See Rock City

See Rock City

Monday, September 8, 2008

Paragould, AR

Welcome to Paragould!

Railroad Heritage Mural

Measuring 25’ x 200’, Paragould’s Railroad Heritage Mural is the largest mural in Arkansas. The mural was painted by local artist Connie T. Watkins and depicts Paragould’s early modes of transportation and industry. The Railroad Heritage Mural was painted in two stages. The first stage, which was completed in 1980, shows the original Cotton Belt Station. The second stage portrays the stave mill and lumber industry and was completed in 1993. The mural is recognized as a point of interest on the Crowley’s Ridge Parkway, a National Scenic Byway, and attracts many out-of-state visitors to Paragould’s downtown.

A City as Unique as Its Name

The city's name is a portmanteau (combining the last names of J.W. Paramore and Jay Gould, the owners of the two railroads that originally crossed there) although in strict linguistic terms it would be referred to as a blend, portmanteau being a word that in popular usage is applied in a carefree manner to any combination of two words. It is believed to be the only city in the world with this name. Paragould is designated a micropolitan area and is also a part of the Jonesboro-Paragould Combined Statistical Area. The Paragould micropolitan area's population is approximately 40,091 and the Jonesboro-Paragould Combined Statistical Area's population is estimated at 153,421.

Paragould is located in the heart of the USA and the corner of Northeast Arkansas, only 88 miles from Memphis, 153 miles from Little Rock, and 208 miles from St. Louis. The community of Paragould has enjoyed the restoration of historic landmarks, the construction of new facilities, and numerous commercial and industrial investments. Paragould’s investment in its future represents a long-term belief in the future of the community.


The community of Paragould offers a healthy blend of longtime residents as well as newcomers from various parts of the country. Our schools are rich in their curriculum and have access to cutting edge technology.

Paragould's Swimming Pool

The Paragould Regional Chamber of Commerce had been awarded the Community Development Award three times for it education and community development programs.

Brief History

In 1882 two railroads built their lines into the county and crossed at a point where a town would be built. One was the St. Louis and Iron Mountain Railroad, later to be known as the Missouri Pacific, headed by the famous railroad magnate, Jay Gould. The other railroad was Texas and St. Louis, later called the Cotton Belt. The line was built to ship Texas cotton to St. Louis. J.W. Paramore served as president.

When a name was sought for the newly created town at the junction of the two railroads, “Para-Gould” was derived form the surnames of two early railroad tycoons, J. W. Paramore and Jay Gould. Paragould evolved by combining syllables from the names Paramore and Gould, a truly original name for a unique town.

Paragould was incorporated March 3, 1883, while it was still an uncultivated timber-covered tract. Most of the area was part of a 281-acre farm owned by a settler from Tennessee, Willie Pruett, who had purchased it in 1869.

The early timber industry gave way to industrial plants. Today more than 30 manufacturing and other related careers in Greene County employ more than 17,000 people.

Today’s population is estimated at 23,700. The spirit of the people of Paragould is evident in readings from the city’s early beginning. This spirit prevails and can be directly attributed to the growth and opportunity for long-time citizens as well as newcomers to the area.

Paragould Culture

Paragould Collins Theater

The Collins Theater Foundation, a nonprofit corporation, was created in 1990 to transform the Collins Theatre into a modern community arts center. It is also responsible for the theatre’s day-to-day maintenance and management.

The Collins Theater, formerly the Capitol Theater, was constructed in 1925. It has a proud history in the community and provided a wide range of entertainment, from Broadway Shows to Vaudeville performances, to first-rate movies.

The Collins is now being used by the community for a wide range of cultural and general entertainment events – beauty pageants, fashion shows, dramatic plays, summer musicals and revues, children’s theatre events, gospel music and country and western shows.

Crowley's Ridge State Park

Crowley’s Ridge State Park is located in Paragould on the former homestead of Benjamin Crowley, whose family first settled the area, and still contains native log and stone structures. The park includes both a fishing lake and a swimming lake, in addition to four fully equipped modern duplex cabins with kitchens, a group lodging area, and 26 campsites. Crowley’s Ridge State Park offers interpretive programs and summer camps and programs for children.

Greene County Historical and Genealogicial Society

The Greene County Historical and Genealogical Society was organized in 1987. Their purpose is to preserve and publish Greene County history and to educate the public about Greene County history and families. Planned future publications include a probate index, obituaries, gleanings from the Paragould Soliphone, and a directory of Greene County churches – past and present.

The Research Center on Pruett Street is provided to the Historical Society at no cost, allowing the community to explore their heritage through the 140 books on display and the numerous rolls of microfilm, microfiche, periodicals, and computer disks. For more information about the Historical Society or to support their endeavors through your time or a tax deductible donation, call (870) 240-8944, email gchgs@sbcglobal.netThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or visit the Research Center at 110 North Pruett Street in downtown Paragould.

KASU’s Blue and Bluegrass Monday Concerts

Twice a month historic downtown Paragould is filled with live music! On the third Monday night of each month, the music of the Delta – blues – is presented at Brittny’s Steakhouse beginning at 7:00 p.m. Notable artists for Blue Monday have included Reba Russell, Blind Mississippi Morris, Fred Sanders, Amy LaVere and the legendary Sonny Burgess.

On the fourth Monday night of each month bluegrass music takes center stage at Atkins Celebration Hall. An open jam session kicks things off at 5:00 p.m. with the concert beginning at 7:00 p.m. Past performers at Bluegrass Monday include Goin’ Home, Hard Drive Bluegrass, 2 Mule Plow, Sorghum Hill, and Loosahatchie Grass and the Peasall Sisters.

Delta Symphony

The Delta Symphony Orchestra is the only Symphony in the Northeast Arkansas Delta Region. Under the direction of Neil Bartee, the Symphony performs three annual concerts at Arkansas State University’s Fowler Center, in addition to other performances throughout the year. The Delta Symphony Orchestra has been entertaining the Northeast Arkansas Area for 31 years, and gives back to the community through the Adopt-a-School program.

