Arkansas State History – Native American, Civil War, Arkansas State Geography

The land that is now Arkansas was first settled thousands of years ago by a people known as the Bluff Dwellers. These people lived in caves in the Ozark Mountains. Over time, other indigenous peoples migrated and formed various Native American tribes, including the Osage, Caddo, and Quapaw.

Information about Arkansas State:

Capital Little Rock
Population 3,045,637 (Source: 2022 U.S. Census)
Major Cities Little Rock, Fort Smith, Fayetteville, Springdale, Jonesboro
Borders Arkansas borders Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Mississippi, and Tennessee
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) 165,220.6 million (2023 U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis)
Key Industries Agriculture including poultry, soybeans, cattle, rice, cotton, and hogs
Food processing, metal products, machinery, natural gas mining, and paper products

Flag of Arkansas State:

Europeans Arrived

The first European to arrive in Arkansas was Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto in 1541. DeSoto made contact with locals and visited the area now called Hot He Springs, Arkansas. The first European settlement was established more than 100 years later when explorer Henri de Tonti built the Arkansas Post Office in 1686. De Tonti later became known as the “Father of Arkansas”.

Early Settlers

The Arkansas Post Office became a focal point for fur trappers in the area. Eventually more Europeans immigrated to Arkansas. Many farmed the land, while others continued to capture and trade furs. The land changed hands between France and Spain, but this did not have much effect on the settlers.

Arkansas State Symbols

  • Arkansas State Nickname: Natural State
  • Arkansas State Slogan: The Natural State
  • Arkansas State Motto: Regnat populus (The people rule)
  • Arkansas State flower: Apple blossom
  • Arkansas State bird: Mockingbird aka Northern Mockingbird
  • Arkansas State fish: none
  • Arkansas State tree: Pine Tree
  • Arkansas State mammal: White-tailed deer
  • Arkansas State foods: Tomato, Milk

The Louisiana Purchase

In 1803, Thomas Jefferson and the United States purchased a large swath of land from France known as the Louisiana Purchase. For $15 million, the United States acquired all land west of the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains. The purchase also included the state of Arkansas.

Becoming a State

Arkansas was originally part of the Mississippi Territory, with the Arkansas Post as its capital. It became an independent territory in 1819 and a new capital was established at Little Rock in 1821. The territory continued to expand and joined the Union as the 25th state on June 15, 1836.

The Geography of Arkansas:

  • Total Size of Arkansas: 52,068 sq. miles (source: 2003 Census)
  • Geographical Low Point of Arkansas: Ouachita River at 55 feet, located in the county/subdivision of Ashley-Union (source: U.S. Geological Survey)
  • Geographical High Point of Arkansas: Magazine Mtn. at 2,753 feet, located in the county/subdivision of Logan (source: U.S. Geological Survey)
  • Central Point of Arkansas: Located in Pulaski County approx. 12 miles northwest of Little Rock (source: U.S. Geological Survey)
  • Counties of Arkansas: 75 (source: National Association of Counties)
  • Bodies of Water of Arkansas: Mississippi River, Arkansas River, White River, St. Francis River, Bull Shoals Lake, Lake Ouachita, Millwood Lake, Lake Conway

Civil War

When Arkansas became a state, it was recognized as a slave state. A slave state is a state where slavery is legal. When the Civil War began in 1861, about 25% of the people living in Arkansas were slaves. The people of Arkansas were initially reluctant to go to war, but voted to remain in the Union. However, in May 1861 they changed their minds and seceded from the Union. Arkansas became a member of the Confederate States of America. Several battles were fought in Arkansas during the Civil War, including the Battle of Pea Ridge, the Battle of Helena, and the Red River Campaign.


The Civil War ended with the Confederate defeat in 1865. Arkansas was granted her return to the Union in 1868, but much of the state had been damaged by the war. It took years to rebuild, and northern rug traders came and took advantage of the poor southerners. It was not until the late 18th century that growth in logging and mining contributed to Arkansas’ prosperity.

Civil Rights

In the 1950s, Arkansas became a center of the civil rights movement. In 1957, a major civil rights event occurred in Arkansas when nine African-American students decided to attend an all-white high school. They were called “Little Rock Nine”. Initially, the governor of Arkansas tried to prevent students from attending school, but President Eisenhower sent the U.S. Army to protect the students and ensure they could attend school.

Famous People of Arkansas State:

Scottie Pippen Professional basketball player for the Chicago Bulls
Douglas MacArthur U.S. General during World War II
Jerry Jones Owner of the Dallas Cowboys
Bill Clinton President of the United States who was once governor of Arkansas
Johnny Cash Singer and songwriter
Bear Bryant College football coach
Helen Gurley Brown Publisher and editor
Maya Angelou Famous poet
Kris Allen Winner of American Idol singing contest

Interesting Facts of Arkansas State:

The state flag has her 25 stars, symbolizing Arkansas becoming her 25th state.
Arkansas is the only state in the United States that produces diamonds.
The state is known for its beautiful lakes, rivers and hot springs. There are over 600,000 hectares of lakes.
The Arkansas state instrument is the fiddle. The state is the number one producer of rice and chicken in the world.
Walmart’s headquarters are in Bentonville. Founded by Sam Walton.
Pronounced “Arkansas.” Saying the wrong thing is against the law. President Bill Clinton was born in Hope, Arkansas. Other Arkansas celebrities include General Douglas MacArthur, author John Grisham, singer Johnny Cash, and football coach Paul Bear Bryant.
In 1985 milk was declared the state drink.

Timeline Overview:

1514 – Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto becomes the first European to visit Arkansas.
1686 – The first settlement, the Arkansas Post Office, is founded by Frenchman Henry de Tonti.
1803 – The United States purchases the Louisiana Purchase, including Arkansas, for $15 million.
1804 – Arkansas becomes part of the Louisiana Territory. 1819 – Arkansas Territory is established by the US Congress.
1821 – Little Rock becomes the capital.
1836 – Arkansas becomes her 25th state in the United States.
1861 – Arkansas secedes from the Union and becomes a member of the Confederate States of America.
1868 – Arkansas is allowed back into the Union. 1874 – Reconstruction finished.
1921 – Oil is discovered.
1957 – Little Rock Nine tries to get into an all-white high school. Troops will be deployed to protect them.
1962 – Sam Walton opens the first Walmart store in Rogers, Arkansas. 1978 – Bill Clinton is elected governor.

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