Hensley is an unincorporated community in southern Pulaski County. Highway 365 runs through Hensley, connecting with Interstate 530 at the southern edge of the community.
The origins of Hensley begin with William and Harriet Campbell, who came to Arkansas Territory from Indiana in 1835. Planning at first to live in Hot Springs (Garland County), they instead acquired land in southern Pulaski County and northern Jefferson County. Their first home was in White Bluff (Jefferson County) on the Arkansas River, but Campbell—with his business partner John Pennington—bought 320 acres of land and built a sawmill on Campbell Bayou in Pulaski County. He then harvested cypress, oak, and pine trees from his property, hauling the timber three miles to the Arkansas River to be assembled into rafts and floated to market in New Orleans, Louisiana. Campbell also built a house near the sawmill for his family. He and his wife had eight children.
In the 1850s, Campbell became active in local politics, eventually being elected Pulaski County judge in 1854. Campbell served in this position for three two-year terms, reducing the expenses of county government through efficiency and reform. He was described by the Arkansas Gazette in 1858 as “an honest, energetic, wise, and a provident judge.” Campbell chose not to run for a fourth term in 1860, devoting his time to farming his cleared land. He died at home on November 14, 1863.
William B. Hensley, a Confederate veteran, came to Arkansas in 1868 and married Campbell’s daughter Rosanna in January 1870. Hensley rented and farmed the Campbell land and also bought adjacent farmland. Rosanna died in 1871, and Hensley married Nora Harris in 1881. Hensley then built a two-story log house near the Campbell home. Around this time, the Little Rock, Mississippi River and Texas Railway was built connecting Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). The railroad ran through Hensley’s land, and a depot was built there with the name Hensley Station. A post office, named Hensley, was established at the depot in January 1882.
Hensley died in August 1891, but his widow continued to maintain the land until her death in 1953. By the middle of the twentieth century, automobile traffic began to displace train traffic through the area, although the Missouri Pacific Railroad still used the line running through Hensley. (Since 1982, the line has belonged to Union Pacific.) Highway 65 was built through the area in 1926. In 1999, the section connecting Little Rock to Pine Bluff became Interstate 530.
As an unincorporated community, Hensley was not distinguished by the U.S. Census until 2000, when it counted 150 residents. In 2010, the count had dropped to 139, of whom 105 were African American and twenty-seven were white.
Businesses in Hensley in 2010 included ten churches, one bank, two hardware stores, one café, one restaurant, and various firms associated with home construction. Hensley is the home of Andy Mayberry, a member of the Arkansas General Assembly and, in 2014, a candidate for lieutenant governor of Arkansas.
For additional information:
Adams, Hilda Hicks. “The Campbells Came to Arkansas Hurrah! Hurrah!” Pulaski County Historical Review 35 (Fall 1987): 50–59.
Butler Center for Arkansas Studies