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Arkansas is a state of the south-central United States bordered on the east by the Mississippi River. It was admitted as the 25th state in 1836. The region was explored by members of Hernando de Soto's expedition in 1541 and passed to the United States in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase. Little Rock is the capital and the largest city. Population: 2,770,000.

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History

The Ozarks

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. From evidence left in mounds and bluffs, including pottery and stone implements, we know that people have been living in the region that is now Arkansas for thousands of years. The ancestors of the Indians were first to inhabit the region. The abundant wildlife and fertile soil made the area a wonderful home for these people, who gradually developed from primitive hunter-gatherers living in caves to much more sophisticated farmers living in large permanent villages. As the eastern lands were settled, more Indians moved to sparsely inhabited Arkansas. The Indians who lived here included the Folsom people, Bluff Dwellers, Mound Builders, Caddos, Quapaws, Osage, Choctaw and Cherokee.

In 1541, the Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto was the first European to set foot in Arkansas. He led an unsuccessful, yearlong expedition for gold. One hundred and thirty-one years later, two Frenchmen named Marquette and Joliet visited Arkansas briefly. In 1682, at the mouth of the Mississippi, LaSalle claimed the Mississippi Valley for France, but was later assassinated by two of his companions. In 1686, Henri De Tonti set out from Fort St. Louis on the Illinois River to meet LaSalle at the mouth of the Mississippi. After he failed to locate LaSalle, De Tonti, the "Father of Arkansas", established the first European settlement in Arkansas, called Arkansas Post, with six residents. Over the next hundred years, development of the region was sluggish as the number of settlers slowly increased. In 1762, the entire Louisiana Territory was ceded to Spain, and Spanish governors offered free land and no taxes to encourage settlers to inhabit the area. In 1799, there were approximately 386 white people living in Arkansas. In 1803, the Louisiana Purchase was acquired by the United States, and, in 1819, Arkansas was organized as a territory. Its northern, eastern and southern borders were the same as they are now, but to the west, some of what is now Oklahoma was included. In the same year the "Arkansas Gazette", once considered the oldest newspaper west of the Mississippi, was founded by William E. Woodruff. Two years later, in 1821, the territorial capital was moved from Arkansas Post to Little Rock.

By 1836, the Arkansas Territory had the 60,000 residents required to become a state, and after writing an acceptable constitution, was declared the 25th state in the United States. The new state enjoyed a thirty year period of prosperity, and by 1860 had a population of 435,000, 25 percent of whom were slaves. The majority of the residents were planters who lived in the rich bottomlands of the east and southeastern portion of the state and farmers who lived in the central and northern hills. A much smaller number of residents were lawyers, doctors, merchants, missionaries and teachers. Arkansas was drawn into the Civil War in May, 1861, by its decision to secede from the Union. Troops were mustered and civilians devoted their energy and resources to providing food, clothing, weapons, and horses for the soldiers. Two major battles, Pea Ridge and Prairie Grove, were fought in Arkansas. In 1863, the Confederate government moved to Washington in the southwestern corner of our state; and, in 1864, the Union government was established in Little Rock. After the Civil War ended in 1865, the era called Reconstruction began, during which dramatic changes were made in the South. The Democrats returned to power in 1874, the same year our present constitution was adopted.

The next 25 years were a time of growth and recovery. New inventions, such as the telephone, electricity, residential running water, and city sewer systems made life easier and more comfortable for Arkansans, affording them more leisure time for social and literary pursuits. Lumber mills, farms, factories and cities around the state were linked by 5,000 miles of railroad. Many public schools were developed, and numerous colleges, including the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, Hendrix, Arkansas College, Henderson-Brown, Philander Smith, Shorter and Ouachita were founded. Even as early as 1875, Arkansas was billed as the "Land of Opportunity" when an active campaign was launched outside the state to attract new residents to Arkansas. By 1900, the population had more than doubled to 1.3 million.

The 20th century has seen even more change in Arkansas. Airplanes, radios, talking movies, and eventually television has enhanced our life-style. Automobiles grew in popularity, and in 1921, the first auto, gas, and oil taxes were levied to finance construction of paved roads and highways. The discovery of oil and natural gas reserves in the state provided cheap and plentiful energy for years. The growing use of farm and machinery led to the consolidation of many family-run farms into larger farming corporations. Arkansans learned in 1904 that rice could successfully be grown here, and it is now one of our most profitable crops. The livestock and dairy industries have also gained prominence in the last 90 years. A post World War II drive to industrialize the state was successful in effecting a more favorable balance of industrial and agricultural production. Firms in Arkansas now manufacture a wide range of items, including aluminum products, aircraft components, communications equipment, cosmetics, clothing, and pulp and paper products.