Crowley's Ridge as seen rising from the flatlands of the Mississippi Alluvial Plain, one of Arkansas’s six natural divisions. Looking east from Highway 412, approximately fifteen miles east of Paragould (Greene County); 2008.
Photo by Mike Keckhaver

Paragould (Greene County), an Arkansas Community of Excellence and a Main Street Community, is situated atop Crowley’s Ridge. The unique name Paragould is a blend of the names of two highly competitive railroad men, James. W. Paramore and Jay Gould, evidencing the importance of railroads in the development of the town.

Old Greene County Courthouse in Paragould.
Photo by John Gill, courtesy of the photographer

Louisiana Purchase through Early Statehood

Meteorite weighing 820 pounds that fell near Paragould (Greene County) in 1930. Now on display at the University of Arkansas Library in Fayetteville (Washington County).
Courtesy of the Arkansas Center for Space and Planetary Sciences

In 1815, Benjamin Crowley moved his family from Kentucky to Lawrence County in Arkansas. In December 1821, Crowley crossed the Black and Cache rivers to explore the ridge area that now bears his name. Armed with a War of 1812 land grant, he selected a vacated Delaware Indian site that had developed around a large spring. The county seat was in Crowley’s home until it was moved to Paris, then Gainesville in 1848.

Benjamin Crowley (1758–1842)

Benjamin Crowley and his family were among the early settlers of northeast Arkansas. In 1821, they settled near the present community of Walcott (Greene County) on a ridge that would bear his name.

Crowley, one of eleven children of Benjamin and Sarah Strong Crowley, was born in 1758 in Halifax County, Virginia. He married Catherine Annie Wiley of Augusta County, Virginia, on December 15, 1795. They had eight children. Crowley was a surveyor by trade and also raised cattle and dabbled in horse breeding.

By 1785, the Crowleys had relocated to Oglethorpe County, Georgia. They moved to Christian County, Kentucky, by 1810 and moved again to Henderson County, Kentucky, by 1821.

Crowley served in the military during the War of 1812 and afterward received a land grant of 160 acres west of the Mississippi River in lieu of payment for his service. In 1821, he and his family began the journey west to claim his land in Arkansas. During their journey, Crowley learned that his lands had sunk during the New Madrid earthquakes of 1811–1812 and that he would need to find undamaged lands to petition for in place of his original grant.

After crossing the Mississippi at Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Crowley entered Arkansas on the west side of the Black River, following the only mail route into what was then Arkansas Territory. After stopping on the Spring River near the present boundary between Lawrence and Randolph counties to plant a crop and wait for the spring rains, Crowley and his five sons traveled east to look for a place to make a permanent settlement.

The party first crossed the Black River at Davidsonville in present-day Randolph County and traveled east to cross the Cache River before moving into the hill country north of the current site of Walcott. When they found the springs that are common in the area and good lands running to the Cache River bottoms, Crowley reportedly told his sons, “This is good enough.” The family soon moved to this location; Crowley’s sons settled on land along the ridge near their father’s property. One of the sons, Samuel, extended his claim to Eight Mile Creek, so named because the creek was eight miles from Benjamin Crowley’s homestead.

When news of the inexpensive farmland that Crowley found got back to Kentucky, many of his relatives, friends, and former neighbors moved to northeast Arkansas. As the settlement around Crowley’s plantation grew, he became known as the leader of the community. In 1832, a post office named Crowley was established, and it existed until 1910.

The residents of Crowley and the surrounding area soon began to discuss the formation of a new county so that the settlers would not be required to travel to the courthouse in Davidsonville about thirty miles away to transact business. In August 1833, a group of area residents, including Crowley, Isaac Brookfield, and Lawrence Thompson, met at Crowley’s home to begin the process that resulted in the formation of Greene County. In November, a temporary county seat was established at Crowley’s home, and the first session of court in Greene County was held there. The Greene County seat was moved to Gainesville in 1848 and to Paragould in 1883.

At some point, possibly during Crowley’s life, residents began referring to the ridge of rolling hills that run from southeast Missouri to Helena (Phillips County) as Crowley’s Ridge. One source attributes the naming of the ridge to the Crowleys themselves when they settled.

In 1933, the Crowley plantation was selected as the site for Crowley’s Ridge State Park. The park was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps and opened in 1936.

Crowley died in 1842. He and his wife are buried in Shiloh Cemetery in the state park.

Security Bank in Paragould (Greene County); 1910. County treasurer, Cicero Thompson, is on left.
Courtesy of the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, Central Arkansas Library System

The lowlands of the St. Francis, Cache, and Black rivers slowed settlement in Greene County. In 1849, Congress passed an act intended to reclaim the swamplands. It transferred all the Arkansas swamplands to the state and provided funds for locating, evaluating, and draining.

Unloading cream in downtown Paragould (Greene County); circa 1910.
Courtesy of the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, Central Arkansas Library System

With a new county seat on an improved road running to Helena (Phillips County), the growth of Gainesville, the drainage activities, and the arrival of land speculators, Greene County finally began to boom in the mid-1850s.

The Corner Cafe in Paragould (Greene County); circa 1914.
Courtesy of the Arkansas History Commission

Civil War through the Gilded Age

New building construction in Paragould (Greene County); 1899.
Courtesy of the Arkansas History Commission

In 1872, the St. Louis and Iron Mountain Railroad (Missouri Pacific) began service through Arkansas between St. Louis, Missouri, and Texarkana (Miller County). James W. Paramore, president of the Texas-St. Louis Railroad (Cotton Belt) wanted a way to ship Texas cotton to St. Louis and points beyond. In 1877, he made a deal to connect his Texas railroad line with the Iron Mountain at Texarkana. However, at that time the “Palmer and Sullivan”railroad system was being developed in Mexico. Paramore’s directors voted to expand their Texas railroad line to join the Mexican railway, giving St. Louis a direct connection through Arkansas and Texas to Mexico City. Jay Gould, who gained control of the Iron Mountain Railroad in 1880, learned that Paramore’s Texas-St. Louis Railroad was licensed to build a cheaper narrow-gauge line through Arkansas to Texas. Gould constructed a regular-gauge line to parallel Paramore’s route. It ran through Greene County toward Helena. The railroads crossed six miles south of Gainesville. After the community that grew around the crossing (later called Parmley) gained a post office, the postmaster, Marcus Meriwether, named the town Paragould without any official approval, deriving the name from Paramore and Gould.

