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Smack-talking Marcy about the Red River Valley

Updated: Aug 29, 2023

Newsapaper article
A Chicago missive from 1872

In the Chicago Tribune of November 30, 1872, the Great Bend region of the Red River Valley was derogatorily described by Randolph B. Marcy, who, two decades earlier, had taken part in surveying this portion of the country for a potential transcontinental railroad and to map the Red River for potential settlement and navigation.

I know he was talking about my neighbor and not me, right? Ha ha.

General R. B. Marcy, writing as recently as 1866, says that "The ideas, habits, and language of the population upon the borders of Arkansas and Texas are eminently peculiar.

They constitute an anomalous and detached element in the social structure. Their sparsely-scattered forest-habitations, being far removed from towns or villages, and seldom visited by travellers, almost entirely exclude them from intercourse with the civilized world, and they are nearly as ignorant of what is transpiring outside of their own immediate sphere as the savages themselves. They seldom or never see a newspaper, and could not read it if they did."

Captain (later, General) Randolph B. Marcy was one of the more important U.S. Americans to put the Red River of the South on the map in the post-Mexican-American War period. He, as well as native people like Black Beaver, mapped the region accurately; recorded native names for places; described its anthropology, geology and geography; secured the area for Anglo-American, German, Chickasaw, and Choctaw settlements; and developed paths through the territories. Because he remained loyal to the Union during the Civil War, he is ill-remembered by those with the power to enforce history (i.e., the old slaver-power) who still dominate Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana politics. It's important to acknowledge, though, that Marcy's loyalty to the United States was actually mirrored by the majority of people along the Red River Valley beyond the Great Bend in Arkansas: the counties in Texas, for example, voted against seceding from the Union in 1861, and even the planter-heavy areas of the Red River Valley in Arkansas and Louisiana were Whig strong-holds. Remember, Indian Territory could not vote for secession, and those who led the national votes (Chickasaws, Choctaws) were enslavers, not "full bloods."

The ability to tell a much longer history from a short blurb published almost 160 years ago is the reason I continue to write these articles.

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