Exploration

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La Harpe, Jean-Baptiste Bénard de

Jean-Baptiste Bénard de La Harpe was a French officer, trader, and explorer. He was the first European explorer to record the existence of a large rocky bluff on the north bank of the Arkansas River. This major outcrop of rock is just upstream from a smaller rock, where it was possible to ford the river. It was at this location that the settlement of Little Rock (Pulaski County) subsequently developed. Jean-Baptiste de La Harpe was the second son of Pierre Besnard, Seigneur de la Harpe, and Jeanne le Breton. He was christened on February 4, 1683, in St. Malo, France, one of the couple’s twelve surviving children. His father’s family had lived in the area for nearly a century and …

La Salle, René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de

In 1682, French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle journeyed down the Mississippi River in search of a water route to the Gulf of Mexico. Stopping in present-day Arkansas County at the current site of Arkansas Post National Memorial, La Salle erected a cross to designate the region “Louisiana” in honor of Louis XIV, king of France. He was one of the first European explorers to make alliances with the Native Americans of Arkansas and the first to try to establish a permanent settlement in Arkansas through his friend and fellow explorer, Henri de Tonti. La Salle was born in Rouen, France, on November 21, 1643. His parents, Catherine Gesset and Jean Cavlier, were wealthy merchants. Educated at the …

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 …