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History Visit with a Pioneer Family

Visit with a Pioneer Family 

In December, 1818, the early traveler and writer Henry Rowe Schoolcraft visited an early settler near the Bryant Watershed. Not long before the chance meeting, Schoolcraft had lost much of his supplies when his pack horse fell into the North Fork River. The water ruined the corn meal and other food. Schoolcraft and his traveling companion were soon quite hungry, because they were poor hunters and had little dry powder left. So it was with relief that they came upon a trail and followed it to a cabin on Bennet's Bayou. This would be near present-day Bakersfield, about eight miles southeast of the point where Bryant Creek and North Fork River meet. 

As they approached the cabin, they could hear the barking of dogs grow louder and louder. Closer to the cabin, they saw deer and bear skins stretched out to dry on poles and trees. They also noticed several acres of land planted in crops around the cabin. The family who lived there grew corn and wheat to eat. The father was a hunter who sold pelts and bear oil for money. 

The hunter's family welcomed Schoolcraft and his companion and gave them a meal of cornbread, butter, honey and milk. The two ate happily but, Schoolcraft writes, could have eaten much more because they were so hungry. 

The walls inside the cabin were hung with horns of deer and buffalo, rifles, shot pouches, leather coats and dried meat. Two deerskins sewn into bags hung on each side of the fireplace. One was full of bear oil, one wild honey. The children were dressed in deerskin and were greasy and dirty, according to Schoolcraft. 

The next day the travelers bought a deerskin from the hunter to use for making new moccasins to replace their worn out ones. They also bought bread, honey and some lead for making shot. The hunter questioned them closely about the nearby land they had passed through. Hearing about the many bear, and that no Osage had been seen in the country, he immediately decided to go on a bear hunt. Schoolcraft went with the hunter for a while on the path and then the hunter pointed the travelers in the right direction for continuing their journey into Arkansas. 

Source: Schoolcraft's Journal of His Trip into the Interior,recently reissued and updated by Dr. Milton Rafferty under the title Rude Pursuits and Rugged Peaks,University of Arkansas Press.