About This Place
West Memphis is the largest city in Crittenden County, Arkansas, United States. The population was 27,666 at the 2000 census, with an estimated population of 28,181 in 2005, and 31,329 in 2011 ranking it as the state's 11th largest city, behind Hot Springs. It is considered part of the Memphis metropolitan area, and is located directly across the Mississippi River from Memphis.
In the summer of 1541, Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto crossed the Mississippi River into what is now Crittenden County with an army of over 300 conquistadors and almost as many captured Native American slaves. The Spanish found the land to be the most densely populated that they had seen since starting their journey on the Florida coast, two years earlier. The Spanish expedition departed Arkansas two years later leaving behind numerous old world diseases. It was one hundred and thirty years before Europeans visited this region again. The French expedition of Joliet and Marquette in 1673 found none of the towns or people that the Spanish had documented. All that remained were the many mounds that still dot the landscape along the rivers and creeks. The original inhabitants, like the later settlers were drawn to this region because of its fertile river bottom soil, abundant game, and thick forest.
The earliest recorded immigrant to the area that is now West Memphis, Benjamin Foy, was a native of Holland who was sent in 1795 by the Spanish governor of the large area claimed by Spain to establish a settlement on the Mississippi River. He chose a location across the river from present day Memphis, Tennessee. In 1797 the hamlet, designated Foy’s Point, took the name Camp de la Esperanza or as translated, Field of Hope. The name remained but took on an English name, “Hopefield,” when it became part of the United States with the completion the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Benjamin Foy was named to the new position of United States Magistrate of the region. Foy, noted for his honest character and extensive knowledge of the country, ran a clean and lawful town with a bright future until his death 1823.