“There’s gold in them thar hills!” could be overheard in Arkansas in the 1800s.
Various places in the Ouachita Mountains proved to be a source of gold, silver and other valuable minerals throughout the 19th century. One man wrote as early as 1803 of a gold mine near the Ouachita River and reported government officials had been told about the gold 40 years earlier.
In his book, “Memoir on the District of Ouachita in the Province of Louisiana,” Charles Francois Adrien Le Paulmier D’Annemours, who was the “former Consul General of France in America,” recorded what he learned about gold in the upper Ouachita River Valley.
D’Annemours (also spelled Danemours, d’Anmours, D’annmourr or D’anmourr) was born in 1739 in France. He came to America in 1777, supported the colonies during the Revolutionary War and moved to Louisiana in 1796. He settled in what is now Monroe.
At that time, the area’s frontier economy depended on trade in items like peltries, bear oil, salted meat and buffalo wool. D’Annemours lived in the wilderness region that included the Ouachita River for several years. He was skeptical of what he thought were exaggerated stories from hunters about “mountains of diamonds, gold mines, precious stones and…other treasures.”
Nonetheless, in 1803, D’Annemours wrote, “The banks of le Ouachita also have revealed the presence of several ores, and even of gold ore, and it is presumable that carefully conducted investigations of the interior of this district would produce interesting results of this kind.”
“It has been about 40 years since the government of the province was informed that a gold mine had been discovered in the upper parts of the Ouachita, toward the places where navigation begins to be laborious and often impossible,” D’Annemours wrote. “Immediately an expedition of suitable pirogues was formed to go there… There they obtained mineral which proved to be rich, but they asserted that suffocating vapors forced them to abandon this undertaking.”
According to D’Annemours, another account of why the mine was abandoned was out of “fear of savages of the Osage nation — a very belligerent, bold and cunning tribe.” Either way, the attempt at gold exploration in the Ouachita Mountains ended. No one tried again.
D’Annemours died a few years later, likely about 1809. His original memoirs are preserved by the American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
D’Annemours’ records were translated and annotated by Samuel D. Dickinson of Prescott. Dr. Wendy Richter, state historian and director of the Arkansas State Archives, edited the translation. The Clark County Historical Association published the book, which is viewable from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the research room of the State Archives at 1 Capitol Mall Ave., Suite 215, in Little Rock.