Although French Roman Catholic priests had worked as missionaries among the Indians since the early 18th century, the state's first mission was founded among the Cherokee by a Congregationalist, Cephas Washburn, in 1820. When the Cherokee were removed to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma), the mission moved there as well, remaining active through the Civil War. William Patterson may have been the first Methodist to preach in Arkansas, around 1800, in the area of Little Prairie: the first Methodist circuit, that of Spring River, was organized in 1815. The first Baptist church was likely that of the Salem congregation, begun in 1818 near what is now Pochahontas.
The vast majority of religious adherents in the state belong to Evangelical Protestant congregations. The largest denomination is the Southern Baptist Convention, which had 685,301adherents in 1,372 congregations in 2000. The American Baptist Association had 115,916 adherents and 570 congregations and the Baptist Missionary Association of America had 87,244 adherents and 359 congregations. The Churches of Christ claimed 86,342 adherents in 754 congregations.
The leading mainline Protestant group in 2000 was the United Methodist Church, with 179,383 adherents in 747 congregations. The Roman Catholic population of Arkansas was 115,967 with 130 congregations. The estimated Jewish population was 1,600.