Old 1888 Greene County Courthouse in Paragould. The clock tower was removed in 1965, having been deemed too expensive to repair. It was restored in 1995; 2008.
Photo by Mike Keckhaver

Paragould became a thriving community. Investors knew that the forests covering eastern Arkansas contained one of the few remaining quality hardwood sources in the nation. The availability of rail transportation brought about a surge of large corporate investments. Men abandoned their farms and flocked to work in the timber mills and factories that had been hurriedly constructed around the area. Merchants and professionals followed.

Camping area at Crowley's Ridge State Park, near Walcott (Greene County); 2008.
Photo by Mike Keckhaver

Merchants first located on Front Street behind the present buildings facing west on Pruet Street. First to open were a tent saloon, a fish business, a tent hotel, a bakery, a blacksmith shop, and a fruit stand. A hardware store and a general store opened on Main at the Pruet Street intersection. Soon, the area had more merchants than Gainesville, the county seat.

Within a year, Pruet Street became the main business location in the new town. In spite of the street’s thick, slimy mire, several Gainesville businessmen opened stores there. When the county clerk, the Reverend D. B. Warren, moved his newspaper, the Press, to Paragould in 1884, it marked the beginning of Gainesville’s demise. After a county-wide referendum in September 1884, Paragould became the county seat, although it had no city government. The Paragould City Council began to function in May 1885. One of the first significant acquisitions approved by the council was Linwood Cemetery. The new county courthouse was completed in 1888; the Paragould City Hall and adjacent fire house were completed in 1890. Having noted that fire swept rapidly through the wooden buildings in downtown Gainesville in 1890, the Paragould council passed an ordinance requiring that all new buildings in the main part of town be constructed of brick. An electric light plant went into operation in 1891, telephone service appeared in 1896, and a municipally owned water works opened in 1898. By 1896, Paragould had six miles of gravel streets; it was 1912 before the downtown streets were paved.

By 1890, there were fourteen lumber mills in Paragould. Products included both “slack” and “tight” barrel staves, boxes, wood veneer, spokes, dowel pins, caskets, baskets, handles, shingles, and railroad ties. The Wrape Stave and Heading Mill was shipping five million barrels a year, more than any factory in the state. In 1894, that firm shipped more whiskey barrels than any other plant in the world.

Early Twentieth Century

Paragould’s economy was booming at the turn of the new century, mainly because small towns had sprung up in nearby places along the railroads. Paragould became the principal trading center of northeast Arkansas. The city’s infrastructure had been developed to the extent that it could support the demands of new industry and increased population. By 1910, the town had three department stores, an opera house, a hospital, and six banks.

Race relations in Paragould were strained but non-violent. Benjamin H. Crowley Jr.—a Paragould lawyer, former Confederate officer, elected state official, and later commander of the state militia—wrote in the December 24, 1909, issue of the Daily Soliphone, “While the population of Greene County is virtually all white, there being less than a score of colored people in the county at this time, and our people are from all sections of the country, all are given an equal chance and a square deal.” However, Crowley was a member of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) during the early days of Reconstruction. In his history of Greene County, written in 1906, he made statements clearly supportive of the KKK. While research does not reveal any incidence of racial violence in Paragould, for many years black strangers were told by city officials “to leave town before sundown.” Black railroad crewmen were told they could stay in town as long as they were working, but their activities were limited to where they were boarding overnight. Black children were not provided any form of public education until 1950 when Superintendent Ralph Haizlip made arrangements to bus them to a public school in Jonesboro (Craighead County).

American Legion records reveal that 476 men left Greene County to serve in World War I. At least forty of those men were killed. A white marble war memorial with a five-foot-tall bronze replica of the Statue of Liberty was erected on the courthouse square in 1924. The back of the memorial is inscribed with the names of those men who died.

During Prohibition, the people of Paragould plunged into the boot-legging and free-spirited activities of the era. There is evidence that local businessmen, operating in an atmosphere that favored business, aggressively took advantage of loopholes and non-enforcement of laws during the periods of great prosperity of the 1920s.

But all was not well for the decade. The December 12, 1926, suicide of Ad Bertig, who was involved in several businesses in the area, likely because of heavy operational losses, threatened to start a run on local banks. The failure of the Bertig businesses had a negative impact on the Paragould economy. However, none of the Paragould banks failed as a result of the stock market crash in October 1929. One, the Security Bank and Trust Company, reorganized in 1930. Although Paragould was remote to many of the major events that caused the Great Depression, factors such as the tremendous slow-down of the nation’s businesses, collapsing farm prices, terrible summer droughts, dust storms and the 1935 and 1937 floods, and a second depression in 1937 devastated the local economy for over a decade.

One major event in Paragould proved a brief distraction from the hard times of the Depression. At 4:08 a.m., February 17, 1930, Paragould residents were awakened by a prolonged loud noise and a sky filled with a fiery glow made by a meteorite with a long reddish tail that streaked through the sky before striking the earth near the small community of Finch (Greene County), four miles southwest of Paragould. Two major fragments were found and displayed in Paragould for several weeks. The first discovered was small but weighed about seventy-five pounds—unusually heavy for its size. The second fragment was found thirty days later. Buried nine feet into hard clay two and a half miles from where the first rock was found, the “big rock” measured twenty-four inches in height, twenty-eight inches in length, and twenty-four inches in breadth. It weighed 820 pounds, and five men and a team of horses spent three hours dislodging it. The smaller rock is on display at the University of Arkansas Library.

