Quapaw Cession Map

Establishment of Fort Smith in 1817

The white population in Arkansas in 1817 had increased to several thousand, whose protection, as well as that of the Cherokee people living in that territory, from the continued hostilities of the Osage, required the establishment of a military post at the western border dividing the white settlements from the Osage. From Saint Louis came further news of threatened hostilities by the Osage near Clermont’s Town, and a report 1 that Major William Bradford with a detachment of United States riflemen, and accompanied by Major Long, topographical engineer, had left that city for the purpose of establishing a military post on the Arkansas near the Osage boundary.

Major Stephen H. Long, at “Post of Ozark fifty miles up the Arkansas,” reported 2 that he was ordered on a mission to the Forks of the Arkansas thence across country by land to Red River; thence to return by land to Saint Louis.

“On the Arkansaw near the place where the Osage line strikes this river, I am to select a position for a military post to be under the command of Major Bradford, who is now at this place with his company, destined for that command. This business I am in hopes to accomplish by the first of December.”

The point chosen by Long and Bradford for a military post was at the junction of the Poteau and Arkansas rivers called by the French, Belle Point, and after some years known as Fort Smith, after General Thomas A. Smith. 3 On this expedition, Long ascended as high as the falls of the Verdigris, and made an observation of the longitude and latitude at that point, as well as at the mouth of the Verdigris four miles below. On May 12, 1818, Major Long made a formal report 4 to his chief, Brigadier-general Thomas A. Smith, concerning the eligibility of certain places for military purposes, visited by him in 1817. In the course of his remarks he stated that Arkansas River was navigable at all stages of water for keel boats or barges of from fifteen to twenty tons burden, from its mouth to The Forks, a distance of six hundred miles. The average daily progress of such boats in ascending the river was fifteen miles, requiring forty-two days to ascend the whole of the above distance, or thirty-four days to Belle Point, one hundred and thirty miles [sic] below The Forks. During very high water, or when contrary winds prevailed, more time was required. Long recommended two posts in the Southwest, one on Red River above the American settlements, and “The other on the Arkansaw, either at Belle Point or higher up, should we extend the limits of our territory in that direction by extinguishing the Osage claims.” He suggested that two companies of infantry be stationed at Belle Point and one on Red River.

The Osage were induced to enter into another treaty by which they ceded to the United States the country north of the Arkansas, from their old boundary line to the Three Forks, with a width of sixty miles, which included a large body of very fine land. This treaty was executed September 25, 1818, 5 in Saint Louis, but was not proclaimed until January 7, 1819. The Osage had accumulated a large number of claims against themselves by depredations on white people and the Cherokee; and being without the means of making restitution, they ceded this tract of land to satisfy the demands. The treaty was made by the Great and Little Osage and conveyed much the same land as that conveyed by the Arkansas Osage to Lovely, except that in the cession of 1818 the north boundary extended from the falls of the Verdigris east to the Osage line, whereas in the Lovely Purchase the line went farther north, “from the Falls to the Upper Saline on Six Bull and then east to Clark’s line on White River.”

In Governor Clark’s letter of transmittal he said, 6

“The Osages have determined to unite themselves in one village, and have requested that Mr. Peter Chouteau may be re-appointed their agent. Mr. Chouteau has certainly more influence with that nation than any other person; and if the agency should be re-established (which I would strongly recommend), it would perhaps be well to gratify their wishes.”

Treaty of 1817

Quapaw Cession Map
Quapaw Cession Map from the treat of August 24, 1818

A treaty proclaimed January 5, 1818 7, had been negotiated by William Clark and Auguste Chouteau for the United States and the Quapaw, by which the latter, for the sum of four thousand dollars and an annuity of about one thousand dollars in goods, ceded to the United States practically all that territory lying between Red River and the Arkansas and Canadian and extending west from the Mississippi to the Spanish possessions.

