The city was founded by Canaanites and was named Kiriath Arba. Apparently the town was named after a man named Arba, who was the father of Anak- the ancestor of the Anakites. It was a group of Anakites (descendants of Anak) who lived in the area that founded the town and gave it the name "The city of Arba" (a literal interpretation of the meaning).
Age of the Patriarchs
At one point or another a forest grew at Arba and was called the Forest of Mamre. After Abraham and Lot separated he pitched his tent near the Forest. There he built an altar to God. Abraham lived here all the way until the death of his wife Sarah. After his wife Sarah died, Abraham used Hittite mediators to negotiate to buy the property of a man named Ephron. Ephron owned a cave that was desirable for Abraham to bury his wife's corpse. After being offered the land for free, Abraham refused to take it off Ephron for free. So Abraham payed the full price of four hundred shekels of silver and he designated the whole area around the cave a burial site
It seems there was a Hittite colony or population at the time of his inhabitance.
Isaac's and Jacob's Homestead
Isaac had lived in the Forest of Mamre along with his father. While he and his father moved away, after Abraham's death Isaac returned to the area. After Isaac died Jacob stayed in the area for sometime. It is likely that his twelve sons grew up in the area. When his sons became adults they spread out in the nearby area.
Wars Against Israel
Sometime afterwards Levi had a son named Kohath who in turn had a son named Hebron. From Hebron stemmed the Levite, Hebronite Clan who would eventually populate the city. Until such time though the city remained as Kiriath-Arba. The Hebronite Clan, along with the rest of Israel for a large period of time was nomadic and wandering in the desert.
Finally God told Israel to conquest the promised land of Canaan, and the city of Arba was included. When the King of Jebus (Jerusalem), Adonizedek heard of Israel's attacks, he asked the Kings of three other cities asides from Arba to join forces with him. The city's king, Hoham obliged and so mustering up the city-states militia marched out against Israel. The forces of the city along with all the other Amorites were defeated and forced Hoham to flee to a cave. Afterwards Hoham was killed by Joshua.
WIth the army of the city defeated and the King killed the city was left without any defense and little leadership. Shortly afterwards Joshua came up and attacked the city. Everyone was killed in the city and its surrounding villages (such as Mamre) and it was left totally destroyed.