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The Drennen-Scott Historic Site is the former home of pioneer John Drennen (1801–1855) and his descendants, who continuously occupied the Van Buren (Crawford County) house until its purchase by the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith (UAFS) in 2004. The site is significant in both state and national history. Drennen was co-founder of Van Buren, served as the Indian agent responsible for settlement payments to relocated Cherokee in Indian Territory (Drennen Roll), was a delegate from Crawford County during development of the 1836 constitution for Arkansas, and was a staunch supporter of the Whig Party.
The site has undergone extensive reconstruction and development to serve the community as a museum and also as a classroom and lab for the Historical Interpretation Program at UAFS, in which students explore all avenues of conservation, preservation, and interpretation in the historic setting. Many family keepsakes had been untouched for the previous 150 years; these materials offer excellent opportunities for research by students, combining hands-on training and education. The Drennen-Scott Historic Site held a grand opening ceremony on May 10, 2011. UAFS professor Tom Wing serves as director of the site.
Drennen and his wife, Emily Deaderick Drennen, came to Arkansas with her sister, Lauretta Deaderick Thompson, and Lauretta’s husband David Thompson. In the 1820s, the men formed a partnership and began a woodlot on the Arkansas River to supply steamboats, which were the main mode of transportation of people and goods at that time. After dealing with the seasonal flooding of the river, the men moved up the hill, purchasing the land at Phillips Landing, now Van Buren, for $11,000 in 1836. Drennen’s family home started as a one-room structure that was built between 1834 and 1836. The family added to the house as the family size increased. Later, Drennen’s daughter Caroline married Charles Scott, a future business partner of her father, and her family began the legacy that is now Drennen-Scott. Succeeding generations added the existing wings to the home. In 1929, Fannie and Paul Drennen Scott opened the house for public tours. Again, in 1940, Caroline Bercher opened the house for tours.
This home, along with the Drennen estate, continued to pass down through the generations until the fifth-generation descendants, Caroline Bercher of Lavaca (Sebastian County), Scott Bulloch of Van Buren, and Drennen Bulloch of Little Rock (Pulaski County) decided to make it available to the public by offering it to the university. More than $5 million in grants have been used toward the project. From the beginning, UAFS had partners in the project, including Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council, which provided grants first to purchase the property and then to restore it; the Department of Arkansas Heritage, which purchased collections from the home and stored them until the house was ready for the items to be returned; and the City of Van Buren, specifically the Advertising and Promotions Commission.
Since the Drennen-Scott Historic Site’s opening to the public in May 2011, visitors to the site begin at the new visitors center. They are met by a volunteer or interpretation student and given an orientation to the site. From there, they can have a guided tour of the restored home through rooms displaying the original furnishings, construction, and Drennen family exhibits. Pathways lead visitors around the grounds and include stops of interest, such as the one describing an archaeological dig conducted on the site and one overlooking the Arkansas River. The Drennen-Scott Historic Site, with its long history of public access, is a rich and vital heritage site for the area.
For additional information:Drennen-Scott Historic Site. University of Arkansas at Fort Smith. http://www.uafs.edu/humanities/drennen-scott-historic-site (accessed August 26, 2011).
“Home of Drennen and Scott Families in Van Buren.” Arkansas Gazette Magazine, June 1, 1941, p. 7.
Hughes, Dave. “UA at Fort Smith Debuts 1830s House as Museum.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 11, 2011, p. 4B.
Last Updated 12/16/2011
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