It Started Here: Early Arkansas and The Louisiana Purchase
"It Started Here: Early Arkansas and The Louisiana Purchase", chronicles the people and land of Arkansas, between the signing of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, leading up to Arkansas statehood in 1836.
The 30 minute documentary, written and produced by Larry Foley, tells the story of the 1815 land survey that began in a swamp in eastern Arkansas, establishing a starting point for land surveys of Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and the Dakotas.
A monument erected in 1926 by the Daughters of the American Revolution, recognizes what has become an obscure footnote in American history. The historical state park is off the beaten path, and like the story it honors, is not well known.
"You have to have a starting point, and that's what is critical about that spot over there in the middle of that swamp," said UALR history professor Charles Bolton. "And having established that point, you could go on and continue the survey for the rest of the country." President James Madison commissioned the land survey. The War of 1812 had been won, and a grateful, yet financially strapped American government, had promised its soldiers property in the new territory.
Thanks to the Louisiana Purchase, the young nation had plenty of land to give away. But except for the area that became the state of Louisiana, none of it had been surveyed, and until it was marked off, could not be awarded as bounty to the war veterans.
Two federally deputized land surveyors, Joseph Brown and Prospect K. Robbins, were hired to establish the initial point. They hacked their way through thickets and briars, fending off cottonmouth snakes and mosquitoes. They laid out four townships, cutting blazemarks into trees, where the historical monument now stands.
"The reason they came together at that place is an accident of geography," aid Ann Early, Arkansas State Archaeologist."
"You needed a datum point, a starting point for the surveys, and the two most fundamental landmarks that you could find were mouths of the Arkansas and St. Francis Rivers." The documentary also tells the story of the land ripped apart by the New Madrid earthquake in 1811, four years before the survey. It tells of the 1817 founding of Fort Smith, a small log and stone stockade built by soldiers to keep peace between the warring Cherokee and Osage Indians.
The film features the story of Arkansas Post, the oldest frontier trade center west of the Mississippi River. The post was a melting pot settlement that became the territorial capitol in 1819.
Also featured in the saga of the Quapaw Indians (Arkansea), who were forced from their native homeland in 1835, one year before statehood. This program was produced in cooperation with the Louisiana Purchase Bicentennial Committee of Arkansas. Supported in part by a grant from the Arkansas Humanities Council, the Department of Arkansas Heritage and by the Arkansas Secretary of State's Office.
The Department of Arkansas Heritage has created lesson plans for use in the classroom on a variety of subjects related to the Louisiana Purchase, including wetlands and animals of the delta, Native American and European interaction, the 1815 land surveys, Colonial Arkansas settlers, maps and much more.