Parrish Business College
A Paragould newspaper, The Daily Soliphone, covered some school activities, though the school advertised in a number of Arkansas and Missouri newspapers. There is a brief biography of B. H. Parrish in History of Craighead County and in McKee’s Shorthand Magazine. Enrollment and other statistics appear in the Biennial Report of the Superintendent for Public Instruction. The image of B. H. Parrish (right) is from McKee's.
Ads in 1909 show an employment bureau to help students find jobs.
A twelve-week summer school program was offered in 1901 to prepare students for regular classes in the fall. In 1910 Parrish opened a branch in nearby Jonesboro and gradually shifted operations there. In 1914 the Jonesboro branch reported 87 students compared to 63 at Paragould.
Parrish College opened on July 14, 1899 and was chartered in 1900. Parrish had left a position as principal of the business department of Ouachita Baptist College to open his own school. In June 1902, the three-year anniversary of Parrish College, the school boasted that it had “enrolled more than 250 students, representing nine states.” A high point may have been the 1906 enrollment, which reached 90 with 20 graduates, according to the Biennial Report.
Parrish College initially had five departments: bookkeeping and business practices; shorthand and typewriting; telegraphy; penmanship; and arithmetic and English. Parrish noted that only the best talent would teach these courses. A railroad man would teach telegraphy; Parrish himself was described as an “accomplished penman.” Programs were added as need arose: an ad in 1905 promised a normal department; ads in 1915 listed civil service and high school English as courses to be offered.
The only reference to student activities came in 1902 when the Soliphone reported that they were “picnicing” at Hopkins’ bridge. It is not clear that the Mandolin Club entertained by Professor Parrish with cakes and fruit in 1902 was a student group.
At the end of World War I, Parrish closed both schools, when he became head of the business department at Jonesboro Agricultural College. In 1924 he joined the new Jonesboro Baptist College as head of its Business Department.
Google image of the 123 West Court Street Building today.
Bricks and Mortar
Paragould (population 3,324 in 1900) was an ideal location for a college since it could draw students from a four-state area. As a bonus, city leaders—including President Parrish—testified that no liquor license had been issued in Greene County in eight years.
Ads in1909 show the college address as 123 West Court Street, where it occupied “large and elegant rooms.” The 1916 Paragould city directory lists the address as the McHaney Building at 103 North Second Street. Present Google maps show that these addresses refer to the same building. The 1914 Sanborn Fire Insurance map shows that the building at the corner of Court and Second streets was a large two-story brick structure with wood porches. It contained a grocery store as well as offices and meeting rooms.
What appears to be the McHaney building, with a new façade on the Court Street side, still stands as a fitness center. It is part of the Downtown Paragould Historic District.
Although a 1909 postcard shows the Parrish Business College basketball team, coached by Professor Parrish, it is likely that the school had very limited sports programs. Newspapers show only four football games and no basketball results. In 1907 the football team was defeated by Paragould High School 40-0. That the team averaged 135 pounds per man speaks to the state of physical development at the time.
In 1915 P.B.C. lost to the Jonesboro Aggies 26-0, in a game called at halftime, and split games with Kennett (MO) High School, After losing 19-7 in Paragould, Kennett determined to “place one or two outsiders” on the team for the next game—a 13-7 victory in which their coach also played. The team representing P.B.C also included experienced players, “a number having played on college and university teams.”