Sebastian County History
Download 150 Years of Sebastian County
Into the 1960's, the economy of Sebastian County was dependent on the Fort Chaffee military base for mining and lumber. As other industry began to move in, the focus changed to a few large employers; but more recently, diversification has become a priority. Manufacturing was and is attracted by the county's proximity to the Arkansas River and other major transportation intersections, as well as access to abundant utilities and skilled work force. Balancing the economy's manufacturing segment are non-manufacturing activities such as service industries, mining, timber and agriculture (beef, dairy, spinach, turnip greens) in the fertile Arkansas river valley.
Recent relocation of military activity from Fort Chaffee has caused concern for a number of associated civilian jobs, but the community is seeking new use for the property, primarily as a regional industrial center.
University of Arkansas Fort Smith (UAFS) has been a leader in learning since 1928. The University provides unique and expanding opportunities to students and the community, offering personal, quality instruction through innovative programs. They have a variety of educational opportunities including master's, bachelor's and associate's degrees, technical certificates, and certificates of proficiency. Fort Smith's art center, community theater and symphony further enrich the cultural life of the area.
The Fort Smith National Historical Site encompasses the remains of the first Fort Smith (1817-1824) which was established to keep peace between the settlers and the arriving Cherokee who were being relocated from the Appalachian Mountains to the Oklahoma territory via the Trail of Tears, and to prevent squatters from settling in Indian Territory. The second Fort Smith (1838-1871) and Judge Isaac Parker's Court (1872-1896) are also memorialized at this site.
Belle Grove National Historic District, consisting of 30 square blocks of restored 19th century homes, offers an annual tour in May. Clayton House, a restored antebellum mansion, features period furnishings and a video overview of the historic district. Several museums offer views of the rich heritage of the area.
Fort Smith, Sebastian County's largest city, grew from a military outpost to a large marketing center for the Southwest. The first railroad to Fort Smith was completed in 1876. The Missouri Pacific built a railroad to Greenwood. The Frisco went to Mansfield and Huntington, and the Rock Island Railway was built to Mansfield. Today, three railroads travel in the area: Kansas City Southern, Union Pacific and the Arkansas & Missouri. Many motor freight lines serve the area. A modern airport with regular commercial flights is located in Fort Smith. River navigation started in 1969, further diversifying transportation options in the area.
A diverse group of people make up the citizenry of Sebastian County. People from all walks of life, from all parts of the United States, and from all over the globe congregate in our area to live and work together. Sebastian County has a good economy, a relatively low cost of living, low unemployment rate and a healthy mix of manufacturing, industrial, professional and agrarian components resulting in a well-balanced and thriving area in which to live.
Our excellent schools, low crime rate, our lakes, streams, mountains and forests make Sebastian County a delightful place to live and raise a family.