French and Spanish Settlers in Arkansas

The successful class of immigrants to the west of the Mississippi were the French Canadians, who had brought little or nothing with them save the clothes on their backs, and an old flintlock gun with which to secure game. They colonized after the French mode of villages and long strips of farms, and a public commons. They propitiated the best they could the neighboring Indian tribes, erected their altars, hunted, and frolicked, and were an honest, simple-minded and just people, but little vexed with ambitious pride or grasping avarice. The mouth of the Arkansas River was the attractive point for immigrants on their way to the Arkansas Territory, and they would ascend that stream to Arkansas Post. There were not 500 white people in the Territory of (now) Arkansas in 1803, when it became a part of the United States. In 1810 the total population was 1,062. So soon as Louisiana became a part of the United States, a small but never ceasing stream of English speaking people turned their faces to the west and crossed the “Father of Waters.” Those for Arkansas established Montgomery Point, at the mouth of White River, making that the transfer place for all shipments inland. This remained as the main shipping and commercial point for many years. By this route were transferred the freights for Arkansas Post. The highway from Montgomery Point to the Post was a slim and indistinct bridle path. The immigrants came down the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers to the Ohio in keel-boats and canoes, and were mostly from Tennessee; beckoned to this fair and rich kingdom by its sunny clime, its mountains and rivers, and its productive valleys, all enriched with a flora and fauna surpassing the dream of a pastoral poem.

The French were the first permanent white settlers of Arkansas, and descendants of these people are still here. Many bearing the oldest French names have attained to a position among the most eminent of the great men of the trans -Mississippi. Sometimes the names have become so corrupted as to be unrecognizable as belonging to the early illustrious stock. The English-speaking people speaking French names phonetically would soon change them completely, The Bogys and Lefevres, for instance, are names that go back to the very first settlements in Arkansas. “Lefevre” on the maps is often spelled phonetically thus : “Lafaver.” Representatives of the Lefevre family are yet numerous in and about Little Rock, and in other portions of the State.

Peter L. Lefevre and family were among the very first French settlers, locating in the fall of 1818 on the north side of the river on Spanish Grant No. 497, about six miles below Little Rock. His sons were Peter, Enos, Francis G. , Ambrose, Akin, Leon and John B. , his daughter being Mary Louise. All of these have passed away except the now venerable Leon Lefevre, who resides on the old plantation where he was born in the year 1808. For eighty one years the panorama of the birth, growth and the vicissitudes of Arkansas have passed before his eyes. It is supposed of all living men he is the oldest representative surviving of the earliest settlers; however, a negro, still a resident of Little Rock, also came in 1818.

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