ARKANSAS RIVER, TRADE ROUTE
Benard de La Harpe thought "a very advantageous trade" could be carried on with the Spaniards by using the Arkansas River as a trade route. The first successful expedition, however, reached Sante Fe along a much different course.
In 1739, Pierre Mallet and his younger brother Paul, undertook the first successful expedition to Santa Fe. In the company of six voyageurs, the Mallet brothers left St. Louis, ascended the Missouri and Platte Rivers, then worked southward deep into the heart of Spanish country. On July 24, the travelers reached Santa Fe and were cordially welcomed.
The Frenchmen departed Santa Fe nine months later, this time journeying eastward and picked up the Arkansas River. Paul and Pierre Mallet followed the Arkansas River, reaching Arkansas Post in July, 1740. The Mallet brothers settled at Arkansas Post. Paul married and accepted the life of an inhabitant (a resident trader and farmer). Pierre remained a voyageur, trapping and trading on the Arkansas River. 
The return of Paul and Pierre Mallet touched off a flurry of activity, and numerous expeditions to Santa Fe were launched. Spanish officials, however, alarmed by the increasing number of Frenchmen entering their dominion, thereafter seized all goods as contraband and greeted the entrepreneurs with imprisonment. In actuality, only a handful of French voyageurs ever reached Santa Fe. The real benefit to Louisiana resulted from the relationships the French established with the Comanche, Pawnee, Wichita, Jumano, and other tribes. Commerce with western Indians burgeoned, and the tiny French settlement on the Arkansas gained importance as a center of Indian trade. 
Last Updated: 13-Feb-2006