Schoolcraft's Ozark Journey

Harris' Cabin

Monday, January 25th, 1819

Fourche à Thomas is a stream of lesser size than either Strawberry or Elevenpoints; it affords, however, some excellent lands, and the alluvial formation, though not extensive, is very rich, and several large and well-improved farms decorate its valley. It originates in high-lands forty miles west, and unites with Black River, after winding a course of fifty miles. Settlements continue to the north of this stream six miles, and the ridge of high-lands by which it is divided from the Currents River, is less elevated, less rocky, better wooded, and better calculated for agriculture, than those already mentioned. The distance, therefore, between these two streams, which is sixteen miles, appears less to die foot-traveller on that account, as there is more to occupy the eye, and less to weary the feet; for while we are viewing plantations, and the habitations of man occasionally interspersed among the woods, the time and the distance pass imperceptibly away, but the unvaried barrenness of the wilderness is tiresome. The eye seizes with avidity any new object which promises variety, and this variety is ever more pleasing when associated with the idea of being useful, and capable in some way of promoting the happiness, or subserving the economy of human life. The rock strata, where apparent, are calcareous, and secondary. The quercus tinctoria is the most common tree. Two miles before reaching the Currents, the river alluvion commences. Its fructuferous qualities are at once recognized by the unusual size of the trees, cane, and shrubbery, by which it is covered. At three o'clock I reached the banks of the river at Hicks' Ferry, and was conveyed over in a ferry-flat, or scow. This is the fifth river I have passed since leaving Poke Bayou, in a short distance of ninety miles, all running parallel with each other from west to east, separated by similar ridges of calcareous rock, having analogous alluvions on their banks, and all discharging their waters into Black River, which, like an artificial drain, runs nearly from north to south, and, catching their waters, conveys them through White River into the Mississippi. That singular stream, which itself preserves an exact parallelism with the Mississippi during its whole course, is not less remarkable for the number of streams it receives from the west, than for receiving no tributary of any magnitude in its whole course from the east. This is owing to a singular configuration of the country, the examination of which would, perhaps, prove very interesting to the geologist as well as the geographer, and possibly throw some new light on the subject of alluvial deposits, the circumstances under which they have been formed, their relative ages, and other contemporaneous matters, which have not received a proper degree of consideration. The lack of tributaries from die east bank of Black River, results from die alluvial tract extending from its eastern bank to the western bank of the Mississippi, and which has a gradual descent from the former to the latter, draining off the waters even from within 100 yards of its banks. On the west it is successively swelled, as you traverse the country from White River northward, by Strawberry, Spring River, Elevenpoints, Fourche à Thomas, and the Currents, all streams of considerable magnitude, and entitled to the particular notice of the future geographers of Missouri and Arkansaw. Of these, the Fourche à Thomas is the smallest, and the Currents by far the largest. The latter is, indeed, a noble stream. It is 1,000 feet wide at the Ferry, and has an average depth of eight feet. It originates in springs in the Missouri barrens, 250 miles west, and affords, in its whole length, bodies of alluvial lands well worthy the attention of the planter and speculator. Its sources are amidst bluffs of secondary limestone, which are extremely cavernous, and afford saltpetre. Our residence for several days in one of these caves, while passing through these regions in the month of November of the last year, has already been detailed in a former part of this journal. At Hicks's Ferry, a town is in contemplation. The site is dry, airy, and eligible, and will command many advantages for mercantile purposes. A mile and a half north, the alluvial tract is succeeded by secondary limestone, rising in elevated ridges, which serve to separate the valley of Currents from that of Little Black River. Here night approached, and I stopped six miles north of the Currents, at a farmer's house that happened to be contiguous, having performed a journey of twenty-three miles.

-Henry Schoolcraft

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