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Petit Jean

A popular legend concerns a French maiden who, when her beloved joined the

navy, dressed up as a cabin boy and sailed to America in pursuit, known to her

shipmates as Little John or, in French, Petit Jean. Her adventure resulted in a long

poem and, it is said, the name of an Arkansas mountain, river, and state park.

Another legend concerns a French aristocrat, Jean la Caze, who fled the

Revolution but whose wife and son, John Junior or Little John (Petit Jean), died on

the mountain. The elder Jean lost his mind, says the story, but his flute can still be

heard. These are wonderful stories, but in fact, an 1818 French map of the area

names the river the Little Yellow River, or la Riviere Petite Jeune, which over time

took on the spelling and pronunciation we know today as Petit Jean.

Daniel Boice, University of Arkansas at Monticello