Date of Award


Document Type




First Reader

Dr. Trey Berry

Second Reader

Dr. Jeff Root

Third Reader

Dr. Tom Greer


A road, taken on its own merit, may seem of little importance or significance in a history rich with riveting events and fascinating people. The monotony of travel is much more likely to prompt the question "are we there yet?" than one about a road's historical relevance. Most travelers simply do not have any interest in a road itself, but rather the points of interest that it serves to connect. Yet in the rush to move from place to place, people easily forget that the passage a road makes possible and the traffic it carries make the road just as much a part of history as any person or place. The route first known as the Southwest Trail is one such road that is worthy of close study in Clark County, Arkansas, for its developmental role in the region.

The Southwest Trail, a route known variously as the Congress Road, the National Road, and the Military Road, provided the earliest land access into the wilderness that became present-day Arkansas. From its origins as a prehistoric game trail, the route experienced thousands of years of history, about which historians can mostly only conjecture or generalize. It was one of the few physical features that remained constant in the face of shifting populations and cultural upheavals, facilitating the intentions of native traditions and white expansions alike. Since the construction of the railroad in the late nineteenth century eclipsed the route's practical importance, its historical importance has faded like the depressions of the old roadbed itself. This project establishes the Trail's significance by accomplishing two goals: analyzing its legacy through the present day and rediscovering its physical location.


I would first like to thank Dr. Trey Berry for serving as my thesis director; not only did he assist me in my writing, he often accompanied me through the briar-and-tick-infested woods of Clark County. I also appreciate Dr. Jeff Root and Dr. Tom Greer, my second and third readers, respectively. Mr. Charles Todd was an invaluable resource when I first began this project, showing where to find many road segments. Furthermore, I am grateful to the property owners to whose land I needed access, including Mr. & Mrs. John Van Fossen, Mr. Stan Shepherd, and the Jehovah's Witnesses of Arkadelphia. Many additionally thanks go to my friends and fellow students Stephen Carter, who kindly lent his photography skills to my cause, and Ben Hawthorne, who provided "safety in numbers" for one of my more dangerous outings. Finally, this project would not have been possible without the encouragement and financial support of my parents, Dr. and Mrs. Norm and Anita Pumphrey.



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