Bentonville: A Brief History
Bentonville has grown from a farming community to the home of the world’s largest retailer. Sam Walton, who started with a small store on the town square, built a retail giant and kept the Wal-Mart headquarters in Bentonville. It is now one of the fastest-growing towns in the nation. Some parts of the city are changing quickly, but preserved and restored buildings on the square and in adjoining neighborhoods help to maintain the look and feel of the historic town.
In the late 1800’s, Bentonville was named in honor of Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri. Tobacco-related businesses were operating in Bentonville in the 1870s and 1880s when tobacco production in the county far surpassed that of any other county in the state. Tobacco production declined in the 1890s as falling tobacco prices forced farmers to switch to other cash crops. Apples were the most successful.
As the apple industry weakened, the chicken broiler business proved to be a successful alternative. By 1934, more broilers were raised in Benton County than in any other county in Arkansas. Railroads and other businesses that had been important to the success of the fruit industry were adapted for the poultry industry.
In 1950, Sam Walton bought the Harrison Variety Store on the town square. He remodeled the building and opened Walton’s 5 and 10 Variety Store on March 18, 1951. In 1969, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. began building a warehouse and a general office.