A treaty was concluded July 8, 1817 8, between the United States, represented by General Andrew Jackson and others, and the Cherokee Nation east of the Mississippi River and the Cherokee of Arkansas, represented by their deputies, John D. Chisholm and James Rogers. Referring to the inducements given by President Jefferson to those who wished to remove west of the Mississippi River, and to measures taken by the Cherokee to carry out their agreement, the government bound itself to give the Cherokee people on the Arkansas and White rivers as much land, acre for acre, as they left in the east, and provided that all citizens of the United States should be removed from the land to be surveyed for them, except Mrs. Percis Lovely, the widow of Major Lovely who had died in February 1817. 9

President Monroe in 1818 addressed Tallantusky as chief, and the Cherokee east of the Mississippi, telling them he thought it best for all of them to remove to Arkansas pursuant to the treaty of 1817; he said it was his wish that they should have no limits to the west, so that they would have good mill-seats, plenty of game, and not be surrounded by white people. As the emigrants would not have food for the first year, he agreed to furnish them as much corn as they needed, and Governor McMinn of Tennessee was directed to furnish them with rifles to secure their game. 10

Thomas Nuttall’s Travels in 1819

Thomas Nuttal, an English Botanist

The English naturalist, Thomas Nuttall, reached Fort Smith in 1819, on the expedition which he described in his journal. 11 Soon after his arrival there he accompanied Major Bradford to the mouth of the Kiamichi, to remove from the Choctaw country a number of white settlers who were unlawfully located there. 12 They found a considerable settlement on Gates Creek near Kiamichi River. Nuttall, in his quest for botanical specimens, got lost and he did not arrive at Fort Smith for nearly a month after Major Bradford’s return. After some time spent in and about the garrison, on July 6, he ascended Arkansas River in the boat of Mr. Bogy (called by him “Bougie”), for his trading establishment at the mouth of the Verdigris. Their first camp was at Skin Bayou, and on the morning of the tenth they “passed the mouth of the rivulet or brook, called by the French, Salaiseau, from some hunters having here killed a quantity of bison and salted the beef for traffic.” 13

On the eleventh, they passed the outlet of the Canadian, and four miles farther the Illinois. “A few miles from its mouth, its banks present salt springs similar to those of Grand River, and scarcely less productive.” At that place two of the hunters killed a fat bison. Four miles farther they came to Webbers Falls, which Nuttall described as a cascade of two or three feet perpendicular fall. In 1807, Lieutenant Wilkinson found it a fall seven feet high. Nuttall’s party spent several hours trying to get their boat past the falls, and finally were obliged to abandon the effort until the next day, the thirteenth, when the wind assisted them in passing up. No boat, he said, drawing more than eighteen inches of water could pass the falls at that season without unloading.

On the fourteenth, they passed the mouth of the Grand River, “Six Bulls as it is called by the French hunters,” and entered the Verdigris where “M. Bougie and Mr. Prior had their trading houses.” On their arrival he asked Pryor to walk with him about the neighborhood, and the naturalist gives us his first impression of his surroundings.

They visited the falls of the Verdigris about three miles above the mouth. Nuttall made a prediction which is interesting in view of the subsequent building of the city of Muskogee near by. 14 “If the confluence of the Verdigris, Arkansa, and Grand rivers, shall ever become of importance as a settlement, which the great and irresistible tide of western emigration promises, a town will probably be founded here at the junction of these streams; and this obstruction in the navigation of the Verdigris, as well as the rapids of Grand River, will afford good and convenient situations for mills, a matter of no small importance in the list of civilized comforts.”

