Pine Bluff, county seat of Jefferson County, is located on the banks of the Arkansas River. It lies south of Little Rock along Hwy 365. Pine Bluff serves as the major trade center for the southeast portion of Arkansas.
The town was first established on a high bluff above the Arkansas River. The bluff served as a safe haven for the settlers from the stream's annual floods. Joseph Bonne, half French and half Quapaw Indian, was the first settler in 1819. In 1824, the Quapaws signed a treaty that released their title to all land claims in Arkansas. Following its signature, other settlers began to join Bonne on the bluff. In 1829, Thomas Phillips claimed a half section of land in Pine Bluff.
On November 2, 1829, Jefferson County was established by the Territorial Legislature. It started functioning as a county April 19, 1830. Pine Bluff was chosen as the county seat in the election held on August 13, 1832. On October 16, 1832, the Quorum Court voted to name the village "Pine Bluff Town".
Pine Bluff was first incorporated on January 8, 1839. The village had around 50 residents at the time of incorporation. Improved transportation facilities resulted in population growth during the 1840s and 1850s.
The outbreak of the Civil War slowed the progress of Pine Bluff. Union troops under Colonel Powell Clayton arrived on September 17, 1863, and stayed at Pine Bluff until the war ended. Pine Bluff struggled as an overcrowded refugee center after the Emancipation Proclamation (1863) freed slaves and they began to flock to the city.
Following the war, Pine Bluff recovered with the construction of railroads and the increased production of cotton. The first railroad reached Pine Bluff in December 1873. On March 31, 1883, the first telephone system was placed in Pine Bluff. The first mule-drawn street car line was built by Wiley Jones in October 1886.
Today, Pine Bluff is one of the largest cities in the state. The city’s history is depicted in a variety of museums and historic homes. An outstanding collection of historical murals depicted throughout downtown Pine Bluff has resulted in increased tourism. Pine Bluff also is famous for the Pine Bluff Arsenal, a major facility committed to the demolition of chemical weapons.
The Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical and Normal College for Negroes opened in 1875. It is now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, the second largest public university in the state.
The Pine Bluff Convention Center is the state's largest meeting facility, featuring the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame. The Band Museum, housed in an 1890 building, is the only museum in America devoted to band instruments and music. The Arkansas Railroad Museum is located in the Old Cotton Belt Shops. The old Union Station now houses the Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Historical Museum.
The Jefferson Regional Medical Center, the fourth largest in Arkansas, serves 11 counties in the Pine Bluff area.