Back Roads, Aug. 2, 1992
picture -- Mrs. Lola Scoggins may bring some to you
Now bear in mind that Benton County has had two Jay Bird Schools Districts.
This one, District No. 27, was located roughly between Maysville and Decatur.
Maurice Loux of Maysville, who has always lived in the area, describes the
route to the old school site this way: Take Arkansas 102 west from Decatur
for five or six miles. Cross Spavinaw Bridge and continue on to the top of a
hill and around some curves. There you will see the old school pump, painted
white now. The schoolhouse, itself, is long gone.
When Jay Bird No. 27 was established, its boundary reached the Indian
Territory. That was over 30 years before Oklahoma became a state in 1907. In
1914, the western part of Jay Bird territory was given to the Maysville
In a way, Jay Bird was one of the original school districts mapped out by
the county after the Civil War. The county created large districts, sometimes
referred to as "congressional districts," and many of the other school areas
were taken out of these. In this case, there was a District No. 10 (to become
Wet Prairie), and folks in the Jay Bird area asked to be given part of that
vast area to create a school district. The county agreed and called the new
district "No. 2 in District No. 10." In 1876-77, all of the schools in Benton
County were renumbered, and Jay Bird became District No. 27.
In 1877, when a county-wide enumeration was conducted by Prof. J.R. Roberts
of Pea Ridge, Jay Bird No. 27 had 71 school-aged children within its borders.
These ranged from age 6 to 21, and the school only offered eight grades, so,
no doubt, many were not enrolled.
This writer has gained access to some county books not previously located.
They were in the courthouse attic, and have been accepted by the Benton
County Historical Society for keeping. And, incidentally, the BCHS sure could
use your help in sorting and cataloguing this collection. You might contact
BCHS President Raymond Jeffries if you could help on this. Anyway, Mr.
Jeffries and others laid aside a few of these for my use after finding that
they contain some school records. These and a few others available on
hit-and-miss years allow us to see who was teaching at times in such schools
as Jay Bird No. 27.
In 1912-13, Fred Evans taught the six-month term for $50 a month. He
reported 46 enumerated, 43 enrolled and an average daily attendance of 32 in
the 1916-17 term, when he again was listed as teacher. Remember some years
are missing in the collection. In 1917-18, the teacher was Maude Collier.
That was the era of the great Flu Epidemic, and the board paid Dr. Hughes
$18, probably for vaccinating the students and teacher.
Lola B. Turner taught the 1919-20 term, and drew $50 a month. In 1920-21,
she again was teaching and had been raised to $65 a month. Fred Evans, the
former teacher, was secretary of the school board that year.
1918-19 was the school year that Raymond and Ella Tucker graduated from the
eighth grade at Jay Bird. The 1921-22 graduates were Madge Prather, Stella
Baird an Bertha Brooks. Others, no doubt, completed the eight-grade school in
other years before and after that one.
In such a school, especially in an era when farm families tended to stay in
one locale over generations, there were sometimes two or more generations who
had attended the same school. Maggie Smith of Siloam Springs mentions, for
instance, her cousin, Susan Wardlaw, who attended Jay Bird. She married
Barney Thomason, and, in time, their son, William Thomason, also went to
school at Jay Bird No. 27. William was residing in Irving, Texas, when Maggie
mentioned this a few years back.
Records indicate that E.L. Moore for $100 a month was teaching at Jay Bird
in 1926-27, and Fred Evans was back in 1927-28, drawing $100 a month also.
During research, a question arose: Was Jay Bird District No. 27 actually
named for someone whose last name was Bird? The reason for this quandary has
to do with a deed dated Jan. 23, 1924. In it, F.M. and Effie Halye for $5
deeded an are of land to "J. Bird School District No. 27." I asked Maurice
Loux about this. He had for many years assumed that the school was named for
a bird named Blue Jay, but which often is referred to in the Ozarks as a "Jay
Bird." He also did not believe that the 1924 land acquisition was for a new
schoolhouse, for the one he knew had been there as long as he could remember.
George Haley of Gravette agreed that the school's name referred to the jay
bird, but was not sure why that name was selected. He did know about the 1924
land his parents had sold the school. It seems that the schoolhouse,
apparently the only one Jay Bird ever had, occupied a corner acre of land.
More land was needed to go with it. His parents simply deeded another acre to
the school district, half of it on one side of the original acre and half on
the other side. It was Mr. Haley's belief that the original land for the
district had been deeded by a Mr. Hedges a long, long time ago.
