Regional Histories

Helena Bridge over the Mississippi River

Helena Bridge over the Mississippi River

Some of Arkansas's intriguing regional histories reflect varied cultural influences upon the state because of its mid-America location; others begin with natural resources.

Fort Smith was the state's Wild West town. Founded as a military outpost to quell intertribal conflict, it bordered the Indian Territory until 1907, when Oklahoma became a state. In 1849, it became a major departure point for gold seekers headed to California, as did nearby Van Buren. From 1875 to 1896, Judge Isaac Parker dispensed frontier justice, hanging 83 men. Portions of the Historic Butterfield Stagecoach Route run through Northwest Arkansas.

The Heritage Trails of Northwest Arkansas encompass not only the Historic Butterfield Stagecoach Route but also include the Trail of Tears and Civil War Troop Movement Trails.

To the east, exports made possible by steamboats on the Mississippi allowed the cotton culture of the Deep South to flower in the state's Delta region, especially at Helena. The town later played a role in Delta blues history.

Learn about the Ozark Mountains' history, and find out how the area around Mountain View remained isolated well into the 20th Century and the folk crafts and music handed down from early settlers have been well preserved.

Located in the eastern most extension of the Ozark Mountains, Randolph County was one of the first areas of Arkansas settled by U.S. citizens both before and after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Known as 'The County of Firsts' for its 13 Arkansas firsts, Randolph County abounds with the sites of early Arkansas history, such as Davidsonville Historic State Park, site of Arkansas’s first river ferry (Pitman’s Ferry), and historic Pocahontas, first settled in 1807. Randolph County is home to Arkansas's oldest standing log house (the recently restored 1828 Rice House) and Arkansas's oldest standing commercial structure (the 1833 Looney Inn and Tavern, currently undergoing restoration).

Natural springs gave life to two cities that remain scenic mountain resorts. Hot Springs, home of Hot Springs National Park's famous Bathhouse Row, is in the Ouachitas, while picturesque Eureka Springs is in the Ozarks.

The discovery of oil in the early 1920s led to wild times and wealth in a "boom" that eventually spread to include 10 southern counties. In downtown El Dorado, the oil financed a corresponding architectural boom.

Other regional stories to explore include Arkansas's wine country, diamonds and bauxite, and a Grand Prairie that leads the U.S. in rice production.