Van Buren, Arkansas
Soldiers battled along Van
Buren's main street during
the Civil War. It is now known
for its shops and cafes.
Van Buren, Arkansas - Historic Sites & Points of Interest - Historic Sites of Van Buren, Arkansas - Historic Sites of Van Buren, Arkansas
Van Buren, Arkansas
The historic Crawford County Courthouse was built
in 1842 and stood witness to fighting during the
Battle of Van Buren.
Historic City on the Arkansas
Van Buren's Mystery Grave
Some say that it may have
been left behind by Hernando
de Soto or even Vikings.
Albert Pike's School House
The future Confederate
general and Masonic leader
taught school here in 1833.
Van Buren and the River
Nestled along the banks of
the Arkansas River, Van
Buren is steeped in the
history of America's western
One of the most charming communities in
Arkansas, the beautiful little city of Van Buren
is nestled along the banks of the Arkansas
River almost in the shadows of the Boston

A true city of the western frontier, Van Buren
was first settled in around 1818 as a trading
post and lumber town on what was then the
westernmost edge of the United States. The
founding of the town coincided closely with
the establishment of the
military post at Fort
Smith across the Arkansas River.

Once known as Phillips Landing, the town
changed its name to Van Buren in 1831 to
commemorate the establishment of a post
office. The name honors Martin Van Buren,
who was then Secretary of State in the
administration of Andrew Jackson, but who
later became President of the United States.
Van Buren was incorporated in 1842.

By the time of the Civil War, the community
had grown to become an important trading
and residential center. Surrounded by
plantations and farms where rich crops were
produced in the fertile river bottoms, Van
Buren was an important port city on the
Arkansas River. Steamboats passing up and
down the river stopped there to take on cargo
and passengers.

In 1857, Van Buren became a stop on the
famed Butterfield Overland Stage Route,
which provided passenger and mail service
from St. Louis to California. The opening of
the line, which also passed through nearby
Devil's Den State Park and Fort Smith, made
it possible for mail and people to travel to
California or back in what was then an
astounding time of only 22-25 days.

Van Buren attracted national attention in
1857 when Parley P. Pratt, one of the original
apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints (Mormon), was held in jail
there overnight after being arrested by the
U.S. Army. Pratt was fleeing the outraged first
husband of a woman he tried to assist. He
was cornered by Hector McLean and six
others twelve miles from Van Buren and
stabbed and shot to death.
His grave site is
preserved today as a memorial by the
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Many believe that the murder of Parley Pratt
led to the horrible Mountain Meadows
Massacre in Utah later that year. A party of
137 men, women and children - most of
them emigrants from Arkansas - were
attacked by Mormon militia and Indians and
wiped out. Only 17 children were spared, but
120 other emigrants were slaughtered.

The massacre was an early part of what
became known as the Mormon or Utah War,
in which the U.S. Army marched on the
Mormons who had moved to Utah under the
leadership of Brigham Young. Many key Civil
War officers took part in this campaign, which
ended with no battles but resulted in great
misery for soldiers and Mormon settlers alike.
Famed Western lawman Wyatt Earp also
spent time in the Van Buren jail, arrested
there for horse stealing long before his
famed gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Like nearby
Fort Smith, Van Buren is rich in Western lore.
Van Buren became a major center of military
activity during the Civil War and was the base
for Confederate operations in the
Grove Campaign of 1862. The town itself
was attacked in December of that year when
Union troops won the
Battle of Van Buren
and its preliminary action, the
Battle of
Dripping Springs.

Van Buren remains a thriving and charming
community today. Known for its beautiful
location and historic downtown, it is popular
with history lovers and shoppers. The town
doubled for Biloxi in the popular movie "Biloxi
Blues," in which many local landmarks were
used as settings.

No visit to the city is complete without a ride
on the Arkansas & Missouri Railroad.
click here to learn more about ticket prices,
train schedules and the railroad itself.  Also
be sure to check out the links below for more
on Van Buren's Mystery Grave and other
historic sites.
Butterfield Stage Route
Van Buren was a stop on the
famed Butterfield Overland
Stage Route, which ran from
St. Louis to San Francisco.
Custom Search
Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.