On the seventeenth, Nuttall went with two men in a canoe up Grand River for a visit to the salt works near the site of the subsequently located Union Mission. On the eighteenth, they arrived at the home of a Mr. Slover, a hunter who had a good farm on a fine elevation two miles below the Saline. The next day he walked with Mr. Slover to “see the salt works, now indeed lying idle, and nearly deserted in consequence of the murder of Mr. Campbell by Erhart, his late partner, and two accomplices in their employ. Melancholy as were the reflections naturally arising from this horrid circumstance, I could not but congratulate myself on having escaped, perhaps a similar fate. At the Cadron, 15 I had made application to Childers, one of these remorseless villains, as a woodsman and hunter, to accompany me for hire, only about a month before he had shot and barbarously scalped Mr. Campbell, for the purpose of obtaining his little property, and in spite of the friendship which he had uniformly received from the deceased.” 16

Nuttall left the trading post on August 11, with a hunter named Lee, for a land journey up the Arkansas and Cimarron. This river was called by Nuttall Salt River or the First Red Fork of the Arkansas. Some old maps called it the Semerone of the Traders; others, the Negracka or Red Fork. Nuttall was taken desperately ill on the prairies and after weeks of incredible hardship and suffering, barely escaping death from fever and the Indians, he succeeded in again reaching the Verdigris trading post; here he remained for a week to recover some of his strength, and then returned to Fort Smith, a journey of five days by boat.

Major Stephen H. Long 17 was sent in 1819 18 in charge of an expedition to the Rocky Mountains to explore the head waters of Arkansas and Red rivers. The party included a zoologist, botanist, geographer, landscape painter, and naturalist. They went as far as the Rocky Mountains, and Major Long, with some of the party, went south to what he supposed was one of the tributaries of Red River, but which in fact was Canadian River. He followed it to its junction with the Arkansas, and then for the first time learned his mistake. 19 Part of the Long party under orders from their chief descended Arkansas River under Captain Bell. On the fifth day of September, 1820, Bell arrived at the trading establishment of Mr. Hugh Glenn, about a mile above the mouth of the Verdigris. Leaving Glenn’s place, a short ride brought them to “The Neosho, or Grand River, better known to hunters by the singular designation of the Six Bulls.”

At Glenn’s house they found two soldiers who had deserted from Fort Smith, whom Bell took in charge and compelled to travel with him to the post. After crossing Grand River, probably about where Fort Gibson was later located, they had great difficulty in penetrating the canebrake, but after a considerable time emerged upon the prairie of Bayou Manard. Continuing their journey they arrived at Bean’s salt works on the Illinois River. Mark Bean had commenced operations in the spring of 1820, and had already a neat farmhouse with a considerable stock of cattle, hogs, and poultry, and several acres of Indian corn. Near the spring he had erected a good log house and a shed for the furnace; but his kettles which were purchased of the owners of the abandoned Neosho establishment, were not yet fixed.

“On the side of a large well, which he had sunk to collect the salt water, and perhaps two feet from the surface of the soil, he pointed out the remains of a stratum of charcoal of inconsiderable extent, through which they had penetrated, and which to a bystander was a certain proof that these springs had been formerly worked by the Indians.”

Continuing his journey, on September 9, 1820, he arrived at Fort Smith, which he described as having a commanding position in every direction, sixty feet above the level of the river. “Next to the water, its figure is two sides of a square, on soil twenty feet deep, under which is rock about forty feet deep, whose base is washed by the united waters of the Portean and Arkansaw. The plan of the Fort, yet unfinished, is a square of one hundred and thirty-two feet, with two blockhouses at opposite angles, to be surrounded by a ditch. The sides next to the land and two blockhouses are completed.” 20 Pursuing his course down the river, Captain Bell described the homes of the Cherokee, whom he found considerably advanced in civilization. Their country was productive and contained plantations in a good state of cultivation, bearing cotton, corn, sweet potatoes, beans, and pumpkins.


At this time the western country was attracting the attention of the missionary societies in the East, and plans were made to establish missionary outposts among the western Indians of Arkansas. Harmony Mission was established among the Osage of the Missouri River; Union Mission among the Arkansas Osage, and Dwight Mission 21 in the Cherokee country in Arkansas. In the summer of 1819, Reverend Mr. Epaphras Chapman of Connecticut and Mr. Vinall, as agents for the United Foreign Missionary Society, went west to explore the country and determine on sites for missions. While ascending Arkansas River Mr. Vinall was taken sick, and died at Fort Smith; 22 Mr. Chapman continued, and in company with Nathaniel Pryor visited the Arkansas Osage and selected a site for Union Mission on land near Grand River, which was given to them by the Osage.

