Willis S. Pruet
by Tricia Young
Willis S. Pruet was born in Roane County, Tennessee, on the 27th day of September 1829. He was the son of Willis and Polly Williams Pruet. His father was a farmer and speculator and was quite successful. He died Memphis in 1851 while on a business trip. His mother died in 1860 in Greene County, Arkansas. The family consisted of fifteen children, nine of whom lived to adulthood. The great-grandparents were natives of Virginia and North Carolina, and were early settlers of Tennessee.
Willis S. Pruet came to Greene County in 1857 and located about four miles south of what is now Paragould. He built a small cabin which burned; he then put up a good log home (present day appearance below) in which he lived until 1869.
When he first arrived, he had $1.50, but he began acquiring land through industry and perseverance. In 1851, he married Elizabeth Tucker, a native of Alabama, by whom he had three children: Julia, Sarah and Theresa.
In 1862, Willis enlisted in his brother Charles' company and served for three years of the Civil War. He was at the battles of Farmington, Murfreesboro, Richmond, Shiloh and Jackson, MS, and carried his brother, who was severely wounded twice, from the battlefield.
After the war, he bought 271 acres along the railroad, which included much of the site on which Paragould now stands. Willis also owned about 600 acres outside of town. he built a home at what would now be 627 W. Garland Street. It was built in the Southern style of logs with a detached kitchen and a dogtrot passageway through the center of the house and a narrow stairway leading upstairs. As the town grew, Will decided to move this home in the 1890s. He selected a site at the top of the hill of South 7th Street and South Vine which was the town's southern boundary. The house was moved as far as South 7th and Kingshighway, when the moving equipment broke down and the house could not be moved up the hill. The house was set on a lot on the southeast corner of Kingshighway where it is today, the oldest house in Paragould. Underneath the white siding and beneath the floors are the logs of the original home. The home was later owned by the daughter, Theresa, and her husband, Seth Deakin, then by the Deakin's daughter, Mary, and her husband, W. T. Horton. Mrs. Horton was the last direct survivor of the Pruet families who came to Greene County.
W.S. Pruet yielded a tract of land for downtown Paragould, the courthouse square, to help secure the county seat, and the land for the First Methodist Church. However, when the construction of businesses reached North 3rd Street, the boundary of Pruet's cow pasture, Mr. Pruet refused to yield more land for the extension of Main Street. Merchants then began building on Pruet Street, thus making it the main downtown thoroughfare. The name seems to have been spelled with one "t" until about 1935. No one seems to remember when the change occurred or who was responsible.
Two other Pruet brothers also came to Greene County: Charles and Robert. Charles was the brother W.S. saved in the Civil War. All three brothers actually bought for the Confederacy but Robert became ill and had to return home. In 1870, Charles and Robert began a partnership in a mercantile store on Charles' farm. Charles moved the business to town in 1882 and operated it until his death in 1887. He also operated a cotton gin on his farm where he was engaged in stock raising. He was married to Irene McElwee and had no offspring.
Robert Pruet purchased 160 acres of land in St Francis Township which is now fully in the city of Paragould. In 1879, Charles and Robert deeded one acre of their farm for the site of Pruet's Chapel Methodist Church. Robert and his wife gave the pulpit furniture to the church. All three Pruet brothers were listed as members. Robert, Charles, and their wives are buried in Pruet's Chapel Cemetery. Charles died in 1887, Willis in 1907 (buried in Linwood Cemetery) and Robert died in 1909.
The house pictured above is located at the corner of 7th Street and West Kingshighway (US 412). Wood siding covers the original logs.
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