Local resident recalls uncovering piece of 'Paragould Meteorite'

At 94 years old, George Hyde well recalls the day he and local resident Raymond Parkinson found an 80-pound chunk of the "Paragould Meteorite."

According to Hyde, the meteorite, which crashed at approximately 4:08 a.m. on Feb. 17, 1930, was something of a mystery until he and Parkinson discovered it later in the day.

"You never heard any louder thunder or never saw any brighter lightning that than," Hyde said. "It really made a terrible racket."

Hyde, who was 21 at the time, stated that no one knew what had happened when it crashed.

"We didn't know what it was," Hyde said. "We didn't know nothing about meteors."

The next day, Hyde and Parkinson went out to find the cause of the commotion.

What they found, was an 80-pound portion of a meteorite that landed just southwest of Finch in the Poland Township.

"It lodged into the ground pretty quick," Hyde said. "It threw dirt a long ways."

According to Hyde, the meteorite created a three-and-a-half foot crater in the ground of Parkinson's pasture.

After finding the meteorite, Hyde, Parkinson and another local farmer named Tom Gill, spent approximately half the day digging it out of the ground with shovels.

After digging it out, Hyde said that Parkinson allowed local teacher L.V. Rhine to take a look at the meteorite.

He added, however, that Rhine kept the meteorite, which eventually led to a fist fight between Parkinson and Rhine.

"It sure was something to talk about," Hyde said of the meteorite. "It was the talk for at least a year or so."

After the initial discovery, a larger 800-pound portion of the meteorite was found on the property of Joe Fletcher.

Although Hyde said he never saw the larger meteorite, he was acquainted with individuals involved with its excavation and eventual sale to meteorite collector Harvey Nininger for $3,600.

Nininger then sold the relic -- which is the third largest meteorite ever discovered -- to the Field Museum of Natural Science located in Chicago.

Currently, an effort to bring the meteorite back to Paragould is being led by Larry Hancock. According to Bettye Busby, president of the Greene County Historical and Genealogical Society, the organization is looking into the possibility of finding a museum to house such relics.

However, according to Hancock, after a suitable home for the displaying of the meteorite is found, the Field Museum -- which is currently lending the meteorite to the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville -- must be petitioned. For this reason, local support is essential.

Busby stated that the historical society will hold a meeting at 7 p.m. on April 8 at the Greene County Community Center.

The meeting was originally scheduled to be held at First Presbyterian Church, but has been moved due to overwhelming interest in the subject.

All individuals who would like to see Greene County have its own museum are encouraged to attend the event and voice their opinions.

Man trying to return meteorite to Paragould

 A Missouri man with Paragould ties is leading an effort to bring the "Paragould meteorite" back to Paragould while another group is working to establish a museum to showcase such historical jewels of Paragould and Greene County.

The Paragould meteorite came crashing down to Earth on February 17, 1930, when according to historic accounts "a bright streak of light shot across the dark morning sky disappearing over Paragould."

Later it was discovered that a meteorite had entered the Earth's atmosphere and exploded into three pieces before it crashed to the ground near the Finch community.

Two pieces of the meteorite were recovered, one of which weighed about 185 pounds. The other larger mass weighed just over 800 pounds. Some accounts say the crater formed by the larger meteorite was buried 9-feet in clay on a hillside. Not long after the meteorite came crashing down near Finch, meteorite hunter H.H. Nininger bought the larger mass. Later he sold it for a profit to the Field Museum in Chicago, Ill.

The Field Museum still owns the mass, which has been dubbed the "Paragould meteorite." The meteorite has been on loan to the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville for about 15 years.

Larry Hancock, a Sikeston, Mo., resident who grew up in Paragould and in the Finch community, said he is bothered by the fact that a U of A professor is trying to make Fayetteville the permanent home of the Paragould meteorite.

Derek Sears, director of the Center for Space and Planetary Sciences at the university, has plans for the meteorite.

In a few months the meteorite will be moved to the Arkansas-Oklahoma Center for Space and Planetary Sciences' new facility on the U of A campus. The meteorite apparently will be a central point of interest for the building where it will contribute to research and teaching of meteorite researchers and searchers.

"The more I thought about this the more it troubled me. If the meteorite is given or permanently loaned to anyone in Arkansas it seems historic justice that it is returned to Paragould and the citizens thereof," Hancock noted.

Hancock also realizes that without a place to display the meteorite, chances are slim that the Field Museum will allow the meteorite be returned to Greene.

The Greene County Historical and Genealogical Society has scheduled a public meeting for April 8 at the First Presbyterian Church in Paragould to draw out individuals interested in establishing a museum.

On the night of the meeting a woman instrumental in the establishment of both the Osceola and the Forrest City museums will be on hand to answer questions.

Norma Addison of the GCHGS told The Sun members of the organization have wanted a museum for many years. However a lack of funding and no building have been major deterrents.

Addison noted the primary reason behind establishing a museum is to keep items of significance to Greene County's history in Greene County.

The April 8 meeting will give GCGHS members an idea of how many people in Greene County want a museum, Addison said.

She is hopeful money and-or a building will come with the support of the community.

"Everyone I have talked to has been supportive," Addison said, adding "we must have the community behind us or we can't do this."

Also, once the museum has been established, Addison says the group will look into various grants that might be available for the local museum.

Addison understands the process will be slow going.

"Sometimes you have to start out small," she said hoping that at least a small space will become available to display pieces of Greene memorabilia.

She noted former Arkansas governor and Paragould resident Junius Marion Futrell's house still stands in Paragould. "That would be a neat place for the museum," she said.

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