Notebook kept by Lois Hinsey

                                     Member, Arkansas City Historical Society


ARTICLE:                         Ferdinandina—Earliest White Settlement

                                                        by George H. Shirk in

                                                The Oklahoma Almanac, 1961

Pages 41-42

At the beginning of the 18th Century both Spain and France had vast colonial ambitions.

Spain used Mexico as its base for expansion into the Southwest through New Mexico. France used its control of the Mississippi River to spread its influence through the central United States. Situated as it is, the area of Oklahoma was squarely between the rival designs of these two great powers. The Spanish used the mission as the focal point of local influence, whereas the French used the trading post.

In 1719 France commissioned two exploration parties to explore the area of Oklahoma and to secure the friendship of the Indians. Captain Bernard de la Harpe was sent up the Red River from New Orleans and entered present Oklahoma in August, 1719.

The other party, under Clude Charles du Tisne, traveled overland from the Illinois country. This group traveled up the Missouri River as far as the Osage River, and then ascended the latter to somewhere near the present western boundary of Missouri. From there they traveled forty leagues southwest to the villages of the Pani [Pawnee] Indians.

Although the journals of du Tisne are indefinite, it is now believed from present informa-tion that the party reached a spot in present Kay County, Oklahoma, where Deer Creek flows into the Arkansas River several miles southeast of Chilocco. He recorded that on September 27, 1719, he concluded an alliance with the local tribes and raised the Royal flag of France over the Indian village.

From physical evidence it has been determined that the settlement comprised two separate villages: each covering an area of about 30 acres and separated from one another about one and one-half miles. About forty mounds, no doubt the collapsed ruins of their timber-framed, dome-shaped, earth-covered dwellings, may still be seen at each site

This location was first investigated in 1917 by J. B. Thoburn, who reported finding well-defined lines of separate sod representing the floor and the roof, with one or more layers of ash underneath.

The French erected their stockade adjoining the southerly village. It was approximately 200 feet in diameter with the main gate at the southeast. It was surrounded on the outside by a wide trench or dry moat. The soil removed in its construction was placed on the inside of the circular ditch to give greater height to the wooden stockade.


The conclusion was reached that this was in fact the spot first visited by du Tisne in 1719 inasmuch as his journal stated that a fine salt mine was found two day’s journey to the west and then a short distance to the southwest. This corresponds to the distance to the Great Salt Plains in Alfalfa County, Oklahoma.

The site of the stockade with its center tower or rampart is still clearly discernible on the high bluffs overlooking the junction of Deer Creek and the Arkansas River. This site is located in the northeast quarter of Section 15, Township 28 North, Range 3 East.

                                                     Bert Moore Collection.

Mr. and Mrs. Bert Moore, Winfield, Kansas, spent years studying the sites; more than 5,000 artifacts have been collected. Their collection established without doubt the extent and type of the Ferdinandina settlement. The character of the relics shows clearly the following:

1. White activity was extensive and lasted for some period of time.

2. Ferdinandina must have been a “wholesale depot” for trade with Indians.

The usual Eighteenth Century European style was found among the remains of the wood-working tools, wedges used for rail splitting, axes, hatchets, and the adze.

The gun hardware is of the flint-lock type with highly decorated butt plates, trigger guards, and stock ornamentation. The form of the designs are often of fleur-de-lys. The mechanisms of the gun hardware establish without doubt the European origin and age of the weapons.

The beads in the collection are of European origin: the Ferdinandina examples are glass or porcelain. Indian beads are invariably made from shell or bone.

Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City, has the Moore collection.

                                          Departure of French from Ferdinandina.

The exact date of departure by the French will never be known.

It fell into gradual disuse after the French influence waned.

In 1763 Louis XVI made a formal gift of the area to Spain. This shifted control to the red and gold banner of Castile and Leon. Individual French remained in the region in the employ of those in control under grants given them by Spain. By then, however, the importance of Ferdinandina as a center of European culture had passed.

Ferdinandina appears on maps published in Europe as late as 1840: not considered of any significance as the European cartographers were normally many years behind in publishing a current map of distant regions.

                                              Origin of the Name “Ferdinandina”

Origin of the name, Ferdinandina, is uncertain. It is thought by some that the post was named after the great grandson of Louis XIV, who became in 1746 Ferdinand VI of Spain. If this is true, it must have been by someone jubilant over the circumstance which brought a Bourbon of France to the Spanish throne. Available evidence indicates that Ferdinandina was the name used by this post not later than 1740.

The settlement, now completely vanished, was the vanguard of the white man in the state of Oklahoma.