An interesting part of Greene County history arrived back in Paragould recently after over 90 years.
Crews moved the Paragould Meteorite to the Greene County Museum. Paragould Regional Chamber of Commerce officials said the meteorite struck Earth around 4 a.m. on Feb. 17, 1930.
Paragould Regional Chamber CEO and Economic Development Director Allison Hestand said the meteorite is on loan, for at least the next year, from the Field Museum in Chicago. The relocation is being done in conjunction with another project being done by the chamber.
The chamber has been working on the science-based project in recent months – preparing for the April 8, 2024 solar eclipse. The eclipse is set to cross most of the United States, Mexico and Canada, with a large part of Arkansas experiencing it, according to the NASA website.
According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture, the meteorite was the largest, at the time, to be seen falling and then recovered.
“At 4:08 a.m. on February 17, 1930, the orbit of one of these rocks crossed Earth’s orbit, and two fields southwest of Paragould were struck. The meteor broke into either two or three pieces sometime before striking the ground. Three sonic booms were heard, indicating three pieces. The fireball of the meteor’s entry into Earth’s atmosphere was seen throughout the central United States, including in Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, and Kansas. Reports of a “crashing aircraft” came in from St. Louis, Missouri; Vandalia, Illinois; Mexico and Poplar Bluff, Missouri; and Burlingame, Kansas. Residents in Arkansas and Missouri noticed the sky lighting up, followed by a thunderous quake of the earth when it hit. Livestock stampeded, and nearly everyone in Paragould awoke,” the post from NASA Solar System Ambassadors program official Kenneth Renshaw noted.
Renshaw said in the post that the meteorite was not immediately noticed but definitely made an impact.
“The largest of the meteorite’s pieces was over 800 pounds (370 kilograms), which, by itself, is currently the second-largest meteorite observed in its descent and later recovered. The larger rock fell southwest of Finch (Greene County), measured 16×41 inches (40×105 centimeters), and created a nine-foot hole. Clay flew 100 yards from this impact. In 1930, the larger piece was the largest meteorite in the history of the world to be seen in its descent and the largest stony meteoroid in the world. After a search in the area, it was found by W.H. Hodges, four weeks after the fall, on the farm of Joe H. Fletcher, south of Bethel Church, off Highway 358,” Renshaw said. “It took five men and a team of horses three hours to remove it. Harvey H. Nininger, an aspiring meteorite collector and professor from McPherson, Kansas, bought the larger stone from Fletcher, bidding $3,600; he later sold it to Stanley Field, the president of the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Illinois, for $6,200, and Field donated it to the museum. The money from the sale enabled Nininger to eventually become the most successful meteorite hunter of the century. The 820-pound sample was moved to the University of Arkansas (UA) Library in 1988, where it was displayed on permanent loan. It was moved on April 11, 2008, to be displayed at UA’s Arkansas Center for Space and Planetary Science at the Old Museum Building on the Fayetteville (Washington County) campus.”
Renshaw noted a smaller meteorite, which weighed about 70 pounds, was also found.
“The smaller piece, found by farmer Raymond Parkinson, created a two-foot-deep hole behind the Finch Baptist Church. Weighing seventy-three pounds (thirty-three kilograms), it is now at the U.S. National Museum in Washington D.C. It had been on loan to a local high school teacher, L.V. Rhine, who sold it. The two impacts, off the same original piece, were separated by about three miles. A third sonic boom was heard that morning, but a third rock has never been found,” Renshaw said.
Doris Hagan, with the museum, said an entire room has been set aside to honor the meteorite and that a major focus of the museum for at least 15 years has been to bring the meteorite back to Paragould.
The idea for the museum started in 2004 and the museum opened in 2008, Hagan said. Hagan credited the work of the chamber and local residents for bringing the meteorite back a reality.
The museum at 130 South 14th Street in Paragould is open Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or by appointment.
Anyone interested in learning about or seeing the meteorite can contact the Greene County Museum at 870-240-5810.
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