Saracen was a Quapaw tribal chief who led a group of Quapaw families back to Pine
Bluff from their reservation on the Red River in 1824. These families settled near Red
Bluff on the Arkansas River (Red Bluff no longer exists but was near where Redfield
is now). Chief Saracen and the Quapaws are noted in Pine Bluff history for their friendship
with the settlers of Southeast Arkansas.
Saracen was born about 1735. It is said that his name came from a Frenchman named
Sarazzin who lived in Quapaw country and may have been his father. Little is known
about Saracen's early life. However, the Jefferson County farmer Antoine Barraque
who traveled with the Quapaw to the Red River reservation in 1824, mentions Saracen
and says that he was a chief. (Barraque's original manuscript in French describing this
journey is in the Gully Collection of the Arkansas Historical Commission in Little Rock.)
The Quapaw were unhappy with the living conditions in their new home. Three years
later Chief Saracen led 30 families back to Red Bluff.
It is said that on one occasion a band of Chickasaw Indians kidnapped two small children
of the French commander of Arkansas Post, the first white settlement in Arkansas. Mrs.
Villier, the commandant's wife asked Saracen for help. He assured her that he would
rescue the children from the Chickasaw who were also his enemies. Alone he followed
the trail of the warriors and that night found their camp. Saracen surprised the enemy,
rescued the children and returned them to their parents.
For his bravery and friendship, Saracen was granted permission to live in the Pine Bluff
area for the rest of his life. He was given a plot of land on the river where the Port
of Pine Bluff now is. There he entertained many Pine Bluff children with stories of the
Quapaw. A bow and set of arrows now in the Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Public Library
is claimed to have been made by Saracen for some Pine Bluff children.
Saracen died in 1832 at the age of 97. He was buried in the old cemetery at 4th and
Main Streets. When the cemetery was moved in 1885, the parish priest petitioned the
bishop for permission to bury Saracen in St. Joseph's Catholic Cemetery. You can still
find his gravestone there.
In 1833, after he died, the remaining Quapaw families in Arkansas were moved to a
reservation in Oklahoma.
Quapaw lands in Arkansas
ca. 1650 1818 1824 1833