Claunch (Craighead County)

Claunch was a small town in Craighead County located on a bend of the St. Francis River, about six miles north of Lake City (Craighead County) in Lester Township. The small town was primarily an agricultural center and a place on the river where flatboats docked.

The town was originally called Lester, after Phill Lester, an early pioneer, who owned a large plantation prior to the Civil War. In October 1891, a post office was established, and the town was named for James Riley Claunch, a well-known farmer and physician of northeastern Arkansas.

James Riley Claunch (1833–1918) was the oldest child of James Harvey Claunch (1810–1899) and Charlotte Bearden (1815–1882). He was born in Bedford County, Tennessee, and grew up in McNairy County. He moved to Arkansas in 1856, settling in Poinsett County, where he engaged in farming. He married Martha Jane Crook (1843–1927), daughter of Joseph Martin Crook (died 1858) and Lucinda Coonrod (died 1846), and they had ten children. In 1862, he enlisted in the Twenty-third Arkansas Infantry (CS). He was later appointed assistant surgeon, serving with General Sterling Price on his 1864 raid through Missouri. After the war, he returned to his farm, resuming his medical practice two years later. He died at home on May 3, 1918, and is buried in Jonesboro (Craighead County). His wife died on April 6, 1927, and is buried with him.

Claunch was initially an early river boat landing, though several cotton gins and stores were built in the years that the community was in existence. The town was also located near a well-known fishing and hunting organization with a club house and game preserves (this area later became Big Lake National Wildlife Refuge). However, the post office closed in 1915, with mail services routed to Lake City, and nothing remains of the town itself, although the area is still the center of a prosperous farming community.

For additional information:
Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Northeast Arkansas. Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing Company, 1889.

Claunch, Jim L. “Claunch, a Small Town in Craighead County.” Craighead County Historical Quarterly 40 (January 2022): 3–10.

Stuck, Charles A. The Story of Craighead County: A Narrative of People and Events in Northeast Arkansas. Jonesboro, AR: 1960.

Williams, Harry Lee. History of Craighead County, Arkansas. Little Rock: Parke-Harper Co., 1930.

Jim L. Claunch
Leavenworth, Kansas


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