Item #7858 [Autograph letter of a traveler to Arkansas Territory addressing his brother.]
[Autograph letter of a traveler to Arkansas Territory addressing his brother.]

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[Autograph letter of a traveler to Arkansas Territory addressing his brother.]

Pittsburgh, 1 August 1830. 2 pp. (12” x 7.5”). CONDITION: Fair, several cracks along folds (one 8”) and chips at edges with minor losses to text.

A letter by an unidentified traveling trader recounting his trip to Arkansas Territory, with content regarding his getting to know and trading with native people—probably the Quapaws—around Fort Smith, and his impressions of Cincinnati, Louisville, Arkansas Territory, and New Orleans.

This letter provides the trader’s impression of several cities along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, noting dominant trades and wages, as well as his impressions of various groups along his route. Cincinnati, the author informs his brother, is “one of the finest places west of the mountains,” and he notes that “your business is very brisk in this place they get one dollar and fifty cents per Day.” Louisville “is not so good for macanicks” but “it is a great place for shipping” since it “layes along the River.” Fort Smith, which is “the commencement of the indian nation” is “a fine and beautiful country it is a great place for carpenters a journyman can get fifty Dollars per month. The production of this country is princip[ally] cotton corn and potatoes, the peples of this country do not know what a sythe or cradle is, cattle all kinds is very cheap, horses can be caught which run wild in the pararas [prairies?].”

Although “there is too many french & negros there [in New Orleans] for me,” the author has a very favorable impression of Native Americans after meeting a group at “the mouth of Arkansas”:

I saw the first indian I had ever had seen, I went ahunting through the Cane brakes I saw an indian and did not know whether to shoot him or not I started and ran and he overtook me he stoped me, he said, me good man me wont hurt you, but when I went back to the boat there was about fifty more here I soon became acquainted with there ways, and would rather trust one of them than a c[?] farmer… I have been trading with the indians from Forts Smith up four hundred miles trading for furs…

The author is evidently a traveling trader in various goods: when discussing his plans for the future, he mentions that it is his “entintion to go Round home by sea but I thought I must go back to Steubanville as Jos. Walker wants me to the west trading saddle and harness ware for a few months.” The letter lacks a signature and is likely incomplete; the pages offered here close with the author’s exhorting his brother to join him: “do not be afraid of the panthers on the mountains I insure you they will not hurt you.”

An evocative description of several cities along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, as well as encounters with Native people in Arkansas Territory, written just a few months after the Indian Removal Act was signed into law, but before the Choctaws and others passed through Arkansas on the Trail of Tears.

Item #7858


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