of Downtown Paris
Revolution and a New Start
short years after the U. S. became a nation, Tennessee
joined up and became a state—the sixteenth state to join
this brand new experiment in freedom, liberty, and
nation building. The oldest incorporated municipality in
the state of Tennessee, Paris became the county seat
shortly after Henry became a county in 1821. Henry
County was named after Revolutionary War hero Patrick
Henry who said, “Give me liberty or give me death!”
Panthers Would Answer!”
As late as 1820,
there really wasn’t much in Henry County or Paris. There
were a few settlers here and there, but they said it was
so wild that “if a baby cried in the night, the panthers
It Was Named After Whom?
Since there is
nothing obviously French here at first glance, many
visitors wonder how Paris got its name. Legend has it
that one of the county commissioners, James Leeper,
thought a lot of the French General, the Marquis de
Lafayette. This member of French royalty and an
outstanding military man helped our ‘rag-tag crew’ of a
nation during the American Revolution. James Leeper
wanted to honor the Marquis de Lafayette, so when it
came time to suggest names, he put the name Lafayette in
The Luck of the Draw
Amazingly, Lafayette was the name
drawn. However, no one was certain about the
spelling—they didn’t want to misspell their hero’s name
and the name of their city! That would be much worse
than no recognition at all. So instead of possibly
spelling the town’s name wrong, they settled on Paris.
They figured the Marquis de Lafayette was probably from
somewhere around there anyway (if they wanted to call
300 miles “somewhere” they were right!).
Which Bar Are
You Going To, Dear?
Paris was the first town in West
Tennessee to incorporate. It had five stores, four
taverns, and a courthouse. The original courthouse was
made of poplar logs and was two little rooms divided by
a covered opening. They held court in the north room and
an enterprising Parisian sold pies and liquor in the
south room. That made it terribly convenient for folks
to go from the ‘bar of justice’ to the ‘other bar’. That
courthouse only lasted two years, much to the dismay of
the local “l0vers of the grape and corn.” In 1825 the
county built a two-story brick courthouse.
As war clouds loomed in our young
nation, Tennessee was the last state to secede, leaving
the Union in May of 1861. By that time there were 2,000
people living in Paris, which was a pretty good size for
a town back then. The war had a tremendous effect on the
local citizens. Calls were made for men to assemble here
on the courthouse lawn to organize Confederate
“Volunteer County of the
Monday, May 20, 1861 is the day the
Fifth Regiment, Tennessee Infantry, was permanently
organized. Crowds poured onto the courthouse lawn from
every direction. The company criers mounted the fence
around the courthouse and yelled, “Oh, yes! Oh, yes! All
that belong to Captain Caldwell’s company parade here!
Parade here!” So many of them volunteered that our
county later on was given the title, “Volunteer County
of the Volunteer State.” But that distinction got us in
We Sure Got Some Attention—and
So many men were being enlisted
here that General Ulysses S. Grant ordered Union
soldiers to Paris to try and stop the tremendous influx
of enemy combatants from this one little area.
Battle of Paris, which took place about a mile west of
town, occurred on March 11, 1862. It only lasted a
little while; we fought hard and the Federals retreated
back to Paris Landing. The Yankees, however, eventually
occupied Paris. They took over our courthouse and used a
local hotel for their sick and wounded.
Much to the
entire nation’s relief, the war came to a close in the
spring of 1865.
Bad Things Still Happen
beautiful downtown area has had its misfortunes over the
years, however, especially fires. In 1873, a relentless
fire left nothing standing on the entire west side of
the square. Fire struck the square three more times over
the years; they didn’t have very good fire-fighting
equipment back then, so fires were usually very
destructive and burned for far too long.
The 1884 fire burned 118 and 116
North Market Street. Although there were several people
killed in that fire, there was also a miracle. Seems
that there was a fellow caught under some fallen timbers
in one of the stores, but nobody could get to him. He
was surely destined to die until a big barrel of
molasses fell and broke. With the heat of the fire, the
molasses got warm and made him slick enough to ease out
from under the heavy beams and get to safety. A miracle
Parisians Can Be Stubborn
the vicious fires, the row of businesses on the west
side of the courthouse make up the longest continuous
row of court square buildings still existing from before
the turn of the century in the entire state of
Tennessee. One example of this perseverance—some call it
mule-headedness—is the Toggery, a Men’s Store. It has
been in its original location since 1917—longer than any
other single business on the square! Ninety-one years
for one location says a lot, and especially since it
will be 100 years in 2017!
