|Jame Monroe was the newly elected president of the United States and Arkansas was still a district of the territory of Missouri when David Boyd, first white man set foot on the future town site of Van Buren.
David Boyd was a log raiser and his arrival in 1818 was the first recorded event in the town's history. He lived until 1885. He has a living granddaughter, Mrs. Lillie Fine, whose mother was Lydia Ann Boyd Disney, the daughter of David Boyd.
The first white settler was Thomas Martin who arrived shortly after David Boyd. Martin was helped byBoyd to build his log house. Thomas Martin claimed squatters rights to the land, and a few people gathered around Martin and the place became a boat landing and a small settlement.
Arkansas now became a territory in 1819. Daniel and Thomas Phillips cam to Martin's claim, and the Phillips, Thomas and Daniel, established a wood yard to supply fuel for the flat bottomed steam boat plying the river. The community was called Phillips Landing.
In 1831, a post office was established at Phillips Landing, which distributed mail for the area. The post office was named Van Buren for the new Secretary of Stater, Martin Van Buren, appointed by President Jackson.
About one mile below Phillips Landing two merchants established general stores and operated a ferry. One firm was John Henry & Company. The other firm was John Drennen and David Thompson. This new settlement was called Columbus.
By 1835, John Drennen and David Thompson were well established in Columbus Landing, they had weathered a terrible flood and had witnessed a public whipping of a criminal by Sheriff Joshua Brown.
The county seat in 1835 was at Crawford Old Court House on Arbuckle Island. In thisyear, 1835, John Drennen represented Crawford County at the Constitutional Convention, helping to write the first Constitution of Arkansas.
In 1836 after Arkansas was admitted as a state, John Drennen and David Thompson realized that Van Buren, owned by Thomas Phillips was a better site for a town than Columbus because of the higher ground. They bought the townsite of Van Buren from Thomas Phillips for $11,000. The following year the town was surveyed and laidout according to the direction of the river, the real growth of the town began there. It soon became the center of distribution of goods for Northwest Arkansas.
The old Fort Smith at Belle Point had been discontinued and in 1837 the government began searching for a new site for a fort. The bluff at the mouth of Lee's Creek was considered but problems of water supply and transportation out weighed the advantages and the site for a fort was purchased from Captain John Rogers and it was built across the river.
A little settlement north of Van Buren was occupied by a few families as early as 1820. In this year a son was born to Alfred Smith and his wife, Martha Matlock Smith. This child was named Ammon Payne Smith, and was the
Van Buren was first incorporated as a town, by the State Legislature, December 24, 1842. The town was re-incorporated January 4, 1845. The first mayor was Alexander McLean. There have been 85 mayors of Van Buren since 1845. Several have served more than one term.
On condition that the C rawford County Court HOuse be permanently located in Van Buren as the county seat, John Drennen and David Thompson donated a public square in the center of the townin 1841-1842, it was the most imposing building in the couny. In the Battle of Van Buren, December 28, 1862, the building escaped damage by the Federal Troops, but all the records of the years 1855 to 1860 housed there, were destroyed.
On the night of March 23, 1877, during the period of Reconstruction, the court house was burned. Most of the records were destroyed. A few partly burned ones were saved and re-recorded.
An Act of Congress on April 13, 1851 provided for two terms of Federal Court for this Western District of Arkansas to be held yearly in the town of Van Buren. The first term of Federal Court of which there is a record, was held in the county court house in May 1854, the presiding judge was Daniel Ringo. In May 1861, Judge Ringo resigned and the records were turned over to the clerk, John B. Ogden. The Federal Court ceased to function during the War Between the States. After the raid of 1862, made on Van Buren by the Federal Court of the Western District of Arkansas was moved to Fort Smith.
The first term of court in its new location was held May 1, 1871. Judge Story was the presiding judge. Sebastian County had been created out of Crawford County, January 1, 1851. The new seat of the Federal Court for the Western DIstrict of Arkansas was now located in Fort Smith, Sebastian County.
The first newspapers to be punlished in Van Buren was the "Intelligencer" in 1842. This paper was in existence in 1859. The same year that the "Intelligencer" was discontinued. The Van Buren Press made its appearancde with Joseph Starr Dunham as owner and editor. The first isssue was printed on July 6, 1859 and continued until January 23, 1862. Due to the Civil War it was impossible to obtain paper for printing. On February 3, 1866, the "Van Buren Press' was again printed after a lapse of 4 years. Mr. Dunham, as editor and publisher, printed the Van Buren Press" for 48 years, from 1859 until the day of his death in 1912.
The Little Rock and Fort Smith railway was organized in 1853. The first president of the Company was John Drennen of Van Buren. On JUne 24, 1876, the first train entered Van Buren from Little Rock. The railway continued to opposite Fort Smith where passengers and cargo was moved across the Arkansas river on big flat boats. In 1916 the St. Louis Iron Mountain and SOuthern was re-named the Missouri Pacific railway.
The Frisco, the St. Louis and San Francisco railway, was completed from St. Louis, Missouri, to Van Buren in June 1882. On March 28, 1960, the last Missouri Pacific passenger train made its last run fromVan Buren to Coffeyville, Kansas. The Frisco passenger trains made their last run on September 17, 1965.