Monroe County is named for James Monroe, who was the fifth President of the United States from 1817 to 1825.
Surrounding County Courthouses:
N – Woodruff County
E – Saint Francis County, Lee County and Phillips County
S – Arkansas County
W – Arkansas County and Prairie County
Created: November 2, 1829
Lawrenceville 1830 – 1857
Clarendon 1857 – present
County Courthouse – Clarendon
Location: 123 Madison Street / Main Street
Built: 1911 – 1912
Style: Romanesque Revival
Architect: Charles L Thompson of Little Rock
Contractor: W A Prather & Company
Description: The building faces north and is a three story brown colored brick, stone and concrete structure. The building is located on spacious landscaped grounds in the center of Clarendon. The north front has a portico supported by four thin columns rising to a curved roof. Behind the portico rises a high five story square brick clock tower with open columned cupola with steep red colored roof at the top. On each corner of the building are brick octagonal towers with steep red colored roofs. Small dormers are on the hipped roof. In the interior, the lobby features marble wainscoting and colorfully patterned ceramic tile floors. The County Circuit Court courtroom is located in the center of the building on the second story. An elegant, domed skylight of stained glass is centered over the room. The room is also lit by multiple hanging brass chandeliers with tassels; others are wall mounted. The walls, pilasters, and layered ceiling are white, with the judge’s bench and other furniture standing out in dark oak. A balcony stands at the rear of the courtroom and includes a brass statue of Lady Justice, a common figure in courthouses across the United States. The building houses the County Circuit Court of the 1st Judicial District.
Legend: The courthouse, and more specifically the basement, is said to be haunted by the ghost of Ernze Mabel Orr, better known as “Mabel”. It all started quite a few years before the courthouse was even built, when Mabel and her husband John Orr made their first trip to Clarendon, Arkansas. The Orr’s were a husband and wife duo of comedy and opera performances. In 1893, John and Mabel Orr visited the small town of Clarendon to take stage at the local opera house, they fell in love with the quaint nature of the town and decided to make it their permanent home.
The Orr’s soon returned and purchased a large home in Monroe County. They took in a number of servants, all of African-American descent, and it wasn’t long before the servants discovered the dark secret of the Orr family. John Orr was a cruel husband who often abused his wife. Whenever his temper flared, he would lash out, beating her relentlessly. Mabel was terribly distraught by her husband’s behavior, but in those days, it was almost unheard of to seek legal aid for an abusive relationship, and doing so was likely fruitless anyhow. Instead, Mabel joined forces with the servants.
One of her female servants helped Mabel to mix up a ‘hoodoo’ potion or spell of some sort intended to kill the brutal Mr. Orr. It did not work, and the abusive treatment continued, but Mabel was not ready to give up yet. This time, Mabel was receiving the assistance of four servants; three men and one woman. Together, they conceived a plot that involved the murder of John Orr by gunshot. It is not exactly proven whether they actually went through with the plan, but a short time later, John Orr was shot and killed under mysterious circumstances.
See: National Register of historic Places – Monroe County Courthouse
See: The 1st Judicial District includes Cross County, Lee County, Phillips County, Saint Francis County and Woodruff County.
History: The county was created in 1829 and Lawrenceville was selected as the county seat in 1830. The first court met at the home of Thomas Maddox and the first courthouse and jail were built in 1830. The county seat was moved to Clarendon in 1857. The second courthouse was a two story brick structure built in 1859 to 1861. The courthouse was dismantled and shipped to Valls Bluff in 1863 during the Civil War. The third courthouse was a one room frame structure built in 1866. The fourth courthouses was a two story brick structure built in 1872. The courthouse burned on January 1, 1895. The fifth courthouse was built in 1995 by the citizens of the county. The building was torn down when the sixth and present courthouse was constructed in 1911 to 1912.
County Courthouse – Clarendon
County Circuit Court courtroom
Photos taken 2012