Two Rails & Two Men With Vision, The History Of Paragould

PARAGOULD (KAIT) Almost anytime night and day, you can hear a train running through Paragould. To most folks it's just an annoyance to have to stop at the crossing and wait. But in it's history if it wasn't for the railroad. Paragould wouldn't even exist.

The days of the mighty steam engines have come and gone here in Paragould. Replaced by the diesel engines. But if it wasn't for the railroads and two men with vision, Paragould wouldn't even exist.

Bob Branch, Historian "Two railroads came through the area and crossed. And Jay Gould was the owner of one of the railroad the St. Louis Iron Mountain and Southern. Jay Gould named his depot Parmley.>

But there was still another railroad through the town the "Texas and St. Louis" and that owner J.P. Paramore had another name in mind.

Branch, " Paramore named his depot "The Crossing". And so we had a community here with two names. Parmley and the crossing. "

In 1883 Paragould became the official name, combining the para from Paramore and the Gould from J.P. Gould.

In 1884 the town was named the county seat and the records were moved from Gainesville the original county seat. About three miles north of the present town.

In order to build the new town the trees had to be cleared.

Branch, "So the first industry that grew was sawmills. And then the people that worked in and serviced the sawmill and handled the product."

Besides the two mainline railroads smaller tram lines went out into the forests to retrieve the cut logs and to haul the finished products to the East.

Branch, "So the Paragould Southeastern was built by local entrepreneurs. It was built East out of Paragould with the idea of getting it eventually to the Mississippi river near Blytheville."

The town flourished along the tracks the stores lined up to serve the needs of the hundreds of timber and railroad workers and their families.

The time of the steam engine peaked with the locomotive repair facility.

Branch "It was called the roundhouse because it was round had a turntable in it. And so steam locomotives pulled into the roundhouse the men worked on the locomotive, repaired it, renovated it. At the height of that operation there were more than 300 men employed at the roundhouse alone."

It was the coming of the diesel locomotive that killed off Paragould as having the railroad industry that it did.

It began with machines to repair the tracks.

Branch "All of that became mechanized so you had very small crews."

And the diesel locomotive which ran further and needed less crew members on trains. And didn't need so many places for repairs and service.

Branch, "So Paragould ceased to be a division point for the railroads and the roundhouse was closed. And so instead of having many many families living here and working on the railroad all those jobs disappeared."

Paragould will always have close ties with the railroad, both in it's industry of today and in it's past. And it is not alone.

Many of  these towns in Region 8 for the most part have railroads in their history roots. The train may not come through anymore but at one point in history the whistle blew at the crossing.