Fulton County was formed on December 21, 1842, and named for William Fulton, the last governor of the Arkansas Territory.
The first legally recognized white resident of Fulton County, William P. Morris, used his land grant to acquire 160 acres in the present Salem area in the 1830s. Fulton County was created on December 21, 1842, by the state legislature, carving out part of Izard County and present-day Baxter County. William P. Morris officially donated the land to be used as a county seat on July 4, 1844. The town became known as Pilot Hill because of the large hill overlooking the flat land between the South Fork River and the local creek. According to Goodspeed's Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Northeast Arkansas, the first courthouse was a one-room log cabin. It was replaced with a larger log structure containing a courtroom and clerk's office.
The American Civil War made a huge impact on Fulton County. Settlers who lived in the rocky uplands of the county did not own slaves, but the settlers living along the fertile valleys of the rivers and creeks did. On May 27, 1861, citizens at Pilot Hill organized a company of 108 home guards to protect the local people. However, residents joined both Confederate and Union forces. On March 12, 1862, the realities of war were brought home as Union cavalry forces crossed the Missouri state line and established themselves at Spring River Mill (now Mammoth Spring) after engaging a squad of Confederates.
From the ashes of war, Fulton County began to grow again and to develop small towns and communities. Some of these communities still exist as a local church, post office branch, or convenience store; others simply faded away. These unincorporated communities include Agnos, Bexar, Byron, (Indian) Camp, Draft, Elizabeth, Fairview, Flint Springs, Frenchtown, Fryatt, Gepp, Glencoe, Heart, Kittle, Many Islands, Mitchell, Moko, Morriston, Mt. Calm, Ott, Pickren Hall, Ruth, Pilot, Saddle (a.k.a. Sharp's Mill, South Fork), Shady Grove, State Line, Sturkie, Union, Vidette, Wheeling, and Wild Cherry.
Each community had its own general store, two or three churches, a school, and a cemetery. Salem, as county seat, had established a bank, mortuary, and several law offices and doctor's offices in the early 1900s. Mammoth Spring, due to its location at the head of the Spring River, attracted a railroad line in the early 1880s and, in about 1887, created an electric power dam on the river. However, the economy remained largely agrarian, with many small farms scattered across the countryside. Farmers grew cotton and corn as cash crops, raised hogs and cattle for market and personal consumption, and relied heavily upon gardens to supplement their diet.