Arkansas History Timeline

Important Dates, Events, and Milestones in Arkansas History

Offers a chronological timeline of important dates, events, and milestones in Arkansas history.

Geographically located north of Louisiana and flanked on the east by the Mississippi River's west bank, the development of the state of Arkansas spanned three centuries. Long before frontiersmen from the newly formed United States crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains and attempted settlement along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, Spanish and French explorers came upon the native peoples living in what is now Arkansas.

Arkansas was part of the land acquired in the Louisiana Purchase, Arkansas became a separate territory in 1819 and achieved statehood in 1836. A slave state, Arkansas became the ninth state to secede from the union and join the Confederate States of America. Today Arkansas ranks 27th among the 50 states in area, but, except for Louisiana and Hawaii, it is the smallest state west of the Mississippi River.

16th Century Arkansas History Timeline

1541 - June 18 - Hernando de Soto of Spain was the first European to explore Arkansas.

17th Century Arkansas History Timeline

1673 - July - French explorers Louis Jolliet and Father Jacques Marquette descend the Mississippi to the mouth of the Arkansas River. Warned by the Quapaw (Arkansas) Indians of hostile tribes farther south they turn back. In July 1674 they turn back north, having reached the Quapaw villages of "Akansae" or "Kappa"near the confluence of the Arkansas and Mississippi rivers.

1682 - Mar 13 - Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, reaches the Arkansas on his way to the mouth of the Mississippi. He visits a Quapaw village and claims the land in the name of King Louis XIV.

1686 - Henri de Tonti founded Arkansas Post, the first settlement in the lower Mississippi River Valley. It served as a trading post, a way-station for Mississippi River travel, and the home of a Jesuit mission for a few years.

18th Century Arkansas History Timeline

1721 - A group of 1,300 half-starved colonists - whites and black slaves - abandons Arkansas Post after John Law's scheme to develop the Mississippi Valley collapses.

1762 - France cedes the Louisiana Territory, including Arkansas, to Spain, but French soldiers continue to man Arkansas Post.

19th Century Arkansas History Timeline

1803 - The United States purchases the Louisiana Territory from France, which had retaken it from Spain as part of the Treaty of San Ildefonso.

1818 - The Quapaw cede their lands between the Red and Arkansas rivers.

1819 - March 2 - Arkansas, which has been part of Missouri Territory since 1812, is detached and made a territory. November 20: Arkansas Gazette, the first newspaper in Arkansas, published.

1821 - October 25 - The capital moves from Arkansas Post to Little Rock.

1822 - March 16 - The Eagle, first steamboat to ascend the Arkansas River, arrives at Little Rock.

1830 - May 28 - Congress establishes the boundary separating Arkansas from Indian Territory to the west.

1832-1839 - Removal of the "Five Civilized Tribes" of Indians from the Southeast through Arkansas to Indian Territory.

1836 - June 15 - Arkansas became the 25th state on June 15, 1836, with Little Rock as its capital.

1846 - Disillusioned by the collapse of two state-chartered banks, legislators ratify a constitutional amendment barring any banking institution from being established in the state.

1858 - Edward Payson Washburn paints The Arkansas Traveler.

1859 - February 12 - Signing of legislation ordering all free Negroes out of Arkansas by the end of the year.

1860 - On the eve of the Civil War, Arkansas has a population of 435,450, of whom 111,115 are black slaves and 11,481 are slave owners.

1861 -

  • February - Provisional Confederate Constitution is adopted (Confederate Constitution Day). Arsenal at Little Rock, AR occupied by State Troops
  • May 6 - A convention votes to secede from the Union and join the Confederacy. The first of some 60,000 Arkansas residents join the confederate troops, but some 9,000 whites and more than 5,000 blacks fight on the Union side during the war.

1862 -

  • Mar 7-8 - Battle of Pea Ridge in northwest Arkansas. A Confederate advance north is rebuffed.
  • August 2 - Skirmish at Jonesboro, AR

1863 -

  • July 25 - Skirmish at Brownsville, AR and Williamsburg, KY
  • September 10 - Federal troops occupy Little Rock.

1864 -

  • A unionist convention abolishes slavery in Arkansas and adopts a new constitution for the state.
  • Skirmish at Benton, AR and Pleasant Hill, MO

1866 - August - Ex-Confederates sweep control of the legislature and pass laws denying blacks the right to sit on juries, serve in the militia, or attend white public schools.

1867 - March 2 - Congress passes the Reconstruction Act, which voids the government of Arkansas and nine other southern states.

1868 - March 13 - A new constitution adopted by referendum enfranchises Negroes and disenfranchises ex-Confederate soldiers. June 22. Arkansas re-admitted to the Union. November. Governor Powell Clayton declares martial law in much of the state; a mostly black militia battles the Ku Klux Klan.

1871 - Completion of a railroad between Memphis and Little Rock.

1872 - University of Arkansas opens in Fayetteville.

1874 -

  • May 15 - Month-long "Brooks-Baxter War" between rival claimants to the governorship ends when President Ulysses S Grant orders the forces of the former to disperse.
  • October 13 - Ratification of a new constitution restoring the franchise to all whites and guaranteeing full civil rights for blacks ends the Reconstruction era.

