Greene County Arkansas

Paragould, Arkansas

Centennial Edition Section 1

  Paragould Daily Press, Monday, August 29, 1983                                                                                                               Section 1, Centennial Edition --3         

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  In 1893, only 10 years after its incor-
poration, Paragould had a population
of 2,544 -- a special census had been
conducted that year to prove the town
had achieved the population needed to
rank as a second-class city.
  Fourteen years later, in 1907, when
the  city  conducted  another  special
census  to  gain  first-class  status, its
population had doubled to 5,122.
  Paragould   recorded   substantial
growth  during  those early years, as
its  location  on  two  railroads in the
midst  of  rich  timber  and  newly-
cleared farm land created a boom
economy that has not been repeated
since.
  Later population growth was to be
gradual, caused less by immigration
and more by natural increase and an-
nexation. And there would also be
population decline and stagnation
until the city and its county could es-
tablish a diversified agriculture-indus-
trial economic base.
  The earliest known Paragould cen-
sus is that of 1887, only four years
after the town's incorporation, when
the population was counted at 1,364. In 1890, Paragould participated in its
first official federal census.
   In 1889 when the Goodspeed Publishing Co. of Chicago printed its Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Northeast Arkansas, which included
chapters on Greene and 11 other counties, the compiler noted, "The town has grown rapidly, and in the seven years of its existence has attained a population of about 2,000."
   That estimate, like others that
would follow, proved to be optimistic
when the official 1890 total was tallied.
      In the 1909 Soliphone special issue
found elsewhere in this special edition, the editor estimated Paragould's popu-
lation to be about 6,000.
   "It may be a few hundred less or it
may be a few hundred more, but people
who claim seven or eight thousand are either ignorant of what the population is or else purposely exaggerate..... The federal census to be taken next year will not likely show the population to much in excess of 6,000 if any," he wrote. It was a good thing he added that final qualifier, for the 1910 official census fell several
hundred short of his estimate.
   Paragould   Up-to-date, a 1918
Chamber of Commerce-type publica-
tion, estimated the city's population at about 8,000. A 1928 industrial pro-motion brochure sponsored by the St. Louis Southwestern Railway included a 10,000 estimate. In 1957, the Chamber of Commerce estimated the city's pop-
ulation to be 11,000. As a quick check of the corresponding official census fig-ures shows, these estimates proved to be inflated.
   Goodspeed's also estimated that the
population of Greene County had
doubled. That estimate was a couple
of thousand off, but between1880 and
1890 the county's population did jump
dramatically.
   Paragould's first official census
showed that the new county seat con-
tained about 13 percent of the county's
population. That percentage of popula-
tion would grow steadily until the
most recent federal census, 1980,shows that just under half of the county's full population -- 49.5 percent --reside in its largest city.
   Until the economic boom that coin-
  cided with Paragould's early years,
there was no town in the county that
had more than 1,000 residents.Gaines-
ville's population in 1880 has been estimated at less than 300 and it was then the county seat and largest town. that says as much about the times as
about the towns.
   In the 1840 federal census, Greene
County's first, the whole county (which
then included a good portion of what
is now Clay County) included only 1,586 residents. During its first 100 years, the county experienced steady growth. The creation of Clay County in 1873 explains the drop in Greene County's population in the 1880 census.
   (The procreation of Arkansas coun-
ties makes the study of early census
figues tricky. Lawrence County,
known as the "Mother of Counties"
because about 30 other subdivisions
were carved from its original area,
had an 1820 population of 5,582. Several new counties were created from Lawrence in the intervening years, leaving it with an 1830 popu- lation of 2,806. After Greene and even more counties were carved off, Lawrence had an 1840 population of 2,835.)
   The population of both Greene County and Paragould continued to
 rise gradually until the 1920s. Para-gould suffered its first, and so far only, population loss in the 1930 census. In that same census the official county total increased by only 22 persons. Those were the Depression years and the economy was undoubtedly a prime
factor in the stagnation.
But the hard-times of later years
  would also chip away at the county's
population and it is only now regain-
ing what it lost. Between 1940 and
1980, Greene County registered a gain
of only 540 persons. The post-World
War II years had seen a devastating
decline in the county's population as it
dipped almost to 1910 levels. The
changing economics of agriculture
meant fewer workers were needed in
the fields, but the industrial base
hadn't kept pace and there were few
jobs for the displaced workers. Many
left for points North and West in
search of work.
   Paragould, while it has experienced
only one decennial population loss, did
not register any significant population
gains until 1980 and that was based
partly on its merger with Center Hill
and several other property annexa-
tions. Between 1950 and 1960, for in-
stance, the city gained only about 300
residents.
Researcher's Note: Because of conflicting data and the chance of typo-graphical errors, census figures are sometimes hard to pin down. For instance, Vivian Hansbrough's History
of Greene County cited a special 1893
census of 2,528 while the records filed
with the secretary of state's office in-
cluded the 2,544 figure. Goodspeed's
listed slightly different county census
totals for the early county years than
did another historical source. Other
discrepancies were also found, so the
charted figures sometimes involved a
judgment on the reliability of the source
Even today the federal government releases so many preliminary and final census versions that it's hard to keep the numbers straight.

 

Page 4 Section 1

Transcribed from the 1983 Centennial Edition by : PR Massey

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