The St. Francis River Bottoms Area
Greene County, Arkansas

During the early 1800's America was movingrapidly westward .From Carolinas,Tennessee , and Kentucky , people were moving intoMissouri and Arkansas . The pattern of migration , however had been significantly alteredby the powerful New Madrid Earthquake 1811 and 1812.Large areas of land in southeastMissouri and the northeastrn edge of Arkansas were virtually submerged by waters from theMississippi River. In Greene County , this large area of land extended as far west asCrowley's Ridge , and was later referred to as the sunken lands or swamp lands . It wasfor this reason that Greene County was settled by immigrants that moved into the westernedge of the County instead of the eastern side, a fact which still comes as a surprise tomany Greene County historians . The water gradually receded however forced to carry thewater back into the Mississippi . Crowley's Ridge running diagonally from northeast tosouthwest divided the County and held back the waters from other parts of the County. Thewestern half of the County was drained by the Cach River, which incidentallly was wherethe mighty Mississippi once flowed.

As the waters receded from eastern Arkansas, Greene County saw its western inhabitants gradually moving eastward over Crowley's Ridge. The people were soon meeting others who had moved down into the area from Missouri orwho had somehow managed to cross the almost inaccessable Mississippi - St. Francisswamplands and because of their inaccessability , became convenient refuges for criminals, moonshiners, robbers, and others desiring to escape the law. A few industrious anddetermined individuals and families moved into the area and managed to make a precariousliving hunting and trapping , but no firm establishments were made prior to the 1870's.

On September 28, 1850 under an Act ofCongress called the Swamp Land Grant , all federal title to the sunken lands was ceded tothe State of Arkansas , with the provisions that tax money received from the sale of suchlands be used for building levees. Gradually a few settlers began homesteading andclearing some of the land and more and more people began to realize the immense wealthhidden in the fine virgin timber covering the area.

The entire eastern edge of the County wasdotted with these islands. However , only that area along the northern portion will bedealt with here . North of where the railroad and Highway 25 were later to divide theCounty , were three major islands , namely Bowlin , Panther , and Bark Camp Islands . Someof the smaller islands included Charlie Barr, Bear Island and ten or twelve others knownby various local names . Other dry land areas which were not completely surronded by waterincluded Poplar ridge , Horse Island Ridge and the largest one extending northward intothe higher ground in Clay County known as Brush Ridge.

Bagwell Lake , named for Mr. Aaron Bagwell, another early settler , was located at the western edge of Bark Camp Island . Mr.Charlie Barr , for whom another of the smaller islands were named , operated a ferryacross the lake for some time, with the boat being pushed along by long poles , and guidedby a rope across the lake . In 1903 , Mr. Asa T. Hartsoe purchased land from Mr. JosephWolf on the east bank of the lake. Afterward , the lake was referred to as Hartsoe Lake.When a bridge was finally constructed across the lake and adjacent marsh areas , it becameknown as Hartsoe Bridge . Hartsoe School was constructed near here in 1905.

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