Greene County Arkansas

Paragould, Arkansas

Centennial Edition Section 1

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





The administration of justice has always been one of the primary respon-sibilities of county government, through which the court system and its many records are administered. This is said to have been the first grand jury to meet after the new Paragould courthouse was completed in 1888. Since a grand jury included only 16 men, it is thought that the elected county officials may have also posed for this picture. No identifications are available.   Through the years, the county transportation system has been one of the chief and most loudly voiced concerns of rural residents. While this fact hasn't chan-ged much, the county's roadworking equipment has. In this 1921 picture, taken while the crew was working on Rocking Chair Road in Center Hill, John Grooms is guiding the tractor-drawn grader as Tom McKelvey furnishes the pulling power.
The friend posing on the tractor wheel is not identified.


County Government has many functions


   County governments are an arm of
the state, created by the state legislature for the administration of certain functions thought to be handled better at the local level.
   The administration of justice through a system of county-based criminal and civil courts has always been the primary function of county government. In fact, the basic structure of county government is outlined in the state constitution's Judicial Department Article, providing a basis for the titles "county judge" and justice of the peace."
   Those titles are still used for the
county's chief executive and members
of its legislative assembly, but through the years the focus of the duties conferred upon the men and women holding those titles have changed.
   The most significant change came less than 10 years ago, with the adoption of Amend-ment 55 to the Arkansas Constitution of 1874. Before Amendment 55, county governments could exercise only those authorities specifically granted to them by the constitution or the legislature. But Amendment 55's "home rule" section allows counties to exercise all local authority not specifically denied by the constitution or by state law, a total change in legal perspective.
   The legislative act creating Greene County included five sections -- defining the boundaries of the new county, outlining procedures for transferring pending legal matters from Law-rence County, locating the temporary county
seat at Benjamin Crowley's house authorizing the justices of the peace and the constables who had been elected when the area was part of Lawrence County to continue their duties in the new county and authorizing the governor to appoint a temporary clerk and a temporary sheriff pending the election of officials for the new county.
It is not known whether the temporary appointments did not include the county judge because that office was not important enough or to important for gubernatorial intervention.

This stylistic lettering has been used on
county warrants for many years
   The final section also assigned the new county to the Third Judicial Circuit and set the first Mondays of May and November as court days.
   Another act specifically authorized the ele- ction of the new county's first officials.
   The creation act, which had been drafted in October, was "to take effect from and after the first day of November next." Vivian Han-sbrough wrote in her History of Greene County that an unforeseen delay in official approval of the bill therefore postponed the election of officers for one year.
   When those elections were held, Isaac Brookfield and Lawrence Thompson, who with Benjamin Crowley had promoted the creation of the new county, were chosen its first county judge and county clerk with James Brown as the first sheriff. J. Suftin was the first coroner and G.Hall the first surveyor. These officials were apparently chosen for one-year terms, based on a list published in the 1978 Historical Report of the Secretary of State.
   That list, which includes an almost complete roster of county officials, indicates that the treasurer's post was not created until 1836 and the assessor's office not until 1862, ap-parently by state law since none of the other
counties had those two officers before those dates either.
   Greene County divided the offices of
circuit court and county court clerk about 1900 when it achieved the population allow-ing it to do so. The offices of sheriff and tax collector were divided in about 1910, Greene apparently being among the first counties to do so.


After a series of courthouse fires which destroyed virtually all county records accumulated during Greene County's first 43
years, County Judge J. P. Culver purchased a fire-proof safe
in 1877. It is still used today to protect circuit court files. The
massive safe traveled by train from St. Louis to Delaplaine,
then the only railroad station in the county, and was hauled to Gainesville by James R. Jackson, whose store was being used as a temporary courthouse. When the county seat was moved to Paragould in 1884, the safe came too.



Upper left photo courtesy of: Bill Hunter

Top right photo courtesy of: Nellie Murphy

Lower right photo courtesy of: Bruce Moore


Page 7 Section 1

Transcribed from the 1983 Centennial Edition by : PR Massey

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