As legend has it, it was a day in 1542 when Hernando DeSoto ordered a mutinous
follower hanged from an oak tree near an artesian spring in the Territory of the
Grand Caddoes. Little did he know that less than a half-hour march to the South
was the site of a city which, 400 years later, would boast 60,000 in population,
would lie squarely in two states, would be named for three states, would be
the focal point of four, and would be the crossroads of the entire Southwest.
As early as 1840, rudiments of a permanent settlement in the old Caddo Territory
began to take form and, shortly thereafter, the stamp of official approval was
awarded in the form of a post office. The location of this institution was at Lost Prairie,
some 15 miles east of the present site of Texarkana.
Railroads were quick to see the possibilities of this vast new territory and, in the
late 1850s, the builders of the Cairo and Fulton Railroad were pushing their
railhead steadily across Arkansas. By 1874, they had crossed Red River and were
at the Texas state line. Between February 16 and March 19, 1874, trains ran
between the Texas state boundary and Red River, where passengers and freight
were ferried across to Fulton, to continue by rail to their destinations. The Red River
Bridge was opened on March 20, 1874, and from that date, trains have run directly from Texarkana to St. Louis.
Keen rivalry was the vogue among railroad builders in the 1870's. Among the pioneer railroads was the Texas and Pacific which stretched its steel ribbons across the vastness of the State of Texas to the Arkansas line. It was only logical that the point at which two railroads converged would be ideal for a city. Consequently, the Texas and Pacific Railroad sold the first town lots on December 8, 1873. The first lot, bought by a J.W. Davis, is the present-day location of Hotel McCartney, directly opposite Union Station.
Although many have contended for the honor, it is not known officially who gave Texarkana its name. One popular version credits a Colonel Gus Knobel who, surveying the Iron Mountain Railroad right-of-way from Little Rock to this section, came to the state line, marked the name "TEX-ARK-ANA" on a board and nailed it to a tree with the statement, "This is the name of a town which is to be built here." It was believed at the time that the Louisiana boundary was just a few miles to the south (actually it is thirty miles), and Colonel Knobel, in selecting the city's name, derived it from TEXas, ARKansas, and LouisiANA.
- Adapted version courtesy of Texarkana Chamber of Commerce
2015 KTBS Rick Rowe Segment Chamber of Commerce newsreel produced in the mid 50s