It’s been described as the greatest real estate purchase in the history of the United States — President Thomas Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase in 1803. And while it reaches far beyond Southeast Arkansas, much of the United States can be traced back to a swamp near Brinkley.
A stone marker denotes the point where those two lines intersected, and every parcel of land in the Louisiana Purchase, stretching as far north as Lake Erie and as far south as the Gulf of Mexico, can be surveyed back to that spot. Every landowner within the Louisiana Purchase can trace their deed of ownership back the original survey.
The forward-thinking Jefferson recognized the importance of acquiring the land to guarantee navigational rights for the length of the Mississippi River.
So, on April 30, 1803, the federal government bought about 828,000 square miles from the French at a cost of about $15 million — that’s about four cents an acre.
As well, it opened up a substantial portion — 15 states including Arkansas — of the continent for exploration and development, and it nearly doubled the young country’s size.
However, it would be another 12 years before the U.S. Congress ordered the land surveyed, and Prospect K. Robbins and Joseph C. Brown conducted the official United States survey of the new territory in 1815.
Robbins surveyed a north-south line starting at the confluence of the Mississippi and Arkansas rivers, and Brown began an east-west line from the intersection of the St. Francis River with the Mississippi. Both began moving along those lines until their paths crossed.
“The Louisiana Purchase Treaty symbolizes the bold and aspiring spirit of the American people,” said Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero.
“As you walk along the boardwalk, you’ll experience the captivating beauty and natural sounds of the surrounding swamp,” a description of the park from the Arkansas State Parks website reads. “Along the boardwalk, interpretive wayside exhibits tell about the Louisiana Purchase and describe the wild flora and fauna of the swamp. This headwater swamp is representative of the swamplands that were common in eastern Arkansas before the vast bottomlands were drained and cleared for farming and commercial purposes.
“Teachers, students and visitors are welcome to download the Louisiana Purchase Historic State Park booklet, Bicentennial guide and poster (below) for facts and maps to use in lesson plans, research papers and more.”
Louisiana Purchase State Park is located south of Brinkley. From I-40 at Brinkley, take U.S. 49 and travel 21 miles south, then go two miles east on Arkansas 362 to the park.
The park is open 6 a.m. until 9 p.m. daily.