In 500 years, Arkansas has grown from vast wilderness to a thriving state with a population of 2.5 million. Advancements in farming, lumbering, manufacturing, tourism and government have gained Arkansas a viable place in the international market.

Trivia

  • Elevations in the state range from 54 feet above sea level in the far southeast corner to 2,753 feet above at Mount Magazine, the state's highest point.
  • North Little Rock offers one of the nation's largest municipal parks.
  • The community of Mountain View is called the Folk Capital of America. The little town preserves the pioneer way of life and puts it on display for visitors at the Ozark Folk Center State Park from March through October.
  • The road to the White House for President Bill Clinton began in Hope, then led to Hot Springs, Fayetteville, and Little Rock.
  • Arkansas contains over 600,000 acres of lakes and 9,700 miles of streams and rivers.
  • The state contains six national park sites, two-and-a half million acres of national forests, seven national scenic byways, three state scenic byways, and 50 state parks.
  • One of America's finest restoration projects, the Quapaw Quarter features some of Little Rock's oldest structures including Victorian and antebellum homes, churches, MacArthur Park, and the Old Arsenal.
  • Mountain View is home to one of the largest producers of handmade dulcimers in the world.
  • Since the 1830s the area now known as Hot Springs National Park has bathed notables as diverse as Franklin D. Roosevelt, Babe Ruth, and Al Capone. The park is entirely surrounded by the city of Hot Springs, the boyhood home of President Bill Clinton.
  • Located just outside of Murfreesboro, Crater of Diamonds State Park allows dedicated prospectors to search for precious gems including diamonds, amethyst, garnet, jasper, agate, and quartz.
  • The mockingbird is the official state bird. It was designated in 1929.
  • Clark Bluff overlooking the St. Francis River contains chalk to supply the nation for years.
  • Famous singer Johnny Cash was born in Kingsland.
  • The apple blossom is the official state flower. It was designated in 1901.
  • The Magnet Cove region claims to contain 102 varieties of minerals.
  • The World's Championship Duck Calling Contest is held annually in Stuttgart.
  • Sam Walton founded his Wal-Mart stores in Bentonville.
  • Mount Ida is known as the Quartz Crystal Capital of the World.
  • Arkansas became the 25th state on June 15, 1836.
  • The pine tree is the official state tree. It was designated in 1939.
  • Pine Bluff is known as the world center of archery bow production.
  • Camden was the site of the Fort Lookout Skirmish and the Battle of Poison Springs
  • Bauxite is the official state mineral. It was designated in 1967.
  • Alma claims to be the Spinach Capital of the World.
  • Little River County Courthouse is world famous for it's Christmas lights display.
  • General Douglas MacArthur, soldier and statesman, was born in Little Rock in 1880.
  • Established near the mouth of the Arkansas River in 1686, Arkansas Post was the first permanent white settlement in the state.
  • The geographic center of the state is located in Pulaski, 12 miles northwest of Little Rock.
  • The city of Fairfield Bay sits on the north shore of Greers Ferry Lake, a 40,000 acre mountain lake of sparkling waters in central Arkansas.
  • The University of Central Arkansas was founded in Conway in 1907.
  • The average temperature in July is 81.4 degrees; January it is 39.5; and the annual average is 61.7 degrees. The average rainfall is 48.52 inches and the average snowfall is 5.2 inches.
  • Scott Joplin, popular musician and composer, was born in Texarkana.
  • The diamond is the official state gem. It was designated in 1967.
  • Arkansas is officially known as The Natural State.
  • The Arkansas River is the longest stream to flow into the Mississippi-Missouri river system. Its total length is 1,450 miles.
  • The South Arkansas vine ripe pink tomato is the official state fruit and blossom. It was designated in 1987.
  • Milk is the official state beverage. It was designated in 1985.
  • The largest freestanding rock formation located in Eureka Springs has a base circumference of about 10 inches and the top measures almost 10 feet across.
  • The apple blossom is the official state flower. It was designated in 1901.
  • Ouachita National Forest reigns as the oldest national forest in the South.
  • The lowest point in the state occurs along the Ouachita River.
  • Origin of state's name: French interpretation of a Sioux word acansa, meaning downstream place.
  • A person from Arkansas is called an Arkansan.
  • The honeybee is the official state insect. It was officially designated in 1973.
  • In 1783 the Colbert Incident occurred at Arkansas Post. It was the only Revolutionary War skirmish in the state.
  • The Buffalo River is one of the few remaining unpolluted, free-flowing rivers in the lower 48 states.
  • The fiddle is the official state instrument. It was designated in 1985.
  • 47 hot springs flow from the southwestern slope of Hot Springs Mountain, at an average temperature of 143 F.
  • The Ozark National Forest covers more than one million acres.
  • The quartz crystal is the official state rock. It was designated in 1967.

External links

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Arkansas United States AR US