Due to the Civil War, the town of Quitman, which was named after Mexican War Brigadier General, John Anthony Quitman, did not begin major development until 1849 when William Lay established a cotton gin, then a grist mill. William Garner established the first mercantile in 1856, and the Mason Family established Holland Lodge No. 158. Many men of the town had enlisted in the Confederate Tenth Arkansas Infantry, with Company A known as the Quitman Rifles. The town was not officially laid out until 1868 when W.C. Rollow founded the first hotel.
In 1869, the Quitman Male and Female Institute was founded, later being renamed the Quitman Male and Female College. The College, referred to as the “Athens of Arkansas,” while struggling with finances, was closed in 1898, and the buildings and grounds were turned over to the public school authorities.
In 1880, Quitman was the home to eight merchants, a blacksmith, a cotton gin, two physicians, a carding factory, and a number of other businesses. By 1890, Quitman was a well-established community, with its business section having added a wood-working shop, a drugstore, a furniture store, and a sawmill. In 1890, a state of the art roller mill was constructed, drawing customers from miles around to have their grain milled into flour.
The first public school was opened in 1868, and today Quitman has a student population of 643, grades K-12. As of 2011, Quitman had a total population of 761, and more than 100 registered businesses