Greene County Arkansas

Paragould, Arkansas

Centennial Edition

August 29, 1983

Section 1

County Seats of Greene County 1833 ~ 1983

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1. Ben Crowley's home 1833~1835

   The Arkansas Territorial Assembly, in the act creating and naming Greene County, designated Benjamin Crowley's house as the temporary county seat until other accommodations could be made.

   The first court is said to have convened under the shade of twin oaks, near a spring on the Crowley grounds. When Crowley's Ridge State Park was built, the tree was marked with a tablet by the National Park Service.

The Crowley home is thought to have occupied a site near the present swimming lake.

2. Paris 1835~1840

   In about 1835, a group of county commissioners, assigned the task of locating a permanent county seat, "selected a vacant hewed log house about 18 feet square in an obscure village called Paris, about five miles northeast of the present town of Gainesville," Vivian Hansbrough wrote in her History of Greene County. The county then included the eastern half of Clay County and part of northern Craighead County, making Paris more centrally located then than it would be today.

   According to Hansbrough and other sources, Paris never contained more than a couple of stores and a few homes, no traces of which remain.

3. Gainesville 1840~1884

  According to the Goodspeed history, after pressure for relocation of the courthouse, the site now known as Gainesville "gained" the honor and a name in 1840. (Other sources cite 1848, but that may be an early typographical error perpetuated in later references since the same sources note that Gainesville had a log courthouse in 1846.

   At least six Gainesville buildings, three of which were destroyed by suspicious fires, were used at various times by the county. A log courthouse -- along with a log jail -- was erected soon after the town gained the county seat. It was replaced by a three-story frame building, 30 feet square, housing the county offices, courtroom and a Masonic meeting hall. This building was burned in 1874 along with a portion of the county records.

A storeroom rented for temporary use was burned later the same year, destroying the rest of the county records. Another storeroom was burned in 1876, destroying the few county records that had accumulated since the 1874 fires.

   All three fires were believed to have been set by arsonists, presumably persons under criminal indictment, intent on destroying implicating court records. Existing court records start with cases which had to be dropped because the official documents had been destroyed. Sheriff  F. S. Wright was shot and killed reportedly as a result of the 1874 fires but his assailant was never prosecuted. Reportedly, two persons were arrested for arson but escaped from jail and were never apprehended.

   After the 1876 fire, the county rented a room above James R. and Richard Jackson's store and appointed a building commissioner to oversee construction of a temporary courthouse. The last Gainesville courthouse, a one-story frame building, was used until the county seat was moved to Paragould in 1884. "Old Court Square" was sold in 1888 for $132.

4. Paragould 1884 ~ Present

   Paragould has had only three courthouse buildings and the first two were intended to be temporary. When the records arrived from Gainesville, they were stored at County Clerk R.H. Gardner's residence (or the Ben Wood home, depending on the source) on Main Street until a temporary courthouse was located in a long box building on the north half of the lot later occupied by First Methodist Church at the northeast corner of Main and Third streets --- "between the present locations of the Cities Service Station and the Masonic Hall," according to Hansbrough's 1946 book.

   This frame building was used as a temporary courthouse while preparations were underway for construction of the county's first brick courthouse. That building, completed in 1888, still stands although it has endured a number of changes including the addition of a coat of stucco and a vault annex in 1918, removal of its gracious clocktower in 1967, construction of two wooden "doghouses" and various changes such as the digging of an underground bomb shelter and relocation of the main stairway in 1979.


1925,1884 newspapers recount 'bitter' county seat struggle


The following paragraphs are from
a July 25, 1925, issue of the Greene
County Hearld. The story, begun on
Page 1 of that newspaper, was contin-
ued on Page 7; unfortunately, that lat-
ter page is missing, so the story ends
abrubtly. Despite that disadvantage,
we though readers would be inter-
ested in this version of the county seat
politics of almost a century ago, writ-
ten in the newspaper style of 60 years

How many of the young men and
young women of Greene County are
cognizant of the fact that Gainesville,
which is the first stop on the Missouri
Pacific north of Paragould, was the
county seat of this county until 1884,
when by a vote of the people the seat
of government was voted to Para-
Tom Wilcox, one of our genial
townsmen, was serving as sheriff
when the bitter struggle over the re-
moval was waged and and relates
many ludicrous incidents that took
place during that spirited fight when
every citizen in the county was on the
alert and fighting for what he thought
  was just.
There was no beating around the
bush at that time and every man of
any importance was outspoken and
fighting for one of the two towns.
There was no strategem participated
in; it was a straight fight and they
stood up face to face, each side fight-
ing for victory. Those who were parti-
cipants in the county seat war say
that it was the most interesting county
set battle ever staged in this part of
Arkansas, and that when the decisive
vote was cast it settled the matter for
all time to come. Civic pride impelled
the restory and every one was pleased
and the enmity and prejudice which
existed has sunk into oblivion and few
of our people ever think of that part of
the history of Greene County.
Some time ago E.G. Norvel, while
searching in an old drawer for some
valuable papers, found a newspaper
dated July 24, 1884, from which we
clipped the following:
"The apathy indulged in by some of
our citizens in regard to the proposed
removal of the county seat is, to say
the least, a little strange. However,
we do not want to censure and find
  fault, but give our humble opinion in
regard to the pending contest. The
order of election has been made, the
campaign is open, and Paragould is a
candidate. Most of our people believe
that the removal of the county seat
here would benefit not only the town
but also the county, and believe it to
such an extent that they are prepared
to offer every inducement to bring
about the desired end. An entire city
square upon which to build a court
house, on the most sightly location in
the town, and every alternate lot
around it, will be deeded to the county
in case of the removal. The sale of the
lots should the county desire to sell
them will go far towards putting up
creditable buildings. This item of
building a court house we learn is an
argument by some taxpayers against
the removal. This seems inconsistent
when taken into consideration that
should the county seat remain at Gai-
nesville a court house will be built
there at an early day, and in that case
wholly by taxation, whereas if the
county seat comes here the sum rea-
lized from the sale of old property at
Gainesville ad-


Transcribed by: PR Massey

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