Can you believe there is an Alabama Landing in Arkansas?



Jon R McKinnie

camden arkansas

Hernando DeSoto’s expedition

In 1541-1542, Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto’s expedition included the first white men to explore this particular area of north Louisiana. They had traveled throughout mid-America from the Mobile, AL starting point and, in time, to south Arkansas and north Louisiana.

Expedition journals record they spent the winter of 1541 at an Indian village somewhere within the area of what’s now known as Camden, AR.

The land south of there was a long stretch of low-lying swampy area. (The US Geological Survey has documented the Red River – Alabama Landing fault which created a 25 foot drop in land level, extending from Smackover Creek, south of present day Camden to just north of the Alabama Landing.)

The only way to move south was down the Ouachita River. The DeSoto expedition constructed boats, left the Camden area, floating down the Ouachita River, and eventually discovering a “beautiful, firm, rocky landing spot” which some researchers believe became known as the Alabama Landing. This was the first bluff with gravel banks encountered south of Camden on the west side of Ouachita River.

Ouachita River
Ouachita River

Searching for gold and silver, the explorers disembarked and traveled west through what’s now the Shreveport area, continuing to north of Houston. Giving up on their quest, the explorers turned back, retracing their path through north Louisiana, up the Ouachita River and Bayou Bartholomew, and over to the Mississippi River. However, Desoto died while they wintered in the area of Lake Village, AR. Following his death, they abandoned the expedition, built boats and floated south to the mouth of the Mississippi.

Alabama Landing named in early 1800’s

According to early maps, Alabama Landing received its name in the early 1800’s. (Coordinates are N 32 degrees 52.384′, W 92 degrees 05.344′) The landing had been in use for years when, in the early 1800s, many settlers from Alabama came ashore and began establishing in the higher elevations west of the Landing. (There was also an adjacent ford on the upstream side.)

My 3rd great grandfather, Louis Reppond, was born 1789 in Ft Miro (now Monroe, LA). As a young man, the story goes he wanted to settle upriver and near the Alabama Landing; exploring the area, he discovered Reppo Creek, which is north of the Landing.

The first substantial ridge he encountered on the edge of the swamp was occupied by an Indian village. In 1834, Louis Reppond purchased the 80 acres for $100 from the United States, and it became the Reppond homestead. As a young girl, my grandmother Ethel Mary Jane Reppond McKinnie remembered an old Indian man living on the property; when he passed away, her family buried him on the property. Out of respect, a pecan tree was planted over the grave. The Reppond homestead, now McKinnie family property, has remained in the family for 179 years.

Alabama landing today

Some of the early settler families in the Alabama Landing area included Reppond, McKinnie, Day, Hargis, Turner, George, Crow, Byrd, Abscent, Lee, Thomas and Love.

Cotton is planted

By 1830, Alabama Landing was a center for passengers coming to Union Parish or going northwest. During this period, four large warehouses were constructed for storing cotton and farm products heading south. Stored merchandise was hauled by ox-drawn wagons to Shiloh, Union Cross Roads (Oakland), Marion, and Upper and Lower Pines (Farmerville).

Cotton pickers of Marion, Arkansas
Cotton pickers of Marion, Arkansas

In 1832, one new community (10 miles west) was named Marion, in remembrance of their hometown, Marion, AL Dean, another local community, became more established in 1900 when the railroad was extended from Huttig, AR, to gain access to virgin timber.

A road east toward Bastrop, Lake Providence and Vicksburg was present at least by the 1840s. So not only did steamboats unload settlers at the Alabama Landing (they likely could go no farther upstream for much of the year), but overland wagons from the east crossed at this site.ox pulling wagon

During early settlement days, heavy wagons were pulled by yokes of oxen, transporting freight to and from the docked steamboats at the Alabama Landing port. When each steamboat landed, a small cannon was fired, letting the pioneer families know they had arrived. Since there were no stores in the area, it was necessary for families to meet the steamboats and barter for supplies.

One such steamboat, City of Camden, plied her trade along Ouachita River, making stops from Camden to Alabama Landing and Ouachita City in Union Parish, and perhaps at Port Union, further downriver at the mouth of Bayou d’Loutre, then on to New Orleans. The steamboat was perhaps too large to traverse Bayou d’Arbonne from Monroe to Farmerville.

Roads Established

Early roads in Union Parish were probably not much more than improved Indian trails. On July 9, 1842, Union Parish Police Jury authorized “Planters Sandy Road” to be cut from Farmerville eastward to the river port, Alabama Landing. The police jury appointed John Hill as overseer, and the following hands were assigned: Iasmes Powell, Sands Lewis, M. Powell, Joseph Taylor, Classus Taylor, Charlie Abscent, Milliard Briggs and Rechel Bop.

