Corning Courthouses

First Courthouse

From the Clay County Courier:  "The Arkansas General Assembly, spurred by passes to the legislators that were handed out mid-March, organized Clayton county on March 24, 1873.  Three commissioners set the county seat at Corning and the first term of court was held here on March 16.  No courthouse had been built, but it was a cloudless day, in Spring, so the session convened under the trees of Young's Grove, later to become Court Square.

"Construction of a courthouse was authorized and a frame two room structure, 22 by 40 feet, materialized on Block 20 at the intersection of West First and Main.  The next Winter session found the Crowley Ridge part of the county cut off from Corning by the impassable Cache and Black Rivers and the roads that had no bottom.  To get to Corning those with court business had to travel the hill roads to Dexter, Missouri and take the C and F through Poplar Bluff to Corning.  They demanded that the county seat be more accessible and in the election of June 30, 1874, the vote for removal showed a majority of 316 the new county seat was to be moved to Boydsville, a new settlement on the Western rim of Crowley's Ridge."

The first courthouse was purchased in 1884 by M. L. Watts to become the general merchandise store known as "C. O. Watts & Co."  Mr. Watts was assisted by his daughter, Mrs. C. A. Crabtree, manager of the firm and by his younger children, Bill, John, Arthur Dell and Kate.

In 1912, the Courier reported, "Corning's oldest and greatest mercantile store, Oliver and Co., is operating in its new brick.  The store began business as C. O. Watts and Co. in 1884 in the abandoned 1873-1877 courthouse at First and Main.  Dr. Oliver married into the family in 1891 and the title became Oliver and Co. 1884 to 1911 makes a total of 27 years for Mrs. Mary L. Oliver in business on the corner."

Second Courthouse

Corning's second courthouse was built in 1881 and located on Court Square.  It served until 1900.  The Clay County Courier reported in 1894 that "the incomplete condition of the courthouse vault is becoming wearisome to everybody. The plastering and cement has never dried and never will. It is not properly done and must be scraped off and new cement of the right consistency put on. The vault is an absolute necessity for the preservation of the books and archives at once as they are now exposed to loss or destruction by fire."  Then, regarding the earthquake on July 18th of that year at 7:10 a.m.:  "And a dull rumbling noise, plainly to be heard and apparently coming from the Southeast. The sheriff was in the courthouse at the time and said that the whole thing rock and the woodwork cracked and the glass in the windows rattled. Even the large iron safe in the clerk's office which weighs seven or eight tons, vibrated."  Apparently, that was sufficient incentive to complete the vault, because later that year the Courier reported, "The courthouse vault is finished and the whole North side, first floor of the Courthouse is now the Clerk's office. "
Photo submitted by Danny Moore


This picture depicts the laying of the cornerstone in 1900 for the new brick courthouse that was to serve in court square until razed by fire in 1963.
Photo submitted by Danny Moore

Third Courthouse
Construction begun in 1899 and completed in 1900.  Burned 1963.

Frank D. Bennett to Marylea Vines.  Taken 1912.


Taken 1908.
Photos submitted by Mark Frazier


Firefighting, Corning, AR.  Fighting fire at Clay County Courthouse in Corning.  “Melvin Bland, Floyd Pence, James H. Rhodes”.  From J. V. Rockwell.
Photo submitted by Danny Moore


Courthouse burning in 1963.
Photo submitted by Danny Moore


All that remains of the Western District Courthouse following fire in 1963.
Photo submitted by Danny Moore

Fourth Courthouse

Built in 1963.
Photo submitted by Scot Stout

Updated 4 May 2012