An effort is under way to restore one of the oldest structures in Arkansas, the Albert Pike schoolhouse located on the Crawford County Courthouse lawn.
The one-room log cabin was reportedly build in 1820 by David Boyd, the first white man to settle in Van Buren.
Crawford County Judge Dennis Gilstrap said the cabin means much to the community and county.
“We have tried many avenues to obtain state or federal funding to rehabilitate this great piece of history,” Gilstrap said. “Unfortunately, we just can’t meet the guidelines.”
After many months of searching Arkansas and surrounding states, fund-raising coordinator Sheila Bell said a contractor was located in Conway with the expertise and crew that is willing to take on the rehabilitation.
David Bankston of Ironwood Restoration Inc. inspected the structure and submitted a bid of $26,000.
“His bid states, however, the expenses could go higher when the roof is taken off and a better inspection is made,” Bell said.
With this in mind, Bell said a goal of $30,000 has been set for the schoolhouse restoration project.
“I really believe our county can come together again to save this great addition to the educational, cultural and historical fabric of Crawford County,” Gilstrap said. “I am counting on it.”
Tax-deductible donations may be made to the River Valley Museum, c/o Albert Pike Schoolhouse, P.O. Box 1518, Van Buren, AR 72957-1518, or Citizens Bank & Trust Co. account 500136606.
For more information, contact Bell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For a time, Albert Pike, of almost mythical status in Arkansas History, started his career, created a life and established his home in Crawford County, according to Tom Wing, assistant professor of history at the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith and director of the Drennen-Scott Historic Site in Van Buren.
His friendships and business dealings included prominent citizens such as John Drennen, Jesse Turner, Phillip Pennywit, as well as Charles and Caroline Scott,” Wing said. “The schoolhouse associated with Pike is a tangible and essential part of the county and state’s history. I applaud the effort to preserve it.”
The log cabin structure was originally located about one mile east of Van Buren, just off Kibler Road near Flat Rock Creek. It was originally built as a residence, but in the spring of 1833, the cabin was used by Albert Pike to teach a three-month subscription school.
Pike had 22 pupils and received a $3 monthly payment from each of his students. He received some money, but chickens or pigs were his main income. He used a dried cow hide as a blackboard and charcoal from the fireplace for chalk.
The schoolhouse sat at its original location until 1936 when it was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Allen Henderson and moved to U.S. 71 North where it was restored and became the centerpiece of the Albert Pike Museum. The museum closed its doors in 1954 after the death of Allen Henderson.
The schoolhouse then was loaned to the University of Arkansas, which placed it on a hillside on campus overlooking Razorback Stadium.
In 1974, Doris West of the Crawford County Historical Society, Van Buren Chamber of Commerce, Van Buren Masonic Lodge and County Judge Milton Willis worked with Mrs. Henderson and the University of Arkansas to return the schoolhouse to Crawford County.
“The last restoration was in 1974 when the community came together to bring the schoolhouse back to Crawford County,” Gilstrap said.
Bell said it is believed the late Dr. T.J. Whitaker paid for a new roof in 1980.
“The maintenance of this beloved piece of Crawford County history has been left to the county and the structure is not eligible for any grants from the state or federal government,” Gilstrap said.
He said numerous requests have been made but the building does not qualify because it has been moved from its original place in Crawford County.