The Randolph County Heritage Museum, 106 E. Everett St., Phone 870-892-4056, is a wonderful storehouse of local history in downtown Pocahontas. Among many other displays, there’s a real button factory, moved a few years ago from the banks of the Black River a few blocks from the museum and rebuilt inside the museum, that remembers the mussel shell industry that once thrived in Pocahontas, as shells were turned into buttons in the days before plastic was developed.
During the American Civil War, downtown Pocahontas was burned by union troops, and they captured a Confederate general right on the town square. A historical marker describes that event, and a granite monument acknowledges the suffering of the people of Pocahontas and Randolph County as a result of the war. Nearby Black River Overlook Park contains several more historical markers that describe the events of the war in Pocahontas and Randolph County.
The Saint Charles Building is the oldest building in Pocahontas. Built in 1860 as an annex to the Saint Charles Hotel (built 1850, burned in the 1920’s), it’s the only building in town that witnessed the American Civil War. It’s currently undergoing historical rehabilitation to create retail space downstairs and lodging upstairs, just as it was created to do in 1860.
The 1872 Randolph County courthouse, in the center of the Pocahontas town square, served as the seat of county government until it was replaced by a newer building, 1 block away, in 1940. The 1872 building was preceded by an 1836 courthouse on the same spot. A historical marker tells the story of that older building.
A granite obelisk monument marks the location of the Old Saint Charles Hotel, which served as headquarters of both Confederate and Union forces in Pocahontas during various phases of the American Civil War. The obelisk is placed in observance of the great pain suffered by the people of Pocahontas and Randolph County during that war.
The old Saint Charles Hotel, built 1850, as it appeared after 1872, when the old courthouse (extreme right side of this photo) was built. The brick St. Charles Annex can also be seen just to the right of the wood-framed Saint Charles Hotel. The Annex still stands, and has been restored to look like it did long ago.
Most of the brick buildings on the west side of the Pocahontas town square were designed in the late 1800’s by noted architect Henry Lesmeister, Jr., who also designed his father’s building that now houses Lesmeister Guesthouse on North Marr Street. Henry Jr. also designed the roof on St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church in Pocahontas, with its king trusses that carry the building’s roof without need for interior support posts. Henry Jr. also designed many buildings in nearby Jonesboro and as far away as Memphis, Tennessee.
The Port of Pocahontas was the main feature of Pocahontas in the steamboat days, and it was the town’s main industrial area up until about 1965. That area is now Black River Overlook Park, across US Highway 67 from downtown Pocahontas.
The local Visitor Information Center in the restored 1921 train depot (across US Highway 67 from downtown Pocahontas) includes a great little history museum of local transportation and commerce.