Craighead County Courthouse, Arkansas

Driving through the night

After finishing our breakfast at IHOP, we went on our way. It was only 6:30 but the sun was already up, but vehicles on the road were scarce. Dad drove eastward and since I just picked a random historical site in the area, we ended up in the county courthouse.

A big breakfast

The streets were mostly one way and even though we made a couple of mistakes it was safe to make sudden turns. As we parked here is the start of the history of the Craighead County Courthouse.

“The Craighead County Courthouse is a Depression-era, Art Deco–style building situated on the courthouse square in Jonesboro (Craighead County). It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 11, 1998.

During the first year after the establishment of Craighead County and the city of Jonesboro in 1859, there was no courthouse for carrying out the official business of the western part of the county. (Along with Jonesboro, Lake City also acts as a county seat, serving the eastern part of the county.) The Arkansas General Assembly designated the home of William Puryear in Jonesboro as a temporary county seat.

4th version of the courthouse in 1910

The first permanent courthouse was a two-story frame building erected on the town square in Jonesboro in 1862. The building remained the center of county government until it burned in 1869, destroying all county records. The townspeople blamed the fire on the state militia, which was stationed at the courthouse the night before the fire.

A second courthouse was established in a store west of the square. Sometime around 1876, the store burned, and once again the county records were destroyed. The cause of the fire was determined to be arson.

The 4th Courthouse

A third courthouse was erected on a lot west of the square. In 1885, it too was destroyed by fire. This fire prompted the townspeople to build a two-story courthouse with fireproof storage vaults for keeping records on the first floor, with a courtroom and jury rooms on the second floor.

This fourth courthouse was built with a four-story clock tower and was completed in the summer of 1886 by W. C. Clark, a Little Rock (Pulaski County) contractor, at a cost of $16,500. The building survived a fire in 1889 that destroyed several surrounding Main Street businesses. The two-story building was demolished in 1933 to make way for the construction of the existing courthouse.

The current building is the fifth courthouse on this site. Construction of the current Craighead County Courthouse began on June 13, 1934, and was completed on March 31, 1935, by the Public Works Administration (PWA) as part of the New Deal. The structure is a brick building decorated with vertical limestone panels containing floral patterns and horizontal limestone with carvings of a wing motif at each corner. The courthouse features a flat roof, recessed front porch, and an interior chimney made of cut-stone.

A brick skywalk, constructed in 1995, connects the second story to a four-story courthouse annex on Union Street. The windows installed in the skywalk and the annex match the style of double-hung windows in the main courthouse building.

We walked around the courthouse grounds and took several pictures, and already the weather was getting warmer. I went and took pictures of the monuments and markers around. There was a metal marker recognizing the organization of the county in 1859, but the more significant one was the WWI sculpture. The “American Doughboy” was consider to be one of the first monuments erected in the South and one of the first in the country to remember World War I. Here is the information about the sculpture.

“The Doughboys of sculptor John Paulding (1883 – 1935), carrying the theme title “Over the Top”, are the most prevalent of these. In estimate there are 50 – 55 Pauldings, many of which have been misidentified as Viquesneys, including some in the Smithsonian Inventory of American Sculpture.”

We took some pictures and looked at the metal marker where it commemorate one of the battles in Jonesboro.

The Battle of Jonesboro

“Craighead County was a Confederate stronghold throughout the Civil War. Numerous forces, on both sides, traveled through Jonesboro. On August 1, 1862, the Federals surprised an encampment of Confederates south of Jonesboro and captured 24 men, three wagons, and 30 horses. They marched the men in gray two miles to Jonesboro and locked their new prisoners in the new courthouse at Jonesboro.

The following morning was a hot humid Saturday and the Confederates attacked the Union soldiers. The skirmish took place on the Craighead Courthouse grounds on August 2nd. Confederate forces under the command of Captain Mitchell A. Adair, 30th Arkansas Infantry, C.S.A. of the Trans-Mississippi Army attacked the 1st Wisconsin Cavalry, U.S.A. under the command of Lt. Charles Porter. Seven Yankees were killed and Lt. Ellison was the lone Confederate killed in the action. This freed the Confederates that were locked in the court house.

Historic Marker

Two significant events took place at the site during the Civil War and Reconstruction era. On August 2, 1862, during the Skirmish at Jonesboro, Federal troops quartered themselves inside the courthouse and in an office building at the southwestern corner of Main and Jackson streets. Confederate troops came out of the woods west of the courthouse and began firing on the courthouse and office building where the Federal troops were positioned. Later, during the Reconstruction period, Ku Klux Klan members were held at the courthouse after a shootout between Klansmen and the state militia at Bucksnort Hill. The event is the only recorded violent incident during Reconstruction in Craighead County.

Then after walking around the courthouse, we strolled around the downtown area where the streets were still empty and so perfect time to take pictures and we took our time admiring the 30s architecture of the city.

Here is the link for more information:

Say Cheez!

2 thoughts on “Craighead County Courthouse, Arkansas

  1. The WWI Doughboy statue at Jonesboro, AR, is John Paulding’s “Over the Top”, not E.M. Viquesney’s “Spirit of the American Doughboy”.


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