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Dr. & Mrs. James Piggott

Published by Vivian Hansbrough of the Arkansas Gazette,

Little Rock, Arkansas on Sunday, December 28, 1947

In the fall of 1873, Dr. James A. Piggott of Dow, Ill., and some of his neighbors loaded 13 wagons with implements necessary for the opening of a home in a new and undeveloped country, and headed for Arkansas. Crossing the St. Francis river at Chalk Bluff, they made their way down Crowley’s Ridge and across the White river bottoms toward the center of the state. Not finding a suitable location, they turned again to the northeast. When they reached the beautiful hills about two miles northwest of the present site of Piggott, they decided that this was the place to build a home. Dr. Piggott bought a small hill farm on which a log cabin stood. He cleared the farm, and began the practice of medicine.

At this early date the railroad had not been started, and roads were only dim trails leading from one settlement to another. The dense forests, broken only by the scattered clearing of the few settlers, abounded with game. There was no post office nearer than Chalk Bluff, about seven miles farther north. Dr. Piggott, finding it very inconvenient to make his way through this almost unbroken forest to Chalk Bluff for his mail, and also take care of his expanding medical practice, petitioned the Postal Department to establish another office in the home of his neighbor, Richard Throgmorton. Although Mr. Throgmorton was named postmaster, his wife did most of the taking care of the mail. She chose the name of Piggott for the new post office, in honor of the doctor who had been influential in securing mail service for the neighborhood. Dr. Piggott called at the post office for mail that could be delivered as he went about his professional calls. The doctor was later an active part in securing the right of way for the new Cotton Belt railroad, which he saw completed before his death.

Dr. James A. Piggott was born in St. Francis County, Missouri, June 9, 1816, and died in Clay County, Arkansas, November 4, 1882.

In 1874, the year following Dr. Piggott’s arrival, another doctor appeared in the community. This was Dr. Sam Huston, from Missouri, who met and married Miss Susan Lowrance, daughter of Mrs. Lucy Lowrance. Mrs. Lowrance had come to the locality in 1858, and her husband lost his life in the Battle of Helena during the Civil war. Her home was in the southern part of the town which eventually became Piggott. The town cemetery bears her name.

In October, 1887, Dan Throgmorton, brother of Richard Throgmorton, laid off town lots in north Piggott, and donated the land for a railway station. Soon business houses began to be built near the new depot. There was some discussion as to whether the town should be called Huston or Throgmore. Mail continued to come to the post office as Piggott, and the name has remained Piggott.

Clayton County was created by act of the legislature on March 24, 1873, named for Senator John M. Clayton, who was largely responsible for creating the new county. Due to the unpopularity of a former governor, Powell Clayton, the people of the county petitioned that the name be shortened to Clay County. The change was approved by the legislature in 1875. The western part of the county had been taken from Randolph County, and the eastern part from Greene County. Settlers of the 1870s could boast they had lived in three counties without changing their home site.

As in other sections, there was a continuous disagreement about the location of the county seat. Corning, in the western part of the county, became the first county seat in 1873. Hardly a year had passed until a vote was taken, and Boydsville, in the eastern part of the county, received a majority of votes for the county seat. Because of general dissatisfaction, the records were not moved until a second vote in 1877 awarded the county seat to Boydsville. In 1881, the Arkansas legislature passed an act dividing the county into two judicial districts, eastern and western, with the county seat in the eastern section at Boydsville, and with Corning as a judicial center for the western section. This necessitated the making of two sets of county records. Some time later, there was a shift of population toward the railroad, and because of that Boydsville was no longer a good location for the county seat. An election in 1891 awarded the county seat to Piggott. Much excitement was caused by the appearance of 10 yokes of oxen, hauling the county safe from Boydsville to the new courthouse at Piggott.

Further excitement aroused the citizens from their beds on the cold night of January 16, 1893. The cry of “fire” echoed from house to house. Pumps were primed, tubs were filled with water, and a bucket brigade rushed to the burning courthouse. Nothing could quench the blaze. People stood by and watched the building burn, secure in the belief that the records were locked in the safe. As the fire died down, the same could be seen in the ruins, with its mighty doors swung open. There was much speculation as to whether the safe had been left open unintentionally or had been forced open and the building set afire. Time has never answered the question.

The story of Piggott would not be complete without the mention of the late Paul M. Pfeiffer, who took the lead in promoting drainage of the lowlands of the county.

Mr. Pfeiffer was returning from a trip to Texas when he stopped off in Clay County in 1909, and became interested in the farming possibilities of the region. By 1915 he had bought more than 12,000 acres of cut-over land in the St. Francis valley.

A large portion of this land was swampy yet very fertile. Roads were only winding trails that followed the highest ground, and drainage had not been considered. With keen foresight, Mr. Pfeiffer set out to clear the land, erect modern farm buildings, lay out and build roads on straight lines, and take the lead in the movement that has resulted in a modern drainage system. A single line in a government bulletin told Pfeiffer that fire kills all plant and animal life. Following this information, he cut trees and left the unmarketable ones on the ground amid brush and vines until a dry season. With the huge fires he destroyed all of the plant life, except large stumps, which were pulled out and hauled away before spring plowing time. This method of quick cleaning came to be known as “Pfeiffering” the land. In 1929 when a large land company was allowing its holdings to go back to the state for taxes, Mr. Pfeiffer bought 50,000 acres in the Cache and Black river bottoms. This made him the largest land owner in Clay County. He spent the remainder of his life as one of the most public-spirited citizens of Piggott, and is buried in the Piggott cemetery.

C. Wright, president of the Bank of Piggott, and a resident of Piggott since 1889, furnished most of the information of this brief history written by Vivian Hansbrough of the Arkansas Gazette located in Little Rock, Arkansas. The article was published on Sunday, December 28, 1947

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