Greene County, Arkansas

Long Time Resident of County has seen many things change.

Transcribed by Melissa Jones Hogan, 28 October 2004

Daily Press

Thursday, March 3, 1983


By Kitty Sloan

Daily Press

J.D. Jones of Brown's Chapel community carries at least 80 years of history in his head. "I have seen all the new inventions take place, from not a car in town to nothing but cars," he commented.

Jones will be 84 this month and his earliest recollection is of Paragould's last public hanging "on the west side of the jail" in 1904.

"I was 5 years old and Daddy had me by the hand," he recalled recently. "It was the biggest crowd of people I've ever seen in Paragould. Some were laughing, some were cussing, some were crying. It was the kind of thing you can remember longer than anything if you had seen it."

But Jones would prefer to talk about other memories. He has seen a lot, remembers much of it and remembers, too stories from even earlier times told him by his father, Jonathan S. Jones, Jr., especially those about his grandfather, the senior Jonathan Shelby Jones, whose kiln supplied the bricks used the build the Greene County Courthouse in 1888, the old jail "and many other building on Pruett Street," according to the grandson.

Jones has family ties to John Osteen, the county judge who signed the Paragould incorporation order that is being celebrated at tonight's centennial activities. Osteen was married to Jones' aunt. Jones was 9 years old when the uncle died in 1908, but remembers him fondly. "Everyone spoke well of him."

The retired farmer and railroad worker has lived near Brown's Chapel most of his life, except for a year spent working in a Flint, Mich., auto factory in 1926 -- "I didn't like the place and came back home." -- and a year spent in Paragould when he was about 10 years old. During that year, he said, he lived on Fourteenth Street next door to Marion Futrell, who was later elected governor of Arkansas, and near Add Grayson, a county sheriff and livery stable owner, and Albert Snowden, who was Paragould postmaster.

He reels off names and dates, too fast for a reporter to write out direct quotations: Jake Lambert ran the first dray wagon in Paragould. Dick Jones built Hotel Vandervoort, 1915. The Bertig Building where the Heritage is now was built in 1909 with two stories but burned down the first year and was rebuilt with three stories. Ducks used to flock to Paragould "like blackbirds" because water stood all summer and the east side of the railroad tracks was "just about all a lake" until Eight Mile ditch was dug out by Lewis Mayo to drain the land and that shifted residential development from the west to the east. The Gainesville courthouse was on a hill about a mile west of the present highway and after the county seat was moved to Paragould in 1884 the old town "just began to dwindle away" even though "a lot of them didn't want to leave Gainesville."

Jones saw his first automobile in Memphis in 1909 and can't remember exactly when he saw his first one here. Paragould didn't pave its streets until 1916, he said, and the dirt streets would get so muddy those early car owners would just "shut their cars up in the winter."

Jones said his "Grandpa Jones" moved to Greene County about 1850 from Alabama. He chartered a steamboat in Selma, Ala., and shipped his belongings by way of New Orleans to Memphis and then overland to Arkansas, settling in the area now known as Brown's Chapel. Jonathon Jones built "a house on the order of a southern plantation," two stories with three brick chimneys and six rooms, the grandson recalled. He was one of the wealthiest landowners in the area and donated 20 acres for the Brown's Chapel church and cemetery according to the grandson.

Jones said his grandfather built the first store, a general merchandise business, on Main Street, the building where City Office Supplies is now located. "Some of them might deny him building the first store," Jones conceded. "He built a dwelling house west of the store on the corner of Fourth and Main streets. He gave it to his daughter who had married John Osteen."

"Grandpa Jones" owned two brick kilns, on at Brown's Chapel and the other on Court Street near where the community center is now located, he continued, "He sold the brick to his son-in-law John Osteen to build the courthouse and jail and many other buildings on Pruett Street."

"John Slatton, my granddaddy on my mother's side owned a tread-wheel cotton gin run by horses and cattle southwest of Finch on Poplar Creek over a hundred years ago. Back then, they had to haul their cotton to Forrest City or Memphis for a market," he wrote in a brief hand-written history he brought with him to the Daily Press office.

Slatton and Osteen both served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War, he noted, pulling from his bag of pictures a newspaper copy of a composite of Confederate veterans.

"I could write a book on Paragould but got too many miles on me," he concluded.

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