Happy birthday, Pine Bluff!
The city is celebrating its 175th birthday Friday, having been incorporated on Jan. 10, 1839, less than three years after Arkansas had gained statehood. But Pine Bluff didn’t simply spring up overnight.
According to historian Russell Bearden of White Hall in The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture, Pine Bluff — like Jefferson County — derived from Arkansas Post in Arkansas County. Founded by the French, Arkansas Post was built near the mouth of the Arkansas River.
It’s unknown how long Indians had lived here, but Pine Bluff’s first white settler was Joseph Bonne, who in 1819 constructed a cabin for his Quapaw wife and their family on an Arkansas River bluff covered with pine trees. A few years later, James Scull followed Bonne in venturing here from Arkansas Post and established an encampment across the river from Bonne.
In 1829, Arkansas Territorial Gov. John Pope officially established Jefferson County, named in honor of President Thomas Jefferson. Bonne’s residence served as the initial county seat. Pine Bluff took over that role in 1832.
Ten months after Pine Bluff’s incorporation, a brick courthouse was erected.
The city’s first recorded population was 46o in 1850. That count more than tripled over the next decade as the city had 1,396 residents in 1860.
Pine Bluff experienced continuous growth over the ensuing 110 years to a high mark of 57,389 in 1970. The population has been steadily declining in recent years, falling to 49,083 by 2010. The city had its most significant growth in the decade of the 1940s, jumping from 21,290 in 1940 to 37,162 in 1950. Much of the increase can be attributed to the establishment of the nearby Pine Bluff Arsenal, which produced a big number of jobs in support of American and allied military forces during World War II.