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Hernando de Soto, who was the newly appointed governor of Cuba in the early 1500's, landed with 600 soldiers on the Florida coast, on May 28, 1539. After exploring the western part of the peninsula, he wintered in Apalachee. The following spring he marched north to the vicinity of the Savannah River and then on west to the Blue Ridge Mountains. From there his expedition headed southwest going almost to the Gulf of Mexico near Mobile. After wintering there he continued west through the Ozarks, stopping to winter again at the junction of the Arkansas River and Canadian River. These Spanish men under De Soto were first to explore the Arkansas territory in 1541 and 1542.
Later explored by France, a French trading center was quickly established at Arkansas Post in 1686. Arkansas Post was a small community on the Arkansas River south east of Pine Bluff. It is the oldest known white settlement in the state and became the first territorial capitol. As part of French territory of the Louisiana region, Arkansas was ceded to Spain in 1762, but was later returned to France before passing to the United States with the Louisiana Purchase. The region became a territory in 1819, after the growth of cotton brought an influx of settlers.
Arkansas became the 25th state admitted to the union in 1836. At the approach of the Civil War it was one of several states that seceded from the Union in May of 1861. When the war ended, Arkansas was readmitted in 1868. Like most southern states, the reconstruction period for Arkansas was turbulent. The depression of the 1930s hurt the state's cotton economy and many farmers left. The second world war brought further population loss as men went to work in war factories in other parts of the country but the war promoted new industries within the state and especially aluminum related businesses.
The Capitol of Arkansas is Little Rock. The Arkansas economy today is dominated by agriculture. Cotton, soybeans, corn and rice are a few of the successful crops grown in the region. The State Bird of Arkansas is the Mockingbird and the State Flower is the Apple Blossom.