In 1936, while Frank Reynolds and his brother-in-law, Lowell Rodgers, were fishing in Hurricane Creek just north of Paragould, Reynolds hit something that gave off a “metallic sound.” Curious, the two men pulled out of the deep sand in the creek bed an enormous thigh bone, three and a half feet in length. They worked almost continuously during the next twenty days removing all bones from the creek. The two men toured the state in a borrowed truck for three weeks, charging ten cents a look. When the two got to Fayetteville (Washington County), they were told by members of the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville science faculty that they had found the skeleton of a 10,000-year-old mastodon. Reynolds was offered $5,000 for the bones by a man from Kentucky, but instead he chose to give them to the museum at Arkansas State University (ASU) in Jonesboro, not far from his home north of Paragould.

World War II through the Modern Era

When the call went out for men between eighteen and forty-five to register for selective service for World War II, 7,182 men from Greene County responded. A total of 2,344 men in the county went into military service, including 395 volunteers. The Adams Jackson Post of the American Legion assumed the responsibility of inscribing the seventy-eight names of those killed in the war to a new wing that was added to the Statue of Liberty memorial monument on Court Square. (Two names were added to the monument as casualties of the Korean War, along with twelve names of men who died in Vietnam and two killed in the Persian Gulf War.)

Construction of a new hospital began in 1941 on land given by Joseph R. Bertig to a nonprofit corporation, which had sponsored a subscription drive to raise funds to be added to a secured Works Progress Administration (WPA) grant. The hospital was three-fourths completed when WPA funds were depleted and the agency was abolished in 1943. Funds were obtained to complete the construction after the war. The new hospital was completed on September 25, 1948, and dedicated on October 16, 1949. In 1981, the name was changed to the Arkansas Methodist Hospital, and numerous expansions and additions have been made. The hospital provides services for a number of counties in northeast Arkansas and southeast Missouri, and is one of Paragould’s largest employers.

Paragould has two radio stations; KDRS-KLQZ and KDXY-FM. The award-winning Paragould Daily Press publishes six days a week (including Sundays).


Although the Missouri Pacific opened a “round house” locomotive repair shop in Paragould in 1911 (and eventually employed nearly 300 men), it was the middle of the Depression years before local civic leaders made an organized effort to attract large industry. The Ely-Walker Shirt Factory opened in 1937 and employed nearly 300 people. During World War II, the company completed nineteen contracts supplying the army and navy with shirts.

Ely-Walker located in Paragould mainly because of the efforts of Belle Hodges Wall, secretary of the Paragould Chamber of Commerce. Wall also played an important role in securing Crowley’s Ridge State Park, Harmon Playfield, and a minor league (class D) baseball team.

Following World War II, Paragould city officials and the Chamber of Commerce began a successful effort in attracting large industries. First to open was the Ed White Shoe Factory (1947), and then Wonder State Manufacturing (1950). Foremost Foods’ Dairy Division built a large plant in Paragould in 1952 and expanded several times.

The first big national plant to open in Paragould was Emerson Electric Company of St. Louis (1955). Manufacturing electric motors for laundry appliances, the company became Paragould’s largest employer, employing over 1,500 people. At one time, the plant produced more fractional electric motors than any other plant in the United States. With the location of Emerson in Paragould, the city received a boost that propelled the town through several decades of steady industrial growth.

Among the reasons for modern-day industrial growth is Paragould’s low industrial property tax rate ($8 per $1,000 of market value); the availability of skilled, semi-skilled, and unskilled workers; extremely competitive utility rates (electrical rates among the lowest in the nation); strategic location in the proximity of the St. Louis and Memphis Railroad; a 700-acre industrial park adjacent to the Union Pacific main line railroad; competitive state and local incentive packages; excellent schools; and many available service-related facilities.


A one-room subscription school was opened in Paragould in 1883 by Professor Hopkins from Gainesville. Seven years later, Professor R. S. Thompson opened the Thompson Classical Institute, which included an elementary school as well as a course of study equivalent to a four-year high school. Tuition was fourteen dollars a term.

The West Side School was the first public school in the city. Used for all grades, its first high school graduation class in 1903 consisted of four young women who had completed ten grades of study. The eleventh and twelfth grades were added by 1907. A new high school was built on the Westside property in 1909, leaving the old building to be used solely for elementary grades.

In 1909, the Arkansas legislature provided for the establishment of four agricultural colleges to be located in four state districts. Greene County was included in the First District. A board was appointed to campaign for the location of one of the schools in Paragould. A site was selected beyond Linwood Cemetery and offered by the town as an inducement to attract the school. However, businesspeople in Jonesboro offered more, $31,000 and 200 acres. Several citizens worked hard to raise funds to outbid Jonesboro but failed because many believed a large school of non-residents would disturb the town’s peaceful atmosphere. The college is now Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.

The Paragould School District is a consolidated structure comprising the former school districts of Oak Grove, Stanford, and Paragould. Over 2,800 students are enrolled in four elementary schools (K–4), one middle school (5–6), one junior high school (7–8), and one high school (9–12).

The Greene County Technical School District encompasses the southern half of Greene County as well as portions of Paragould and Craighead County. Grades K–12 provide educational programs for over 2,800 students. A preschool/daycare center is also on campus. An extensive vocational-agriculture program provides educational experiences for work in industry and agriculture.

Paragould is home to Crowley’s Ridge College, a private, church-affiliated, two-year college. Arkansas Northeastern College has a center located on the Arkansas Methodist Hospital campus and primarily offers courses related to health and administrative services. The Black River Technical College/Greene County Industrial Training Center offers courses in a variety of different programs. Arkansas State University at Paragould, a branch campus of ASU in Jonesboro, offers general educational courses in practically every educational department as well as a few upper-level courses.