Not ‘Snake Oil’ At All!
of the north side of the square, take a look at the
Toggery’s next-door neighbor. In 1877 a young man moved
to town, become a clerk, and eventually a pharmacist in
that store, back when it was a drug store. The man’s
name was Edwin Wiley Grove. He was in his mid-twenties
when he bought the pharmacy, and he was just barely
scraping by, but he had an idea, and it was a great one.
that time, malaria, a disease carried by mosquitoes, was
killing and disabling thousands of men, women, and
children in the South. The disease was rampant worldwide
wherever the climate was similar to that of the southern
United States (hot and humid). The only known treatment
(not cure, but treatment) was quinine. The problem was
that it was so bitter tasting that many patients
preferred the disease to the medicine!
Stubbornness Perseverance Again
that if he could concoct a form of quinine that didn’t
taste so bad, his fortune would be made. Late into the
night, he’d work in the basement of that little pharmacy
or at his house a few blocks away. They say that at
times the fumes were horrible. But after several years
his perseverance paid off, and Grove’s Tasteless Chill
Tonic was born.
With the assistance of a few
friends, on little capital, Grove started the Paris
Medicine Company. His chill tonic became a raging
success worldwide. If fact, it was standard issue for
British soldiers who were shipping off to
malaria-infested countries. Even though Dr. Grove
eventually moved the Paris Medicine Company to St. Louis
and eventually became a resident of Asheville, North
Carolina, he didn’t forget about the little town where
he got his start.
How Can I Repay You?
Mr. Grove submitted an offer to the Henry County
Quarterly Court stating that if the city and county
would buy the land and build a public high school, he
would endow it for $50,000. You can see the school,
known as the Grove Tower Building, from many places in
Prior to his offer, parents had to
pay for any education past the eighth grade. This was
the first public high school available in this county.
The cornerstone was laid June 26, 1906, and Grove High
School became the only privately endowed public high
school in the state. Because of Grove’s Tasteless Chill
Tonic, many folks call it “the School that came from a
Today, however, the Grove
endowment’s interest is spent on computers and other
things that Dr. Grove could never have imagined during
his time in Paris.
The Last Courthouse, Hopefully
architect who designed the Tower Building designed our
fourth—and so far final—courthouse. The year was 1896
and the sidewalks around town were still wooden for the
most part. And the streets—well, paved streets were
still twenty years off. But there were concrete
crosswalks, and that was a huge improvement, considering
the streets were still dirt or mud, depending on the
The interior has been remodeled,
but the original paneled doors and frame staircase are
intact. Period lighting and other elements that offer a
turn-of-the-century feel have been restored. We’re proud
to have the oldest working courthouse in the state of
We Grow Famous Folks Here
main hall of the courthouse, you’ll find three
governors’ portraits and one of Patrick Henry. Paris
lays claim to Governor Isham G. Harris, our civil war
governor, Governor Porter, who currently resides in the
city cemetery, and Governor Rye, whose beautiful home is
still being lived in by Parisians.
Industrious Folks Here Too
Church in downtown is the oldest church building in
Paris. It was founded by three women who got support
from friends abroad. They raised the balance of the
necessary money by holding suppers, bazaars, and
Construction began in 1895, and the
building was completed the next year. The windows in
Grace Church were designed and produced by the famous
Tiffany glassworks. The glass itself was shipped to the
American factory from Versailles, France. Each separate
piece was wrapped in straw, placed in wooden kegs, and
put on a ship bound for Philadelphia. The kegs were then
transported by a horse-drawn wagon to Lancaster, PA,
where the windows were actually constructed.
The Rose windows
in the west end of the church were inferior and faded in
the afternoon sun. They weren’t replaced until 1966. The
individual pieces of these two new windows were gathered
from the cathedrals of Europe that were destroyed during
the first and second World Wars. So some of this stained
glass dates back to the 15th Century!
Pays Off Handsomely
Paris became known for the
production of cosmetics. The first outfit was the
National Toilet Company, founded in 1899. They produced
bleaching creams, face powders, and rouge under the name
“Nadinola.” Next came the Paris Toilet Company founded
in 1913, and Tyson and Company, founded in 1920.
Tyson and Walter Johnson, who were originally connected
with the National Toilet Company, owned Tyson & Company.
They came up with a new twist for the industry and began
producing cosmetics exclusively for women of color.
company was located upstairs and they packed all those
cosmetics in jars and put the jars in cartons. Then
they’d put those cartons down a metal chute and, whoosh,
they’d fly down to a delivery person waiting in the back
Something is Always Going On
Downtown Paris has been the
backdrop for many celebrations. Back in the thirties,
farmers would come to town the first Monday of the month
to swap everything from knives to mules. The folks at
the newspaper, The Post-Intelligencer, decided that
since so many people were in town that day anyway,
they’d sponsor a little festival with some mule contests
and a parade. The idea caught on, and by the next year
everyone was looking forward to the second annual Mule
Day. The folks at the theater took moving pictures, and
everyone went to the Capitol later and watched the
events of Mule Day all over again.
