Early Benton County, Arkansas Schools

For many years after the formation of the State of Arkansas her educational facilities were of the most meager kind, and although many improvements have been made in the past, it may truthfully be said that in this respect she is still far behind many of her sister States, though perhaps fully on a par with those having had the same opportunities. But few of the children of the early settlers of Benton County enjoyed the benefit of schools, even of the poorest class, while the great majority of them were, on account of the very few schools and the great distance to them, almost entirely deprived of educational facilities. The only schools taught in those days were subscription schools, and those were taught only in neighborhoods sufficiently settled to maintain them. With but few exceptions the early teachers were very illiterate, being able only to read, write and “cipher.” And frequently they would contract to teach “‘rithmetic” only to the “rule of three.” Subsequently, when villages became established, or neighborhoods became thickly settled, a few select schools or academies were established therein by men well qualified to teach, but, on account of the tuition necessarily charged, none but the more wealthy classes could avail themselves of these privileges, so upon the whole the children of the poor had to be reared with but little education farther than what could be imparted to them by their parents.

The pioneer schools were always taught in the old-fashioned log cabin school-house, with its puncheon floor and stone fireplace, with stick and mud chimney, and with seats made of split logs, the flat side being hewed smooth with an ax or broad-ax. The early school-teachers who taught in the War Eagle neighborhood were James Martin, Moses Dutton, Alfred Laws, Holland Hines and Thomas Macon. The latter is said to have been well educated, while the education of the others was not up to the standard required of teachers at the present. In 1840 a school was taught in a log school-house in the neighborhood of the settlement of Walter Thornberry, in the southern part of the county, by a young man who also professed to be a Christian minister. W. W. Burgess, now of Springtown, was one of his pupils, and he relates the following rather ridiculous incident. He did not like his teacher, and did not believe that he was what he professed to be, a Christian man, and while he (Burgess) behaved at school, and respected the young man as a teacher, he did not feel constrained to respect him as a preacher. So, on one Sunday when the young man was to preach in the school-house, young Burgess saddled an ox and rode it to church, at the same time wearing upon his head a raw coon-skin for a cap. After service he again mounted the ox and escorted a young lady to her home – having attended the service on horseback – and took dinner with her. Mr. Burgess delights to relate this incident, but declines to give the lady’s name for publication.

About the year 1842 a Mr. Holsten, or Holstein, taught the first school in the vicinity of the present town of Siloam Springs. He taught in “a little cabin,” and some white children from the Indian Territory attended his school. Among these may be mentioned Mrs. Cal. D. Gunter, of Hico. In 1844 or 1845 a school and church combined was built in Maysville, that being then the largest town in the county. This house is not standing now. The Shelton Academy, at Pea Ridge, was erected about the year 1851, and Prof. Lockhart taught the first school therein. He was succeeded by other teachers, and the academy was kept up until about the year 1858, when it was abandoned, and the building turned into a store-room. In 1853 and 1854 J. Wade Sikes, now one of the proprietors of Rogers, taught school near Bentonville. His patrons boarded him and paid him $15 per month for his services. After this he taught the Shelton Academy at Pea Ridge for two years, where he had about forty pupils in attendance. Upon the approach of the Civil War the few schools that were being taught in Benton County were closed, and none were opened again until some time after the war.

Bentonville Public and High School

The public school building of Bentonville is located in a beautiful grove of natural forest trees, about one-half mile southwest of the court-house. It is a large two-story brick building, containing seven schoolrooms, besides the necessary halls and cloak-rooms. It was constructed in 1872, but was afterward burned down, and was rebuilt in 1881. The first session of the present school year commenced September 3, and at this writing, September 10, 1888, 326 pupils have been enrolled in attendance, and more are yet expected to come in. The faculty consists of Prof. William Stephens, principal; Prof. J. D. Partelow, Miss Laura Schwab, Miss Lou Taliaferro, Miss Flora Cotton, Miss Georgia Nesbit and Miss Ida Trotter. The number of pupils already enrolled is exceedingly large for such a small corps of teachers.

The Rogers Academy

This is a handsome structure, three stories high, built of brick, and would be a credit to any country. It was erected in 1884-85 by the American Home Missionary Society and the people of Rogers, and has generally been and is now under the control of the Congregational Church and the citizens of Rogers, the former having five trustees and the latter four on the school board. The public free school is taught in connection with the academy. The first session of the present school year began September 5. Following is the faculty: Principal, J. W. Scroggs, academic department; grammar school department, Miss Mary G. Webb; intermediate department, Mr. J. R. Williams; primary department, Miss Ella W. Scroggs; music and drawing, Mrs. F. W. Hormon.

See Also: Pea Ridge Academy, Free School System, The Sixteenth Sections

Back to: Benton County, Arkansas History

Source: History of Benton, Washington, Carroll, Madison, Crawford, Franklin, and Sebastian Counties, Arkansas. Chicago, IL, USA: Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1889.


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