FORT SMITH, May 29th.


Supposing a desire on the part of the friends of the Cherokee to hear something in regard to the trip and our experience on the river, I propose to write in brief, until I can give them a more thorough knowledge of the facts developed by our experience.

We left Salt Fork, or Ponca Agency, at which place I joined the crew, on the 26th of April, at half past one o'clock, and landed in the mouth of Poteau at half past five o'clock on the morning of the 19th of May: our actual time, about 21-1/2 days. We laid up whole days, without moving, according to my diary, 8, and detained two days, one upon snags, where we had a good channel but accidentally struck our bow upon one and drifted upon more; and one whole day at the mouth of Verdigris, by missing channel --making 10 days without running. I estimate, also, three days lost for lack of appliances and some experience in the river, and think now, that if we had the same trip to make again, we could make it in about eight days. Although the river was low, our soundings generally run over two feet. Some of the worst river was for about 15 miles below Bear creek, where it spread out very wide, with numerous channels. I think our worst bar was at the mouth of Cimarron, where the water spread evenly over the whole river--a smooth, solid bar, but sounding two feet. Taken altogether, we are satisfied that the river can be utilized as a means of transportation to our city and our producing community.

As you advance down the river, the timber grows better and extends farther away from the river--the Cedar begins to make its appearance on the bluffs, and we begin to see something that looks like coal formation, cropping out from the banks.

About 12 miles above Chiller's [? Childer's ?] ferry, on Old House [?] creek; 3 [? hard to read figure...could be 31 or some other figure ?] miles from the river, is a four foot vein of splendid coal. This is on the left bank of the river. Further down, on the right, and just above Childer's ferry, is a vein of the same depth, which has been worked. Either can be worked without any difficulty.

Below this, again, on the farm of Napolean Moore, we dug, from the bank by the boat, some very fine coal, which we used in the forge and furnace. These first outcroppings our smith called good coal. We have specimens and intend to take a ton or two back with us.

As we go on down, we find the river growing better in the length of the runs without crossing--sometimes narrow and deep for six or eight miles, with high banks on either side, and sometimes breaking away ffrom the river in a gently ascending slope covered with grass and thinly scattered oaks. The scenery alone is worth the trouble and hardships incident to a trip down the river.

We have been kindly received and well treated by the people of Fort Smith, and part of them are fully alive to the importance of working up a river trade, while some seem to have grown rich here and feel that the country is far enough advanced for all their purposes. The town is a small one in population, considering the amount of territory covered. Many of the premises take in two acres of ground, and you can walk around among these country homes for hours, finding splendid old oaks for shade trees--cedars, flowers, and blue grass for adornment. When you first see the town, you see only the main street, and expect a town of about 1500 inhabitants, but after you have traveled for hours around in the suburbs
you conclude they have what they claim, about 6,000. They have four newspapers--three Democratic and one Republican; seven churches; one fine furniture and chair factory, splendidly furnished with machinery, and anxious to work up a trade with us. They have a great many business houses and no specialties; they keep everything under the same roof that people want or call for. Their busy time is after cotton picking commences.

We sold the wheat to Dr. Wall, who has a very fine mill about one mile out of town with all the latest improvements and capable of grinding 300 bushels a day.

I have been treated very kindly by the gentlemen of the press here, who are, as they always are, everywhere, keenly alive to the importance of opening trade with our country, and they promise hearty cooperation with us in our attempts to improve and navigate the river.

There have been two courts in session here--State and United States--and I have had a chance to see that summary dispensation of justice we read of in the U. S. Courts. I have seen a jury take only three-quarters of an hour to condemn a man to death, that I, although hearing all the evidence, arguments of counsel, and charge of the Judge, would not have condemned at all--only a slight difference of opinion; one calls it justice, another says it is judicial murder.

To conclude, I have written this hasty letter to give you some idea, for the present, of what we have seen and done. I will say in regard to pine lumber, wagon stuff, furniture in the rough, coal or fuel of other kinds, we can make an exchange that would be of almost incalculable benefit to our country, and there is a market along the river for all our wheat, corn, and potatoes; and I am now satisfied that they can be successfully transported by the river.

I start up the river tomorrow.

Yours, A. W.


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Bill Bottorff
3103 Bee Caves Rd. #100
Austin, TX 78746
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