Phillips County, Arkansas

County History

Phillips County is part of the Delta region of Arkansas located where the St. Francis River empties into the Mississippi River and has significant touches on nearly every aspect of the state’s history.  Phillips County’s soil consists of alluvial deposits from the Mississippi River, making it prime agricultural land.  The southern edge of Crowley’s Ridge provides higher land once used by Native Americans.  Helena’s location on the Mississippi River gave it the potential to be an important transportation hub, although it eventually was overtaken in importance by Memphis, Tennessee.
Established on the banks of the Mississippi River in 1820, Phillips County is the second oldest county in Arkansas.  The land had a rich history that was scattered with images of ancient Indian cultures, famous explorers like Desoto, who explored Arkansas entering just south of Helena in 1541, Lewis and Clark, and Frenchmen like Marquette and Jolliet, LaSalle and DeTonti, who colonized what became the Louisiana Territory.   

President Thomas Jefferson commissioned Prospect Robbins and Joseph Brown to survey the southern part of the Louisiana Purchase.  Robbins and Brown placed a marker in the northwest corner of Phillips County on November 10, 1815.  This marker is the beginning point from which all Louisiana Purchase lands were surveyed.

This vast land purchase from Napoleon in 1803 provided a new real estate opportunity for entrepreneurs like Sylvannus Phillips.  Phillips purchased huge tracts of land that bordered the Mississippi River along the Arkansas Territory in 1797.  On May 1, 1820 the territorial county of Phillips, which was named after Sylvannus Phillips, was created and encompassed most of eastern Arkansas.  Later, eleven counties were formed in part or completely from the original territorial county of Phillips.  Sylvannus Phillips named a small village after his daughter, Helena, and it was made the county seat.   Read more....