find the Big Bottom, as it is called, upwards of 20 miles in length, and 5 in width; opposite to this, the Oil Trough Bottom, still larger, more fertile and more populous. This Bottom is said to have derived its name from the fact of an old hunter, having many years since, deposited his bear’s oil in a trough for safe keeping. Could he now return, see the farms around him, hear the falling of the trees, and the echoing of the axe in every direction, lie would be truly astonished. It is but within a few years, since the bottoms here spoken of, have begun to settle; the farms are numerous, well cultivated, and the dwellings comfortable. Much of the credit of all this, is due to Mr. Kelly, for his enterprize in opening a store and erecting an excellent cotton gin in the Oil Trough Bottom; his example has given a degree of energy and industry to the inhabitants, which they hardly before believed themselves possessed of. In the rear of these bottoms, are large bodies of good uplands which are rapidly settling; there is still, however, much room both on the river, and in the uplands unoccupied and uncultivated. No better evidence of the morality of the people can be given, than the simple fact, that in three years, but one case of larceny has occurred, and that too trifling to be noticed. As for honesty, it is alone necessary to say, that there is scarcely an instance, in which a farmer has a lock to his door, and it is a rare occurrence that he sustains a loss. Religion too, has received that attention, which its importance deserves, and it may be said, that a large majority of the people are members of some church, and conduct themselves as christians ought to do. Many of those, who, but a short time since were the votaries of fashion, and careless of their future destiny, have now become its warmest advocates, and the most ardent in forwarding Bible Societies, and distributing the sacred writings. The general aspect of the country, will convince any unprejudiced observer, that if health is to be found any where in a southern clime, it is here; the people look well, the land is fertile, free from, lakes or ponds, and abounds with springs of the purest water. The appearance of the well cultivated farms, indicate a contented and thriving people, yet, notwithstanding all this, notwithstanding that there were more than 500 bales of cotton, beside peltries, &c. exported from this county last year, it has been never visited by a steam boat, from what cause, I know not, but they appear to have carefully avoided White River, though for gentleness and safety, it is surpassed by none in the Western country, and it is evident, that a rich harvest awaits such as may come.
Much might be said relative to the advantages which the farmers here possess from the fact of their being enabled to send their produce to market at these seasons when the Ohio and Mississippi are either frozen up or too low for navigation; these are the advantages which can only be appreciated by these who have experienced them.  Hordes, hogs, and cattle can be raised without any other expense, and occasional salting. Cotton, corn, and small grains of all kind, flourish and do well, but the climate inimical to fruits, on the contrary, all the fruits of the north, and greater portions of the production of the south succeed admirably. Peaches and plumbs are abundant, and the apple orchards yield the choicest fruits. All agree that the climate and soil are particularly adapted to the silk-worm and the cultivation of the grape. It is admitted by every intelligent man who has become acquainted with the resources of the country, that it presents the strongest inducements to the emigrant; and that any farmer, possessing ordinary industry and economy,  may here make a livelihood with less labor, and a competency  with more certainty and rapidity, than any other section of the Union.

"Independence County." Arkansas Times and Advocate, Little Rock, Arkansas. September 22, 1830 - Wednesday    Page 3


 For the Arkansas Advocate.

