Louisiana Purchase State Park near Brinkley
In 1803 President Thomas Jefferson signed the papers to purchase the
vast territory of Louisiana from Napoleon's France, doubling the size of
the United States. In 1815, President James Madison ordered an official
survey of the area to establish a system for distributing to veterans
of the War of 1812 land they had been promised.
On October 27, 1815, a survey party led by Prospect K. Robbins headed
north from the confluence of the Arkansas and Mississippi rivers to
establish a north-south line to be known as the Fifth Principal
Meridian. The same day, a party led by Joseph C. Brown departed westward
from the junction of the St. Francis River and the Mississippi to
establish an east-west line, known as a baseline.
The crossing of the two lines would be the initial point from which
future surveys would originate. Robbins' party had traveled north almost
56 miles when they crossed the baseline surveyed by Brown's party. Two
gum trees about 18 inches in diameter were marked as witness trees to
delineate the initial point, some 26 miles west of the Mississippi.
Both the meridian and the baseline would later be extended, and land
surveys for all or parts of the Louisiana Purchase states west of the
Mississippi would subsequently be measured from this point in an eastern
Arkansas headwater swamp.
The site went unheralded for more than a century. In 1921, two
surveyors discovered the witness trees, and the L'Anguille Chapter of
the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution in
nearby Marianna placed a monument there in 1926.
Louisiana Purchase State Park
Two hundred years after the purchase, the Louisiana Purchase Historic
State Park near Brinkley preserves this site and the history of the Louisiana Purchase.
Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1993, visitors can walk an
elevated, barrier-free boardwalk through the swamp and to the monument,
experiencing the sights and sounds
of the wilderness much as the original surveyors did.
Ties to the Louisiana Purchase are not limited to this state
park. As part of the commemoration, 13 museums and sites across
Arkansas featured exhibits and programs during 2003 that focused on the
different aspects of Arkansas's role in the history of the Louisiana Purchase. Included
in many of these programs were exhibits that interpreted Native
American tribes and life before the Purchase and the ways in which their
lives changed after settlers arrived.
For more information on Arkansas and the history of the Louisiana Purchase visit www.lapurchase.org. Don’t forget to check out the many other historic travel destinations in Arkansas.