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Thread: Napoleon, Arkansas Ghost Town

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  1. #1
    hu
    Gypsyheart~ Queen of Rust

    Nov 2005
    Ozarks
    12,686
    266 times

    Napoleon, Arkansas Ghost Town

    Here on the banks of the Mississippi River is the site of the town that no longer exists, Napoleon, Arkansas.

    In the 1840s and 1850s, Napoleon was an important port for Mississippi River trade. Located in Desha County where the Arkansas River meets the Mississippi River, the town was the shipping point for much of the trade of southeastern Arkansas.

    All river towns were wild and rowdy places in those days, and Napoleon had the reputation of being among the worst. One traveler called it the “most wretched of wretched places.”

    Napoleon, located at a low place on the river bank, suffered regularly from floods. One newspaper reported that the town was often half underwater.

    The beginning of the end for Napoleon came in the 1860s, during the Civil War. The Union forces, in control of the town, wanted a clear view of the river and any Confederate gunboats that might be passing by. Union soldiers dug a channel through an island that previously protected Napoleon from the worst of the Mississippi River currents, leaving the town completely at the mercy of the river.

    Another 10 years of floods and swift current ate away the river bank on which the town was located. One by one, the town’s buildings toppled into the Mississippi. By the 1870s, all the buildings had been washed into the river, and Napoleon no longer existed.
    xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxx

    [Not long after the Civil War the Arkansas River began to erode the site where Napoleon, Arkansas once stood. By 1874 what was left of Napoleon was abandoned to the river.]

    Yes, it was an astonishing thing to see the Mississippi rolling between unpeopled shores and straight over the spot where I used to see a good big self-complacent town twenty years ago. Town that was county-seat of a great and important county; town with a big United States marine hospital; town of innumerable fights--an inquest every day; town where I had used to know the prettiest girl, and the most
    accomplished in the whole Mississippi Valley; town where we were handed the first printed news of the Pennsylvania's mournful disaster a quarter of a century ago; a town no more--swallowed up, vanished, gone to feed the fishes; nothing left but a fragment of a shanty and a crumbling brick chimney!
    - Life on the Mississippi

    xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxx
    Mississippi River Ruins Napoleon

    ARKANSAS CITY – The floods of this unusually rainy spring of 1883 have completed the ruin of the old town of Napoleon, located on the Mississippi just below the mouth of the Arkansas. Passengers on boats which have passed the site recently report that all of the town except the cemetery and a few abandoned houses has been washed into the river.

    The process of destruction was initiated in 1863, when Federal Army engineers dug a canal through a peninsula upstream from Napoleon and straightened a bend in the river. The increased force of the current began eroding the bank on which the town stood, and over the past twenty years the entire business district and most of the residential area has gradually slid into the river.

    Napoleon was laid out in 1837 and became an important river port. A marine hospital for boatmen was located there from 1854 until the Civil War. Napoleon was the county seat of Desha County until 1874, when the seat of justice was moved to Watson after the jail and other county buildings caved into the river.

    xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    The Napoleon Cavalry, a company of the 6th Arkansas Militia (the Desha County Militia), was organized on February 28, 1861, at Napoleon, Desha County, Arkansas. After Arkansas seceded from the Union in May, the company reorganized as a volunteer company, known as the Napoleon Rifles, and rode to Fort Smith, where they enlisted in Confederate service as Co. G, 1st Arkansas Mounted Rifles, on June 15, 1861. New officers were elected on June 16. While stationed at Fort Smith, two killings occurred in the Napoleon Rifles on June 28, 1861. Lieutenant David Alexander, Jr., killed Private William Finnerty, and was subsequently court-martialed for murder. Private LeRoy Weatherford killed Corporal John Tinney, but was not court-martialed, and was later promoted to lieutenant.

    The Napoleon Rifles served with the 1st Arkansas Mounted Rifles throughout the war, eventually surrendering with the Confederate Army of Tennessee in North Carolina in April 1865. One of its members, Private William S. Colburn was awarded the Confederate equivalent of the Medal of Honor for heroism at the battle of Murfreesboro.


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    I go a great distance,while some are considering whether they will start today or tomorrow

  2. #2
    Bad Luck !