     Is situated on White river, in the northern part of the Territory, exceeding from Independence to Washington county, a distance of 120 miles by way of the road, and 300 by the river, which runs throughout its whole extent; and in beauty, clearness and purity, is exceeded by no other in the Union. Its margin affords bottom or alluvial lands, not so large as those which are found on the Arkansas, but equally as rich, and in many places, sufficiently extensive for a number of families. Unlike most large streams, the inhabitants generally reside next to the hills, for the convenience of spring water, which gushes forth from the cliffs, and in many places, not in close to the bottoms, in going from Independence county, the first settlement is on Rocky bayou, a little stream not exceeding 15 miles in length, fed by springs which are numerous to its source. A few miles above its mouth, this creek branches out in various directions, upon which are neat little farms indicating contentment and cheerfulness; it has a population of 15 or 20 families, a saw mill and 2 grist mills.
     From this place to the Piney creeks, a distance of 15 miles, the country is poor and mountainous; here however, at the junction of these creeks, the prospect is much enlivened by the appearance of a saw and grist mill, belonging to Messrs. Livingston and Wolf. The mill is within half a mile of the river, and the pine around it inexhaustible. Those gentlemen deserve much credit for their enterprize (sic), and there is no doubt but their perseverance will meet with success.
     From this to the next settlement, a distance of 17 miles, the land appears somewhat better; here we find another grist mill and another saw mill, both of which meet with much encouragement. Eight miles farther on is a branch of White river, called the Big North Fork, it is about 80 yards in width and at least 100 miles in length; in other countries it would be made and called a navigable river, as it now is in freshets for some distance. It is settled for 30 or 40 miles up, presents much rich bottom and a good deal of tillable upland. About 20 miles from its mouth it breaks off into creeks, many of which upon their borders, present inviting situations, and the country adjoining becomes for some distance level and rich.
     At the junction of this stream with White river, stands the Seat of Justice, Liberty; its situation is elevated and commanding; as yet, however, like most of the little towns, it is not much improved; in proportion as the settlements increase so will this place, in importance. At this time it has a store, a blacksmith shop, and a good Tavern, where is to be found good cheer upon moderate terms. Opposite to the town is another store and a cotton gin nearly completed.
     For 30 miles farther the hills and mountains are numerous, then for 10 miles the lands are rich and thickly settled, until we reach the Little North Fork, another branch of White river, about 40 yards in width and 60 miles in length; here, near the mouth, is another saw mill, and here too, within a short distance of the main river, is an inexhaustible mine of Iron ore, and if the reports of those who have examined it be true, of which there is no reason to doubt, it will yield to no other in richness, for it is said to be almost malleable. Wood is plenty immediately adjoining to it, and water power sufficient for machinery of any kind. It will yet be the source of wealth to some enterprising capitalist, for in addition to the many advantages which it presents, the iron could be shipped immediately from the works, and the counties below, bordering upon the river, would be a market calculated to take much of its labor.
     Above this stream we sec considerable good land, and pass Swan and Bull creeks, and many others, all of which not only have settlements on them, but still present many fine openings to the emigrant. Forty miles farther we strike James' Fork of White river, a stream equally as large and long as the Big North Fork, the bottoms are tolerably large, and in proportion as it is ascended, becomes more open until about 30 miles from its mouth, a level country is seen really and truly inviting, fine land, the best of water, and health if it is to be found any where. This stream is settling fast, particularly by persons from Missouri. It has become in some measure noted for its lead mines, the ore of which is plainly perceptible to the eye across the whole bed of the stream; it is said to be very rich though it has never been regularly worked. The Indians and others occasionally run their lead from it.
