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Brief History of Arkansas

Arkansas is one of the states in the U.S., which can is often referred to as one of the southwest central states. It happens as Arkansas is borders on midwestern, western and southern states in the country. South-western area of the state is mainly agricultural. There are a lot of cattle farms and sunflower fields, located in the Wild West prairies. Dairy farms and orchards of northwest Arkansas, located in the so-called “corn areas of the United States. The cotton plantations which, stretched along the banks of the Mississippi River are traditionally associated with the Southern States with their plantations.

Arkansas is rich in natural water resources, virgin forests and the minerals, including oil, gas and many other natural resources, Arkansas became the twenty-fifth state of U.S. in 15 June 1836. Up to 1950, Arkansas was mainly agricultural state. Its inhabitants were predominantly engaged in farming, but this occupation did not provided huge profit. It is not surprising that many residents of the state left it; they swept into other lands in search for a better life. During the time, Arkansas was planned to develop the manufacturing industry and transport. The railroads appeared in the middle of the 19th century, but up to the end of the 19th century the water transport in the state was dominating. In late 1950, the number of mills and factories of the State exceeded the number of farms, so the economy manufacturing industry began to take precedence over agriculture. In 1990, Arkansas was rightly considered already state in which the production was dominated by light industry and service of consumer services. In addition, one of the most important industries is tourism. A good economic balance of Arkansas and fertile opportunities for doing business in this state had prompted the official name of Arkansas, as the “land of opportunity.” Another Arkansas called the kingdom of nature, because of the beautiful landscapes, forests, rivers and lakes annually attract many tourists. It should be noted that from the very beginning the railroad transportation played a significant role in the economics and development of the State. The railroad system developed rapidly with the agriculture and even now it still has not lost its significance: “Arkansas railroads, known for its beautiful, rugged topography and gorgeous rivers, has been ongoing since the mid-19th century when the Memphis and Little Rock Railroad (a future predecessor of the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad) began operations that year. Over the years the state would become home to several railroads, which operated through or within its borders. Even today, Arkansas is still home to some twenty-two different railroads, large and small. Along with its railroads, the state also has a number of railroad museums and tourist lines available to tour” . This essay would discuss the important period in development of railroads in Arkansas.

Railroad History in Arkansas

By 1861, there were a telegraph line and railroad ways in Arkansas. Arkansas Railrtoads have deep history; “During the railroad industry’s golden era the state would be home to several now-classic fallen flag railroads which include Missouri Pacific Railroad; Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad; St. Louis-San Francisco Railway (Frisco); and Kansas City Southern (still operating). Of these railroads the Missouri Pacific by far had the most trackage in the state and the Union Pacific Railroad today operates nearly half of the state’s total route mileage thanks in large part to the MP’s heavy concentration in Arkansas” . This industrialization within the state signified the beginning of a new century, commerce and transportation and the beginning of the Civil War. It should be noted that during the Civil War railroad could hardly be referred as the major transportation way. As Mississippi water transportation ways were among the major transportation ways in Arkansas. After the Civil War the situation slightly changed. But the railroad development was highly supported by the governmental forces despite the constant confrontation with the extremists. The Republicans, who have controlled the political power in the state until 1874, organized a free public schools, founded the University of Arkansas (University of Arkansas); established a charity school for deaf children, defended the rights of black citizens of the state; persecuted members of the Ku Klux Klan; supported by an influx of new immigrants to Arkansas, paid off the national debt statewide helped finance the building of railroads. It should be noted that this supportive practice of the Republicans assisted a lot to the spread of the railroad transportation across the State despite the challenges they met from the side of the water transportations owners. However, conservatives have accused Republicans of corruption and that their policies plunges staff in the public debt. In addition, the Conservatives was accused Republicans is that their policy is kept at a cheap popularity among black voters, whose votes the Republicans manipulated with the results of counting the votes in his favor. Conservative accusations were justified only in part. Indeed, the problem of public debt was mainly during the economic depression in 1873 and criticism of conservatives focused on the fact that at such a difficult economic regime it is useless spending money on build railways and public free schools. However, all charges against Republican corruption and had not been proved by documents. It goes without saying that this had strongly negative impact on the development of railroad communication within the state.

When the Democrats regained control over the political situation in the state and they wrote a new Constitution of Arkansas. They refused to pay the debt of the State, created by the Republicans during the construction of railways, as well as – bank loans since the Civil War, have suspended funding of public schools and the university using such rough methods in order to stay within the state administration. It should be noted that the Democratic Party still was controlled by businessmen, who were heavily interested in the railways’ building. The Democrats have relied on the support of white farmers’ state, which they called for racial solidarity. Democrats saw the future of Arkansas, as the “New South” to fight for the prosperity of which called for their party. However, Arkansas was still a “State of cotton, farmers who suffered heavy losses due to falling prices for their products, high railroad rates and excessively inflated price of manufactured goods. The railroad industry in Arkansas at this time became totally commercial.