    Feb 2008
    central Arkansas
    Garretts
    39
    4 times
    Metal Detecting

    Re: Napoleon, Arkansas Ghost Town

    Hey Gypsy,

    A former co-worker of mine wanted to go to the area of Napoleon just before the November deer season started because he is a train nut and had heard a plantation depot was in the area. I looked at the Google Earth image and compared to previous images and topo maps, it appears the Arkansas River has turned further south. The area where the city would have sat is now across the Arkansas River from where it stood.

    Enjoy your stories and appreciate your investigations.

    See if you can find anything on Petersburg, Arkansas in Ashley County. It is on maps in the late 19th century and at least one prominant family lived there. It would be near Sulphur Springs and on the high ground just east of the Ouachita River bottoms and Indian Creek. A few indian mounds are also in the area. I cannot find any references on the community, but know the approximate location. Any details of what was there would be helpful.

    SB

  3. #3
    hu
    Gypsyheart~ Queen of Rust

    Nov 2005
    Ozarks
    12,686
    266 times

    Re: Napoleon, Arkansas Ghost Town

    Quote Originally Posted by badluck
    Hey Gypsy,



    See if you can find anything on Petersburg, Arkansas in Ashley County. It is on maps in the late 19th century and at least one prominant family lived there. It would be near Sulphur Springs and on the high ground just east of the Ouachita River bottoms and Indian Creek. A few indian mounds are also in the area. I cannot find any references on the community, but know the approximate location. Any details of what was there would be helpful.

    SB
    ......The Switzer family who came to the area from North Carolina in 1849 purchased 2,000 acres of land southwest of what later became Crossett in the area of Sulfur Springs and Petersburg, then a thriving river-front community. .........

    South Crossett

    Latitude: 33.10556
    Longitude: -91.95361
    .................................................. ..........




    I go a great distance,while some are considering whether they will start today or tomorrow

  4. #4
    Bad Luck !

    Feb 2008
    central Arkansas
    Garretts
    39
    4 times
    Metal Detecting

    Re: Napoleon, Arkansas Ghost Town

    The Switzers, of OK coach Barry Switzer fame, lived in the area of Sulphur Springs. The prominent family in Petersburg were named Ramsuer.

    SB

  5. #5
    us
    Gator

    Sep 2007
    Northeast LA
    XL Pro MXT M6 F75SE ETrac
    141
    9 times
    All Types Of Treasure Hunting

    Re: Napoleon, Arkansas Ghost Town

    Ive deer and duck hunted around Sulphur Springs. Ive walked on some of those Indian mounds,just a couple miles off the Ouachita. Only thing,a lot of that area is on property leased by Arkansas for part of the Cassey Jones refuges. Ive also seen some interesting spots in Felsenthal. But, I dont care for any jail time,lol. Theres an old tram line that passes thru that country and crosses the river at the new lock and dam on the Ouachita at Felsenthal.
    HH
    John

  6. #6
    us
    finder of the lost

    Jun 2006
    little rock,arkansas
    whites-garret
    414
    5 times

    Re: Napoleon, Arkansas Ghost Town

    arkansas post was very near this same spot....almost everyting is under the river today
    the end

  7. #7
    Bad Luck !

    Feb 2008
    central Arkansas
    Garretts
    39
    4 times
    Metal Detecting

    Re: Napoleon, Arkansas Ghost Town

    Hey Gator,

    Grew up in Crossett and walked all those same woods myself. Once rode my bike out to the mounds during my pre-teen years and looked for pottery, many, many, years ago. I remember the mounds as being very well "investigated".

    There is a lot of history around the Sulphur Springs area. Once a large house owned by the Ramsuers (spelling may be wrong) stood out in the area and when the elderly lady died, the house was torn apart and the grounds dug up by people looking for the families money. Seems there was no money in the Crossett bank, because it was in the Bastrop bank. That led all the looters to thinking the money was on the family place. I was a small child and my parents drove us by the property. At the time, there was not much left of the house. About all that stood was a staircase and a couple walls and the yard was full of holes. All the big trees were dying because of the holes dug around them looking for the family cache. The real treasure was the home itself as it was built in the late 19th century or perhaps earlier. Probably nothing to see there now to identify it as a home place. I had always heard of Petersburg and lived not far from the "5 way" out Petersburg Road. Thought there may be something to look for out there.

    It would be interesting to search in the area of the old port of Marias Saline. Of course that will not happen due to the NWR. Then there is Stillions and the old sawmill town that once was there. Most of it would now be under Lake GP, but the riverside area was always used for recreation. We had squirrel camp out there several years back in the '70's.

