From: Leonard Damron <>
The Wagon Trail to Texas from Arkansas
        The Ozark Mountains roughly divide Missouri and Arkansas, however in
some places parts of Ark. are north of these mountains. This created
some problems in taxation, both states wanting to tax the residents in
some of these areas. Another problem existed also for these people, and
of course some Missouri residents also. Springfield was the nearest
market, the next closest being St. Louis. The Springfield merchants took
advantage of this and held the farmers of the area captives in this
regard, paying much less for farm products as that paid in Ark., or at
St Louis. The farmers could not benefit from the Ark. markets as until
the 1870's no wagon track existed across these mountains from the
proximity of the Mississipi River until you reached the Soutwest corner
of Missouri, and there the first break in these mountains occurred, this
in the area where Southwest City, Mo. now stands. Finally the farmers
banded together and broke a track across these mountains leading to
Jonesboro, Ark. The journey had to be made in concert as in places as
many as five teams were required to pull some grades, the first treck
taking 5 days to reach an existing wagon track. They had broken the
strangle hold of the Springfield merchants however.
Source: A rural electric coop magazine of about 15 years ago.

        What the foregoing does is prove the route taken by early settlers from
Ill., Mo., Ky., some portions of Tenn., etc., that were headed for the
western part of Ark., the Indian Territory and Texas. Of course traffic
on the Mississippi existed but that did not satisfy the need for moving
wagons, livestock and other necessities, so these early settlers went
south through Missouri until they reached Springfield, and there they
hung a right and proceeded through Sarcoxie and Carthage, Mo. (Joplin
did not then exist) and on to the southwest corner of Mo., where they
turned south and there a wagon track went by Siloam Springs, Ark., past
Ft. Smith, meeting with the Military Road, which traversed Ark. from
east to west this a little over 100 miles south of Ft. Smith, and 
continued on into Texas. 

        The Military Road was also significant in the route taken by those in
southeast states that were Texas bound. They came west into Mississippi
and then turned north into Ark., meeting with the Military Road. This
road passed through Washington, Ark., which sat astride the Military
Road. During those years Washington, Ark. was one of the more
significant Ark. towns. An old hotel existed there having a guest book,
and in that book we find the names of Sam Houston, James Bowie, David
Crockett, Travis and Bonham, among others, (Remember The Alamo). In fact
the now legendary Bowie Knife was forged in Washington, Ark. Swamps,
yellow fever etc. in Louisiana was apparently the primary reason for
settlers utilizing the Military Road. 

        Benton Co., Ark. until the close of the 19th century was the most
populous county in Ark., and its still the second most populous. If one
examines the 1850 census of Benton Co. one will see that the majority of
the residents were from Mo., Ill., Ky., Tenn. etc. Some apparently had
broken down, became ill, or in other ways indisposed, remaining in
Benton Co. a couple of years and then going on to Texas or the Indian
Territory, and some simply decided to remain, and I'm not sure as to why
as that area of Ark. is mostly rocky and of heavy clay, not a good
farming area, and most of these pioneers were farmers.

        Having researched the foregoing I still had a problem. The tradition in
the line of Henry Wood Ferguson states that he was on his way to Texas
when an ox became ill, but liking the area he was in he decided to
remain there. Henry Wood Ferguson is in the 1840 census of Taney Co.,
Mo., so he would have taken the route through Siloam Springs etc., the

part that had me puzzled was that he settled near Booneville, Ark.,
which is some 35 miles east of where he should have been if on a route
to Texas. It was at about this time that I also found through the
tradition that Henry Wood Ferguson had a brother Elijah, who resided in
Washington, Ark. An idea started to emerge and I started looking at old
mail routes, and with that the answer was obvious. A mail route existed
between Washington, Ark., and Booneville, Ark. as early as 1838. I also
found that an alternate route came out of Siloam Springs, Ark., passing
near present day Fayetteville, going over the Boston Mountains and into
Booneville. With that the obvious part came out. Henry Wood Ferguson was
surely taking that route with the intention of visiting with his brother
Elijah, and then to continue on the Military Road into Texas, but then
of course the ox became ill.