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The Powhatan Male and Female Academy, first located in a log cabin built by Andrew Imboden in 1854, was the first school in the settlement of Powhatan (Lawrence County). The school remained open for just over 100 years, closing due to consolidation in 1955.
Shortly after the construction of the school, Benjamin F. Mathews was retained as its first school master. It is believed that he gave the school its name. The first school term covered just two months. Being the only school in the immediate area, it saw steady growth until forced to close due to the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861.
The academy reopened shortly after the end of the war. Apparently around 1880, the old log structure was destroyed, perhaps by fire. Local records provide little detail. That same year, local citizens petitioned the court to allow the use of the courtroom of the nearby Lawrence County Courthouse for classes. On October 18, 1889, local farmer John A. Lindsey deeded land to the Powhatan School District No. 9 for a new building. The one-story, wood-frame structure, which still stands, had two front doors, one for the male students and one for females. Inside the 2,000-square-foot building, male and female students were separated by a large sliding wall. Classes did not become co-educational until about 1913. At the time of its opening, the two-classroom school was furnished with factory-built desks and served ninety-two students; female students made up about sixty-two percent of the student population. Over the years, the student body consistently numbered over sixty.
As the surrounding area became more populated and Powhatan was bypassed by the railroad, people began to move away from the river town, reducing the number of potential students. In 1948, grades 7–12 were consolidated with the Black Rock (Lawrence County) schools some two miles to the north. In 1955, the school was closed after the remaining six grades were also sent to Black Rock.
The vernacular Queen Anne–style building that once housed the academy was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. It became a part of the guided tours at Powhatan Historic State Park.
For additional information:
Flippo, Darlene. “The Powhatan School.” Lawrence County Historical Quarterly 2 (Winter 1979): 9–13
Lawrence County, Arkansas: 1815–2001. Paducah, KY: Turner Publishing Company, 2001.
“Powhatan School House.” National Register of Historic Places nomination form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas.
“Restored Powhatan Schoolhouse To Be Dedicated during Pearlfest.” Lawrence County Historical Journal 10 (Spring 2005): 21–23.
Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture
Last Updated 6/6/2015
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