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Little Rock History, Arkansas

Little Rock was formally founded as a settlement only in 1821, but the area had been named almost a century earlier in 1722 and human habitation in the region dates back to the Stone Age (excavations in the region unearthed Stone Age pottery, artifacts, etc.). Different Native American tribes inhabited the region at different points in time and when the first European explorer, Hernando de Soto (of Spanish-origin) arrived here in 1541, the region was occupied by the Quapaws.

French explorer, Robert Cavelier de La Salle, became the next European to step in this region when he claimed the land for the Louisiana Territory in 1682. Another French explorer, Jean-Baptiste Benard de la Harpe, established a trading post in the region and named it la Petite Roche (or the Little Rock) in 1722. The city-site (along with the whole of Arkansas) became a part of the United States in 1803. William Lewis, who built a cabin in the region in 1812, is regarded as the first permanent settler.

The Little Rock area was surveyed in 1819 (it is the same year that the Arkansas Territory was formed). Little Rock was officially recognized in 1821 when it was named the capital of the Arkansas Territory and that marked the beginning of Little Rock history.

Little Rock History – From Incorporation to the Civil War Years

Little Rock was incorporated as a city in 1831 and when Arkansas entered the Union as the 25th state, Little Rock became the official capital. In the following decades, Little Rock did well as an agrarian society, becoming an important cotton-producing city – both cultivating and distributing cotton.

Little Rock saw some real action during the Civil War with Arkansas seceding from the Union and joining the Confederate Forces in 1861. The occupation of the city by Union Army in 1863 marked the beginning of a new chapter of Little Rock history (it became a truth for the entire nation about a year-and-half later after the conquest of Virginia).

Little Rock History – Next Hundred Years

Neither Arkansas nor Little Rock gained much during the post-war Reconstruction days. Although the city grew, it was no match for the progressive industrial cities of the North. Then the Brooks-Baxter War happened in 1774 and it further weakened the city. The 1880s saw the city picking up pace and by the end of the 19th century, Little Rock boasted of all modern amenities – electricity, rail-links, streetcars, telephone and water supply system.

This progress continued even in the 20th century; the first three decades saw the city’s populace double – while the populace stood at around 40000 in the early 1900s, it grew to 80000 by 1930. A number of important State buildings and some early skyscrapers also came up during these years. Depression slackened the rate of growth in the 1930s but Little Rock was back on the track of progress in the 1940s and this time it focused on industry. By the early 1950s, Little Rock had its own industrial district, supported by a well-knit network of roadways and railways.

Little Rock made headlines across national borders in 1957-58 when the Little Rock Central High School became the center of controversy after nine black students were debarred from entering the institution. The U.S. Supreme Court’s verdict/ruling not only condemned/opposed the ban, but also declared racial segregation as something unconstitutional/undemocratic. President Eisenhower even ordered deployment of the US Army in the school for the protection of students.

Little Rock History – 1960s to Present Times

The 1960s brought construction boom downtown. By the 70s and 80s, the city had established itself as a major industrial hub of the region. Then came the fateful 1990s that saw Arkansas Governor, William J. Clinton (better known as Bill Clinton), being elected as the 42nd President of the United States. 1992 was a significant year for Little Rock history for that year President Bill Clinton made his presidential campaign announcement from the Old State House; it was also the site of celebrations following his election and re-election in 1996.

The inauguration of William J. Clinton Presidential Center in 2004 has been an important happening of the new millennia but Little Rock has been much more than a just a Presidential City. The city’s all-round progress has made it one of the best places to live in. No wonder that present-day Little Rock is the most populous city of Arkansas (followed by Fort Smith and Fayetteville).

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