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The Cossatot River

From the Arkansas Gazette December 1833 explaining a toll bridge across the Cossatot River, or Cositat (their spelling). The Arkansas Gazette is the oldest, continually published newspaper west of the Mississippi River.

While perusing the Arkansas Gazette the other day, I stumbled across the language of an official act by the Arkansas Territory General Assembly of 1833, authorizing William Shannon to build a toll bridge across "the Cositat" along the military road between Washington (Arkansas) and Fort Towson (Indian Territory).

It took me a minute to connect the dots, since this was 1833, and the road was to pass through Sevier County -- it wasn't Little River County yet. The bridge, if it ever was built, would have been just to the west of the old town of Paraclifta. And, "the Cositat" as written in the act is actually the Cossatot River, now a protected stream with white water rapids and surrounded by a state park.

I honestly don't think the bridge would have lasted very long, as this area is swampy and prone to flooding. Building the road that connected Fort Towson to Washington proved to be the bane of the soldiers, and travelers commented on "losing the road" due to the mud and overgrowth. The inability to build a good road was a major motivator for the federal Great Raft removal.

There is no such thing as a standardized spelling for Cossatot River. It's spelled Cositat in 1833; a map of Arkansas from 1836 spells it Cosselose Creek, and another map of the area from 1839 spells it Cossitot. The word's a derivative of French, meaning "crushed head." Either no one thought to bring a French dictionary with them as they arrived in Arkansas Territory, or they all rode the rapids too many times.

Link to the 1836 map from the LOC

Link to the 1839 map from the LOC

This 1836 map (LOC) spells the Cossatot River as Cosselose Creek. That's not even close!

This map from 1839 spells the Cossatot River as Cossitot. Not too far off. I like the clarity of the map's art.

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