Credentials were issued by the War Department May 3, 1820, to Vaill and Chapman, 23 authorizing them to establish a mission among the Osage; and on November 15, 1820, Reverend Mr. Chapman, Mr. Requa, Mr. Redfield, and three others reached the place on Grand River selected the year before by Mr. Chapman as the site for Union Mission, and began the erection of the buildings. Tallai, the Osage chief, gave them a cordial welcome and a history of his family and events in the nation since Mr. Chapman was there the year before. 24

The site, five miles northeast of Mazie, Mayes County, Oklahoma, is about forty-five miles by water up Grand River, and twenty-five miles by land from its junction with the Arkansas. The early arrivals had completed the erection of five log cabins by the month of March, the cabins being under one roof, eighty feet long by eighteen wide. It was early in 1820, the missionaries organized in New York for their adventure into this wild and unknown country. 25 They left New York in April, arrived in Philadelphia on April 22, and sermons were preached in all the churches.

Reverend Mr. Vaill was the principal of the Mission, two of the men were carpenters, three were husbandmen, one was the blacksmith, and one a school teacher. In June 1820, in two comfortable keel boats the missionaries arrived at Arkansas Post, fifty miles up Arkansas River where they remained until July 3, when they resumed their river journey. Traveling in the heat of July, 26 many of the members of the party, unused to the climate, were taken sick, and nearly all of the men who managed the boats were ill after the first sixty or seventy miles above Arkansas Post. One of the boatmen named Gach, of Baltimore, died; and within thirty miles of Little Rock, Miss Dollie E. White, aged twenty-three of Danbury, Connecticut, died and was buried near the bank of the river at that place. At Little Rock, the whole party left the boats to remain until cooler weather; Chapman, Redfield, Requa and three others continued in the fall to the site of the mission to erect a few log houses before winter. The remainder of the party did not resume their journey until the twelfth of December. Proceeding on their weary way, they reached their post on the eighteenth day of February, 1821, where they found a few buildings completed and others under construction; and here, three hundred miles from Little Rock,

Miss Mary Foster, New York City; Miss Dollie E. White, Danbury, Connecticut; Miss Eliza Cleaver, Litchfield, Connecticut; Miss Phoebe Beach, Newburgh, New York; from New York Advertiser, copied in Arkansas Gazette, (Arkansas Post) July 8, 1820, p. 2, col. 4. the nearest post office, the mission family made their stand, the farthest missionary outpost.

William F. Vaill First Annual Report

Mr. Vaill made his first annual report 27 to the Secretary of War on October 30, 1821. He described the buildings as erected on a moderate eminence, about a mile from the river, and an equal distance from a valuable saline, at which a quantity of salt was manufactured for the settlements below. Grand River, they reported, was navigable about half the year. The Mission tract of land of about one thousand acres of prairie was enclosed on two sides by a bend of the river and bounded on the other sides by hills. The Mission was established under great difficulties. The Osage and Cherokee were at war with each other, and the former were fearful of allowing their children to leave their homes to attend the Mission school. There were but seven children in attendance in 1822, twelve in 1823 and twenty in 1824; but they maintained an extensive establishment including a large number of buildings, shops, barns, cribs, cattle, fields; and there was a combined grist-mill and sawmill the motive power of which was furnished by eighteen oxen worked in shifts of six at one time upon the treadwheel.

