A Brief History of Van Buren, Arkansas

Photo of Main Street in Van Buren ca. 1888. The view is looking west probably from about 5th Street. Photo courtesy of Ronald N. Wall.

Van Buren is located directly northeast of Fort Smith, and is the county seat of Crawford County, Arkansas. Van Buren began to take shape in 1818 when Thomas Phillips purchased land rights in current-day Van Buren. For a short time, the new settlement was known as Phillips Landing. With the assigning of a post office and designation as county seat of Crawford County, it began to grow both residentially and economically. In 1845, it was renamed in honor of then Secretary of State Martin Van Buren and incorporated as a city. Like much of Western Arkansas, the ravages of the Civil War devastated Van Buren and its neighbor, Fort Smith. The two young communities experienced slow growth following the war. It was not until the coming of the railroad from Little Rock in the mid-1870s that it picked up. The railroad’s presence established Van Buren as an important center for the shipment of farm products. The city continued to develop, and together with Fort Smith, emerged as a manufacturing powerhouse in the late 1950s-early 1960s (Chamber of Commerce, n.d.).


Chamber of Commerce. (No date). Van Buren, Arkansas. Retrieved from local.townsquarepublications.com.

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