Journal of the Rev. Timothy Flint Part II

          Fifteen miles on the way from Red River to Ouachitta we pass Big Creek, affording the most delightful angling and the greatest supply of fine fish of any stream I have seen.  I believe you have read a work of mine, entitled “Recollections of the last Ten Years,” &c., where the pleasures I experienced of fishing in this stream are recorded.  It was then a place of famous resort, for the inhabitants of Alexandria and the planters in the vicinage, as a summer retreat during the sultry and sickly months.  The houses were still standing, some twenty or thirty in number, where my family passed two pleasant summers.  After the lapse of ten years, I revisited again this deserted village in the depths of the pine forest.  Other places have become fashionable.  Many of the former residents are distributed in the pine woods nearer town ; and the remembrance of many friends, who shared our abode and fishing with us at that distance of time, and who are now no more, was called vividly to mind by the view of this lonely place now half in ruins.

          A little more than a league further on, we crossed Little River, so called, perhaps, ut lucus a non lucendo[1], because it is quite a broad, deep stream, indeed to my eye scarcely less than the Ouachitta.  Its whole course is through the universal pine forest.  It is formed some fifty miles above the ferry, where we crossed it, by the junction of the Dugdemony [sic Dugdemonia] and Castor, streams having long courses in the pine forest.  From the junction it become a broad, deep stream, capable of steamboat navigation all the way to its union with the Ouachitta, which it enters after passing through Catahoola [sic Catahoula] Lake.  On the

bottoms of the two streams that form Little River, is a considerable settlement called New Kentucky.  It is remarkable that these branches should be skirted with rich, black lands, with large cane ; and that below the junction, Little River should have a wide alluvion singular for its sterility, being little more than a dead swamp or a moving sand incapable of the humblest degree of cultivation.  But it abounds in the finest fish, and in inexhaustible supplies of timber.  Nothing can be more dreary and lonely than the landscape of this stream.  Turkey buzzards and other outlandish fowls with their long necks and wings are seen wheeling their lonely flight along the forest curves of this wide and desolate river.  One circumstance only in the alluvial forest fixed my attention.  Here I noted the first white birches I had seen west of Lake Erie.  This tree, with its white rind and pensile branches, grows abundantly in the place where I was born, and was the tree the first and mostly distinctly marked in my memory.  Here, for the first time since I have resided in the southwest, I saw again my native tree, no ways different from that, except that the filaments had a sort of quarteroon or copper tinge, as though a little tanned by the ardours of this climate.  After crossing Little River, it continues the same unvarying universal pine forest quite to the Ouachitta.  I have extensively surveyed the forests of the north, of the lakes, and the west.  I have seen the pine woods of New England, the Alleghany, the southern Atlantic country, the mine country of Missouri and of the Floridas.  I have traveled through the pine forests above Natchitoches, and between Bayou Boeuf and Opelousas.  But this grand and im-

pressive forest is unique and alone in my remembrance.  I have seen nothing equal or to compare with it.  Millions of straight and magnificent stems, from seventy to a hundred feet clear shaft, terminate in umbrella tops, whose deep and somber verdure contrasts strikingly with the azure of the sky.  Not a shrub, not a bush, nothing but grass and flowers is seen beneath this roof of verdure gently waving in the upper air.  The openness of the woods is such as to allow the rider on horseback, or even in a carriage, to select his own road.  Indeed the appearance is of trees planted out for a park ; and deer, of which we saw more than one heard, may be descried bounding away over the undulating slopes for more than a league.  It is hazarding little to say, that all he navies in the world might be masted between these rivers, and still leave a thick forest.  The ceaseless rustle of the breeze along the wide extent of this roof, swinging like the oscillations of a pendulum, breezing and sinking on the ear, is best imagined by the shifting hues of a field of wheat in flower, when played upon by the vernal winds.  I know not whether the sensations arising from journeying a great distance in such a forest, are peculiar to my temperament ; nor do I remember whether you traveled the same route on your way to Ouachitta.  It is a mental problem, which will not soon be solved, and it would only gratify my curiosity to know if you, if my young companions, nurtured in pursuits so unlike mine, experienced similar trains of thought and feeling in passing this grand park of nature’s formation.

          We passed the first night of our journey at a house about equidistant between Red River and Ouachitta.

The accommodations, though rough and primitive, and the buildings of logs, were comfortable, and the people obliging.  In the central forest, with the straight stems and the deep verdure every where in view, this abode seems as lonely as Crusoe’s island.  Yet our landlord entertained us with the local politics of his neighbourhood.  We found that political aspirants from our village had found their way here before us ; and we were not a little amused with the history of their manoeuvring, bringing to light combinations for political effect not dreamed of in cities, nor even in the centre of the parish, and appropriate only to positions where, it might be presumed, they might be formed and developed without coming to light in any other place.  In fact, it is in such places that the American lever of politics is applied with effect ; for a well woven lie is almost sure to work its intended results before it can be detected.

          On the second morning we were still traversing the same pine forest ; though, as we neared the Ouachitta, its character was somewhat different.  The trees were more sparse and of larger dimensions.  The ridges were of greater extent and elevation, and the sandstone formation became visible in ledges of fine building stone crowning their summits.  Some of the more considerable branches showed bottoms covered with a heavy growth of cane.  One such we saw near the house of a minister, who has fixed himself here in the forests, and preaches to the pine woods congregations in his vicinity ; that is to say, within twenty or thirty miles.  It was cheering, after riding through such a wide belt of monotonous verdure, to see his house surrounded by a fine

and thrifty young orchard, and beyond it a tract of rich alluvial cotton land.  The soil of the pine woods was seen to be of a more fertile character than that we had passed through, interspersed with a rich growth of timber clambered by long grape vines, the infallible indexes of a better soil.  The northern declivities of the slopes were covered with what is called switch cane.  As a specimen of the pines, we measured one, which, at six feet from the ground, gave a circumference of fifteen and a half feet, and a shaft and elevation in proportion.

          Thence to the river the surface has a gradual slope to a belt of hard clay soil, chiefly timbered with oak, which skirts the Ouachita to the distance of a league, and terminates in a bluff, at the foot of which the river rolls.  This bluff is almost perpendicular, singularly uniform, and in many places three hundred feet high.  The road from Catahoola, now called Harrisonburg, to Monroe, is as smooth and as uniform as a turnpike ; and the distances, at intervals of a mile, are regularly marked by lettered pine blocks ; and running directly on the margin of this singular bluff, commands a boundless view of the alluvial swamps between the Ouachitta and the Mississippi, the horizon terminating at the blue hills in the vicinity of Natchez.  It is exactly the misty outline seen from the Alleghanies or the Green mountains.

          The south shore of Ouachitta has a very narrow alluvial belt, the river often sweeping the base of the pine hills ; nor is there any place between the point, where we first come in view of it, and that opposite Monroe, that is to say, a distance of forty miles, where there is depth enough of bottom for a cotton plantation.  There

are sometimes extents of fifty or sixty acres of rich land in a body, often interrupted by what are called cypress brakes, full of cypress trees of magnificent dimensions.  And I remark, in passing, that the cypress of the Ouachitta is of the largest size, and the finest timber any where found on the waters of the southwest.  A steam saw-mill at the mouth of Red river is supplied with cypress trees rafted from the Ecor Fabree[2] of this stream, a distance by the meanders of three or four hundred miles.


[1] A form of illogical argument asserting that two things are related because they have opposite significations (Wicktionary.org).

[2] Later the site of Camden, AR.

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