First Settlers In Greene County

 

The settlement of the territory now composing Greene County began about the year 1820. Benjamin Crowley, grandfather of Hon. Benjamin H. Crowley, and his family were the first settlers, and their nearest neighbors were then at Pocahontas, now the county seat of Randolph County. Crowley's Ridge was named in honor of this pioneer settler. The Pevehouse family, Wiley Hutchins, Jerry Gage, Samuel Willcockson, the Robertsons and J. W. Gage, were among the first settlers of the Crowley neighborhood, which is some twelve miles west of Paragould. William Pevehouse was the first child born in the county, and his brother, Wiley, and Hon. Ben. H. Crowley were first among the next children born. James McDaniel and Jesse Payne were early settlers on Village Creek. Isaiah Hampton and Lewis Bramlet settled in 1848, four miles east of Gainesville. John Mitchell, an early settler near Gainesville, put up the first cotton gin in the county, and Samuel Wilcockson erected the first steam grist mill on Crowley's Ridge, it being on Poplar Creek in the Crowley settlement. Parson William Nutt located near Gainesville; and Aaron Bagwell, from whom Bagwell Lake in the eastern part of the county took its name, and C. G. Jones, after whom Jones Ridge on the western border of the county is called, were also early settlers.

The Bradshaws–noted hunters–settled on the upper end of the ridge, in what is now Clay County, and A. J. Smith, “the great Arkansas bear hunter.” settled near the Bradshaws and married into their family. He subsequently located and cleared up a farm a few miles east of the present town of Paragould, where he lived until his death. He was known far and near, and was the most noted eccentric character in all of Northeastern Arkansas, possessing many of the traits of the famous Col. Davy Crockett. He was a veritable backwoodsman, not accustomed to the finer comforts of advanced civilization. He owned slaves, raised large numbers of cattle, and undoubtedly killed more wild animals than any other man in the State. He usually went bareheaded and bare footed, with his collar opened and sleeves rolled up, and nearly always carried with him his rifle, shot pouch and large hunting knife. Upon his appearance in this plight he was much feared, especially by those not acquainted with him. He was, however, kind and benevolent, brave and generous, and had but few enemies, being a firm friend to those he respected, but a dangerous man in a quarrel.

On one occasion after having sold a herd of cattle to Gov. “Jack” Drew, he went, equipped as usual, to the governor's residence to collect his pay. The governor happened to be absent. He was met at the door by Mrs. Drew, who though much frightened invited him to step in and take a seat at the fire. He looked down and said he did not like “to step on that quilt.” The carpet being loose he took it by the edge, folded it over and then sprang across and took a chair near the fire. Mrs. Drew felt convinced that her unwelcome guest was a horse thief, and thereupon had his horse put into the stable and locked, knowing that her husband would return soon. On seeing the latter she went out to meet him, and related the appearance of the mysterious stranger, whereupon the governor, with a hearty laugh, replied, “O! that is Jack Smith, it's just like him.”

Angeline, his wife, was an excellent shot with the rifle, and often accompanied him on his hunting excursions. Once while returning home upon a trail, desiring to “prowl around a little longer,” he requested his companion not to wait for him. Accordingly she rode on, but had not gone far until the dogs–remaining with Jack–chased up a huge bear, pursuing it so closely that it stopped and turned its back against the roots of a fallen tree, and began to cuff the dogs right and left. Jack ran to their assistance, whereupon the bear, having cowed the dogs, sprang forward and rushed upon him. Jack in retreating, stumbled and fell. Just at this critical moment, Angeline, who had heard the confusion, wheeled her steed about, took deliberate aim and shot and killed the monster beast, thus saving her husband's life. Ever thereafter upon relating this incident, he never failed to declare that Angeline was the best woman ever created.

This great hunter generally wore “buckskin breeches.” He was of a humorous disposition, and on one occasion was visited by a party of well dressed gentlemen from Memphis, who, upon seeing the large quantity of paltry he had on hand, asked how he came to be so successful in hunting. His reply was that formerly when dressed in his buckskin trousers and other outfit, the animals, especially the deer, had become so well acquainted with him that they knew him by sight, and were always on the outlook for him, in consequence of which he could not get near enough to shoot them. It then occurred to him that he must change his garb, and thus deceive the animals. So now, he said, that upon approaching a herd of deer, the sentinel buck seeing him would inform the rest that there was no danger–that it was only some finely dressed gentleman from Memphis, who was harmless. In this way he claimed to delude the deer, succeeding in killing a great many. The numerous eccentricities, bear and deer hunts and the like, of this famous hunter, if compiled would make an interesting book on frontier life.

Wiley Clarkson was an early settler and hunting companion of Smith. The county settled very slowly prior to 1855, but after that more rapidly until the war period, during which time it received no new comers. Soon after the war the growth in population was renewed and continued gradual until four years ago, since which time it has been and still is very rapid. For additional mention of settlers, with more specific dates, the reader is referred to the biographical pages of this volume. Goodspeeds History of Greene County , Ar.