Crowley's Ridge State Park

State Park Website

Old Crowley Homestead

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The Building of Crowley's Ridge State Park by the CCC

Researched by: Tina Easley

Crowley' Ridge State Park  is still a favorite local hot spot for locals and visitors today.  With it's public swimming area and peaceful secluded cabins and camping areas for the outdoor enthusiast to take advantage of. Easy access within walking distance from historic trails, a playground and fishing in the 31 - acre lake for catfish, bass and brim. The State Park also was the location of the very first homestead in the county. It not only represents the first park in our area it was the 4th park constructed in the state. This same location was the site of many first in the historic heritage of Greene County.

Benjamin Crowley II,, who made the first settlement in Greene County, was born in 1758 in Halifax County, Virginia.  His parents were Benjamin Crowley I and Sarah Strong.  Little is known about Benjamin prior to December 15, 1795 when he married Catherine “Annie” Wiley in Oglethorpe County, Georgia.  It is known after his marriage that he moved to Kentucky, and stayed there for a number of years.  He lived in Christian and Henderson Counties.  It was while residing in Kentucky that he served in some capacity in the  War of 1812.  For this service rendered, he received a Land Bounty. 

The New Madrid Earth Quake of 1811 devastated the land he was granted.  So he moved to Arkansas and bought a tract of land in Lawrence County from Solomon Hewitt.  He stayed in Lawrence County until about 1820/1.  It was then that he traveled south along a ridge into what is now Greene County.  He found a suitable spot, and laid claim to the area.  This ridge would later bear his name.  His old home site would later become a State Park in his honor.  Crowley township was created between 1880 - 1890. Below is some of the Crowley Lineage.

Benjamin and Catherine had the following children: (born in Oglethorpe County, Georgia) Thomas Crowley (18 Mar 1796-bef 1829) who married Cynthia Campbell; Samuel Crowley (28 Feb 1798-13 Mar 1837) who married Sarah Lamb and Sarah Hutchins; John Crowley (28 Feb 1800-1816).  (Children born in Kentucky) Wiley Crowley (27 Mar 1805-abt 1847) who married Lucy Capps; Polly Crowley (5 Apr 1805-abt 1841) who married Abraham Pevehouse; Benjamin Crowley III (1 Nov 1807-bef 1830) who died building a military road; Margaret Crowley (15 May 1810-?) who married Charles Robertson and John McDaniel; Sarah Crowley (1812-?) who married Thomas Lamb. 

The first county site was temporarily established at the home of Benjamin Crowley , where Walcott now is , and remained there until it was fixed at Parris , five miles northeast of Gainsville, where it remained until October 7th 1884. When it was moved to Paragould , by order of the county court , and in pursance to a vote of the people of the county.

The first white settlement in the county was made by Benjamin Crowley in 1821 , at the springs near Walcott and Crowley's Ridge which was named after the first settler and extends from Helena to Cape Girardeau , Mo. is an enduring memoryable name of the old pioneer, The first term of court ever convened in Greene County was held in the family room of Benjamin Crowley and was presided over by Judge John T. Jones of the then third judicial circuit . And the first grand jury to be impanneled in the county was in this court , and held its deliberations under the shade of some large trees near by.The very rich lands together with the great abundance of clear sparkling water at this place were some of the inducements that caused Benjamin Crowley to settle where he did.

Benjamin Crowley who made the first settlement in the county as previously stated was a native of Virginia , but had been living in Kentucky for some years before coming to Arkansas. He was raised in Georgia but moved over into Webster or Henderson county Kentucky, and was a surveyor by profession . He was Irish , but native born , and always took a lively interest in the affairs of the county.He crossed Mississippi river at Cape Girardeau , Missouri and came down on the west side of the Black River following the only mail route then in the state which ran from Arkansas Post to St. Louis making a round trip every six months. In the spring of 1821 he and his caravan stopped on Spring river , near where the county line between Lawrence and Randolph counties now runs and planted a crop. When done his crop and the water had fallen he with his sons started east, looking for a better place to settle. Striking an Indian trail running east and west from the Mississippi river , they crossed the Black River at old Davidsonville, and the Cache river about one mile above the Mose Ray bridge. The party struck the Hill country or ridge a little north of where Walcott now is. When they found the large springs , which are numerous at that place and beheld the fine lands making off to the Cache bottoms , the senior Crowley said to his sons who were with him "This is good enough." and they struck camp.

