Exploration

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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 …

Spanish Explorers and Settlers

The only Spanish expedition into present-day Arkansas began when Hernando de Soto led his party across the Mississippi River on June 18, 1541. The Spaniards had already endured two years of wandering throughout the American southeast, hoping to duplicate the conquest and colonization of a wealthy and powerful nation, as had been done twenty years earlier with the Aztecs of Mexico. De Soto’s band of fortune seekers trudged on for another two years after crossing into Arkansas, where they encountered many large, agriculturally prosperous native chiefdoms, but none of the gold or silver that they sought. By the end of the expedition, approximately half their number, including de Soto himself, had died from sickness, hunger, exposure, or conflict with the …

Spanish Land Grants

Arkansas inherited a complex legacy of land grants from its time as part of Spanish Louisiana. Beginning in 1769, royal governor Alejandro O’Reilly established regulations concerning the size of permissible concessions and the conditions by which applicants could perfect titles to their land. Subsequent governors upheld and expanded similar regulations, but in practice, most grants made during Spanish rule were approved upon request only by the commandant of the nearest settlement. Formal surveys of the grants were rarely made, which further frustrated attempts to determine rightful ownership of granted land once Spanish Louisiana became part of the United States. O’Reilly’s regulations prescribed a three-year probationary period during which claimants were expected to clear the frontage of their land, build ditches …