Arkansas History Timeline

By | May 12, 2022

Arkansas was inhabited by a number of American Indians prior to exploration in the late 16th century by the Spanish explorer, Hernando De Soto.

Frenchman Henri de Tonti established the first permanent white settlement in 1686 at Arkansas Post. In 1803, land was acquired from France by the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase. It became part of the Missouri Territory in 1812, but was established as Arkansaw Territory in 1819 after the cotton boom of 1818 brought large waves of settlers. His capital was first established at Arkansas Post but moved to Little Rock in 1821.

Arkansas was admitted to the union on June 15, 1836 as a slave state. After an initial refusal to join the confederacy, Arkansas withdrew after the attack on Ft. Sumter in 1861. Numerous small battles were fought in Arkansas during the American Civil War.

Arkansas was readmitted to the United States of America in June 1868 after a new constitution was passed giving African Americans the right to vote and hold government office.

In 1881, a law was passed to adopt the official pronunciation of the state name, the only state with such a law. The accent is placed on the first and third syllables of the name (ARE-kan-SAW). The pronunciation is KANSAS – SAS and was “disappointed innovation”.

Tenant farming and leasing replaced much of the broken plantation system in the late 1800s. Bauxite and lumbering industries developed and oil was discovered in 1921. The Mississippi River flooded a fifth of the state in 1927 and the Great Depression of the early 1930s dealt blows to the Arkansas economy.

  • Topschoolsintheusa: Guides to study in Arkansas, including geography, climate, economy, and tourism of the state.
  • A2zcamerablog: Offers general information about Arkansas, covering history, population, economy and county list.
  • Campingship: State outline of Arkansas, including geography location, state capital, brief history and a list of largest counties by area.

After the watershed integration case of Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education in 1957, Little Rock unfortunately attracted international attention. Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus called National Guard troops to support the segregationists and prevent the enrollment of nine African-American students at Little Rock Central High School. President Dwight Eisenhower sent troops to escort students to school, and Little Rock’s high schools were fully merged in the fall of 1959.

Today, a wide variety of agricultural industries, as well as mineral and oil-based products, are the mainstays of the state’s modern economy. New manufacturing companies are on the rise and major corporations like Tyson Foods and Wal-Mart are based here.

Tourism is growing in importance with former US President William Jefferson Clinton’s childhood home at Hope and his Presidential Library in Little Rock now major attractions. Other points of interest include Hot Springs, Eureka Springs, and Murfreesboro, where the country’s only diamond mine operates as a tourist attraction.

The “natural state” moniker certainly fits Akansas, as its mountains, rivers, springs, caves, caverns, and other breathtaking vistas, as well as its friendly, welcoming people, make it a great family destination any time of the year.

Arkansas Timeline

1500s – 1600s

  • (1541) Spanish conqueror Hernando De Soto led the first European expedition to Arkansas
  • (1673) Jesuit Father Jacques Marquette, merchant Louis Jollit reached the villages of Quapaw “Akansae” and “Kappa”
  • (1682) RenĂ© Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle Claimed the Mississippi Valley by King Louis XIV of France ; side of La Salle built Fort Prud’homme
  • (1686) Arkansas Post, founded as the first settlement on the Mississippi River


  • (1700) French Catholic missionaries arrived to convert the local Natives
  • (1721) Colonists left Arkansas Post
  • (1738) French started a two-year war against the Chickasaw Indians
  • (1762) France ceded Louisiana Territory to Spain


  • (1803) US bought Louisiana Territory
  • (1806) Louisiana Territory divided, Arkensaw District formed
  • (1811) New Madrid earthquake struck, many left homeless
  • (1812) Missouri Territory including Arkansas created by Congress
  • (1817) First post office founded in Davidsonville; Cherokee, given land in northwestern Arkansas; Fort Smith set
  • (1818) Quapoe Indians ceded land between Arkansas and Red Rivers
  • (1819) Arkansas Territory created
  • (1821) Territory capital moved from Arkansas Post to Little Rock
  • (1822) First steamboat on the Arkansas River reached Little Rock
  • (1824) Quapoe Indians called to cede lands south of the Arkansas River
  • (1826) Smallpox epidemic reached Arkansas
  • (1836) Arkansas became the twenty-fifth state
  • (1859) Legislation signed the emancipation of all slaves
  • (1861) Arkansas seceded from the Union; recognized to unite the states into a confederation of the Americas
  • (1862) Battles of Ridge Grove and Pea Prairie; victorious Union
  • (1864) Teenage Confederate soldier executed for espionage; unionist agreement abolished slavery, adopted a new constitution
  • (1866) Ex-Allies gain control of legislature; the laws gave the right to black denials to sit on juries, serve in the militia, or attend white public schools
  • (1867) Congress passed the Reconstruction Act, liberated government of Arkansas and nine other southern states
  • (1868) Arkansas re-admitted to the Union; Ku Klux Klan violence led to martial law in much of the state
  • (1877) Hot Springs Reservation established
  • (1887) Bauxite discovered southwest of Little Rock
  • (1891) The first law of “Jim Crow” passed eye-catching blacks and whites on trains and streetcars


  • (1904) First harvest of cultivated rice
  • (1906) Diamonds discovered near Murfreesboro
  • (1915) General Assembly passes statewide ban on liquor sales; capitol building completed
  • (1919) Race riot at Elaine
  • (1920) Oil discovered near Smackover
  • (1927) More than one-fifth of the state is flooded by the Mississippi River
  • (1932) Hattie Caraway became the first woman elected to the US Senate
  • (1942) Internment camps established for West Coast Japanese Americans
  • (1957) School desegregation in Little Rock brought national attention to the civil rights movement
  • (1958) Little Rock High Schools closed for the school year due to political and social controversy over desegregation
  • (1967) Winthrop Rockefeller elected first governor of the Republic since Reconstruction
  • (1992) Bill Clinton elected the 42nd President of the United States.
  • (1996) Bill Clinton re-elected the President of the United States.


  • (2002) Bentonville-based Wal-Mart identified as the largest corporation in the world.
  • (2006) US government investigators said Senate FEMA allowed nearly 11,000 unused manufactured homes to degrade on old runways and open areas in Arkansas
  • (2007) Tornado injured 40 people, damaged dozens of homes and businesses, most of the city of Doom destroyed
  • (2008) Shooting at the University of Central Arkansas at Conway killed two students, injured one
  • (2009) State Lottery took effect
  • (2010) Flash floods swept through Albert Pike Recreation Area, 19 killed
  • (2011) Mississippi River flooded more than 1 million acres of cropland, 63 counties declared disaster areas

Arkansas History