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Entries - Entry Category: American

Freeman and Custis Red River Expedition

aka: Freeman Red River Expedition
aka: The Grand Excursion
Perhaps the most forgotten expedition to explore the southwest territory of the Louisiana Purchase was the ill-fated 1806 journey by Thomas Freeman and Peter Custis, initially labeled “The Great Excursion” by President Thomas Jefferson, who wanted the endeavor to chart and explore both the Red and Arkansas rivers. In the end, Freeman and Custis were tasked to ascend the Red River in search of its headwaters, along the way documenting coordinates, climate, and ecological findings. The expedition would pass through the southwest corner of what would become Arkansas and its borders with Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. In selecting a civilian leader, the president designated Thomas Freeman, a 1784 Irish immigrant and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, surveyor. Although he had no field experience, …

Hunter-Dunbar Expedition

aka: Dunbar-Hunter Expedition
The Hunter-Dunbar expedition was one of only four ventures into the Louisiana Purchase commissioned by Thomas Jefferson. Between 1804 and 1807, President Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark into the northern regions of the Purchase; Zebulon Pike into the Rocky Mountains, the southwestern areas, and two smaller forays; Thomas Freeman and Peter Custis along the Red River; and William Dunbar and Dr. George Hunter to explore the “Washita” River and “the hot springs” in what is now Arkansas and Louisiana. While the Ouachita River expedition was not as vast as and did not provide the expanse of geographic and environmental information collected by Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery, the exploration of Dunbar and Hunter remains significant for several reasons. It …

Louisiana Purchase Survey

The purchase of the vast Louisiana Territory from France in 1803 practically doubled the size of the United States, yet little of it was marked off by the American land survey method, which divides land into square tracts, an orderly prerequisite for land ownership in the nineteenth century. The survey of this vast, new American West began in what would later become the state of Arkansas and is commemorated at Louisiana Purchase State Park on U.S. Highway 49 between Brinkley (Monroe County) and Helena (Phillips County). Since Arkansas was first, the survey enabled early sale of land that contributed to Arkansas’s being the third state admitted into the Union west of the Mississippi River (after Louisiana and Missouri). The survey …

Nuttall, Thomas

Thomas Nuttall, a preeminent and far-ranging field naturalist, participated in the early scientific exploration of Arkansas and is remembered both for identifying a number of the state’s plants and for his description of early Arkansas life. His notes on people living in the territory—both Native Americans and American settlers—have provided valuable information for historians and researchers ever since they were first published in 1821. Thomas Nuttall was born to James Nuttall and Margaret Hardacre Nuttall on January 5, 1786, in Long Preston, Yorkshire, England. He was the oldest of three siblings; he had two sisters, Susan (Susannah) and Elizabeth. He never married and had no children. After attending the village school, Nuttall worked as a journeyman printer for his uncle …

Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe

Henry Rowe Schoolcraft published the first written description of the Arkansas Ozarks’ geography, vegetation, wildlife, and inhabitants. His Journal of a Tour into the Interior of Missouri and Arkansaw, published in London, England, in 1821, is an account of a three-month exploration by Schoolcraft and one companion, Levi Pettibone. From November 1818 to February 1819, Schoolcraft explored land from Potosi, Missouri, southwest to the White River, northwest to near Springfield, Missouri, then south by canoe on the White River to present-day Batesville (Independence County), and finally northeast again to Missouri. Schoolcraft’s great-grandfather was a British soldier in New York in the early 1700s who settled with a German wife in Schoharie County, New York. His son John served in the …