Nuttall’s Travels into the Arkansa Territory During the Year 1819

On the 10th we arrived at Owensville, more commonly called Yellow Banks, from the ochraceous appearance of the argillaceous friable bank of the river. This is another insignificant cluster of log-cabins, and the seat of a county. Flour sold here at 10 dollars per barrel. In consequence of the want of mills, they depend altogether on the upper country for their supplies of this important article. Mills are much wanted, and, in order even to obtain cornmeal, every one has to invent something of the kind for himself. At this place the store-keepers were busily collecting pork for the market of New Orleans, at the rate of five dollars per hundred, in exchange for dry-goods and groceries. No other produce appeared in this place. No orchards are yet planted, and apples were worth one dollar and a half the bushel.

We floated as usual till towards midnight, but the north-west wind arising, at length put a stop to our progress. Having proceeded about 18 miles below Owensville, we endeavoured to land on the Kentucky side, but, in the attempt, ran an imminent risk of grounding on an extensive bar; with considerable labour we rowed our unmanageable flat to the opposite shore, where we found deep water, and a good harbour from the wind.

11th.] About day-break we were accosted by a back-woods neighbour, anxious for a dram of whiskey, which we had foreseen and provided for. We were detained all day by the wind, and the hunters went out in quest of turkeys. The improvidence of these hunting farmers, is truly remarkable: annually mortgaging their produce for the meanest luxuries of civilized life; still destitute of flour, of the produce of the orchard, of country spirits, and, indeed, of coffee and sugar for a great part of the year; at the same time, that they might become independent, with even moderate industry.

Potatoes are very indifferent in this country, but pulse and all kinds of grain excellent and productive.

Here, at Mountplace as it is called, there are two or three Indian mounds, upon one of which our visitor had built his house, and in digging had discovered abundance of human bones, as well as several stone pipes, and fragments of earthen ware.

From Owensville, cane begins to be tall and abundant.

Source: Journal Travels into the Arkansa Territory During the Year 1819, Thomas Nuttall, F.L.S., Thos. H. Palmer, Philadelphia, 1821