Planters Sandy Road began at Farmerville, following what is now Ward Chapel Road to near Antioch Church, across d’Loutre at Ned Lee’s crossing, to Liberty Baptist Church and east to intersect the Arkansas Road at Linville Trading Post, to the Will Beasley farm, to the Ben Robinson place, to the Four Mile Post, and on to Alabama Landing.

Lewis G. Campbell opened a post office there on January 3, 1878, naming it “Alabama.” However, it closed on September 5, 1882, and mail was redirected to Marion.

Railroads, the new means of transportation

In the last part of the 1800s, a fire destroyed the riverfront warehouses. Railroads, the new means of transportation, took over passenger movement, mail distribution, and commercial trade in the area. The era of Alabama Landing was passing and continued to decline to present times.railroad arkansas

Winnie Wheeler Thompson recalls her father, John Wheeler, talking about going to the Alabama Landing on the 4th of July (during 1900-1940). Her grandparents, Thomas Jefferson “Jeff” Wheeler and Mary Johnston Wheeler, “packed up a wagon with fried pies, tea, potatoes, grease, onions, cornmeal and whatever was growing in the garden and orchard, along with some fishing poles and worms. Grandpa Jeff always brought his fiddle, too. They headed to the Alabama Landing with kids Percy, Ethel, Eula Pearl, Cora, Charlie, Heloise, and her dad John. The kids took turns walking or riding in the wagon. They spent the next couple days fishing, playing and swimming. They had a fish fry with whatever they caught, socializing with other families for the holiday. It was always an event.”

Beginning in 1900, Dean Baptist Church conducted their baptisms in waist deep water at the Alabama Landing. The church congregation gathered on the shore to sing hymns, pray and witness the rebirth of Christians, emerging from the waters of Ouachita River.river baptism arkansas

There were always “river rats” living on the river, not the animal type but humans who subsisted off the river. Haynie Lee Fisher was one of the more colorful characters, living at Alabama Landing in a makeshift houseboat, fishing and assisting boaters for tips. Haynie never married, stating “Never could find a woman who wanted to live on the river. They all want to live in town, but you can’t grow a garden in town.”

Fishing on the Ouachita

During the 1940s-1960s, Chris Fox, Walter Smith, Guy Upshaw and Jay DeVille made livings and raised their families by commercial fishing. Those times are gone. Chris Fox drowned during the winter of 1961, wearing his slicker suit and hip boots; his body was not found until the next spring.

My father, Dub McKinnie, worked for Southwest Gas for 43 years and was a commercial fisherman on the side. Using hoop nets, we primarily caught buffalo fish, catfish, carp and gasper goo, selling them to “peddlers” that met us downstream at Alabama Landing. I remember once, we had caught 1,300 pounds of buffalo in one net. The wooden boat was full to the gunwales, water lapping over the front of the boat. I thought we would become the first “submarine” on the river! At 25 cents per pound, this boatload brought ~$325, probably more than Dad made in a month.

Small mouth buffalo fish
Small mouth buffalo fish

Starting in the late 1970s, the Ouachita River bottoms were acquired by the federal government using Federal Duck Stamp funds. According to Joseph McGowan, manager of the Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuge, the Refuge was established in 1978 to provide habitat for migratory birds and waterfowl and for the conservation of the wetlands.  Most of it was purchased from Pennzoil Producing Company, landowners, the Nature Conservancy, and the Conservation Fund. Currently the Refuge consists of 42,954 acres located in Union and Morehouse Parishes.

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  1. I love Mr Jon’s historical writing about our parish. My great grandmother and her family landed on the Alabama Landing after the they were cast out of Nova Scotia during the Acadian decent. Her family settled at few miles up north on the Brown place located on what is now Pace Brown Rd in Dean. This is where my grandmother Novia Brown Buckley and her brother and sisters were born and raised. The Alabama Landing, the refuge and surrounding area along the river have always been one of my favorite areas to go. I spent much of my childhood at the river the Huey Rhodes family, my Daddy, Bob Buckley and my Pap, Harry Reeves Buckley have many fond memories of hunting, fishing, and visiting there. I often go to the Landing and sit and watch the river and love the peaceful feeling I get from the beautiful surroundings.

  2. VERY interesting and very well written. Most of the history you cited, I was unaware of. Recognized and knew MANY of the names – and probably related to at least a 4th of them.

    I’m the son of Cora Pardue Crain – daughter of Jurd Pardue. The Pardues, Reppos/Repponds, Absents, Mckinnies . . . all part of my heritage.

    Thanks for this excellent work.
    I’m printing a copy to add to history/family documentation.

    David Crain

  3. I am Dewey Rhodes daughter from Dean, La. I was totally engulfed in the wonderful history lesson. Thank you so much! God Bless you!

