Jonesboro is a city in and one of the two county seats of Craighead County, Arkansas, United States. According to the 2010 US Census, the population of the city was 67,263. A college town, Jonesboro is the largest city in northeastern Arkansas and the fifth most populous city in the state. It is the principal city of and is included in the Jonesboro, Arkansas Metropolitan Statistical Area. In 2010, the Jonesboro metropolitan area had a population of 121,026 and an estimated population (2009) of 161,135 in the Jonesboro-Paragould Combined Statistical Area.
Jonesboro is home to Arkansas State University and is a regional center for manufacturing, agriculture, medicine, education, and trade.
The Jonesboro area was first inhabited by Indian tribes which included the Osage, the Caddo, and the Quapaw. The name of the state of Arkansas actually comes from the Quapaw language. American settlers eventually made their way to the area where Jonesboro is located and began exploring, hunting, trapping, and trading with the local Indian tribes. A permanent settlement of Jonesboro was set up shortly after 1815.
In 1859, land was taken from nearby Greene, Mississippi, and Poinsett counties and was used to form Craighead County. Jonesboro was the original county seat, and later Lake City was named as the second seat. The population of the city at the time was 150. Jonesboro was named after State Senator William A. Jones in recognition of his support in the legislature for the formation of Craighead County. Originally spelled Jonesborough, it was later shortened to its present day spelling.
During the late 19th century, the city tried to develop its court system and downtown infrastructure. Shortly after being named county seat, the highest point in Jonesboro was selected and a court house was planned for construction. This was delayed for several years as the locals did not want to ruin their deer hunting. The first court house was finally completed but was destroyed by a fire in 1869. A store across from this site was then rented and used as a court house until it too was destroyed by fire in 1876. Another building was then constructed on the same site only to be consumed by fire in 1878. This fire destroyed most of downtown Jonesboro when it occurred. Soon afterwards, another court house was constructed and the structure still stands today in the city.
The Cotton Belt Railroad brought Jonesboro its first set of railroad tracks. These tracks were located just north of the center of the city and during the first train's voyage it became stuck and supplies had to be carried into town Other major railways began to construct tracks to and from Jonesboro including St. Louis-San Francisco Railway, Burlington Northern Railroad, and Missouri Pacific Railroad. Some of the rail companies still own and use the tracks that run through Jonesboro today.
Many entities established themselves in Jonesboro around and during the early 20th century. In 1899, the Jonesboro School District was set up in the city. In 1900, St. Bernard's Regional Medical Center was established by the Olivetan Benedictine Sisters. The first department store was opened in 1900 and its name was The Grand Leader Department Store. 1904 saw the establishment of Woodland College come and the opening of two more schools within the Jonesboro School District. Arkansas State College [presently called Arkansas State University] was established in 1909. and the first horseless carriages were seen in the city that same year. The two oldest churches still in the city today were started in the 1910s. First Baptist Church was established in 1911 and First Methodist Church was established in 1916.
On September 10, 1931, Governor Harvey Parnell authorized the Arkansas National Guard to be deployed in Jonesboro to quell the Church War, a clash between the followers of Joe Jeffers and Dow H. Heard, the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Jonesboro. Jeffer's adherents also attacked the mayor and police chief resulting in front page coverage of the incident in The New York Times.
The Westside Middle School massacre occurred on March 24, 1998 in a nearby unincorporated area of Craighead County. Two young boys (aged 11 and 13 years) fired upon students at Westside Middle School while hidden in woodlands near the school. Four students and one teacher were killed and ten injured.
In the 2007-2008 school year the Jonesboro Public School District elementary schools became magnet schools.
In 2010 Jonesboro E911 Dispatch center became the 1st in the state to offer TEXT 911 for emergency help.