1887 - Bauxite discovered southwest of Little Rock; peak output is reached by 1918, by which time almost all US Bauxite is being mined in Arkansas.

1891 - Jim Crow legislation segregates railroad coaches and waiting stations.

1892 - Adoption of a constitutional amendment imposing a poll tax restricts the electorate.

1898 - The Democratic party adopts whites-only primary elections.

1899 - Bauxite mining began in 1899 and Arkansas soon led all other states in production.

20th Century Arkansas History Timeline

1904 - Near Ulm, William H Fuller grows a 70 acre stand of rice, establishing one of the state's leading crops.

1906 - August 1 - Diamonds found near Murfreesboro, which becomes the site of the only diamond mine in the United States.

1909 - Lumber production is the state's leading industry.

1915 - The General Assembly of 1915 enacted a statewide game and fish law and created the Game and Fish Commission.

1920 - Over 40 percent of land under cultivation is in cotton, the state's leading crop.

1921 -

  • The first radio station, WOK in Pine Bluff, began broadcasting in 1921.
  • January 10 - Discovery of oil near El Dorado triggers a boom; Arkansas is fourth among states in oil in 1924, but production peaks in 1925.

1927 - The Mississippi River floods one-fifth of the state.

1953 - Television station KATV in Little Rock went on the air in 1953

1955-1967 - Orval E. Faubus was the first Arkansas governor to be elected to six terms (1955-67).

1957 - President Eisenhower had to send US troops to help African Americans attend Central High School in Little Rock.

1967 - Winthrop Rockefeller became the first Republican governor of Arkansas since Reconstruction.

1968: In a special session in February, the General Assembly passes 67 bills, including a freedom of information act and the state's first general minimum wage act. In November, Arkansans ratify Amendment 53, authorizing kindergartens in the state's free public schools.

1969: The University of Arkansas establishes a multi-campus system.

1970: Dale Bumpers of Charleston is elected governor, promising to rid Arkansas of "the old machine and the money machine."In February, a federal judge declares the Arkansas prison system unconstitutional.

1974: Dale Bumpers successfully challenges J. William Fulbright in the Democratic primary and wins election to the U.S. Senate. David Pryor of Camden is elected Governor. University of Arkansas Law School professor William J. Clinton loses his race for the Third District Congressional seat.

1975: Following the end of the Vietnam conflict, significant numbers of Vietnamese immigrants are relocated to Camp Chaffee, near Fort Smith, where many eventually settle. On October 11, Professor William Clinton marries Hillary Rodham.

1976: Professor Clinton is elected attorney-general, advocating victim compensation, the rights of the elderly, tough ethics laws for public officials, tighter oversight of utilities and opposing the twenty-five-cent pay phone call.

1978: Attorney-General Bill Clinton is elected governor.

1980: Arkansas is ranked in the top five states in percentage of population over the age of 65, due to the "Retiree Movement."In May, the Federal government informs Governor Clinton that Camp Chaffee will house 120,000 Cuban "Freedom flotilla"refugees. Bill Clinton is defeated by Frank White, once a Democrat, in his bid for a second term as governor.

1982: Arkansas' "creation science"law is overturned in Federal District Court; Bill Clinton is re-elected governor.

1983: The Quality Education Act is passed by the General Assembly; education once again becomes a widely-discussed issue within Arkansas.

1984: Voters approve Amendment 63 giving statewide officials four-year, rather than two-year, terms. Clinton is re-elected governor.

1986: Clinton again is re-elected, this time for a four-year term.

1988: The Mississippi Delta Commission is created with the mission of investigating and improving Delta life.

1990: Governor Clinton wins a fifth term as governor. Latinos are Arkansas' the fastest growing minority population. Tyson Foods of Springdale is the largest broiler chicken processor in the nation.

1991: On October 3, Governor Clinton announces he will run for the presidency of the United States. Lt. Governor Jim Guy Tucker becomes acting Governor in Clinton's absence. October 18 sees the last issue of the Arkansas Gazette, the "oldest newspaper west of the Mississippi."

1992: Bill Clinton is elected the 42nd President of the United States. Lieutenant Governor Jim Guy Tucker becomes governor.

1994: Jim Guy Tucker is elected governor; Sharon Priest is the first woman elected to the office of Arkansas Secretary of State.

1996: Republican Tim Hutchinson is elected to the U.S. Senate, the first of his party in over 100 years to represent the state in Washington. Governor Tucker resigns his office in July and is succeeded by Republican Lieutenant Governor Mike Huckabee. In November, Bill Clinton wins re-election to the Presidency.

1997: Ceremonies at Little Rock Central High School mark the fortieth anniversary of the desegregation crisis.

1998: Mike Huckabee is elected Governor.

21st Century Arkansas History Timeline

2000: Arkansas returns a Republican majority in the Presidential vote.

2002: Bentonville based Wal-Mart is identified as the world's largest corporation.

2008: Mike Huckabee runs for President of the United States.  He is defeated in the primary elections.  The first African American is elected President of the United States: Barack Obama.


Source : Arkansas Secretary of State. Also, see Arkansas Department of Heritage for more information.

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