Arkansas Emigration and Immigration
Very few Europeans came to the Arkansas area during the years of French and Spanish rule, 1686 to 1803. The 1810 census of the Louisiana Territory listed only 1,062 non-Indian residents in the entire District of Arkansas.
Immigration began in earnest with the cotton boom of 1818. Many families of Scottish, Scotch-Irish, and English descent moved overland from Virginia and the Carolinas through Tennessee and Mississippi or Missouri. They often brought slaves with them. In 1860, Black slaves comprised over one fourth of the population. Most Arkansans today are descended from Anglo-Saxon and Black families who came from older southern states before 1900.
About 1867, the rich land between the Arkansas and White rivers beckoned to large groups of Southern European emigrants. Many families from Poland settled in Pulaski County. A number of Italians located in the northwestern part of the state.
Some immigrants landed at New Orleans and traveled up the Mississippi River to Arkansas. The Family History Library has passenger lists for New Orleans from 1820 to 1921 and indexes from 1820 to 1952. A digital version of United States, Index to Passenger Arrivals, Atlantic and Gulf Ports, 1820-1874 is available on FamilySearch.
In 1850 Father Thomas Hore led a group of over 1000 Irish Catholics from counties Wicklow and Wexford to Little Rock, Arkansas. The group split into six parts, and ended up settling in New Orleans; Little Rock and Fort Smith, Arkansas; Refugio, Texas; St. Louis, Missouri; and Wexford, Iowa. A list of 847 of the emigrants is available in: