| 'This is good enough'
Later pioneers found Ben Crowley's ridge 'good
| "This is good enough,"
old Benjamin Crowley is said to have
told his sons in the summer of 1821.
What was "good enough" was the site
of the first white settlement in Greene County -- a place where
the soil showed good prospects for cultivation, where abundant
game assured a family's susten-ance, where numerous springs
provided a refreshing and reliable water supply, where abundant
timber promised sturdy homes.
The land, part of the new Territory of Arkansas that had been
created when Missouri achieved statehood in 1819, was a portion
of the huge Louisiana Purchase that had been acquired by the
United States from France only 16 years earlier.
Land grants in the new region were
offered by the government to military
veterans, both as a payment for services
and an inducement to settlement. Ben Crowley, a surveyor, was
among those veterans staking his claim in the new land.
Born in Virginia and raised in Georgia, he had made his way west to
Kentucky by 1810. In about 1819, he and his large family crossed
the Mississippi and traveled through Missouri to Arkansas, down
the west side of Black River along the only mail route then in
the state, which ran from Arkansas Post to St. Louis. The family
stopped near Davidsonville and settled along the Spring River to
plant a crop. From there, a small party went to the southeast,
following an Indian trail that led to the Mississippi River,
crossing the Black River and then the Cache before encountering
a ridge of high ground. It was on this ridge that Crowley
found the land he thought was "good enough." After resting for
the night, Crowley and his sons returned to the Spring River
country. While the father remained to oversee the harvest, the
sons and several slaves returned to the ridge land to build
shelters and prepare for the coming of the rest of family, who
arrived on Christmas Day.
The original Crowley land grant had
been disrupted by the New Madrid earth-
quakes of 1811-12, a series of powerful tremors which changed
the landscape of northeast Arkansas, creating sunkenlands and
swamps that slowed the development of this region. So the
Crowleys instead chose land on the ridge that bear the family
name. Ben Crowley's land claim near what is now Walcott is said
to have been the first filed after the U.S. Land Office located
a post at Batesville in 1820.
The site Crowley chose had been a
favorite camping ground for Quapaw
Indians because of the big spring. Crowley permitted the
peaceful Indians to continue camping on the plantation as they
wished. Several stone hammers, great quantities of arrow-heads
and other Indian relics were found in and near the park by CCC
crews when Crowley's Ridge State Park was being constructed on
the old Crowley homestead site.
Like many who would follow them, the Crowleys had made their way
west from the original southern states, coming from
This stone nobelisk pictured below is said to
mark the grave of Benjamin Crowley, the first settler in what is
now Greene County and one of the men instrumental in its
creation. Erected about 50 years ago when Crowley's Ridge State
Park was first developed, it is located on a hill immediately
behind the bath house. The monument and a nearby marker pay
tribute to the man for whom the ridge and the park were named.
Crowley and his family homesteaded the park site in 1821.
Above, a closeup of the monument legend.
Virginia to Kentucky and then into Arkansas by
way of Missouri.
As a man of means and dominating personality, Ben Crowley became
the acknowledged leader of the pio-neers who followed him to the
ridge and his large farm became the center of activities that
led to the develop-ment of this area and the creation of Greene
The home was designated as the first U.S. post office in what is
now Greene County in 1832 and the Rev.
Isaac Brookfield, a pioneer Methodist missionary, used the
Crowley homestead as headquarters for his circuit
Brookfield and Crowley led the movement to form a new county
between the Cache and the St. Francis
rivers. When Greene County was created on Nov. 5, 1833, the
Crowley home was designated as the initial
county seat and Brookfield laid aside his missionary work to
become the first county judge.
The Crowley plantation passed for a time out of the family's
possession but was repurchased in 1869 by Capt. Ben H. Crowley,
the original settlers' grandson. It remained in the Crowley
family until it was secured by the
state as the site for Crowley's Ridge State Park.
As a current CRSP brochure points out, "This park, with its
spring-fed lakes, shaded picnic and camping
areas and dogwood-studded nature trails, stands as a fitting
tribute to the man whose courage and industry
opened this area for settlement."
| The 271-acre Crowley's Ridge State Park, celebrating
its 50th anniversary this year, is the most historically
significant piece of real estate in Greene County.
Today, the park's spring-fed swimming lake helps attract thousands of
visitors each year. But, more signif-icantly, 163 years
ago,those same natural springs helped
attract Benjamin Crowley when he and his sons were scouting a
homestead site along the ridge that now bears the family name.
And even before the Crowleys settled here, the area near the
largest spring had been a favorite camping ground for Quapaw
Development of Crowley's Ridge State Park started in November 1933
soon after it became one of the first four Arkansas sites
designated as state parks.
The Civilian Conservation Corps built the park's lakes, nature
trails and distinctive stone and log struc-
Although construction work continued until May 1938, the park
hosted a big Swim Day July 4, 1935
(see photo above), and a spectacular grand opening Sept. 5-7,
1936, which coincided with the centennial
celebration of Arkansas statehood.
|This marker at the park amphitheater honors Belle
Hodges Wall, who as executive secretary of the
Paragould Chamber of Commerce helped promote Crowley's
Ridge State Park from dream to reality.
Daily Press file photo/1976
Above left Daily Press photos by: Bruce Moore