Arkansas was originally inhabited by many Native American groups. Many artifacts have been found that suggest these Native Americans inhabited Arkansas thousands of years before European settlers arrived. These original inhabitants include the Folsom people, Bluff Dwellers, Mound Builders, Caddo, Quapaws, Osage, Choctaw, and Cherokee. Arkansas was left untouched by European hands until 1541 when Hernando de Soto of Spain traveled through the area.
Over 100 years later in 1682, La Salle claimed the land for the King of France. In 1686, Henri de Tonti, another Frenchman, founded the Arkansas Post. This was the first permanent white settlement in the area. France owned Arkansas until 1762 when France ceded much of the Louisiana Territory, including Arkansas, to Spain. In 1800 a secret treaty returned Louisiana to France. It wasn’t until the Louisiana purchase, in 1803, that Arkansas became a part of the union.
Arkansas became a territory in 1819. In 1836, the territory had a population of 60,000 and was eligible to become a state. Arkansas became the 25th state in the United States on June 15 of 1836. The population grew steadily over the next 24 years and in 1860 had a population of 435,000. Farmers in the southern regions of Arkansas constituted the majority of the population although 25 percent of the population was slaves.
After becoming a part of the union only 30 years before, in 1861 Arkansas decided to secede from the Union to support the Confederacy. The Pea Ridge and Prairie Grove battles of the Civil War were fought in Arkansas. After the Civil War ended in 1865, Reconstruction began. As part of the Reconstruction, effort changes were made to the state constitution. In 1874 the constitution that we use today was ratified.