ARKANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY, Volume 37 (Summer 1978), p. 168



Sulphur Fork Factory, 1817-1822



Northern Michigan University

THE INDIAN FACTORY SYSTEM was created by an act of Congress in 1795 with the express intention of developing and maintaining Indian friendship and allegiance through government control of trade on the frontiers of the new nation. Within the present limits of the state of Arkansas there were three factories established for this purpose: Arkansas Post (1805-1810), Spadra Bayou (1817-1822), and Sulphur Fork (1818-1822) (1).

Sulphur Fork factory was established in southwestern Arkansas to deal with the numerous Indians living in the Red River Valley and to check Spanish influence in Texas which was felt across the international boundary. During its short life, the factory's development was under the guidance of two factors: John Fowler and William McClellan. Unfortunately the history of the factory is filled with a variety of problems: insufficient funding, military manpower shortages, unruly soldiers, illegal traders and angry Indians, lack of laborers, and eventually Fowler's ill health and untimely death. Under these circumstances both factors attempted with varying results to regulate trade with the Indians and bring peace and governmental control to the Red River Valley frontier.

The predecessor to the Sulphur Fork factory was the factory founded at Natchitoches in 1805. Natchitoches's history as a frontier trading center went back to its early eighteenth century foundation by the French (2).
* The author is associate professor of history at Northern Michigan University, Marquette.
1. Wayne Morris, "Traders and Factories on the Arkansas Frontier, 1805-1822," Arkansas Historical
Quarterly, XXVIII (Spring 1969), 28-48; George L. Montagno, "Matthew Lyon's Last Frontier," ibid., XVI (Spring 1957), 46-53; Aloysius Plaisance, "The Arkansas Factory, 1805-1810," ibid., XI (Autumn 1952), 184-200; Ora B. Peake, A History of the United States Factory System, 1795-1822 (Denver, 1954).
2. Joyce Purser, "The Administration of Indian Affairs in Louisiana, 1803-1820," Louisiana History, V
(Fall 1964), 401-419.








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