The Bess Jenkins Club’s program theme for the year 2019-2020 is “Pine Bluff the Past, Present and the Future: 1839-2020.”


Lela R. Murray, Program Chairwoman, introduced the theme at the Sept. 10 meeting at the Pine Bluff Country Club, according to a news release.


The meeting was called to order by President Sandy Poore. Recording Secretary, Susan Westfall called the roll and read the minutes from the last meeting in May. Mary Lee Hall, treasurer, gave the financial report.


Murray also presented the program for September which included a brief history of Pine Bluff. She mentioned several establishments from the past that are still active today and her memories of growing up in and around Pine Bluff.


“Murray reported that this year, 2019, is the 200th anniversary of the first settler on the site which is Pine Bluff today,” according to the release. “Joseph Bonne, a trader and trapper was a mix of Quapaw and French ancestry. He settled on the high bluff of the Arkansas River, heavily forested with tall pine trees, in 1819. The settlement initiated by Bonne was officially named ‘The Town of Pine Bluff’ by the county court on October 16, 1832, but it was not incorporated until 1839, and it became the county seat of Jefferson County.”


“Some other early settlers were Joseph W. Bocage, John W. and James T. Pullen, James Scull, Antoine Barraque, and Ambrose Bartholomew. These men, as well as many others, contributed to our city of Pine Bluff,” according to the release.


“Some of the oldest businesses which are still in operation today include: The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, formerly Branch Normal College, founded in 1873; Southeast Arkansas College, evolving from Arkansas Vocational-Technical School, in operation since 1959; Simmons Bank held its first board meeting on January 19, 1903, and opened its doors on March 23, 1903; F. G. Smart was founded in 1906; and Trotter-Ford began operations in 1935. A newcomer, compared to the others, is Sissy’s Log Cabin which began in 1970 in a log cabin on the present-day site of the Pine Bluff Store. The Pine Bluff Commercial debuted on April 18, 1881, and is still in operation today with the new technology which allows its subscribers to read it online,” according to the release.


“The Jefferson County Courthouse, built in 1856, still sits at the head of Main Street. It survived the devastating fire of 1976. Its beautiful old bell tower and the central portion of the original courthouse were saved due to the heroic acts of the firefighter,” according to the release.


The year 1880 to 1900 was called the “The Golden Era of Pine Bluff.”


“Pine Bluff became a city of first class on February 11, 1885, by proving to the satisfaction of the secretary of state that the city had achieved a population of over 5,000,” according to the release.


Some people in Pine Bluff dream of returning the city to “the golden era” with the development of the Historic District, with plans that include the re-invention of Main Street, and the restoration of the Hotel Pines, Murray said.


The meeting was adjourned by Poore.