Paragould’s rich history should start with the city’s name itself. As the only Paragould in the world, the name was derived from a combination of the names of two railroad tycoons, J.W. Paramore and Jay Gould, whose railroad paths literally crossed in 1882 in a small community in central Greene County.
The area was still an uncultivated timber-covered tract. During this time, eastern Arkansas contained some of the highest quality lumber sources in the nation. With readily available rail transportation, the timber industry gained momentum quickly. Paragould received an increasing amount of spectators and corporate interests. Shortly thereafter, boomtowns developed all along the rail lines.
Paragould was thriving at the turn of the 20th century. The city was able to support the demands of new industries and a rising population. By 1910, the blossoming town of Paragould had three department stores, an opera house, a hospital, and six banks. However, as the 1920s neared, the timber industry began to slow down. The once vast tract of timber surrounding the town was vacant giving rise to excellent farmland. As the timber business declined, workers started turning to agriculture. Agricultural production of cotton, corn, and soybeans soon become the area’s most important industry.
Throughout the early 1900s, industry and development began to flourish in Paragould. Industry in Paragould grew continually throughout the 20th Century, beginning with the relocation of Dr Pepper Bottling, Inc., to Paragould in the 1920s. Ely’s Employee Store (a shirt manufacturer), Ed White Shoe Factory and Foremost Dairy soon thereafter called Paragould home. In the early 1940s, the new Arkansas Methodist Hospital (now known as Arkansas Methodist Medical Center) was constructed on the site where the present facility exists today. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Paragould grew exponentially. Emerson Electric, one of Paragould’s first Fortune 500 companies, built a plant in Paragould.
Thanks to the new presence of Emerson, Paragould received a growth spurt that propelled the town through more than five decades of significant growth. Other industries began relocating to Paragould, steadily increasing its population to the current 28,912.