After spending the night on the spot , they started back to what is now Lawrence County .Old man Crowley remained over there to gather crop, but he sent some of his son's and a few negroes on over to the new discovery to build houses, and prepare for the coming of the family and livestock which followed in the late fall, arriving at their new home Christmas Day.

Benjamin Crowley was a man in good circumstances for that time , and owned several valuable slaves , and a number of fine horses , brought with him from Kentucky . Among his blooded stock was a noted stallion , and not getting his barns ready the first night after arriving on the grounds he tied the horse's head to his fore feet to prevent him from getting away or from injuring the other stock. During the night the wolves attacked the horse, and seriously injured him. This country was that time a perfect wilderness , with not another white man in it and the Indians being full and exclucive control of the whold region . All sorts of wild animals including buffaloes, wolves, bears, panthers, wild cats and catamounts roamed at will over the entire country, Deer and wild turkeys were almost as numerous then as domestic animals were. This was then the best range country on the western continent, and stock of all kinds did well the year round without feed , save only such as nature provided them in the woods.

The original Crowley settled on section 4, township 16 north range 4 east and his son Wiley Crowley settled on section 33 and 34, township 17 north , range 4 east. These farms are now owned by B.H. Crowley , another son of B.H. Crowley and are two of the best farms in the county. Samuel Crowley another son of B.H. Crowley settled on section 31 tp. 17 range 6 east , where Paragould now stands , he having settled on eight Mile Creek where it is intersected by Pruett Street. Charles Robinson a son in law settled on Villiage Creek , near Bethel so that each would not be in the others way, and that their stock might have seperate range.

In the early days of the county and while the country was over-grown with forests, the roads of that time consisted of blazed ways through the timber. When the road or trail was blazed between old man Benjamin Crowley's home and that of Samuel Crowley, who it will be recalled settled on Eight Mile Creek near where Paragould now stands, every tree on the route that an axe was struck into on a certain day in June, died instantly, and the reason was never understood. Blazing consists of striking an axe into the sidde five or six feet above the ground and scaling the bark down so that the eye of the traveler may see the white scar, and be directly nearby. It is seldom that a tree dies from blazing and some wonder was caused by all the trees dying that were blazed on the route over to Eight Mile. This creek was so called because it was eight miles from the home of old man Crowley on the Ridge and his son's home.

When the Crowley's settled this part of the country there was of course no grist -mills , or anything of the kind . Old man Crowley brought with him an old style mill, with which to grind corn for bread. There was then probally not another mill of any kind in the Territory of Arkansas. The mill was constructed something like the old coffee mill used by our mothers and was fastened to the wall of the house and turned by crank , when grinding shelled corn into meal. If the meal was not fine enough to make bread of the first grinding , you could run it through the mill a second time , and make a passable meal.

Some of the other settlers not being so fortunate as to have a mill would chop down a tree , square the top of the stump with an adze, and cut out a hole in the top like a bowl , make what they called pestle , and with it beat their corn into meal. This sweep was made by cutting a long pole or sapling , then getting a forked sapling eight or ten foot long setting the same in the ground with the butt end in the ground then put the fork so as to rest on the ground. When not in use they fastened the beater or pestle to the light end of the pole by means of a rope or grape vine more commonly by a grape vine. Many of the poorer people would make what they call "gritters" by punching holes in a peice of tin and thus grate their corn into meal. When corn is in the proper state of maturity. Grated meal makes the best bread. If the corn got to hard to grate it was boiled and then reduced to meal as it did appear tp make the sweetest bread one ever ate.

