“I reckon stranger you have not been used much to traveling in the woods,” a hunter remarked to Henry Rowe Schoolcraft as he trekked through the Ozark backcountry in late 1818. The ensuing exchange is one of many compelling encounters between Arkansas travelers and settlers depicted in Arkansas Travelers: Geographies of Exploration and Perception, 1804–1834. This book is the first to integrate the stories of four travelers who explored Arkansas during the transformative period between the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 and statehood in 1836: William Dunbar, Thomas Nuttall, Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, and George William Featherstonhaugh.
In addition to gathering their tales of treacherous rivers, drunken scoundrels, and repulsive food, historian and geographer Andrew J. Milson explores the impact such travel narratives have had on geographical understandings of Arkansas places. Using the language in each traveler’s narrative, Milson suggests, and the book includes, new maps that trace these perceptions, illustrating not just the lands traversed, but the way travelers experienced and perceived place. By taking a geographical approach to the history of these spaces, Arkansas Travelers offers a deeper understanding—a deeper map—of Arkansas.