Frenchport (Ouachita County)

Frenchport (Ouachita County) is an unincorporated community located about eight miles southeast of Camden (Ouachita County). The current channel of the Ouachita River is located about two miles east of the community. Originally based close to the river, the community moved west as better roads linked the community to Camden. Arkansas Highway 7 runs to the west of the community.

Early settlers in the area included the Fogle, Labeff, and Peveto families. Originally residents of France, the families traveled to New Orleans, Louisiana, and moved up the Mississippi, Red, Black, and Ouachita rivers to the area. Finding a logjam on the river that prevented further movement, the families settled in the area. The name of the community comes from the nationality of those early settlers.

Much of the land in the area was claimed at the Federal Land Patent Office in 1860 and 1861. John Hays received eighty acres of land on September 1, 1860, and Edward Scogin received 120 acres spread across three sections on the same day. Both men paid cash for the land. Hugh Simpson and two partners acquired a total of 240 acres in November 1860. The land acquired in this transaction fell under the Scrip Warrant Act of 1855. It rewarded members of the military for service in conflicts. It does not seem as though any of the men involved in these transactions were the original recipients of the land, as one parcel was awarded to a unit of Georgia militia for service against the Cherokee and a second was awarded for service in a California unit during the Mexican War.

The community grew due to its prime location near the river. Farmers from Ouachita and Union counties brought their crops to the settlement to ship down the Ouachita River to markets in New Orleans. Cotton buyers traveled from New Orleans to Frenchport to negotiate directly with farmers. The cotton growers could also accompany their crops downriver and sell them directly.

A ferry operated in the community, connecting Frenchport to Calhoun County. While the river was an important driver for the local economy, it also proved to be a popular recreation location. Residents swam in the river, and an annual Independence Day picnic was held on its banks.

Churches in the area include the former McMahan Chapel, a Methodist church located on land donated by J. T. McMahan. The chapel was located near the river, and the J. M. Moore store was located behind the building. The Frenchport Community Church began operations under a brush arbor before constructing a building in 1949. The present church building was constructed in 1982, and the church continues to operate in the twenty-first century.

The Mount Horeb Cemetery is located to the northwest of the community and contains the graves of many early settlers of both Frenchport and the nearby community of Elliott (Ouachita County). Early graves in the cemetery include that of Aninent Mason, who died on November 14, 1846. His father, Dr. Peter Mason, died on August 18, 1851, and is also buried in the cemetery. The cemetery continues to be active in the twenty-first century.

Other stores operated in the community in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Peter Fogle and N. H. Milner also operated stores in the community. A post office operated from 1878 to 1896. In the early twenty-first century, however, no stores operated in Frenchport. At least one school operated in Frenchport, serving children to the eighth grade. While it is unclear when the school began operations, it consolidated with Fairview (Ouachita County) in 1926. The community then came to be served by the Camden-Fairview School District.

A B-26 bomber that had taken off from Savannah, Georgia, crashed near the community on January 20, 1944; the crash killed all eight military crew members and passengers.

The Captain John T. Burkett House, constructed around 1900, is located in the community. Added to the National Register of Historic Places on June 3, 1998, the home is an example of Folk Victorian architecture.

The community serves as a bedroom community for Camden.

For additional information:
Barnes, Sandra. “Plane Crash at Frenchport.” Ouachita County Historical Quarterly 23 (Spring 1992): 35–36.

“Frenchport.” Ouachita County Historical Society. http://www.ouachitacountyhistoricalsociety.org/uploads/3/4/6/4/34649652/frenchport_update_1.pdf (accessed October 2, 2020).

Frenchport Community Church. http://www.frenchportchurch.org/ (accessed October 2, 2020).

Moore, Gertrude. “Frenchport Created by Log Jam on River that Hindered French Enroute to Camden.” Ouachita County Historical Quarterly 22 (September 1990): 13–17.

David Sesser
Henderson State University

Last Updated: 10/02/2020

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