    On the west side of the river the prairie opens and extends as is supposed to the Rocky Mountains. There is a road from here to Washington county and another to St. Louis, both of which are said to be a good deal travelled. The country generally above this and on the head of White river and its tributaries, is very similar to that of Washington county. Heretofore the country and its streams have, been spoken of only on the north side of White river; that the south side is far from being understanding of [...motive...]. Until 1828 it formed a part of the Cherokee nation and was deemed the most inviting part of Izard county. The lands upon the river have been described, out some distance back along the line of Independence, is a large tract called the Rich Woods, said to be well watered and almost large enough for a country. There are but few families settled here, all of whom speak in the highest terms of the adjacent lands.
     It is so lately that this part of Izard county has been open for settlement, that its advantages and good lands are almost unknown; it is well therefore, to pass on to Buffalo creek is upwards of 40 miles in length, its bottoms are tolerably good and will give room to a considerable settlement; near its mouth is a large saltpeter cave, which a few years since, was extensively worked.
The next stream is Crooked creek which has long had a high reputation; it is 60 miles long and though inclined to be poor and rocky near its mouth, yet a few miles up a beautiful country is found, and it continues so to its head; its bottoms are large, and the uplands, gently undulating, rich as can be desired; springs are so numerous here that they are discovered in every direction.
     The land continues generally good to Bear creek. The character of this little stream is, generally speaking, similar to that of Crooked creek. These two creeks are beginning to present farms not only immediately upon margin, but in open country, which breaks off level, occasionally giving view of a small prairie sufficiently large for good farms.
     King river empties into White river, and is worthy of attention to those who are fond of good spring water, as well as good land, both of which can be found upon and near it without much trouble.
   Fifteen miles away is War Eagle, one of the main forks of White river, but supposed to be in Washington county. It is no doubt navigable for flat boats for some distance in high water. For many miles up it presents very large bodies of land well adapted to agricultural purposes, occasionally intersected with small prairies, similar in richness and appearance to the lands in Washington county.
Four miles above is Richland creek. Its name is truly applicable, for the land is very rich in every direction, continues so with scarcely any intermission for 20 miles, to Washington county.
     In giving a description of Izard county, it is perhaps, going too near to Washington C.H.; but as it is located on White river, a full description of its tributaries, however superficial, should be given. It is a rare case in Izard county, to find a farmer without a first-rate spring, which no doubt adds very much to the health of the inhabitants. It has increased but slowly in population from the fact that it was in a great measure unknown, and until within two years, the best part situated on the south side of the river, belongs to the Indians. It is now however, increasing considerably in numbers and no doubt will continue to do so in proportion as it becomes better known. It is but lately that the inhabitants have devoted any part of their attention to the cultivation of cotton, yet this year they will probably export nearly 100 bales.
     The inhabitants of Izard, like all the other counties bordering on White river, receive their supplies in keel boats: they too, call loudly for a steam-boat to ascend the river, for they would be prepared, like every other family in the north, to buy their groceries and such other articles as they might need; and a full load upon such terms as could be afforded to be sold at, would occasion no delay, and give a handsome freight and commission. It will scarcely be believed, that six counties, with a population of 7 or 8000 souls, sending oft near a 100 bales of cotton, besides peltries, furs, &c, and importing 250 tons of merchandize, have never been visited by a single steam-boat. One trip would soon induce another, for the harvest awaiting the coming of the first is truly a rich one. Then too, emigrants desirous of settling on the waters of White river, would have an opportunity of ascending with less labor and less expense. Many parts of Izard county are similar to Washington, the farmers are kind and hospitable, and provisions cheap and plenty.

