A Brief History of Little Rock, Arkansas

Main Street in Little Rock ca. 1910

Little Rock is the capital and most populous city of the state of Arkansas. Benard de la Harpe, a Frenchman leading an exploration party up the Arkansas River on April 9, 1722, noted the first outcropping of rock he had seen along the banks since leaving New Orleans.  He reportedly called it “la petite roche” or “the little rock,” to distinguish it from a larger cliff across the river. The area was largely wilderness, inhabited by the Quapaw or Arkansa Indians, and had been explored by Spanish gold hunters and by itinerant hunter-trappers. As early as 1806, settlers from the east coast started coming to what is now Central Arkansas. Little Rock had become a well-known river crossing when the Arkansas Territory was established in 1819. The permanent settlement of Little Rock began in the spring of 1820, and the first building, which has been described as a cabin, or shanty, was built on the bank of the river near La Petite Roche. In March 1820, a Post Office was established with the name Little Rock and Amos Wheeler was appointed as the Postmaster of the new community. The first steamboat to reach Little Rock was the Eagle, which arrived on March 16, 1822.  From that time onward, Little Rock’s role as a commercial center of Arkansas increased. On November 7, 1831, Little Rock was officially chartered as a town and on November 2, 1835, Little Rock became a City (Little Rock, 2016).

The city of North Little Rock is located just across the river from Little Rock, but it is a separate city. North Little Rock was once the 8th ward of Little Rock. An Arkansas Supreme Court decision on February 6, 1904, allowed the ward to merge with the neighboring town of North Little Rock. The merged town quickly renamed itself Argenta (the local name for the former 8th Ward), but returned to its original name in October 1917 (Wikipedia, 2019).


City of Little Rock. (2016). Our Historical City. Retrieved from littlerock.gov.

Wikipedia. (2019, Nov. 26). Little Rock, Arkansas. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org.

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