Schoolcraft's Ozark Journey

Hale's on Big River (Desloge)

Wednesday, Febuary 3rd, 1819

A tract of oceanic alluvion extends from this to the banks of Big River, a distance of twenty miles, in the course of which a number of plantations are passed, but the country is susceptible of more extensive improvements, and will, no doubt, in a short time, attract a portion of that emigration which is now flowing into all parts of the valley of the Mississippi and the Missouri. Murphy's settlement, at the distance of eight miles beyond Cook's, is already a large and flourishing neighbourhood of industrious farmers, and presents many well-cultivated fields, fenced in a neat and substantial manner, with young apple and peach-orchards, and framed dwelling-houses, clap-boarded in the eastern style. There is also a post-office in this settlement, where a mail is received once a-week, a schoolhouse, and a physician resident. All these things indicate the wealth, the industry, and the intelligence of the inhabitants.

Between Murphy's settlement and Big River, there are no settlements. As you approach the banks of the latter, the lands gradually descend, and terminate in a very rich river alluvion. Its width is nearly a mile from hill to hill, and it is the seat of numerous plantations and well-cultivated farms, where large quantities of wheat and corn are raised. A great proportion of the former is floured for exportation, and of the latter, distilled for the same purpose. This river describes in its course the form of a horse-shoe around the extensive lead-mines of Washington county, in the centre of which stands its capital, Potosi, and affords some facilities to the transportation of goods. It originates on table lands, which separate its waters from those of the St. Francis, and forms a junction with the Merrimack thirty miles above the confluence of that river with the Mississippi. Near the head of Big River are situated some of the most extensive and valuable iron-mines, though not worked, in America, and the calcareous rocks bordering its banks are decidedly the most metalliferous strata, in ores of lead, which the United States, or any mining district of Europe or America affords.

-Henry Schoolcraft

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Funding for the Schoolcraft Journey project on Unlock the Ozarks has been provided by the Missouri Humanities Council.