Each room in the McClure-Highfill Home is a complete
wooden box--ceiling, floor, and walls. Inside each "box" the
interior surfaces were added. Thus, the interior walls have four layers as
each room’s walls consist of solid wood with wallboard on the interior.
The exterior walls have five layers of building materials: bricks, wood
sheeting, insulation, another wooden wall (forming the "box"),
and finally wallboard. Ceilings and floors were also installed over solid
wood. Much of the lumber used to build these "boxes" was from the
dismantled Eaker house which originally stood on the site.
Many of the home’s original features have been
preserved. The newel posts at the base of the basement stairs are from the
Eaker house and are original except for the caps. Another feature preserved
from the past is the telephone nook, which is built into a wall of one of
the main floor halls. All the original mortise locks, escutcheons, and
glass doorknobs also remain in use. Although carpets are used in some rooms
of the home today, all the original wood floors are in excellent condition;
the floors on the main floor are oak, and those on the top floor are pine.
Perhaps the most unique features of the home are a
result of Builder Alfred Thomas’ personal skills. During construction, he
hand carved designs on the wallboards and ceilings throughout the house;
his only tool was a small carving knife. Most of the wall enhancements are
fairly simple, except for one room, the walls of which are carved in
nineteen arches. Most of the ceilings are simple; every ceiling, however,
is different. The ceilings in the dining room, living room, front entrance
hall, and the room with the arched walls were quite elaborate. Three of
these unique ceilings and two of the more simple ones remain, as do the
The home’s heating system was very unusual in this
area at the time of construction. It is believed to be Paragould’s first
gravity system. The hot air moved throughout the house in an elaborate
ductwork system, which consisted of mechanically controlled supply ducts to
each room plus very large return air ducts to move heavy cold air from the
rooms back to the furnace. Originally there was a coal-burning furnace.
Today the home has forced central gas heat and electric air but still uses
the original ductwork.
Greene County, Arkansas, had its origin in the home of
early pioneer Benjamin Crowley, after whom Crowley’s Ridge was named. Mr.
Crowley held a New Madrid Certificate, a document that replaced Bounty
Certificates that the federal government awarded to veterans of the War of
1812. The replacements were necessary because the New Madrid Earthquake of
1811-1812 had rendered uninhabitable the land originally designated in the
In the spring of 1821, when Benjamin Crowley, who
possessed a New Madrid Certificate, first arrived in the area from his home
in Kentucky to identify and claim land on which to settle with his wife and
eight children, he was 65 years old. He selected the site for his home
because of the existence there of a large spring, formerly used by Native
Americans for gatherings. The site is now part of Crowley’s Ridge State
Park, which is about 12 miles from present day Paragould. Crowley’s
family joined him on Christmas Day, 1821, and moved into their new home.
Crowley became a prime factor in the development of the
area. The first post office was located in this home, and the first church
was organized there. Friends and relatives from Kentucky related
information from Crowley that resulted in other Kentuckians’ relocating
In 1833, Greene County was formally organized in the
Crowley home. The original county included not only present day Greene, but
also what are now Clay County and a section of Craighead County as well.
Isaac Brookfield, a young Methodist missionary from New Jersey and founder
of that first local church, became the new county’s first judge, and it
was he who is reputed to have suggested naming the county after the famed
Revolutionary War general, Nathaniel Greene.
Arkansas became a state in 1836, forty-six years before
the founding of Paragould. That momentous event resulted from the expansion
in the area of two major rail lines. One was Jay Gould’s St. Louis and
Iron Mountain Railroad, now known as the Missouri Pacific, and the other
was J. W. Paramore’s Texas and St. Louis, now the Cotton Belt.
A new town was established at the juncture of the two
railroads. The name Paragould was coined from the combination of the
two rail magnates’ names, Para from Paramore, and gould
from, of course, Gould. This city has the rare distinction of having
a name it shares with no other establishment in the world!
Paragould was incorporated March 3, 1883, and the county
seat was relocated here from Gainesville on October 6, 1884. Most of the
town, including the eastern portion of the McClure-Highfill property, was
established on land that was part of a 281-acre farm owned by Willis S.