It should be noted that vigorous construction of railroads in the last thirty years of 18th century had a positive impact on the development of the state’s economy. The railway companies and the government of Arkansas attracted farmers from other states and immigrants as well as investors from the foreign countries and encouraged their settlement on the lands through which the railway tracks. From 1870 to 1900 the population of the state increased from 500 thousand to 1.3 million people. That was the time of flourishing agriculture and increase production rates, coal and bauxite contributed to an influx of new hands at the ground state. “The importance of the new railroad development to the economic future of a community was evident early on. In October of 1870, the Iron Mountain announced that it would complete the Cairo & Fulton line north to the Missouri border. In an attempt to persuade the railroad to direct the line through their community, the Searcy (White County) town council met with Cairo & Fulton executives in Little Rock to formulate an agreement to survey the route. If the route proved feasible, the city agreed to pay the difference between the two routes, plus pay the railroad a bonus, payable in 20-year U.S. bonds at eight percent interest. The Searcy town council appointed I. M. Moore as their special agent to serve as a liaison” (Baker, 2000). Cotton was still the main agricultural crop, although the lands of the Great Prairie (Grand Prairie), near Stuttgart since 1894, successfully started to grow rice. Agro-industry of Arkansas held since 1890 the vast territories. By 1930, 8,005 km of land of Arkansas was not suitable for agriculture, because in these territories stretched ditches and gullies, however, followed by Florida, the state began to drain the soil, preparing them for agriculture. However, work on drainage, as a result, caused an increase in prices of products by farmers, but the market demand for luxury goods did not match their prices. Farmers experienced severe losses.

Economic prosperity of agriculture in Arkansas in 1880 has ended but the railroads keep on their development.

Drought and falling market prices caused the crisis. Farmers in the state began to organize mutual benefit societies, which have become political influence to oppose the authorities of the State Democratic Party. Partisan movement of farmers has been called “populism” (populism). Populists sought supporters, speaking for the creation of farmer cooperatives across the country for a reduction in transport tariffs for railway transportation, offering to nationalize the railroads of the State, for participation in the public market price formation.

In 1888 elections, they joined with labor groups, representing 15,000 votes for the nomination of its candidate for governor. Over 12 years of Democratic Party state has adopted many reforms were based on farmers’ interests a platform. As a result, many farmers have returned to the ranks of the Democratic Party, dissolving thereby move farmers.


With the votes in support of former populist populists in the ranks of the movement were solely “white” farmers, a Democrat Jay Davis (Jeff Davis) was elected governor of the state. By adopting methods and ideas of the movement farmers, Davis joined the confrontation with the authorities of railroad companies, trusts and insurance companies. Although Davis was known as unprincipled demagogue, he still managed to achieve political reform, to collect unpaid debts to railway companies, establishing record keeping and pay most of the public debt of the state. It should be noted that since the 20th century the railroads were still very significant, but started to lose their core importance, as the era of automobile was beginning. Since the end of the 19th century the length of Arkansas railroads was significantly decreased.

Annotated Bibliography:

Clifton E. Hull, Shortline Railroads of Arkansas, Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1969
This investigation provides a number of relevant information dealing with the establishment and further development of railroads in Arkansas. It starts from the first lines opened nearly at the middle of the 19th century and ending up with the touring routs, which are very popular in Arkansas now.
David Y. Thomas, Arkansas and its People: A History, 1541-1930, Vol. II, New York: The American Historical Society, Inc., 1930.
This source provides relevant information, relating to the history of the State, starting from the 16th century ending with the 1930. It gives informative data about the development of the state, describing the impact railroads had on the life of the state and how they influenced the development of the land.
Herndon, Dallas T., ed. Annals of Arkansas. 4 vols. Little Rock, Arkansas: The Historical Record Association, 1947.
This investigation provides a number of relevant historical data. It has no direct relation to the railroad formation and development of Arkansas, mainly focusing on the social aspect. But it gives relevant information about the impact railroads had on the Arkansas famers’ communities.
John L. Ferguson and J. H. Atkinson, Historic Arkansas, Little Rock, Arkansas: Arkansas History Commission, 1966
Research provides descriptive and relevant information on the history of the state. It assists in understanding the historical significance of the railroad for the state and its dwellers. The hirtorical perspective provided by the author gives a number of relevant data, which helped the research a lot.
William D. Baker, Historic Railroad Depots of Arkansas 1870-1940, Little Rock, AR: the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program
The major source, which gave the most relevant information about formation, development of Arkansas railroad transportation and its connection to the different social, political and economic spheres of the State’s life
American-Rails, Arkansas Railroads and Railfanning In “The Natural State”, 2007
This source provide interesting facts about Arkansas railroad creation and their contemporary statement, perfectly illustrated by different historical pictures and photos as well as providing illustrative graphs and diagrams, as supportive evidence.
Hempstead, Fay, Historical Review of Arkansas: Its Commerce, Industry and Modern Affairs. Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1911.
This investigation mainly deals with the historical observation of social, economical and political life of Arkansas. Even it did not directly investigates the history of Arkansas railroad transportation, – it provided a number of relevant data dealing with the correlation between these aspects and railroads.
Walter L. Brown, review of The St. Louis – San Francisco Transcontinental Railroad: The Thirty-Fifth Parallel Project, 1853-1890, by Craig H. Miner, in Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Vol. XXXI, No. 1 (Spring 1972),
This review gives general information about railroads formation and development in the second half of the 19th century. It provides a number of interesting facts and information dealing with the creation and development of railroad transportation in the US
Stephen E. Wood, “The Development of Arkansas Railroads,” Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Vol. VII, No. 2 (Summer 1948),
This research deals with the development of Arkansas Railroads and gives a lot of historical information and relevant data dealing with creation and development of railroad systems in the State. It tells a lot about peculiarities of the American railroad system its flourishing and decay in Arkansas
Wolfe, Jonathan James. “Background of German Immigration.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Vol. XXV, No. 2 (Summer 1966).
This article describes the Germans’ immigration to Arkansas and nits historical background. Even it does not has close relation to the major subject of the investigation. It tells a lot about the role railroads played in the US and how their wide spread correlated with the immigration