Economic Dimensions of Arkansas History
Transportation Map Locator:
Water Routes: For water routes trace each in blue highlighter and then label.
1) Trace the Arkansas River’s route through Arkansas
Hint: Enters near Fort Smith, Arkansas
2) Trace the Red River’s route through Arkansas
Hint: Enters south of Foreman and exits Arkansas near Smithville
3) Trace the Ouachita River’s route through Arkansas
Hint: Begins in Lake Ouachita
4) Trace the White River’s route through Arkansas
Hint: Ends in the Mississippi River and filters into the Arkansas River
Railroads: For railways trace in yellow highlighter and label with yellow sticky notes the name of the railway.
1) Trace the route of 2 of the U.P. (Union Pacific) Railroads
Hint: 2 routes can be found near West Memphis, one enters at the NW corner of
Arkansas, and one enters near Moark, Arkansas
2) Trace the route of the BNSF railroad
Hint: Enters near Mammoth Springs, AR
3) Trace the route of the Arkansas and Missouri Railroad
Hint: Enters near Gateway, Arkansas
Highways: Trace in a pink highlighter and label. (Replace with scenic byways or major transportation arteries)
1) Trace the route of Highway 64 through Arkansas
Hint: Enters near Fort Smith, Arkansas
2) Trace the route of Interstate 40 through Arkansas
Hint: Enters near Fort Smith, Arkansas
3) Trace the route of Highway 23 through Arkansas
Hint: Enters near Holiday Island
4) Trace the route of Highway 71
Hint: Starts in Arkansas near Bella Vista but turns into Interstate 540 then back to 71
Trace the four routes used for the Trail of Tears using a green highlighter.
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Economic Dimensions of Arkansas History Transportation Summary:
The systems of conveyance both through and within Arkansas involve routes that include land, water, and air. Transportation is often a major determining factor in economic development. Because of Arkansas’s geographic location along the Mississippi, Arkansas, and Red Rivers,
water routes have been particularly important. Land routes have been much affected by the landscapes of the six natural divisions within the state. Building roads and railroads posed many
Early Land Routes
Arkansas’ locations on the Mississippi River and in the middle of North America have made Arkansas a central thoroughfare for many years. Thousands of years ago, Paleolithic hunters began routing out trails for transportation with just their primal tools and animals. The Paleolithic hunters carved out three routes through Arkansas. The first was the Southwest Trail. This trail ran from what is now known as St. Louis, Missouri to Little Rock, Arkansas and then from Little Rock into Texas. The second route ran along what is now the western Arkansas border. The third route ran along Crowley’s Ridge.
Spanish and French Explorers
During the time of early European explorers the uses of water routes were of major importance. It was quicker than land routes with people going more than six miles a day in the flat bottom boats they took on the rivers. Expansion of more land routes occurred as well. The Spanish European explorers created a direct land route between the Boston Mountains and the Ozark Plateau. This route was created so French and Spanish traders could meet with the Osage Native Americans.
Trail of Tears
In the 1830’s, the Trail of Tears was etched through Arkansas for the forced removal of an estimated 60,000 Native Americans from their lands east of the Mississippi River to land set aside by the United States government in what is now Oklahoma. The Cherokee used three land routes though Arkansas. Chief John Ross and many of the financially well-off members ascended the Arkansas River by steamboat. The Bell party took the road from Memphis to Little Rock and then followed the road that ran north of the Arkansas River. The Benge party crossed the Mississippi River near Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and passed near Batesville and through Fayetteville. In addition, Choctaw, Seminole, Chickasaw, and Creek tribes all passed through the state on their way west. Much economic interchange accompanied the migrations.
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Economic Dimensions of Arkansas History
During the colonial period, a wide variety of watercraft were used in Arkansas. For local travel, boats called pirogues, each fashioned from a single log, were often large enough to carry passengers and freight. The bateau, of flat-bottomed construction with a roof-covered enclosed section in the rear, was superseded by the keelboat. These boats had a longitudinal board (the keel) attached to the bottom to keep the boat going in a straight line, making the boats easier to pole, pull, or paddle upstream. A combination of poling and pulling was more common than paddling when trying to move boats upstream. Most of the larger vessels also had sails. Six miles a day was considered good time on the faster rivers. Ferry boats served in place of bridges. Steam ferries operated at Little Rock, Memphis, and Helena (Phillips County). A series of locks and dams made the White River navigable above Batesville. The construction of drainage ditches had a negative impact on water traffic on the St. Francis River, but at Marked Tree (Poinsett County), a siphon and lock kept some navigation alive on the St. Francis River into the 1950s. Railroads won decisive victories when, after the passage of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1909, most upkeep and improvements of the waterways were abandoned.
