Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Old Courthouse

Walter Class of 65 sent us this great postcard of the Old Courthouse... captures what a true loss it was. Thanks WF.

Bogie Class of 62: On the left (picture) was my mom and dad's favorite photo -Compliments of F.C. and Pauline Bogart.

B.J. Class of 68: Anyone remember the old courthouse? What a fabulous old building it was. It had to have been a one-of-a-kind. Inside was a wide, dark hallway with double doors at either end that let in the light. The floor was old, worn wood, and there was a wooden staircase that led up to the second floor. I remember going to a big room up there once to get my polio shot, the one that left a scar about the size of a dime. I will always miss that building. It wasn't pretty, but it had great character.

Paul Class of 68: Yes, I made two court appearances in the old courthouse, but that is another story... Funny, the Old Courthouse was one of the first places my sister (Marianne) and I talked about after Lou first sent out her photos of the Imperial and Rosemary Theaters. It certainly was a memorable structure - right across the street was probably the oldest, most run-down city jail in Arkansas (no, I did not see the inside of that building - just word of mouth). The Old Courthouse looked like it should have been haunted. One of the most striking landmarks at the Old Courthouse was the rickety wooden bridge to it that went over the railroad tracks (since when did they stop building bridges with a 90 degree turn?!!). How many of you remember driving across that bridge - listening to the planks clanking beneath your tires - and praying that it wouldn't fall through - similar to the feeling you got driving over the Old Madison Bridge over the St. Francis River.

Gail Bates: I loved the old courthouse with the clock which never worked in my lifetime! The old “wooden bridge” was always used when a train came through and we were tired of counting the cars. I thought that we were the only ones who actually used that bridge. Scary? You bet! The planks never seemed to be nailed down and I was convinced that it was only a matter of time before we were going to fall through some big hold that must be in that bridge!

Yes, at least one man was hung from the bridge and it was not a “legal hanging.” My grandmother told me about it and it was not to be discussed much. My grandfather had a degree in chemistry and became the first “county agent” for St. Francis County . Before that they had bought property and traveled back and forth to FC. It was on their first trip to FC that the hanging occurred—this was in the late 20’s or early 30’s. My grandmother never forgot. This is the first time that I knew others had heard the story. Was it just this one hanging that has become ingrained in the collective conscious or were there others?

Your turn: Comment (below), Blog by Email:


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great picture - B. I spent some time there w/ my grandmother Kathryn Warren (Rauscher) when she was a deputy sheriff 1958-1961. The jail was there too. We both lamented its demise. She always kept a watercolor of it on the wall. It was a favorite of local artists. Sula

Tue Jun 27, 06:57:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous B.J. said...

This might be a copy of the watercolor. Daddy had a copy of it at home. His girlfriend, Doris Halbert, was the jailer for years until she retired this year. He says the man who drew it, Ottis Grady, was a black man who was in and out of the jail occasionally. He drew it from a picture of the courthouse that was at the jail. I always thought it was a from a photo, but maybe it was from the watercolor. I hate that they tore it down. And you can see the old tressel bridge behind it where my grandmother said they used to hang people back in her day. Mama used to drive over it for us for fun until it became unsafe.

Wed Jun 28, 09:41:00 AM 2006  
Anonymous Sula said...

The watercolor Momee had was a view from the other side of the tracks, like you were looking at it from Front Street and it was in color. Wish someone had an actual photo of it.I think that, along with Baby Williams House and the Warren house were huge architectural losses for the city. Oh my! That train tressel...I can hear those raised boards built for narrow tires on Model T's under the car now. What a perfectly gory but striking backdrop for hangings... for train passengers to see? Ugh. Wonder if they had an official hanging drop in the middle somewhere or they were illegal hangings? Well had to have been illegal cause I think only the state could legally hang and that would have been in Little Rock. Did you ever take a ride on the train? When was the last time the train operated? We had a monkey shipped in by train & picked it up at the depot in 1962. Are those train tracks operable anymore? (deep sigh)...

Wed Jun 28, 07:20:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous B.J. said...

