Newport is located approximately 90 miles northeast of Little Rock and 50 miles southwest of Jonesboro. Located along the White River, the area that would eventually become Newport was used by Native Americans to cross the river. Several tribes, including the Choctaw and Quapaw, called the area home centuries before its establishment as a thriving river town.
Although not officially incorporated until 1875, Newport began growing in the years leading up to the Civil War as steamboats plowed up and down the White River. In 1892, Newport became the county seat of Jackson County. The river, along with railroads, played a significant part in the town’s prosperity and by the first decade of the 20th century, Newport was home to an opera house, several saloons, hotels, banks and a variety of shops. From 1900 to 1920, Newport was the center of the fresh pearl market and a leader in the pearl button industry.
In 1942, military families from throughout the country relocated to Newport and the Newport Air Base. After closing in 1946, the base was deeded to the city and used to recruit new businesses to the growing burg. During the 1950s, Jackson County was recognized as one of the wealthiest counties in the United States, causing a young Sam Walton to move to the town and open his first retail store, a Ben Franklin five-and-dime.
With a rich history tied to the river it sits alongside, Newport is home to ten listings on the National Register of Historic Places, including the county courthouse, the Iron Mountain Depot and the county jail, as well as the Newport Bridge that spans the White River.
Newport is located along routes used by U.S. Generals Steele and Curtis’s Approaches during the second phase of the Pea Ridge Campaign and Confederate General John Sappington Marmaduke’s approach to Helena. These, along with other historic Civil War routes and significant movements as the Trail of Tears and the Southwest Trail, are now part of the Arkansas Heritage Trails System.
Newport offers a plethora of activities for the outdoor enthusiast to enjoy, including hunting, fishing and boating. History buffs will want to check out Jacksonport State Park and the Jackson Memorial Museum of Funeral Service. Learn more about the history of Newport’s pearling industry at Pearls Unique. For doll lovers, a trip to Newport wouldn’t be complete without a stop at Arnett’s Doll Museum.