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Photo Left:  Jackson Military Road cut exiting Washington, Arkansas, to the North East (2005)

This web site is intended to provide information for students and classrooms that have

interest in the route and history of the Old Southwest Trail in Arkansas.




County Articles
News & Updates
Photo Gallery
SWT Research Guide




"The Wilderness Gallery:  Indian Territory or Slave Territory"

This is an article that appears on the Old Statehouse Museum website.  See full article for more information.

"The first occurred around 1816 or 1817. As the land began to fill with settlers along Boone's Lick Road in southern Missouri, a fork emerged near St. Genevieve in southeastern Missouri. It snaked southwestward into Arkansas, following an old Indian hunting trail along the foothills separating the Arkansas highlands from the delta. Known as the National Road or, more commonly, the Southwest Trail, by 1819 . . ."

<http://www.oldstatehouse.com/exhibits/permanent/wilderness-gallery/indian-or-slave-territory.asp> accessed on 28 May 2005



"Southwest Trail in Arkansas Was a Rough Road"

This is an article that appears on the Old Statehouse Museum website.  See full article for more information.

During the first decades of the 1800s, Missouri received most of the new settlers, due in large part to the Booneís Lick Road, built by the famous Daniel Boone. As Missouri began to fill up, a fork developed in the road near St. Genevieve, leading southward into Arkansas. By 1821 this road, known as the Southwest Trail, or the National or Military Road, extended from the northeast corner of Arkansas to the southwest corner, along the border between the lowlands and the highlands, all the way to the Red River.

During the colonial period, Arkansasís population never exceeded 500 Europeans. By 1830, however, the population had increased to nearly 30,000. By studying land claims and early settlement records, Josiah Shinn, one of Arkansasís first historians, estimated that four-fifths of these new arrivals came after 1817 by way of the Southwest Trail.

<http://www.oldstatehouse.com/educational_programs/classroom/arkansas_news/detail.asp?id=955&issue_id=30&page=8> accessed on 28 May 2005


Southwest Trail Villages, Travelers, Chihuahua Trail, Dooley's Ferry, Rondo

Workers of the Writers' Program of the Work Projects Administration in the State of Arkansas, comps. The WPA GUIDE to 1930s Arkansas. Lawrence Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 1987.

37-38 "Settlements in the new Territory were scattered along the main travel routes. Cabins were most frequent in the wide valley of the Arkansas . . . Near the Missouri border, along the Southwest Trail, was another group of villages, on the Current Spring, Strawberry, Black, and White Rivers." (The writers suggest five groupings-- along the Arkansas river, on the crossings of the southwest trail, on the Mississippi River, Ouachita Valley, and last on both sides of the Red River. Interesting to note that the Southwest Trail villages constitute a different kind of village than what we find in the other four kinds.)

203 "Along the line dividing these two regions the route follows a path picked out by the Indians centuries ago. This trail skirted hills, avoided swamps, and crossed the many rivers at the their most practicable fords. Early in the nineteenth century the wagons of white settlers began following this great Southwest Trail through Arkansas. Pioneers drove herds of cattle ahead of their wagon trains, and sometimes brought families of slaves with them. At many points home seekers turned off, selected tracts of bottomland, and made clearings in the wilderness. In 1831 Congress ordered the construction of a military road here, a road whose utility was proved a few years later in the War with Mexico. When the railroads penetrated the Southwest in the 1870's, they followed the same natural pathway . . ."

211 "French trappers and fur traders made their way up the Ouachita and the Red Rivers in the eighteenth century, leaving few traces besides an occasion Gallic name taken over by the Americans who followed then with ax and plow. The first towns grew up where these rivers were crossed by the old Southwest Trail, now followed by US 67."


"Soon after the Louisiana Purchase, the first settlers came down the Southwest Trail, known also in this neighborhood [Washington] as the Chihuahua Trail . . . The trail, widened and improved, brought a population of more than 2,000 to Washington before the War between the States. David Crockett stopped here on this way to Texas, and Sam Houston lived in the town for a time. When the Mexican War broke out in 1846, Washington became military field headquarters for the American forces . . ." (There is an extensive footnote(2.) on these pages that continues this discussion of the Washington area and its history.)

218 "The old Chihuahua Trail ran down Franklin Avenue, still the main street of Washington."

"At Fulton the American section of the Southwest Trail ended; here and at Dooley's Ferry . . . , were the crossings into Mexican Territory. In 1813, Fulton was a frontier trading post until, nurtured by land and water traffic, it grew into a commercial center."

373 (In a discussion about Garland City.) "Right on this road to RONDO, 2.1 m. of which nothing now remains but a frame church built in 1861. The church bell is reputed by local tradition to be cast of Mexican dollars. The first settlers who came to Rondo in the 1830's were not certain whether they were in the United States or Mexico. In 1820, the Territory of Arkansas had defined its boundaries so as to include large stretched of land west of Red River; but Mexico disputed the claim, and many of the settlers in Miller County found it more convenient to adhere to the non-existent authority of the Texas Provincial government. Rondo, deposit its position on the Southwest Trail that ran from St. Louis and bisected Arkansas, grew slowly and did not receive a post office until 1858. The name was taken from the French game of chance, rondeau."



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Last modified: 01/14/13