[Charles Fenton Mercer (Fent) Noland]

"Izard County." Arkansas Times and Advocate, Little Rock, Arkansas. 10 November, 1830. Wed    Page 3

To the Editors of the Advocate.
            Gentlemen Business a short time since, called me from Izard to Washington County, and as any thing having a tendency to lift the veil of obscurity from our unknown though fertile country, cannot but be interesting, I herewith transmit to you some account of my tour.
That part of the country through which I travelled, although so little known to the emigrant, and even to the residents of this country, and almost entirely unsettled, contains much that is interesting. Variety, so much sought after by mankind, here is endless. The lover of agricultural pursuits, can view with grateful sensations, large tracts of land, watered in every direction by never-failing springs, with every comfort within its reach, that could conduce to his happiness, while the philanthropist must mourn, that here, the sound of the axe is never heard, nor the benign influence of civilization ever felt from the dizzy heights of the surrounding cliffs, might the poet revel in all the luxuries of a romantic but fertile imagination - while the verdant lawns and green pastures, would seem to him some new Arcadia - or this secluded spot might be the fit residence of some pious anchorite, who, cut off from all communication with the busy world, could, undisturbed, enjoy sweet communion with his God. From the summit of the surrounding hills, may be seen on the one side, the bed of White River, with its numerous tributaries of, gliding in silence through a wilderness of thick wood, or occasionally interrupting a vast expanse prairie, presenting to the emigrant, not only home and happiness, plenty and even wealth. The beauties of this stream have been often described, but it certainly deserves every encomium that can be bestowed upon it. Upon its chrystal bosom, every object near its borders is reflected, and re-reflected, until it appears some fairy land or world of enchantment. It abounds, with fish of every description, and the angler, while in, anxious solicitude he watches his hook in 20 feet water, is continually relieved from the monotony of his situation, by a perfect view of the speckled trout, as he dashes by with fearless impetuosity, or the sluggish buffalo lazily stemming the current, and apparently encountering difficulties which he is not anxious to avoid. On the other side, a dark range of hills skirt the horizon, and while they intercept the view render the whole scene delightful and enchanting.
For the first eighteen miles after we left Izard Court House, we passed through a country, rough, and rather too poor for cultivation, until we arrived at Mr. Hightower’s' where we were cheered with the sight of a large body of rich alluvial lands, extending to the river. In this bottom, there are about 10 families, and there is room for many more. After passing through this bottom, we crossed White river, and at the distance of ten miles, came to the old Shawnee village, where a portion of that nation formerly lived. Perhaps a more beautiful situation could not be pointed to, than here presents itself; it is immediately on Crooked Creek, where there is about 1200 acres of land in one body, and although bottom land, is not subject to inundation. There are only three white families residing at this village and several Indian families, who all appear to be comfortably situated. I have learned since my return, that three other families have settled in the village, and many more are preparing to move there. After leaving this bottom, we went up the Creek, twenty-five of thirty miles, crossing it at least ten or twelve times, and found that it afforded fine bottom land; at almost every crossing.
About twelve miles above the village before alluded to we came to, another Indian village, occupied by about 200 of the same nation; their situation was well chosen and eligible, the lands were good, and the springs quite inviting, and an abundance of cane for their horses and cattle.
At the last unnamed village, I was struck with the uncommon beauty of an Indian girl. I had frequently heard of the beauty of some of these females, but I never saw one, who had just a claim to the appellation. She was of a middling stature, and such exact symmetry of form, that every idea of beauty, as described by poetic imagination, immediately occurred to me, and I was constrained to admit that my Indian heroine far exceeded any description. She was dressed in the simple garb of her tribe, adorned with medals, which appeared to be arranged with studied negligence upon her bosom, and showed her to be of a superior order – her large, dark, though languid eyes seemed to look all tenderness, while it displayed the simplicity of her heart, and her truly amiable disposition – her features were all extremely regular, when her lips were parted with a smile, a row of teeth which would vie in whiteness and evenness with the most polished ivory was just perceptible.
This simple untaught beauty the forest, would, perhaps, have never attracted my situation or caused one idle thought, but for the thought, but for the peculiar and forlorn the situation of her tribe. That part of the nation to which she belongs, had previously lived at the old village below, having settled there below with the consent of Cherokee nation, to whom the country belonged; hut the treaty of 1828, having it thrown open to our citizens, they, under the proclamation of the Governor, had a right to deprive them of their homes; and too strictly exercised this merciless prerogative. They then moved to the place where we saw them, where there situation is far from enviable; the echo of the axe is still approaching, and they know not at what moment they must be compelled to change their residence, and where they will be able, eventually, to find a resting place, or more secure abode, no one can tell; of every passing stranger they ask relief, and tell the sad tale of their miseries. Their Chiefs, to the number of five or six, came to our camp, they stated they had no home, no land, no place to go to - though once powerful, they now were weak; though in times of peril their friendship was sought; they now were friendless; that they had raised the tommahawk and bared the scalping knife in defense of our government, and to that government they looked up for the means of living. To see the wreck of a nation once strong in numbers and fearless of danger, whose prowess in war and deeds of valor, have been the theme of the poet and historian, and called forth the eloquence of the statesman, now appealing to every passing stranger for relief, is truly a scene well calculated to call forth every feeling of sympathy, and touch the tenderest chord of every bosom, have to human distress, to see them gradually mouldering away as civilization approaches, is the most convincing evidence of the correctness of the views of the general government, in removing the Indians beyond the white settlements. We should view things as they are, not as we think they should be, and it is this alone which gives rise to the mistaken philanthropy of our eastern brethren, upon the subject of their removal.
The lands adjacent to this village are of an excellent quality, and sufficient for a large neighborhood; the uplands are of bastard barren prairies, and woodland, here and there rich and gently undulating, with springs breaking out in every direction. After we left the head of Crooked creek, we crossed several small streams, all of which appeared to have a share of good land, until we come to a creek on which a Mr. Yokums lives; he is the only individual who has settled on this creek, where there is certainly much good land, the country around Yokums' is prairie and level; he is now digging for salt water, with a tolerable prospect of success. After proceeding some ten miles from this place, we came to the Osage Fork of King's river, here are large bottoms, rich and unsettled - a distance of five miles farther, we came to King's river, here also are large bottoms,  rich and unsettled - from this stream, in a few hours we come to the War Eagle Fork of White river, and from this to the Court House in Washington, a distance of about 30 miles, where the lands in point of fertility, are equal to any, and certainly inferior to none.
Several days spent in Washington county, has convinced me that it is not overrated, the lands are good, elevated, and well watered, the inhabitants appear to enjoy excellent health, and their crops have been but little affected by the drought. Vast numbers are daily coming in, yet the county is only partially settled, and none, need fear the want of room.
While we were in Washington, County was in session, Judge Cross presiding, and it gives me the highest pleasure to say, that he discharged the duties of his station in a manner not only honorable to himself, but satisfactory to the whole community.

Arkansas Times and Advocate
Little Rock, Arkansas
Wed, Feb 09, 1831 · Page 3

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