Once a thriving Arkansas community, Paraclifta is now listed among several “ghost towns.” When Sevier County was created from part of “Old” Miller and Hempstead Counties in 1828, it was designated its county seat. By 1830, a post office had been established there, and by the 1850s, there were four newspapers. There was also the Paraclifta Seminary, which was a school for the education in social graces of young southern ladies.
Among the town’s prominent residents were Robert C. Gilliam and his wife Frances Russey Gilliam, who married in 1849. During the Civil War in 1863, Robert enlisted at the age of almost 44 in the Arkansas Battalion of State Troops when a “company of old men and boys” was recruited in Sevier County. He was killed at the Battle of Marks’ Mills on April 25, 1864.
Among the collections at SARA are the Gilliam Family papers which contain a history of their home, known today as the Gilliam-Norwood House, and is the only remaining structure of Paraclifta. The town was abandoned by 1885 due to the redrawing of Sevier County lines and the removal of the county seat to Lockesburg in 1871.
Original letters between Robert and his wife, Frances, during the Civil War are also among the family papers. Perhaps one of the most poignant ones was from Frances to Robert dated May 1, 1864. She wrote, “My Dear Husband, It has been so long since I heard from you I don’t feel like I can wait much longer. If I could get to you with safety, I would feel like going to see you.” Sadly, news of Robert’s death had not yet reached her. Also included in the collection is a lock of Robert’s hair that was clipped after his death.
This collection can be viewed at SARA from 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Tuesday – Saturday.