In the early 1850’s the Whig party wanted a state-financed railroad, but the Democrats
opposed. In fact, in 1852 the democratic candidate Elias Nelson Conway won the governor’s race on the platform of “Good Dirt Roads.” Even though they were turned down by the state, rich merchants went on to begin building a railroad from Memphis to Little Rock. The railroad was not able to be finished by the merchants, but when Arkansas joined the Confederacy the Confederate government finished the railroad. During the Civil War all commercial riverboat traffic stalled. During Reconstruction, the Republican Party began financing railroads. At one ?BMCEE -3- http://bmcee.uark.edu
Economic Dimensions of Arkansas History point the people tried to build a railroad between the Mississippi, Ouachita, and Red River Valley. Unfortunately this rail line became bogged down in the swamps and remained unfinished. Historians believe that this hurt southern Arkansas’ development. In 1873, the
Baring Cross Bridge in Little Rock was built allowing the rail road to cross the Arkansas River. In the great flood years of 1927 the original bridge washed away, but was rebuilt and remains in downtown Little Rock today. In 1909, the Rivers and Harbor’s Act was passed abandoning
upkeep on waterways since railroad was the primary source of transportation now. In 1963, construction began on the McClellan-Kerr dams that are located along the Arkansas River to the Mississippi River. This dam system begins at the Tulsa port of Catoosa and was developed to get waterway traffic safely navigated on the Arkansas River to Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Pine Bluff became a major transportation hub. The Kansas City Southern ran along Arkansas’
western border, passing in and out of the state on its way south. The company created Mena as home for its central division shops in 1896. Building railroads in the Ozarks created the most problems. Many railroad construction attempts were started and abandoned before completion making and breaking the development of towns. When the railroad reached Eureka Springs it started two decades of growth for this spa town. The arrival of a railroad shifted populations dramatically. Sawmills and other business operations arose in newly created towns. Short line railroads, often owned by timber companies, sprouted all over the state. Lumbering in particular made use of short lines, spurs, and dummy lines. Once the lumber was cut, the rails were pulled up and often the towns disappeared. Every county except Newton County, in the remote Ozarks, had rail service by 1910. In the 1930s, the Missouri Pacific, successor to the Iron Mountain, created a bus company to supplement its rail passenger service.
Highways and Roads
County governments oversaw the building of roads at the local level. Persons wanting a road in the vicinity of their land petitioned the county, and if the county court approved, the road was laid out. The county required that residents either pay a fee or work up to twelve days on building and maintaining the roads under the county’s direction.
Horses were highly prized, both for riding and for pulling carriages and wagons. Many common people came to Arkansas in wagons pulled by oxen. A good team on a good day could average two miles an hour. Mules were somewhat faster. Many farmers could afford only mules instead of horses, so mules were used for hauling and ridden like horses.
In the nineteenth century, horse-drawn vehicles of various kinds were also known by a wide range of names. The terms “whimmy-diddle” and “go cart” were used, but perhaps the most
common name for a public conveyance was “trick.” Farm wagons transported many people to town and church, while wealthier people had carriages. Fast-moving stagecoaches pulled by ?BMCEE -4- http://bmcee.uark.edu
Economic Dimensions of Arkansas History matched teams were as unknown as paved post roads. Passengers climbing the Boston Mountains to Fayetteville were charged ten cents a mile but often had to get out and walk on the steepest grades. In 1858, this mountain route became part of the Butterfield Overland Mail Company’s famous western route.
The movement away from “good dirt roads” began with arrival of automobiles in the new century. By 1903, some fifty vehicles could be found in Arkansas. By that time, the main streets of some towns were paved in brick, but most remained dirt. The Arkansas Good Roads Association was founded to lobby for progress in 1903, and the legislature authorized special road districts supported by taxes in 1907. The Dollarway Road from Pine Bluff to Little Rock was the first example of a modern road in the state. By 1918, Arkansas had 190 miles of hard-surfaced roads. Today Arkansas has 16,353 miles of state and US highway roads running through it. This doesn’t even include the additional 78,000 miles of county and city streets
located within the state.
Trolley lines existed in Little Rock, Fort Smith, Hot Springs, Eureka Springs, and even the small town of Sulphur Rock. Trolley lines also connected Hoxie and Walnut Ridge.
In 1956, Arkansas was granted Interstate 30, a route from Little Rock into Texas and Interstate 40 that extends from Fort Smith on throughout the state. After the expansion of the interstate system in Arkansas, the trucking industry began booming. Early companies such as Jones Truck Lines and Willis Shaw Express began. These were followed by JB Hunt, PAM and Arkansas’ Best.
Highway 23, known as The Pig Trail, was originally carved out by wild pigs. This trail is one of the most scenic highways in the United States.
Aviation history in Arkansas had started with inventor Charles McDermott, who gave his name to the town of Dermott. This amateur scientist received a patent from the U.S. Patent Office a “Improvement in Apparatus for Navigating the Air” in 1872. After the Wright Brothers flew successfully, more than just balloons appeared in Arkansas. Air shows, in which pilots demonstrated their skills, and barn-storming, which often included taking local people up in planes to see the world from the air, preceded the use of airplanes for business and industry. The first recorded flight in Arkansas took place at Fort Smith on May 21, 1910; when pilot James C. “Bud” Mars took off in a Curtiss biplane.
In 1911 in Fort Smith, mail was carried by air plane. This was only the second time this had been done in the country. By the 1950’s Arkansas had over one-hundred airports. This
declined with the 1978 Airline Deregulation Act that changed passenger laws. So the only true ?BMCEE -5- http://bmcee.uark.edu
Economic Dimensions of Arkansas History airports running all the time were the Little Rock airport, Fort Smith, and Memphis in the state of Arkansas. It wasn’t until 1998 that Northwest Arkansas opened its first large airport, Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport.
Information provided by: encyclopediaofarkansas.net
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