Saturday, March 20, 2010

Original Lafferty Settlement

On Saturday, the 13th, the EIC Crew joined Freda Cruse, Mary Miller, Mary Wilson, Art Wilson, and Sam Younger on a tour of the White River Bottom near St. James in Stone County. This area was home to John and Sarah Lindsey Lafferty who were among the first white settlers to put down roots in the White River Valley. It was along this bottom land the family's log home stood when in 1811, John witnessed the ground erupt during the great earthquake of that of very few recorded eyewitness accounts from the region. We believe we located the site of the cabin they built in 1810 on top of a knoll extending out into the bottom. The location would have afforded the Lafferty's visual command of the river-bottom for miles with the added benefit of being across the river from Penter's Bluff which offered views up and down the river even farther. With its spectacular views and rich river-bottom soil, it's easy to understand why John Lafferty decided to grow roots in this place. The site of the 1811 eruption, a sinkhole only recently filled in by mistake, is within sight of the knoll where we believe the home was located.

John Lafferty was only able to enjoy building his western dream for a few years, however. In late 1814, he was wounded at the Battle of New Orleans and died a few months later after returning home. History tells of his burial somewhere near his cabin. Unfortunately, the cemetery that likely bore his body in death was bull-dozed a few years ago...the stones carried off for use in some construction project.

This area of the river was later home to Cherokee and Shawnee after the western bank of the river was ceded to the Cherokee Nation in 1817. Its name during this time was "The Buck Horn". We visited the site of an Indian Burial Ground during our adventure from which artifacts were collected early in the 20th century by the University of Arkansas. Included in the collection was the skeleton of an individual who was buried in a seated position facing east. Also buried in this Native-american burial ground is Methotaske, Tecumseh's mother.

A number of civil war battles/skirmishes were also fought along this stretch of the White River and areas nearby, including the "Battle of Buck Horn" where several men from the Union and Confederacy were killed and wounded. This engagement was between General J.O. Shelby's confederate guerrilla forces and a Union Company under the command of Captain Bill Williams that had been terrorizing the area for some time. Some of the structures that stood during the battle still stand today. In fact, a lengthy stacked rock wall along the base of the ridge running parallel to the river-bottom was constructed primarily to defend against Union troops out of Batesville. Area landowners lent and leased their slaves in the effort and the whole community participated in the project.

Video Below!

Photos by Freda Cruse Phillips


Bill said...


As always enjoy the photos and videos...but, you need to correct this story...Joseph Orville Shelby was a Confederate commander, not Union.

Bill Hodges

Al-Ozarka said...


I had re-worded the entire paragraph during my proofing and must have got lost. A final proof would have been in order, eh?

Thanks for pointing it out, Bill!