As far as I know, the trains still come through. The little train depot was another building I remember, although very faintly. I guess they stopped having passenger trains come through and didn't need it anymore. I just thought since Forrest City was the county seat maybe the hangings were county court affairs, but my grandmother didn't elaborate. I think she was talking about when she was a girl, probably in the 1910's. I know there is a picture somewhere of the old courthouse. I'll have to look for one. Or, maybe someone else will post one.

Fri Jun 30, 08:58:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I grew up in the court house! I would sit on the counter in the circuit court room and listen to election returns with my dad. Cigar smoke would fill the air and the time would pass till early morning waiting on the absentee box. I almost remember Blind Blue who sold candy at the court house. Anyone remember him? Dora

Tue Jul 04, 01:50:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My great-grandfather, Charles Ahlstedt, moved to Forrest City to finish building the old court house. He built many other things around the area: the Walker apartments on Washington St., the McDaniel home on the corner of Knight and Forest,the old Vaccaro home on Forest, etc. My great-grandfather lived in the red brick house across from Carl's Courts, which at that time didn't exist. My dad told me before that motel was there the Cranor family lived there. Their house was later moved to the back of the lot to make the office of the motel. I remember taking my driving test for my first license in the old court house, although I was already driving even in Memphis! SCARY!!!!

Wed Jul 12, 08:58:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous ForrestCity said...

I remember the court house very well. I lived next door to it for several years. We moved to FC in '50. Daddy was tranferred there with the state police. Around '53 he joined the sheriff's department as chief deputy and jailer, so we moved into the jail. Mother fixed all the meals for the prisoners.

I was able to spend a lot of time exploring the court house, from the basement to the bell tower. It was expecially fun to play there on weekends when there was no one around.

Mike I.

Fri Jul 14, 08:03:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember the bridge so well! The vidoc(is that how you would spell it?) was the only one left in Arkansas. I've always heard about the hangings from the bridge but my favorite story was one that Bill Baskins told us. He and 2 other friends were out riding around and as they were driving north across the "vidoc", headed towards Washington Street, they realized they were going too fast but it was too late. They crashed through the 90 degree turn and ended up suspended in mid-air being held only by the branches of the tree on the other side of the L-shaped curve!! True or fiction? I don't honestly know but he told it for the truth.

Sat Jul 22, 01:43:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Butch Ford said...

My little sister, Maribeth, posted the entry above about our great grandfather and his connection with the courthouse. I used to stand in the doorway of Dad's grocery store (I was supposed to be working) on Front Street and look up at that building with pride, knowing our great grandfather's role in its construction. My Dad has told the story many times about how Uncle Charley (that's what Dad called him) carried a ladder up into the top of the bell tower by himself and maneuvered it through an access opening and wedged it tightly on the roof of the tower. He climbed out onto the ladder and use it like stairs to climb to the top of the peak. I'm not sure, my memory fails at the point, but I think it was to install a lightening rod, an antenna or some other hugely important thing. He was pretty old at the time, but he made it. Look at the photo. That's a scary climb for anyone, much less an old man.
Maribeth mentioned several of the structures he built later as a general contractor. I know I've heard he built the public swimming pool. My mother always said he built "the sheriff's home." That's the Spanish or mediterranean style house with the red tile roof about a block south of the Grammar School on Rosser that was later owned by the Foggs (KXJK) during more modern times. Not sure if it's still there.
I really wish I had been more in touch with Forrest City when the courthouse was demolished. i would love to have gotten a brick or a piece of wood or something for a keepsake. Why does our society have to destroy everything that gets old. The train depot was another building that could have been a museum or something of importance. Too bad.

Thu Jul 27, 12:37:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mary Beth, what was your mother's maiden name? I can remember her from First Baptist Church and thought she was such a sweet lady. Is your dad married now to VIcki Spiveys mother? also a sweet and very beautiful lady last time I saw her. Dora.SOmethng else that stands out in my mind about you. THe night I got Spo sweetheart you had a date with Joe Ed. I waked over to the car and was so happy and said can I give him a kiss and you smiled and said sure.He was a sweetheart. Hary is too though!

Fri Aug 18, 04:49:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous B.J. said...

Walter, thanks so much for the great picture of the courthouse. It's almost like having it back again.

Sat Aug 19, 08:50:00 PM 2006  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home