The City of Conway was founded by A. P. Robinson, who came to Conway shortly after the Civil War. Robinson was the chief engineer for the Little Rock-Fort Smith Railroad (now the Union-Pacific). Part of his compensation was the deed to a tract of land, one square mile, located near the old settlement of Cadron. When the railroad came through, Robinson deeded a small tract of his land back to the railroad for a depot site. He laid off a town site around the depot and named it Conway Station, in honor of a famous Arkansas family. Conway Station contained two small stores, two saloons, a depot, some temporary housing and a post office.
Conway was designated the county seat of Faulkner County in 1873, the same year that the county was created by the legislature. In October 1875, Conway was incorporated and, at that time, had a population of approximately 200. When originally incorporated in 1875, Conway was just one square mile surrounding Conway Station on the Little Rock and Fort Smith Branch of the Cairo and Fulton Railroad. By 1959, Conway encompassed 6.9 square miles.
During the next 30 years Conway grew rapidly annexing a total of 15.4 square miles. During the 1990’s grew even faster, adding 12.2 square miles. Conway now encompasses approximately 40 square miles. Almost all area annexed has been through petition by the property owners.
For many years Conway flourished as a trade center for a large rural agricultural area. Hendrix College was established in Conway in 1890. Three years later, in 1893, Central College for Girls was established, and Conway was on its way to becoming an educational center. The University of Central Arkansas was founded in Conway in 1907 as the Arkansas Normal School. Its economy was firmly established upon agriculture and the educational institutions until World War II.
After the war, diversification of the economy was started by Conway businessmen, and several small industries were attracted to Conway. Subsequently, additional state institutions were located in Conway, including the headquarters for the Office of Emergency Services, the Human Development Center, and the Arkansas Educational Television Network.