Here are five historical facts about the founding of Van Buren that you may not have known:
• The area that became Van Buren began as a land claim on the Arkansas River owned in the 1820s by Revolutionary War veteran James Phillips and his two sons, Thomas Phillips and Daniel David Phillips. The site, named Phillips Landing, became a busy port over the next several decades.
• The Phillips family established the future town’s earliest business enterprises: a fuel depot/wood yard for steamers, as well as the first post office, which opened in 1831 with Thomas Phillips as postmaster. The post office was named after the U.S. Secretary of State (and later president), Martin Van Buren.
• John Drennen and his brother-in-law David A. Thompson, transplanted Tennessee businessmen, established a ferry service just south of Van Buren and in 1836 bought the Phillips site. Drennen was appointed postmaster and had the land surveyed and the streets platted.
• As part of the bustling merchant center that was Crawford County, Van Buren served northwest Arkansas to Fayetteville and Indian Territory to the west. Steamboats carried goods from New Orleans, La., and Cincinnati, Ohio, and exported Arkansas crops. Smugglers used Van Buren as a depot from which to carry whiskey into Cherokee country, bypassing military interference.
• Van Buren became the Crawford County seat in 1838, with the courthouse eventually situated on property donated by Drennen, and was incorporated in 1845.