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|Caddy the Frenchman & the land of four rivers|
Two centuries ago, in late fall 1804, a keelboat with 20 explorers onboard docked at present day Jonesville.
Only one pioneer lived at this location where the four rivers converge. This Frenchmen operated a ferry and had other responsibilities previously granted by the Spanish government.
In 1803, the United States had purchased the vast territory of Louisiana from the French, who had obtained it in a secret treaty with the Spanish. Congress, through the encouragement of President Thomas Jefferson, had recently agreed to finance explorations of this new territory.
Two of the men on the keelboat were leading one of the four such explorations. Both were natives of Scotland and both were now U.S. citizens. One was William Dunbar, a planter and surveyor from Natchez, and the other was Dr. George Hunter, a chemist and land speculator from Philadelphia.
Their mission was to explore and map the Ouachita River up to the hot springs in Arkansas. The expedition set off in October 1804 from below Natchez. South of Fort Adams along the Mississippi, the keelboat turned west and traveled up the Red to its juncture with the Black, the river which is really an extension of the Ouachita. The two streams converge at Jonesville along with the Tensas and Little rivers.
It was at this location -- called "The Last Settlement" along the Ouachita by William Dunbar -- that the keelboat docked.
"The ground here is very rich and if it were to be defended by a dike or Bank would be inexhaustibly fertile," Hunter recorded in his journal. Both expedition leaders kept journals of this trip, describing the things they saw and the things they did along the Black and Ouachita rivers.
"The soil here," wrote Dunbar, "is equal to the best Mississippi bottoms."
Onboard the keelboat, equipped with oars and a sail, were the two leaders as well as Hunter's teenage son, Dunbar's three slaves and a runaway slave named Harry. Doing most of the heavy lifting, including the tracking, rowing and sailing of the vessel, were 12 privates and one sergeant who volunteered for the mission at the U.S. Army base in New Orleans.
Landing at the mouth of the Catahoula (Little), the members of the Ouachita River Expedition met, said Dunbar, "with a french man settled here; he has a grant of land from the Spanish government; has made a small settlement and keeps a ferry-boat for crossing men & horses traveling to or from Natchez and the settlements on red river and on the Washita (Ouachita) river." Caddy Hebrard De Baillion, said Dunbar, settled on "a most valuable tract" of land. Caddy's house "is placed upon an Indian mount with several others in view; there is also a species of rampart surrounding this place & one very elevated mount."
From Dunbar's notations, we can easily ascertain that Caddy had built his cabin atop what is known today as Magnolia Mound, located near the mouth of Little River at its juncture with the Black. From Hunter we learn, "This Monsr Cadi lives on an Indian mount about an acre in extent which is the only place near him that is not overflowed in the great freshes (floods)..."
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