Arkansas Post Beginnings - Prehistory to 1763
Before European exploration, the lower Arkansas River valley had been home to numerous American Indian groups. Mounds, arrowheads, and pottery provide mute testimony today to the lives of these peoples.
By the mid-1500s the Quapaw people had taken up residence along the Mississippi and Arkansas Rivers. Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto and his expedition were the first Europeans to explore this area, but it was the arrival of the French 130 years later that began the exploration, settlement, and transformation of the Lower Mississippi valley. During this time the settlement of Arkansas Post developed only very slowly; while older than New Orleans and Saint Louis, its isolated location limited the attractiveness to all but the hardiest French hunters.
1500s By this time the Quapaw tribe located to a series of villages along the Mississippi and Arkansas rivers.
1541 Hernando de Soto was the first European known to have visited the territory which is now the state of Arkansas.
1673 Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet explored the territory as far south as the Arkansas River.
1682 Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle visited the country of the Arkansea, so called by the Indians of the territory. While on the Arkansas River one of la Salle's lieutenants, Henri de Tonti, asked for and was granted a seigneury of land.
1686 De Tonti established a trading post, staffed with six on the north side of the Arkansas River, adjacent to the Quapaw village of Osotouy. A cabin and a large cross were erected. It was named "Poste de Arkansea".
1687 March La Salle is assassinated by one of his own men. His Texas settlement fails in the following months.
July 24 Survivors of La Salle's expedition to Texas, come across Arkansas Post while making their way north. One of the party, Henri Joutel, later writes the first description of the Post.
By this time only two men remain at the Post. The other four returned to Canada for news and supplies.
1689 A site was granted to Father Claude Deblon, a Jesuit priest, for a chapel and mission at the Post. It is highly likely that this chapel was never developed.
1690 While traveling the Mississippi River, Henri de Tonti makes a short visit to Arkansas Post. This may be the only time he visited the settlement that he helped to create.
1700 At about this date the original Poste de Arkansea was abandoned.
1717 The French government grants Scottish financier John Law's Compagnie d'Occident complete commercial and political control of the province of Louisiana.
1719 John Law expands his company to include the French colonies in China and the East Indies. The company is renamed the Compagnie des Indes to reflect this largest role. By this time Law had also gained control of France's finance ministry; in effect, Law was now at the head of Europe's most successful conglomerate.
1720 "The Mississippi Bubble" - The value of stock in Law's company rose so rapidly that, combined with Law's control of the French monetary system, massive inflation was seen throughout Europe.
1721 September Share prices in Compagnie des Indes deflate to their original value. The fall in the price of the stock led to a takeover of the company and brought an end to Law's ambitious plans to develop the Louisiana Colony, including the settlement of German colonists at Arkansas Post.
Representatives of John Law's Compagnie des Indes begin construction of an agricultural colony near the site of the first Post, on the north bank of the Arkansas River. This colonial effort ultimately failed, but formed the basis for later permanent settlements. Construction for the Law Colony site is done by indentured servants and slaves.
1722 By order of the Regent of France, authority was given for a settlement at the Poste de Arkansas and an officer named M. De La Boulaye was sent to command the garrison.
French explorer Bernard de La Harpe visits Arkansas Post at the beginning of his expedition up the Arkansas River.
1723 The Inspector-General of the colony visits Arkansas Post and reports that only 14 Frenchmen were living there.
1727 Jesuit Father du Poisson arrives at the Post to serve as a missionary to the Quapaw and attend to the spiritual needs of the French community there (numbering about 30 by this time). The murder of Father du Poisson by Natchez Indians puts an end to this missionary effort, and for the next several years Arkansas Post was without a resident missionary.
1729 Natchez Revolt Natchez Indians attack the French settlement of Fort Rosalie (near present-day Natchez, Mississippi) and killed 250. Encouraged by the French, the Choctaw and Quapaw turn against the Natchez.
1733 First Ensign de Coulange, commanding Arkansas Post, reports that the Post was "menaced from all sides" as 11 hunters on the Arkansas River had been killed by the Osage during the year.
1738 The French government enlists the aid of the Quapaw to wage war against the Chickasaw Indians, allies of the British.
1744 A census taken this year shows the population of Arkansas Post as 12 soldiers and 10 slaves.
1748 A census taken this year shows the population of Arkansas Post as 31 Frenchmen and 14 slaves.
1749 One hundred and fifty Chickasaws, led by Payah Matahah, raided the Post. Six Frenchmen were killed and the Indians withdrew when their leader was gravely wounded. Following this incident, the Post is moved upriver to the Ecore Rouge site
1750s Arkansas Post serves as a jumping off point for French travelers to New Mexico.Governor Kerlerec strengthened the French alliance with the Quapaw by inviting the Quapaw chief to New Orleans.
1756 Removal of the Post to its lowest site on the Arkansas River, at a point only five miles up from the mouth of the river. This relocation was most likely done to make the Post most useful to French military efforts during the French and Indian War.
1758 May & June Significant flooding occurs along the lower Arkansas River in the area of Arkansas Post. During the year that the Post was at this lowest site on the river, flood waters were a constant aggravation.
32 British prisoners of war are temporarily housed at the Post.
Father Carette, the last Jesuit priest to serve at Arkansas Post abandons the mission
1759 A census taken this year shows the population of Arkansas Post as 40 officers and men.
1763 February End of the French and Indian War (Seven Years War). French holdings east of the Mississippi River were given to England; the Louisiana Territory and New Orleans were ceded to Spain. Many French soldiers stayed on and swore allegiance to Spain.
October A census taken this year shows the population of Arkansas Post as 31 officers and men.