In the spring of 1824, Mr. William C. Requa and Mr. E. Chapman of the Mission removed their families to a point across Grand River and four miles above the Mission, which they named Hopefield. Here by precept and example they taught a small colony of Osage to maintain themselves by farming. Hopefield being included in the Cherokee country by the Treaty of 1828, the Osage were compelled to leave there the next winter. It was afterward re-established and called New Hopefield on Grand River at the mouth of Cabin Creek in the northern part of what is now Mayes county, Oklahoma. These Indian settlers were compelled to endure the menace and scorn of their tribesmen; they were called field-makers and missionaries, withering taunts expressing ribald mirth and derision. The patience and perseverance of the good missionaries held them to their tasks, and those members of the Osage tribe called Requa’s band for years maintained a position for industry, sobriety and comfort that set them quite apart from the remainder of the tribe.

When the missionaries arrived at their station on Grand River, they furnished interesting descriptions of the beautiful country about them, probably the first detailed description ever written concerning that particular section. In the fall of 1819, after Mr. Chapman decided on the beautiful timber-fringed prairie on Grand River as a location for the Mission, he went to Clermont’s Town for a conference. The town was situated on Verdigris River about twenty-five miles west of the proposed site of the Mission. Mr. Chapman wrote, 28 March 18, 1820 of many interesting features of the section they were about to occupy the navigable stream at hand, the fertile soil, the timber near by, the Osage whom they were to labor for but not the least important was the salt spring a mile away, which they planned to work that year. Later in the year he wrote:

“On the 10th November 1820, we examined the celebrated Saline, on Illinois river, and the apparatus just erected for making salt. This place had evidently been before occupied by Indians, or others, for the like purpose.”