Pruett, originally from Tennessee. Paragould’s main street is named after
this early settler.
The local economy originally centered around lumber,
abundant in great tracts of virgin timber, and the industry was enhanced by
the available rail transportation. The local lumber businesses included
small manufacturing plants which produced wood products in Paragould and
about forty sawmills in the county. The influx of new residents who flocked
to what was, in fact, a boomtown, resulted in the town council’s quickly
organizing a town government.
By 1890 the population of Paragould had reached 2528. By
1900 there existed a municipal water plant, an electrical power plant,
several private telephone companies, three schools (one a business college
and another a Bible institute), and several modern department stores and
hotels. The downtown streets were lighted and paved.
In the early 1900’s, Claude V. Highfill, who was born
July 15, 1898, in Union City, Tennessee, came to Greene County with his
family. They settled near the Locust Creek Ditch, and Claude attended
grammar school through the third grade at Big Island School. For a while he
farmed, and during the summers, from a horse and buggy, he sold Home
Comfort cook stoves, manufactured in St. Louis.
In about 1917, Claude Highfill married Elizabeth Cox
(born April 14, 1989) a one-fourth Native American Indian orphan originally
from Leachville, Arkansas. After the deaths of her parents, Elizabeth had
been in the care of her grandparents. After they also died, she was raised
in Senath, Missouri, by two aunts, Birdie and Susie Cox.
Later Claude Highfill worked for the Stedman Hardware
Company before establishing a dray business with a new truck he had
been able to purchase. He hauled new and used goods, mainly furniture, and
had an office in Saul Blankenship’s furniture store. His move from the
transfer business to the furniture business occurred quite unintentionally.
The career-changing event involved a load of furniture
Highfill had contracted to transport to Tennessee. When he arrived, the
recipients could not pay all the charges, so Highfill took some of the
furniture in the shipment as payment. Returning to Paragould with his
goods, he rented space on South Pruett Street next to the Home Bakery and
went into the used furniture business. Soon he moved across Pruett Street
and rented half the Joseph Store Building; O. M. Atkins rented the other
half. (Earl Vanhook worked for Atkins and later headed what are now the Van
In 1937 Claude Highfill, by now a success in the
furniture business, purchased the Eaker property at the west end of
Highland Street, formerly Depot Street, where it intersects North
Seventh Street at Happy-Go-Lucky Lane. The Highfills did not buy the
property for the house or even primarily for its square block of land,
but for the home site. Situated seven blocks west of the Greene County
Courthouse, the location was no longer "in the country" as
it was when the Eakers built there, but was on the fashionable
outskirts of town. Highfill had the Eakers’ two-story house
dismantled, saving much of the lumber for use in the construction of
the large home he and Elizabeth built for their family. Their children
were Martin, Melvin, Betty, and J. C.
The Highfills’ new home, an excellent example of
Craftsman style architecture, was under construction for over a year.
Alfred Thomas was the designer and builder, and he and his crew, along with
extra workers, including the second of the Highfills’ sons, Melvin,
worked laboriously with NO power tools to construct the home. A
mule-powered slip (scoop) was used to excavate the full basement, and the
concrete for the foundation as well as the walls and floor of the basement
was hand mixed and transported in a wheelbarrow. The workers’ pay was
fifty cents a day! The total cost of construction was $15,000.
Through the thirty-two years the Highfills owned the
property, they sold approximately nineteen acres of the original homestead.
Only about one half acre of land remains with the house.
In the spring of 1969, Gary and Marilyn McClure bought
the Highfill home from Claude Highfill for $17,369.59; Elizabeth Highfill
had died December 26, 1958. The McClures had three children--Leianne,
Lucinda, and Mike--at the time they purchased the property, and later a
fourth child, Tim, was born. Four months were devoted to renovating,
repairing, and refurbishing the home and converting the basement from
parking to living space before the family moved in on August 17, 1969. In
1987, Marilyn McClure died. In 1997, Gary married Beverly Ann Newsom. She
and Gary are the current owners of the McClure-Highfill Home.