Later on old man Crowley got him sand stones from a quarry on Sugar Creek just north of where the Commissary now stands and dressed them down and made him a set of mill stones, there being an upper and a lower stone, he constructed a mill propelled by horse power , which was the first corn mill of any kind ever put up in Greene County.

Now in sight of the same spot where this mill was set up and separated W.P. Bowlin & Co. have a modern up to date patent roller mill as good as any in the country of its size and capacity . Of course after the board and rock mill of old man Crowley's was put up and successfully operated several others were set up in the different settlements.

One trouble with these mills was that you had to do all your grinding in dry weather and as the raw-hide belts would stretch in damp weather and refuse to turn the machinery of the mill.

The first brick kiln burned in Greene County was put and operated by Wiley Crowley on his place. The manner of making then was different from what it now is. First the ground had to be cleared, prepared by mixing the proper amount of clay and sand. Water was then poured on the material and several yoke of oxen were driven in on the yard, and made to tramp the clay and dirt to the right consistency and mix it ready for brick-mounds. The brick were then burned and were ready for use. They were built into two good chimneys, and are perfectly sound. They are larger than the standard size brick as now manufactured.

The old house which Wiley Crowley built as a home for himself and family about the year 1840 is still standing. It was built of large hewed pine logs, and these lay just as they were placed by the neighbors over half a century ago. The logs were cut and hewed by old Zacharia Hampton, father of the late Nimrod Hampton and of Mrs. Lucy Willcockson, widow of Capt. I.P. Willcockson. It is claimed that at the raising of this house that every man in Greene County was present and assisted in the erection of the building. The day for the raising had been set in advance, and word sent around to the different settlements. Those who went from the remote parts of the county had to atart the day before and some reached the home of Wiley Crowley late at night on the same day. Others reached points nearby and remained in camp or put up at the house of some neighbor overnight. After assisting in raising the big log house, they started home, and went as far as they could before night over-took them and traveled the remainder of the way the next day. So, it took some of the neighbors three days to help the old man Crowley raise his house. This service was all rendered free of charge, and the writer submits that no such neighborly relations ever existed between men in any other section of the country. The writer remembers having come from near Walcott to the Old Bethel neighborhood to take part in a log rolling, when some neighbor way trying to clear a piece of new ground. 

(These notes were found in the old newspapers from the early years of Greene County  written by the Hon. B.H. Crowley , a grandson of the first Benjamin Crowley ,who made the first settlement in Greene County in 1821 . This series appeared in the Soliphone , a Paragould newspaper in 1906 , starting November of that year and running 13 issues. )

With the dedication and desire of Mrs. Bell Hodges Wall, the secretary of the Paragould Chamber of Commerce she inquired the strength of the public to help write letters to legislatures for help throughout the state from political officials to create the dream of having our own State Park. In November 1933 the park was approved and construction began.

In November 1933, when the Civilian Conservation Corps occupied the property and sat up camp in the field by Lake Ponder the  work started on Arkansas's fourth state park. CCC workers from Companies 1729, 2746 and 4733 built several miles of roads, foot trails, bridges, cabins, pavilions, a bathhouse, picnic sites, campgrounds and a 300-ft. earthen dam with a concrete spillway.park officially opened in 1936, although people continually visited the park during its construction. On July 4, 1935, a crowd estimated at 8,000 picnicked at the park site. Almost three years later, on June 4, 1938, the park was officially dedicated.

This park plays a big part in Greene Counties history not only being the first homesteads the park played a important role in providing jobs created by President Roosevelt through the CCC to help revive America after the depression.  The park was constructed by the CCC in the early 1930's by using timber that was logged from the Cache River Bottoms located near by. By visiting the link above you can see  the work in progress by the CCC Boys. These Cyprus logs were used to build the log structures that are still in use today have been in place for 80 years and represent the strength of a nation coming together.