When settlers from the east began to arrive in south Arkansas, the land was inhabited by the indigenous tribe known as the Quapaw. The earliest cession of territory was made in 1818, with a later boundary against the neighboring Choctaw tribe in 1820, opening up the southeastern corner of the Arkansas Territory for settlement. Although the area had been settled by European-Americans for about thirty years, the city itself was not incorporated until 1851. Tradition says the city is named after a former slave, freed by Captain Hugh Bradley, the namesake of the county and leader of the main early settlement party which established the city. The original plat was laid out on land donated by Isaac Pennington, a key member of Bradley's company.