enjoyed by Parisians during the late thirties and early
forties was the Nancy Hall Jubilee, but when the bottom
fell out of the sweet potato market the jubilee came to
a halt. You see, Nancy Hall wasn’t a person the town was
honoring. It was the main variety of sweet potato grown
King Catfish Comes to Town—And
These days we celebrate neither
mules nor sweet potatoes, but fish, during the World’s
Biggest Fish Fry. Back in the early ‘50s, the parade,
the fish tent and the carnival were all downtown; now
downtown hosts the street dance, the kiddie parade and
the catfish races. We serve over 12,500 pounds (or six
and a quarter tons) of catfish during our weeklong
celebration, which is held the last full week in April.
Over six tons sounds like a lot of catfish, but hungry
eaters make it disappear in no time at all! The top
chefs during Fish Fry have been doing it for years, and
they get the honor because of their experience and
“lip-smacking good cooking!”
Who Have Left Us
There are a host of notable
Parisians buried in the city cemetery. Davy Crockett’s
oldest son, John Wesley Crockett, was elected as a
United States Congressman in 1837, and in fact, he
filled the seat his father had once held. He served this
district until 1841. The next year he moved to New
Orleans and later up to Memphis, where he became a
newspaperman. He died down there at the early age of 44,
and his body was returned to Paris for burial. He
thought of this as home.
John Wesley Crockett and his wife,
Martha Hamilton, a Paris girl, had fourteen children.
That may explain why Henry County has more direct
descendants of Davy Crockett than any place else in the
Henry County is headquarters for
the National Direct Descendants of David Crockett.
(Incidentally, if you do the math on that passel of
children, you’ll find that Mrs. Crockett birthed a new
little Crockett about every 21 months for two and a half
It’s No Sweat If You Have the
It has been said that once you move
to North Poplar Street, you never move away. This was
especially true of the four Mitchum sisters, who each
occupied a house on this street. If you’ve ever heard of
Mitchum Antiperspirant, you’re familiar with the Mitchum
Company, which was later sold to Revlon. These Mitchum
sisters’ kinship provided the family ties that bound the
Mitchum Company together. First known as the Paris
Toilet Company and later on as Golden Peacock, and
finally Mitchum, the company began in 1913 as a small
producer of bleaching cream.
became Paris’s largest home-owned industry. During most
of its 57-year history, many of which were Depression
years, it thrived and became a multi-million-dollar,
Who’s That Woman Behind You?
As we all
know, behind every good man and his business is a good
woman, or in this case, four good women.
“Miss Nell” was
one of the four Mitchum sisters. Her husband, Will T.
Warren Jr., his father W. T. Warren Sr., and Percy Aden
were the three founders of Paris Toilet Company.
across the street is the home of Mabel Ing, another of
the Mitchum girls and one of the key reasons the family
cosmetic business was founded in the first place. In the
early part of this century, fair skin was quite the
vogue for the ladies. Miss Mabel and her sister, Nell,
both had reddish hair and freckled easily. They used a
bleaching cream made by a local woman to remove the
freckles. That bleaching formula, which the sisters
found so effective, was the first formula purchased by
the Paris Toilet Company.
The next house down from the
Warrens, 603 North Poplar, belonged to Miss Maude
Duvall, the third of the four daughters of Mr. Mitchum.
Miss Maude’s husband was a train master and also a
stockholder in the Paris Toilet Company.
daughters so close, you might imagine that Mr. Mitchum
would not be far away. The next house, 605 North Poplar,
belong to Mr. and Mrs. A. B. Mitchum. But if you’ve been
counting, we’ve only discussed three of the four
The fourth sister, Annie Mitchum
Province, never left her parents’ house. Although her
husband built them a lovely home on Walnut Street,
“Annie Mitch” preferred North Poplar. Miss Annie’s
husband, John Province, was also on the board of
directors of the Paris Toilet Company.
The house at 615
Poplar Street belonged to Mr. Percy Aden. And of course,
since no one ever leaves North Poplar Street, this house
was eventually owned by Mitchum Warren, the son of Nell
and Will T. Warren. Mitchum is the person credited with
the name changes the company underwent.
Toilets, Do You?
You see, when Mitch was in college,
people used to ask him, “What does your family do?” When
he told them about the Paris Toilet Company, they
thought the Warrens made commodes, so Mitch asked his
father to change the name, and Mr. Will obliged him.
peacock was one of Mr. Will’s favorite birds because of
its extraordinary beauty. He also thought the name lent
itself to splendid packaging and logo opportunities, so
in 1927 the Paris Toilet Company became Golden Peacock,
Before it was all said and done, however, young Mitch
changed the name yet again. This time he gave it a
family twist, naming it after his mother and aunts and,
incidentally, after himself: The Mitchum Company.