  4. I did notice alot of truth to this story, however, nothing was mentioned about the scarboroughs and snell’s running hogs throughout the river bottoms or the fishing that my uncle sim scarborough and grandpa, dink snell, did on the ouchita river, nor was it mentioned, that nearly ally the wooden boats that were used on the river was made by grandaddy, “dink snell”!

    • Just a note to add to the wonder story of Alabama Landing. In Union County AR you can also find Scarborough Landing. The Scarborough’s, Glass, Blackshear, and Bledsoe’s were all in this area ca 1830-1850. Should be a few Franks in the same territory.

      • My maiden name was Taylor & our family also enjoyed special times at the Alabama Landing :)) I am very envolved in our genealogy. I am nterested in communicating with you. You can contact me at:
        Or: 409-658-1785 I hope to hear from you,
        Syble Adcock

  5. I like reading river and bayou history. I was raised on the bayou.

  6. Very interesting!! I was born in Marion, Union Parish, La. in 1934. I too have spent time at the Alabama Landing with our family. They include: Taylor’s, Carpenter’s, De Mosses, Rea”s, Snyder’s & many others. I am working on my genealogy if anyone has any information on these families I would love to share with you.

    • My grandmother was a Rea that settled around the Evergreen area. Would love to hear from you.

      • I would love to compare notes on our families. I am certain we are related & I also am working on our geanokogy. :))
        Phone: 409 658 1785.

        This comment is to Nancy Lee who was born in Marion, la

      • I will wait to hear :)))

        We definitely are relatives :)))

        Phone: 409-658-1785

      • Please call me. I am not too computer savy :)))
        My Rea ancestors were from Evergreen also.
        They were Gilbert Rea & Emma.

        I know we are related because I noticed the time you
        wrote was after midnight & I too am a night owl :))

        Call any hour: 409 658 1785

        Anxious to visit,
        Syble Taylor Adcock

      • Nancy, oops!! That is Harrison Rea & Emma Snyder Rea who my grandparents from the Evergreen area. Just wanted to make that correction (not Gilbert Rea). We came thru the Theopholus Rea lineage if that helps. Too much to write we need to visit. Wait to hear 🙂 Syble

  7. Thanks to each of you for the kind comments. As some of you may know, I’ve been a closet writer for many years, more to preserve collection of information and my memories. Many of them are about “Simplier Times” and historical events or locations. Over a year ago, the Farmerville Gazette started publishing an article of mine every month and continues. Comments like these are much appreciated. I will offer additional articles to “Days Gone By” for future publication.

    • Mr. McKinnie,

      My father is William B. Will was born in Marion LA in 1926 and we were talking today he mentioned Alabama Landing Road and it promoted me to Google Alabama Landing. As I read your account my dad was so fascinated and also delighted to hear some familiar names.

      He said he knew your father. He mentioned that your father’s hand was w you dad wounded in WW2. My dad said Willie McKinnie had a saw mill.

      My dad is almost 89 with a sharp mind and I would like to capture his stories and perhaps add to the narrative.

      Thank you for sharing. My father was so blessed by your account.

      Tony Will

  8. I am so glad I got to read this! It is very interesting and I take great pride in my hometown.. I have lived on Alabama Landing road all my life and have great memories and some bad.. It’s history like this that I love to read about, a small town that dates back many years ago…again, this is really awesome! Makes my day 🙂

  9. Jon, you did a great story on the Alabana Landing , My sister Bennie Mitcham, and her family lived at the Landing in the early 1960, they had a grocery Store , rented boats when Mr King Lankford , had the Landing. all the gas men would come by to buy there lunch . If my Mother Tommy Fife had lunch they would always eat with them that was the good old days for us . the old upstairs building was still there at that time.

  10. I love this. My mother was Evie Day Kelly. Mom was born in 1920. She was raised by Granny Johnston and lived in the 1st house north of the Linville school house. She was the baby of 13. Her mom died 2 weeks after she was born.

    I love this. Tommy (Evie Mae Day Kelly son) Kelly

    oh the stories she could tell.

  11. Do you have any information on the unknown solider buried on 4 mile post road?

    • State Representative James Peyton Smith got the tombstone placed by the state. No one know the name of the unknown soldier. Sorry
      Many of my relatives & local residents were hurt or killed in the Civil War
      Logic is must be a local who returned home severely injured & subsequently passed away
      Jon McKinnie

  12. Very interesting!! I have family that live right there at the soldiers tombstone. I remember when I was young, my cousins would walk with me over to it. I also have family buried in the Dean cemetery. I love reading history of things like this! Thank you for sharing!

    • My parents, Dub & Norma McKinnie, lived half way to Dean Church from where you lived
      Who were your parents?
      When were you in school it Linville??
      My email is
      Reply to it
      Thanks, Jon McKinnie

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