Montgomery’s Point, Arkansas
“The tiny settlement at the mouth of the White River was almost as old as Arkansas Post, having been established in 1776 by Francois D. Armond, a wealthy fur trader who erected some log buildings and made it his home. However, after Montgomery’s business interests prospered, it became known as Montgomery’s Point, and its importance in the early steamboat ear cannot be overemphasized. Charles Fenton Mercer Noland wrote that in 1826 it was the great trading point for all of North Arkansas, and for a great deal of South Arkansas. Most boats passing from either the Arkansas or White rivers touched at Montgomery’s Point. The remarkable aspect, Noland noted, was that a person could pass down those rivers into the Mississippi without going through the mouth of either, which was accomplished by a chute between the two rivers.
The late Captain Charles H. Warner, an active river pilot from Batesville, once wrote:
The gateway [by water] to the interior of that area which was to eventually become Arkansas were the mouths of the Arkansas and White rivers. These rivers empty into the Mississippi within a few miles of each other, and some distance up White River there is a chute called the Arkansas Cut-Off, which connects the two streams. This system of waterways forms a huge island around which a boat may circle, if desired, by going up the White River, through the cut-off, down the Arkansas, and up the Mississippi to the mouth of the White.
Montgomery’s Point became a transfer point for passengers and freight from the bigger boats of the Mississippi River to the smaller ones running on the Arkansas and White Rivers, and the forwarding and commission business of Montgomery, Miller, and Company increased. Moses Greenwood, later a prominent New Orleans merchant, was employed to manage the firm, leaving Montgomery free to pursue his other interests. Greenwood came to Little Rock in1829, where he had a store, but moved it to Arkansas Post in 1830. He left shortly thereafter for Montgomery’s Point; however, he later stated that he also had business interests at McLean’s Bottom and Martin’s Ferry (now Van Buren) in 1831-1832.”
Seemingly on the pinnacle of success, disaster struck the steamboat line (Montgomery, Miller, & Company) in June 1833. Cholera was raging along the Mississippi River Ports when Captain Miller and the Reindeer left the plague-ridden city of New Orleans, bound for the mouth of the White River. Several passengers boarded the boat at Vicksburg, Mississippi, one of whom spread the disease to the other passengers and crew. When the Reindeer docked at Montgomery’s Point, Captain Miller took sick suddenly. After an illness of only four or five hours he succumbed, and the boat left for Little Rock with Captain Cochran in command.
When the vessel reached the capitol city (Little Rock) on June 23, 1833, she was in a distressed condition, having lost six of her passengers and crew from the ravages of cholera. Another of the passengers was at the point of death, and almost everyone on board was “more or less affected by the disease.” Passenger Matthew Coffee was lost on June 18, and steward A. Nedad, fireman James Rea, passenger John Allen, pilot George Norris, and chief engineer L.H. Edson died on June 19. Nevertheless, the Reindeer was thoroughly scrubbed, another pilot and engineer hired, and the boat left for Fort Gibson. Passengers who remained at Little Rock told when the Reindeer left New Orleans, cholera was raging with between 150 and 200 persons dying daily and business was at a standstill. The disease was rampant all along the Mississippi, with the woodyards becoming burial grounds. No casualties were reported on the Volant, but Captain Turner replaced Charles Kelly as master, so he may have become ill.”
Source: Duane Huddleston, “The Volant and Reindeer Early Arkansas Steamboats,” Pulaski County Historical Review, Little Rock, AR, June, 1976. Volume XXIV, No 2
In 1830, Montgomery Point consisted of the warehouses of David Miller and William Montgomery and their store and tavern. Montgomery’s tavern was in the former trading house of Francis D’Armond, a French trader who had built it and later sold it to Montgomery. The house stood on high brick pillars about 250 yards from the White River. The became a transfer point for passengers, goods, and mail fro up and down the Mississippi, whose destination points were on the White or Arkansas Rivers.
Source: Jo Claire English, Pages from the Past: Historical notes on Clarendon, Monroe County and Early Arkansas. Clarendon, AR 1976. p.21.
The Point had an unsavory reputation in the 1830s for being a den for gamblers and other no goods.
Source: Francis J. Scully, “Across Arkansas in 1844,” Arkansas Historical Society, Vol 13 Spring, 1954, 36n.8.