Famous Residents

Several Paragould residents have become nationally prominent: George T. F. Johnson, U.S. Navy Medal of Honor winner in the Civil War; Marion Futrell, governor of Arkansas from 1932 to 1936; Frank Nash, a famous bank robber from a prominent Paragould family, who was killed in the “Kansas City Massacre”; Irwin Wolf, president of Kaufman’s Department Store in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Bill Justice, a Hollywood actor; Mott Stuart, a major league pitcher; Bill Miles, a navy rear admiral; Lee Purcell, a Hollywood actress; Paul Douglas, an air force brigadier general; and Edward Partain, a lieutenant general and Fifth Army commander.

Crowley's Ridge College (CRC)

Crowley’s Ridge College (CRC) in Paragould (Greene County) is the only two-year college in the nation affiliated with the Churches of Christ. It is a co-educational liberal arts college providing a balanced course of study appropriate for the first two years of college.

Crowley’s Ridge College opened its doors on July 6, 1964, as a Christian junior college. CRC’s founder, Dr. Emmett Floyd Smith Jr., had a strong desire to bring college-level Christian education to northeast Arkansas. Eleven years earlier, in 1953, Smith had established a Christian secondary school, Crowley’s Ridge Academy, and found that there was support for other Christian endeavors such as the Children’s Homes of Paragould and Crowley’s Ridge College. Governor Orval Faubus helped turn the first shovel of dirt on January 29, 1964, at CRC’s groundbreaking ceremony to begin construction of the campus.

In CRC’s beginning, it offered a new concept of Christian education as an “accelerated institution of higher education.” Under this program, it was possible to earn sixty-four semester hours within a forty-eight-week period, thereby completing the associate of arts degree in one calendar year. Through the accelerated program, CRC was able to pass the savings in time and money on to the student and his or her family. One major roadblock to the accelerated system was the transfer of credits to senior colleges. While it was an innovative program, it became more difficult to gain the approval of people who had spent a lifetime working in conventional programs. Of the eighty enrolling in the first class, eighteen completed the associate’s degree for the first commencement exercise on June 18, 1965. In 1974, CRC began moving away from the accelerated study to a conventional trimester academic calendar, changing to the present semester system permanently in the fall of 1981.

In 1995, CRC received initial candidacy by the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA). The NCA visiting team of 1998 recommended continued candidacy. On August 7, 2000, the commission granted full accreditation to CRC. In 2005, CRC was granted a ten-year extension (the most any college or university can receive) through 2015.

CRC offers three associate’s degrees—in general studies, the Bible, and teaching. CRC’s enrollment ranges from 150 students to over 200, with students coming from about ten states, though approximately seventy-five percent come from within Arkansas. Approximately seventy percent of the student body is affiliated with the Churches of Christ. Many continue their education in either the local state colleges or one of CRC’s sister senior institutions among the Churches of Christ.

The sports programs at CRC have always drawn interest from prospective students. Men’s baseball and basketball began intercollegiate-level competition in the early 1970s but were discontinued for budgetary reasons. They were reinstated on a non-scholarship level in 1984 and continue to the present. The women’s programs are volleyball and fast-pitch softball; the volleyball team won the National Bible College Athletic Association (currently the ACCA) national championship in 1996. The men compete in the Association of Christian College Athletics in basketball and were runner-up national champions in 2005 and 2007. The men’s baseball team competes in the National Junior College Athletic Association.

Iris DeMent (1961–)

Arkansas native Iris DeMent has used her distinctive voice to sing folk, country, bluegrass, and gospel music. She has sung songs about family, religion, people, places, and political ideas in a time when few were doing so.

Iris DeMent was born on January 5, 1961, in Paragould (Greene County), the youngest of fourteen children. Her parents, Patrick Shaw and Flora Mae DeMent, were farmers on an island in the St. Francis River outside Paragould. When Iris was three, her father lost his factory job after a failed attempt to unionize, and the family hit hard times, sold the farm, and moved to Buena Park, California. They lived there until she was seventeen and then moved to Sacramento, California. Eventually, her parents and some of her siblings moved back to Arkansas.

The family had a love of music, and not just the kind they heard at Pentecostal services in Arkansas and California. DeMent’s father played fiddle at dances during his early years in Arkansas and later at Pentecostal church services. Her brothers, sisters, and mother played piano and sang. Her older sisters—Zelda, Reba, Regina, and Faye—had a gospel group, The DeMent Sisters, who recorded one album. DeMent quit high school and moved to the Midwest, where she supported herself by cleaning houses and working as a waitress.

It was not until she was in her late twenties, living first in Kansas and then briefly in Nashville, Tennessee, that DeMent began to consider a career as a singer-songwriter. During her years working a series of day jobs, she gradually built up her confidence by playing at open-mike nights in clubs and coffeehouses. She came to the attention of folk label Rounder/Philo Records after she enlisted the help of producer Jim Rooney, who helped her get a recording contract, leading to her debut CD, Infamous Angel, in 1992. It was produced by Rooney and endorsed on the liner notes by singer-songwriter John Prine.

Warner Brothers Records re-released the album in 1993 after noticing the strong word-of-mouth praise it earned, along with sales of approximately 80,000 copies. The album included “After You’re Gone” and “Mama’s Opry,” two songs about her parents, the latter of which featured Emmylou Harris on harmony vocals. The song “Our Town” was used as the credits rolled in the final episode of the TV series, Northern Exposure. Another song, “Let the Mystery Be,” was used in the opening sequence of a movie, Little Buddha, starring Keanu Reeves. Her version of “Whispering Pines” was used on the soundtrack of a Robert Redford movie, The Horse Whisperer.

DeMent’s songs—some inspired by, and some in reaction to, her fundamentalist upbringing—have earned her more critical than commercial success. Many of her songs express her openness and reluctance to embrace rigid doctrines.

She released a second CD, My Life, in 1994; its liner notes featured her memorial to her father, who died in 1992. Her third album, The Way I Should, came out in 1996 and marked a move into political topics (including the songs “There’s a Wall in Washington,” “Quality Time,” and “Wasteland of the Free”). Her political topics have earned her comparisons with Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, and other musicians who have criticized American government and its politicians. She co-wrote “This Kind of Happy” with Merle Haggard (who had praised her version of his song, “Big City,” on Tulare Dust, a Haggard tribute CD) and sang a duet with Delbert McClinton on “Trouble,” the final cut of The Way I Should.

DeMent’s fourth CD, Lifeline (2004), marked her departure from Warner Brothers to record for her own label, Flariella Records, named for her mother. The album’s thirteen songs are old hymns, save for DeMent’s “He Reached Down.”

On November 21, 2002, DeMent married fellow singer-songwriter Greg Brown, a troubadour from Iowa. They divide their time between her house in Kansas City, Missouri, and the house he built in recent years in southern Iowa.

Greene County

Revolutionary War hero General Nathanael Greene, for whom Greene County is named.
Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration

For many years, Greene County’s main attraction, Crowley’s Ridge, was isolated because of swamplands on three sides: the St. Francis River bottoms to the north and east, and the Cache and Black River lowlands on the west. But drainage of the swampland led to growth in the area and, in recent years, many industries have located to the county. Its county seat of Paragould has been labeled as the safest city in Arkansas by the Arkansas Crime and Information Center.

Marmaduke (Greene County) street scene; circa 1905.
Courtesy of the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, Central Arkansas Library System

Pre-European Exploration

Beginning about 18,000 years ago, the melt water from the Laurentide glacier that covered much of North America created a sluiceway that “washed out” much of the soft sedimentary soil of the old Gulf of Mexico in the middle-south area of what is now the United States. About 16,000 years ago, the wide flow declined to a point, leaving two great rivers with a long ridge of land between them. The faster- and heavier-flowing Mississippi River eventually cut through the ridge south of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and joined the Ohio River at Cairo, Illinois. Crowley’s Ridge, as it was later called, was greatly influential in the shaping of Greene County. The first Native Americans arrived in the area more than 10,500 years ago. In 1974, Dan Morse and colleagues with the Arkansas Archeological Survey uncovered in southwest Greene County the earliest recognized cemetery in the New World. The find indicated a territorial stability of people previously believed to be too nomadic to have designated a specific site for burials. Other archaeological finds in the county reveal that the Indians have occupied the ridge area through a long history of changing cultural traditions.

Outdoor amphitheater and hiking trail at Crowley's Ridge State Park in Greene County; 2008.
Photo by Mike Keckhaver

European Exploration and Settlement

Louisiana Governor Antoine de La Mothe Cadillac was probably the first European to visit this part of northeast Arkansas. In 1715, the French crown ordered him to explore the headwaters of the St. Francis River. Indians with whom he came into contact reported that the area contained silver, though he found only lead near Fredericktown, Missouri. Suffering great discomfort while ascending the river, he wrote in his diary: “This colony is a monster…. I have never seen anything so worthless.” However he felt about the area, he did move European civilization closer to what is now Greene County.

Records in the old Powhatan Courthouse reveal that Pierre LeMieux was the first European to settle in the area. In the early 1790s, he developed a place he called “petite baril,” later translated to Peach Orchard. He died in 1817.

Louisiana Purchase through Early Statehood

In 1815, Benjamin Crowley moved his family from Kentucky to Lawrence County in Arkansas. He settled on the Spring River and farmed in an area regional historians called “the second Garden of Eden.” In December 1821, Crowley crossed the Black and Cache rivers to explore the ridge area. Armed with a War of 1812 land grant, “Old Ben” selected a vacated Delaware Indian site that had developed around a large spring on a ridge. No one knows when the ridge became known as Crowley. Some pioneers had settled on the lower ridge area near Helena (Phillips County) several years before Crowley’s home became the community meeting place where county officers discussed and solved civic matters. When the volume of legal and court activities required a seat of law, Isaac Brookfield and Lawrence Thompson wrote a petition seeking permission to organize a county. The territorial legislature approved the petition in November 1833. Three local historians report that the county seat remained in Crowley’s home until it was moved to Paris, but no document or town site has been found to prove Paris even existed.

In 1840, the county voted to move the seat of government to Gainesville, so named because “it gained the county seat.” Two documents were found in 1996 indicating that Gainesville was laid out with eighty-six lots, and a state tax auditor’s report dated May 18, 1842, noted that “nearly all lots were sold and deeded to the purchasers.”

The lowlands of the St. Francis, Cache and Black rivers slowed settlement in Greene County. In 1849, Congress passed an act intended to reclaim the swamplands. It transferred all the Arkansas swamplands to the state and provided funds for locating, evaluating, and draining.

With a new county seat on an improved road running to Helena, the growth of Gainesville, the drainage activities, and the arrival of land speculators, Greene County finally began to boom in the mid-1850s. But the area south of Greene County was booming as well. In 1859, the state legislature passed an act taking parts of Greene, Mississippi and Poinsett counties to create Craighead County. Greene County lost six square miles of its south border.

Civil War through Reconstruction

The Civil War interrupted the county’s economic growth. James W. Bush was selected to attend the state secession convention. He voted twice against secession, but during the May 6, 1861, convention, an ordinance to secede passed 69-1, with Bush following the majority. A Home Guard unit, one cavalry, and four infantry companies were formed, mostly from Greene County. All saw considerable action fighting with the Army of Tennessee. Casualties were high. Another cavalry company was formed to join General Sterling Price’s raid into Missouri in the fall of 1864. It was assigned to Lieutenant Colonel Davies Battalion, Shelby’s division, and also suffered heavily.