  1. Niles Register, (Baltimore) vol. xiii, 176.[]
  2. Long to Brig. Gen. Joseph G. Swift, Oct. 15, 1817, U.S. War Department. Army Engineers Department, Miscellaneous papers File “A” L. 48.[]
  3. Thomas A. Smith was born in Virginia and entered the Army from Georgia; became Brigadier-general January 24, 1814; resigned from the Army November 10, 1818, and died the next month.[]
  4. War Department, Reports to Corps of Engineers July 3, 1812, to Oct. 4, 1823, p. 278.[]
  5. Kappler op. cit., vol. ii, 116.[]
  6. American State Papers, “Indian Affairs” vol. ii, 179.[]
  7. Kappler, op. cit., vol. ii, 112.[]
  8. Kappler, op. cit., vol. ii, 96.[]
  9. John C. Calhoun, Secretary of War, on September 9, 1818, issued orders to Captain William Bradford at Belle Point, Arkansas, directing him to remove from Lovely’s Purchase all white persons except Mrs. P. Lovely, who was to be allowed to remain where she was living during her natural life. U.S. House, Document, 20th congress, first session, no. 263, Letter from Secretary of War concerning settlement of Lovely’s Purchase, p. 6.[]
  10. Several hundred families of Cherokee emigrated to Arkansas during 1818 and 1819, including the Chief John Jolly, whom Samuel Houston called his Indian father.[]
  11. Thwaites, op. cit., vol. xiii.[]
  12. In June 1819, General Andrew Jackson ordered Captain Bradford at Fort Smith to remove all white persons found west of a line drawn from the sources of the Kiamichi to the Poteau and compel all such settlers to return to the east side of that line. American State Papers, “Indian Affairs” vol. ii, 557.[]
  13. Thwaites, op. cit., vol. xiii, 231.[]
  14. Thwaites, op. cit., vol. xiii, 235.[]
  15. “The site of Cadron settlement was the mouth of Cadron Creek, thirty-eight miles above Little Rock, in Faulkner County. In 1820 it was made the seat of justice for Pulaski County against the wishes of Governor James Miller, who favored Pyeattstown, his own residence. In time Cadron fell into decay, and it has now disappeared from the map.” Thwaites, op. cit., vol. xiii, 156, n.[]
  16. Erhart and Childers were captured and taken to Arkansas Post where they were imprisoned while awaiting trial, but in a few days made their escape. Flint, Timothy. Recollections of the Last Ten Years in the Valley of the Mississippi, 270.[]
  17. Stephen Harriman Long, born in New Hampshire; became second lieutenant of engineers December 12, 1814; brevet major of topographical engineers April 29, 1816; major July 7, 1828 and colonel September 9, 1861; retired June 1, 1863; died September 4, 1864.[]
  18. The treaty of February 22, 1819, with Spain had just been entered into by which Red River was established as the boundary line between that country and the United States. It was not proclaimed until February 22, 1821. Spain had contended that the Arkansas River should be taken as the boundary. So little was known at that time of the country between those rivers now comprising most of the state of Oklahoma, that it was characterized as worthless and unfit for cultivation; during the negotiations between the two countries, the Spanish representative wrote to Mr. Adams, Secretary of State, “It must be indifferent to them [the United States] to accept the Arkansas instead of the Red River as the boundary. This opinion is strengthened by the well-known fact that the intermediate space between these two rivers is so much impregnated with nitre as scarcely to be susceptible of improvement.” “United States v. State of Texas.” United States Supreme Court Reports, vol. clxi, 25.[]
  19. Thwaites, op. cit., vol. xvi, 180.[]
  20. Morse, Rev. Jedidiah. A Report to the Secretary of War on Indian Affairs, App. 254; extract from Captain Bell’s Journal. Nuttall (Thwaites, op. cit., vol. xiii, 201) described the garrison on April 24, 1819, as “consisting of two blockhouses and lines of cabins or barracks for the accommodation of 70 men whom it contains.”[]
  21. The station was named in honor of Timothy Dwight, the president of Yale College, and a pioneer organizer of the mission board. Thwaites, op. cit., vol. xiii, 182, n. “In June 1820, the two branches of the Family destined for this distant station, having proceeded by different routes, met on the spot destined for their future residence, and scene of labor in civilizing and evangelizing the Indians… The first tree was felled on the 25th of August.” Morse, Rev. Jedidiah, D.D. op. cit., app. 214, 215. See aho the pungent account of Dwight Mission in 1823 in General Thomas James, Three Years Among the Indians and Mexicans,[]
  22. Nuttall remained at Fort Smith until October 16, 1819, recovering from his serious illness. He mentions [Thwaites, op. cit., vol. xiii, 279] that among his associates in affliction were numbered two missionaries who had intended to proceed to the Osage, among whom was Mr. Vinall, called by him “Viner”, who, “after the attacks of a lingering fever, paid the debt of nature.”[]
  23. On May 8, 1820, the Government paid Mr. “Ephraim” Chapman as agent of the United Foreign Missionary Society of New York, seven hundred dollars, on account of the buildings to be erected for a school at Union Mission. American State Papers, “Indian Affairs” vol. ii, 272.[]
  24. Morse, Rev. Jedidiah, op. cit., app. 217, ff.[]
  25. The Mission consisted of the following: Reverend William F. Vaill, wife and four children, North Guilford, Connecticut; Reverend Epaphras Chapman and wife, East Haddon, Connecticut; Doctor Marcus Palmer, Greenwich, Connecticut; Mr. Stephen Fuller, East Haddon, Connecticut; Mr. Abraham Redfield, Orange County, New York; Mr. Alexander Woodruff, Newark, New Jersey; Mr. John M. Spaulding, Coldchester, Connecticut; George and William Requa, Winchester, New York; Miss Clarissa Johnston, Coldchester, New York; Miss Susan Lines, Redding, Connecticut; of the city where collections amounting to two thousand dollars were donated to the mission. The same day they left for Pittsburg on their long journey to their post, which they did not reach for nearly ten months.[]
  26. Arkansas Gazette (Arkansas Post), July 29, 1820, p. 3, col. 1.[]
  27. Vaill to Calhoun, Oct. 30, 1821, Indian Office, Retired Classified Files, 1821, Osage, Union, Arkansas Territory.[]
  28. Morse, Rev. Jedidiah, op. at., App. 227.[]

Foreman, Grant. Pioneer Days in the Early Southwest. Cleveland: Arthur H. Clark Co. 1926.

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