That a Real Mansion?
This one’s called Cavitt Place, and
like most older homes, it has a colorful history. The
Cavitts were early settlers in this area. After the
Civil War, around 1867, they decided to buy James
Currier’s farm on the edge of town, located on the main
stage road north, now known as North Poplar Street.
Cavitts built a wonderfully ornate Victorian home, also
called Cavitt Place, but it was badly damaged by fire in
1912. By this time, Orion Conyers Barton had married
Tillie Cavitt and assumed responsibility for the
household. O. C. Barton was a friend and business
associate of Edwin Wiley Grove. E. W. Grove was the
gentleman who developed the “Tasteless Chill Tonic,” and
Barton was one of his investors.
Medicine Company was a raging success, and people who
had bought just a few dollars worth of stock made enough
money to burn a wet mule…or build a mansion.
O. C. Barton was
one of fortune’s favorites. For quite some time, he held
a position on the board of the Paris Medicine Company,
which later became Grove Laboratories.
Barton was a
true philanthropist. He and his wife donated the
necessary funding to build the girls’ dormitory at Grove
High School as well as money for the schools’ Barton
This wealthy Parisian not only
found time for work and civic duties, he also found time
to replace the badly burned Victorian Cavitt Place with
the new Cavitt Place, the crown jewel of North Poplar.
Cavitt Place was designed by Briton Davis, a prominent
architect of the day. It was featured in American
Architect magazine in 1916. “Colonel” Barton, as he was
known around town, spared no expense with that big
house. An artist from St. Louis was hired to do artwork
on the ceiling and walls. The Colonel even imported a
stonecutter from Italy to do the fancy stonework.
Mahogany and walnut woodwork are found throughout the
house, and the entry is designed with marble floors and
Eventually, the Barton heirs gave
the house to the county. In the summer of 1989, the
county transferred ownership of Cavitt Place to the
Paris-Henry County Heritage Center, a museum and
archives. It is open most days and is well worth the
time to investigate and marvel.
The home at 607 North Poplar, circa
1840, is red brick with white columns. Before this house
belonged to A. B. and Miss Eleanor Mitchum, it was home
to Dr. E. W. Grove. When Dr. Grove lived there, it was
single story without the columns or balcony. Still, it
was a fine home and served the Groves well until their
business expanded so much they needed to be in a big
city like St. Louis.
The Mitchums remodeled it and added
on to it when they purchased it in the early 1900s. It
has recently been purchased by two graduates of E. W.
Grove High School who returned home from Texas to retire
in Paris. They have done extensive renovations, yet kept
the charm that has endeared this house to North Poplar
Street for more than 165 years.
But a … What?
Also nearby is the City Auditorium.
This building was used for everything from basketball
games to concerts. In its hey day of the 50’s and 60’s,
everyone from Elvis to Jerry Lee Lewis to Flatt and
Scruggs performed there. There are a million memories
and songs permeating that building!
Back during the day, the train was
the only way to travel great distances, even to or
through Paris. One train passenger tells the story of
disembarking the train and having one arm grabbed by the
owner of the Caldwell Hotel and the other arm grabbed by
the owner of the Greystone Hotel! The Greystone is still
standing and has a few stories of its own, not the least
of which is the old hotel that’s hidden inside.
the years the Greystone Hotel with its fine dining room
was the place to see and be seen. Its banquet hall was
home to the most elegant parties in Paris. Because
portraits of Governors Harris, Porter, and Rye were
displayed in its front hall, it was named the Governor’s
Room. Today the Greystone offers downtown living plus
the beautifully remodeled Governor’s Room.
“It Ain’t Over Till…”
Hotel is also the best spot to view the old Crete Opera
House, next door across the street. When it opened at
the turn of the century, it was a fine performance hall
with rich velvet carpet covering the aisles, two elegant
private boxes hung with Oriental drapery, a large pit
for the orchestra, and the latest switch board with
1,000 brilliant lights.
This building eventually housed the
Mitchum Company and today houses our county’s election
commission, tax assessor, and trustee’s offices.
Unfortunately, in the early part of the 20th century,
opera companies stopped traveling throughout the country
and that was the demise of the Crete Opera House.
the End by a Long Shot!
Paris and Henry
County continue to grow and foster talented, industrious
people, and welcome in many relocaters and retirees to
this gorgeous area.
There isn’t room here to go into
the hunting and fishing, which are world class! Henry
County and Paris Landing host many fishing tournaments
during the year, and you can hardly drive 10 miles in
the county without seeing deer or turkeys.
Place To Be
We truly believe that Paris, Paris
Landing, and Henry County are the best places on Earth!
Why don’t you come see for yourself?