During the war, “Nate” Bolin, a native of Cape Girardeau, organized a guerrilla unit. He was joined by notorious bushwhacker Sam Hildebrand. Operating out of Scatterville, near Rector (now in Clay County), Bolin and Hildebrand’s brigands frequently raided Union units in southeast Missouri. The Scatterville camp was destroyed in 1864, but Bolin and Hildebrand continued to operate with a smaller band until May of 1865, when General Jeff Thompson of the Missouri State Guard surrendered his command.

Postwar recovery was slow. County offices were filled by Unionist officials, but the control was not harsh. However, Governor Powell Clayton declared martial law in Greene County in 1868 because of reports that African Americans were being mistreated at a Walcott mill. When Clayton’s militia moved up the Greensboro Road toward Walcott, the unit was met by the Greene County “Home Guards” (Ku Klux Klan) commanded by Benjamin H. Crowley, “Old Ben’s” grandson. They fought a skirmish around Wiley’s Mill at Bucksnort, just south of the Greene County line. After several were wounded and one home guard was killed, the militia retreated to Jonesboro (Craighead County). Martial law was lifted several weeks later.

Reconstruction ended in the county in 1873. After newly elected State Representative B. H. Crowley negotiated a deal with the liberal Republicans, a new election was held in the county, and ex-Confederates were elected to all county offices.

In November 1872, Cairo-Fulton Railroad construction crossed the Missouri border into Randolph County. Greene County officials helplessly watched the economic boom to the west. By 1874, the rail line had become part of the St. Louis Iron Mountain (Missouri Pacific) system. It operated across the full length of Arkansas. During the 1873 spring legislative session, Crowley introduced a bill to create Clayton County from the northern part of Greene County. Because they did not like Governor Clayton, the citizens of the new county voted in 1875 to change the county name to Clay. Greene County then gained a small part of Randolph County, but ten years later gave up a small northeast area to Clay.

Post-Reconstruction through the Gilded Age

Jay Gould gained control of the Iron Mountain in 1880. He learned that James Paramore’s St. Louis-Texas Railroad (Cotton Belt) was licensed to build a cheaper narrow gauge line through Arkansas to Texas. Gould decided to construct a regular gauge line to closely parallel Paramore’s route. It would branch off the main Iron Mountain line at Knobel and run through Greene County toward Helena. The railroads crossed six miles south of Gainesville. After “The Crossing” gained a post office, the postmaster named the town Paragould, deriving the name from Paramore and Gould. The new town grew rapidly and became the county seat in 1884, beginning the sharp and sudden decline of Gainesville.

Northeast Arkansas offered one of the few remaining hardwood forests in the nation. With rail transportation and drainage improvements, Greene County experienced a major boom. Industry involving timber and timber-related products grew rapidly. At the time, more tight-barrel staves were shipped out of Greene County than any other place in the world.

Early Twentieth Century

The drained and newly cleared bottomland on both sides of Crowley’s Ridge led to the development of large farm operations before the turn of the century. Timber-related businesses continued to spur industrial growth through the 1920s, but as the timber business declined, production of cotton, corn, and soybeans increased. Significant rice production did not come to the county until after World War II.

The railroads continued to dominate industrial activities. The Missouri Pacific located one of its large “roundhouse” machine shops in Greene County in 1911, and the shops serviced large steam locomotives well into the 1950s. At one time, the Missouri Pacific rail yard and “roundhouse” employed about 300 people.

City Limits of Light (Greene County) on Highway 412, looking west; 2008.
Photo by Mike Keckhaver

The economy of Greene County surged during the 1920s, but the stock market crash of 1929 and the drop in cotton prices bankrupted many area families. The federal government, in response to the Depression, established the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to provide work for unemployed young men. Led by Belle Wall, the Chamber of Commerce director, the county applied for assistance through the Arkansas Department of Parks. The CCC moved onto the old Crowley plantation site, constructed barracks, and built an attractive pavilion, an amphitheater overlooking a spring-fed lake, and many camp sites on the 270 acres that Crowley had settled in 1822. More than 10,000 people attended the park opening in 1933, the 100th anniversary of Greene County.

World War II through the Faubus Era

Seventy-eight Greene County military men lost their lives during World War II, and Greene County, like other agricultural-based communities, suffered significant population loss during the three decades following the war. The Ely Shirt Factory was the only large plant in Greene County. By 1950, county officials began an effort to attract larger plants.

The first big plant with international connections, Emerson Electric of St. Louis, Missouri, came to Paragould in 1955. Manufacturing small electric motors for home appliances, Emerson first employed about 500 people. Though production has fluctuated, the Paragould plant produced more fractional horsepower electric motors in some years than any other plant in the United States and at times employed near 1,300 workers.

Modern Era

Fishing at Lake Frierson State Park.
Courtesy of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

A 2001 census study revealed that the non-farm paid employment force in Greene County was greater than one-third of the total paid workforce. This figure, 33.4%, is below the state average of 37.2%. Since then, however, several major manufacturing facilities (including two large railcar plants) have located in the county.

Recent Chamber of Commerce studies show that industry and commerce in the county are served by thirteen motor freight carriers, two main-line railroads, four major highways, and a charter-service airport. County facilities include an improved Crowley’s Ridge State Park, several well-equipped playground facilities, Crowley’s Ridge College (a two-year institution), two vocational-technical schools, an Arkansas State University satellite facility, an award-winning daily newspaper, two fully accredited public school systems, a county museum, a new courthouse with modern facilities, a new county jail, and a restored courthouse.

Notable People

Two Major League Baseball players were born in Paragould...Marlin Stuart (1918) and Weldon Bowlin (1940).

Marlin Henry "Mott" Stuart was a Major League Baseball relief pitcher. He was born August 8, 1918, in Paragould, Arkansas; and died June 16, 1994, in Paragould, Arkansas.

Lois Weldon Bowlin (born December 10, 1940 in Paragould, Arkansas) was a Major League Baseball third baseman. He was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals as an amateur free agent in 1959, and acquired by the Kansas City Athletics in August of 1961. He started two games for the Kansas City A's in 1967.