    SB

  8. #8
    us
    Gator

    Sep 2007
    Northeast LA
    XL Pro MXT M6 F75SE ETrac
    141
    9 times
    All Types Of Treasure Hunting

    Re: Napoleon, Arkansas Ghost Town

    Heya badluck, I havent been up in that part of the country in several years now,Im not mad at the deer or ducks anymore. I seen Sulphur Springs on some really old maps,never knew of Stallion. Ive even run across very old single graves out in those piney woods and could tell at one time there was an old home around there. I know where there is a very old store still standing but the property owner is a grade A A__hole, so Ive never fooled with talking with him about hunting it. That is on the west side of the river tho.
    I live in Monroe. Got an older man that is suppose to take me to a very old church site on his property up around Hamburg.
    Have you ever gone back and hunted around Crossett any
    Merry Christmas ,
    John

  9. #9
    Bad Luck !

    Feb 2008
    central Arkansas
    Garretts
    39
    4 times
    Metal Detecting

    Re: Napoleon, Arkansas Ghost Town

    Just the rodeo grounds. Found my one and only silver dime there.

    Stillions was a sawmill town on the Saline where the R/R crosses the road.

    Marias Saline was a port town on the Ouachita where U.S. 82 crosses the river. It was there during the civil war. The borrow ditch on the northeast end of the highway bridge was supposedly dredged out for the port. Warehouses were along the bank. On the west side, there used to be a skiclub and a beer joint. Many riverside cabins were all up and down the river. Of course, the USFW Service took care of that little problem.

    Berlin was also a pretty good sized community during the civil war and a company of the 3rd Ark. was called the Berlin Beauregards. It may show on some old maps. A company of colored US calvary camped somewhere near there on the way back to Hamburg after an excursion to Mer Rouge. Pretty hard to find that little jewel.

    White Station is on the dummy line near the LA. border. It too, was a good sized community at one time.

    Later Gator

  10. #10
    us
    Jan 2009
    Arkansas, by way of Louisiana
    Bounty Hunter Pioneer 505, Teknetics Gamma 6000, DetectorPro PiratePro, Fisher F-75 LTD2, Berkut-5 (a russian detector) and a good ole original Garrett Propointer that is still going strong.
    411
    7 times
    Metal Detecting

    Re: Napoleon, Arkansas Ghost Town

    Ran across this post and wanted to add that there is still a napolean in that area. It is the name of the navigation light that we use as a point of reference when going up and down the Miss. river. The mouth of the Arkansas river has indeed moved, even within the last 25 years! There are several names on that old map that are still used today as reference points. Montgomery's points is now just called montgomery pt., victoria is now victoria bend, concordia is now called concordia bar, and catfish point is still there as is cypress bend. It is amazing how different that part of the river looks today than it does on that map. Just thought I'd add my 2 cents.

    john
    "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one"....Spock
    "Do, or do not, there is no try"....Yoda

  11. #11
    Bad Luck !

    Feb 2008
    central Arkansas
    Garretts
    39
    4 times
    Metal Detecting

    Re: Napoleon, Arkansas Ghost Town

    Well, the retiree went to Napoleon last week. It's there, at least part of the cemetary. He posted pictures of a couple graves up on a high ridge that is now an island. The county judge took him over there and it involved a 20 mile boat ride on the big river in a drizzling rain and 34 degrees. He said that he would not go any other time, too many snakes and biting bugs. Anyway, the judge located where he thinks the Marine Hospital was built. Nothing there now but sand. Interesting story and there has to be some potential.

  12. #12
    d2
    d2 is offline
    us
    Mar 2005
    Arkansas
    Tesoro/Cibola Garrett ATPro
    1,513
    965 times
    Relic Hunting
    Honorable Mentions (1)

    Re: Napoleon, Arkansas Ghost Town

    Last time I was there was years ago and there was a chimney still standing on a sand bar. We made the trip by boat also. I would like to go back and use the detector on the sandbar...d2

  13. #13
    us
    Apr 2004
    Tesoro Sand Shark, Homebuilt pulse loop
    2,690
    1280 times
    Shipwrecks
    I came across this for anyone who wants to explore Napoleon. Credit goes to Desha County Historical Society.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    steve1357 likes this.

 

 

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