Life of a Colonial Kid

As a kid, I remember visiting Arkansas Post National Memorial in Gillett at least once a year, sometimes more. It was a nice drive from Marianna to Gillett along Arkansas’s Great River Road, although when I was much younger, I was afraid of the ferry we had to ride to get across the White River at St. Charles (yes, I’m THAT old!).

Arkansas Post is, literally, where Arkansas began. Located south of Gillett, the National Park Service facility commemorates the first permanent European settlement (1686) in the lower Mississippi River valley. Established by French explorer Henri de Tonti, the site was the first European colony in the Mississippi River Valley. Due to the settlement’s proximity to the Arkansas River, Arkansas Post was an important part of Arkansas’s history, becoming the first capitol of Arkansas Territory. By the early 1800s, Arkansas Post was a thriving river town and selected capital of the Arkansas Territory. The Post also played an important part in Arkansas’s Civil War history. Confederates built Fort Hindman, a massive earthen fort, to help protect their hold on the area and the confluence of the Arkansas and White Rivers. However, during the January 1863 Battle of Fort Hindman (also known as the Battle of Arkansas Post), Union forces were able to defeat the Confederate troops and destroy the fort. The defeat and subsequent surrender cost the Arkansas Confederates one-fourth of its armed forces…nearly 4800 soldiers were taken prisoner and sent to POW camps within days. Inside the park, visitors take a self-guided tour of the area, including a layout of the town and the remnants of the Confederate trenches and the 1863 battlefield.

Arkansas Post was also the location of the only Revolutionary War skirmish to take place in what is now Arkansas. This weekend, Arkansas Post National Memorial is hosting Colonial Kids Day. The event takes place Saturday, July 21, and focuses on what life was like for youngsters living in the area during the 1700s, including their chores, their pastimes and their favorite games. Musket and cannon demonstrations will also be part of the day’s events. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, phone Arkansas Post National Memorial at 870-548-2207 or log on to www.NPS.gov/arpo.

Not far from the turn to go to Arkansas Post National Memorial, you’ll find the Arkansas Post Museum State Park. The park offers exhibits relating to the history of the Arkansas Grand Prairie and the Arkansas Delta, including two original buildings from 1877 and 1933. In the Main House, you’ll find and the gift shop and the audiovisual room. The Peterson Building interprets life in the region through a series of exhibitry and artifacts. Visit the Summer Kitchen to see domestic tools and kitchen instruments our ancestors would’ve used. The two original buildings, the 1877 Refeld-Hinman Loghouse and the 1933 Carnes-Bonner Playhouse, give visitors the sense of what life was like in the region. For more information, log on to www.arkansasstateparks.com/arkansaspostmuseum or phone 870-548-2634
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