Both games he appeared in were on the road against the California Angels at Anaheim Stadium (September 16 and 17). He had only five at bats (with one hit) because Sal Bando pinch-hit for him and replaced him at third in both games. Bowlin's one hit, a single to right, came against pitcher Jack Hamilton, who earlier in the season had hit Red Sox All-Star Tony Conigliaro in the face with a fastball.

In his thirteen innings on the field Bowlin recorded four assists and made no errors.

Before beginning his major league baseball career, he played for Paragould High School and local American Legion teams, while working as a farmer and picking cotton. He began playing in the minors in Mayfield, KY in 1939.

Stuart, a righthanded pitcher, originally signed as a free agent with the St. Louis Browns in 1940. He first appeared in the major leagues with the Detroit Tigers in 1949. He pitched 30 games for Detroit (with some return visits to the minor leagues) until 1952 when he was traded to the Browns. He pitched for the Browns for the remainder of 1952 and in 1953, when he was second in the American League with 60 appearances and led the Browns with 8 wins. His last season was 1954, when he pitched in 22 games for the Baltimore Orioles and 10 games for the New York Yankees.

On June 27, 1950, Stuart pitched a perfect game for the Toledo Mud Hens of the American Association. During his career he faced famous hitters like Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola.

Famed bank robber and Kansas City Massacre figure Frank "Jelly" Nash lived in Paragould and is entombed in Linwood Cemetery.

Adam Richetti. Photo from the FBI files.

Vernon Miller. Photo from the FBI files.

Charles Arthur “Pretty Boy” Floyd. Photo from the FBI files.

The Kansas City Massacre was the shootout and murder of four law enforcement officers and a criminal fugitive at the Union Station railroad depot in Kansas City, Missouri on the morning of June 17, 1933. According to the official FBI report, the Kansas City Massacre occurred as the result of the attempt by Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd, Vernon Miller, and Adam Richetti to free their friend, Frank Nash, a federal prisoner. At the time, Nash was in the custody of several law enforcement officers who were returning him to the U.S. Penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas, from which he had escaped three years earlier. However, all of the men alleged to be involved denied involvement. Floyd, in particular, went so far as to write to a newspaper denying involvement in the massacre.


Frank Nash had been having trouble with the law since 1913. Originally he was sentenced to life at the state penitentiary in McAlester, Oklahoma for murder, only to be pardoned. In 1920, he received a 25-year sentence at the same locale for burglary with explosives, from which he was also pardoned. On March 3, 1924, Nash began a 25-year sentence at the United States Penitentiary, Leavenworth, Kansas for assaulting a mail custodian. He later escaped on October 19, 1930.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) launched an intensive search for Nash throughout the entire United States and most of Canada. After an intensive investigation, the FBI concluded that Nash had assisted in the escape of seven prisoners from the United States Penitentiary, Leavenworth on December 11, 1931.

The investigation also disclosed that Nash had a very close association with Francis L. Keating, Thomas Holden, and several other gunmen who had participated in a number of bank robberies throughout the Midwest. Keating and Holden were apprehended by FBI Agents on July 7, 1932, in Kansas City, Missouri. The pair had crucial information about the whereabouts of Nash and eventually divulged he was hiding out in Hot Springs, Arkansas.


With information in hand, two FBI Agents, Frank Smith and F. Joseph Lackey, and Police Chief of McAlester, Oklahoma, Otto Reed, ventured to Arkansas to find the escaped outlaw. After an exhaustive search Nash was apprehended in a local store in Hot Springs, Arkansas, on June 16, 1933. The three officials then drove Nash to Fort Smith, Arkansas, to board a train at 8:30 that night. The group boarded a Missouri Pacific train bound for Kansas City, Missouri, with an estimated time of arrival at 7:15 a.m. the next morning. Before traveling, the lawmen contacted R. E. Vetterli, Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the FBI’s Kansas City Office to meet them at the train station upon arrival.

Paragould's Capitol Theatre (now known as the Collins Theatre) hosted the 1941 world premiere of "The Man Who Came to Dinner" starring Bette Davis and Paragould's own Bill Justice, known as Richard Travis in Hollywood. Travis came back to Paragould for the premiere at the Capitol where he had been employed when he lived there as well as serving as the editor of the theater's coming-attractions magazine.

The Arkansas Crime Information Center recently recorded Paragould as the “Safest City in Arkansas” and Paragould was ranked as 2nd Best Place to live in America by Relocate-America's top 100 in 2004.

Home of legislative veteran and current Arkansas Association of Public Universities Executive Director Tim Wooldridge. Wooldridge served in the Arkansas State Senate and Arkansas House. Also, he made a 2006 bid for Lt. Governor.

Jim mie Lou Fisher

Home of long time Arkansas State Treasurer Jimmie Lou Fisher. Fisher was the 2002 Democratic Nominee for Arkansas Governor.

Jimmie Lou Fisher (born December 31, 1941 in Delight, Arkansas), grew up in Paragould, Arkansas. She attended school at Delaplaine School in Delaplaine, Arkansas. She, at a very early age, became interested in politics, and aspired to be successful. She graduated from Vilonia High School, and attended Arkansas State College in Jonesboro, Arkansas, and after graduating went on to hold a number of jobs, and was a party activists for over a decade. She has described herself as life long, diehard, yellow dog Democrat.

Early political career

Fisher was elected Treasurer of Greene County, Arkansas in 1970, and went on to serve four two year terms, until in 1979, when newly elected Governor Bill Clinton, appointed her Auditor of State.

Aside from that, she was very active in Democratic politics at the same time. She served as Vice Chairman of the Arkansas Democratic State Committee from 1976-1978 and went on to serve as a member of the Democratic National Committee during the same time period, 1976-1978. In 1978, she helped run then Arkansas Attorney General Bill Clinton's ultimately successful run for governor, serving as his 1st Congressional District Coordinator.

Nominated for Best Oak Trees by the US Department of Outdoor Astheitics.