Completing school at Jay Bird about 1929-30, Mr. Haley remembers some of
his teachers as having been Fred Evans (two terms), Theodore Roller, Audrey
Cotton (two terms) and Clara Evans.
Another student known to have attended Jay Bird for one year in the late
1920s was Winton Reed Wilkerson of Pea Ridge. She stayed with her sister,
Mrs. Nellie Brooks, that year. Mrs. Wilkerson's sister, Madge Jones of Pea
Ridge, recalls that her sister, now deceased, had fond memories of how much
fun she and other students had walking to school together. She especially
enjoyed the Clary children, who were neighbors of her sister.
Lola Marsh Scoggins of Cave Springs was a first and second grader when she
went to Jay Bird. She started about 1944, and remembers teachers named Mrs.
Feaster and Mrs. Shook. The schoolhouse at that time seemed old, with no
paint left on it or else left in its natural state, she said. It was a
typical one-room schoolhouse.
It was on June 26, 1947, that the Jay Bird District No. 27 was consolidated
with Maysville District No. 26. On Jan. 8, 1949, the Maysville District,
including the Jay Bird territory, was annexed into the Gravette School
One footnote to history might be mentioned here, as it, without doubt, had
some connection with folks living in the Jay Bird School District before the
turn of the century. Just outside the Jay Bird District, there existed for a
time a now almost-forgotten Benton County town named Rome City. The told and
re-told story of Rome City goes like this:
A man named Thomas Richard Keith was born in Maysville in 1847. He operated
a large store in Maysville, and at some point, decided to start a new town
close by. Some say his town was to be a rival to Maysville and another
resource says the move was prompted by a great fire in Maysville. At any
rate, he made bricks on harm and built a fine commercial building a mile
south of Maysville which he named Rome City. He operated large hardware stare
there. A published picture taken in 1891 shows other business buildings on
the same street there in Rome City.
However, by 1893, the railroad had found its way across Western Benton
County and brought about the birth of the town of Gravette several miles east
of Rome City and the Jay Bird Community. Keith took down his building, brick
by brick, and moved it to Gravette. There he erected another fine "new and
substantial business block." In time, the building became the Buffington
Hotel, and later still, it was converted into an apartment building. The
structure still stands today.
SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS
Serving at least one term on the Jay Bird No. 27 School Board between 1887
and 1928 were R.C. Dinwiddie, E. Keith, S.H. Brown, John J. Stephens, David
V. Victor, D.Q. (?) Douglas, John Keith, Will Wells, Geo. McGhee, William
Brooks, J.W. Brown, J.W. Duncan, R.D. Victor, S.N. Thomason, H.L. Payton,
Thomas Clary, W.S. Welch, T.R. Classy (?), Fred Evans, E.D. Wardlaw, John
Clarry, J.R. Clary, W.J. Hunley, Th. (?) S. Boyton and F.M. Haley.
Those paying personal property taxes in District No. 27 in 1890 were G.W.
Armstrong, Isaac Armstrong, William Armstrong, Charles Anderson, Arch
Anderson, J.G. Abercrombie, B.F. Abercrombie, J.H.M. Bogart, S.H. Brown,
Fredric Camden, Elmer Carr - gone, R.C. Dinwiddie, G.R. Dalrymple, W.P.
Davis, D.Q. Douglas, W.S. Evans, Charley Elston, George Fritz - gone, A.
Foster, A.T. Hedges, C.S. Hedges, Mrs. Emily Hopkins, R.L. Keith, Hugh Keith,
John Keith, Elija Keith, J.M. McCraw, Isaac Mitchell - gone, Mrs. Ada J.
McVey, Charles Marsh, J.H. Marsh, Th. Montgomery, Q.L. Primrose, Mrs. Martha
Sellars, James Th. Sellars, John Strong (Sen), Wm Strong, John Strong Jr.,
J.J. Stephens, J.R. Smith, W.M. Smith, R.D. Victor, W.H. Williams, S.F.
Welch, Lemuel A. Welch, Thomas J. Welch and G.M.D. Watson.
(Copyright 1992 by the Northwest Arkansas Morning News)
Note: In The Benton County Pioneer, Vol. 19, No. 2, Summer 1974, an 1891
photo of Rome City, or Newtown, is shown. Persons identified in the group
photo taken in front of the T.H. Cartner and Co. building, are Hugh Tinnin
Wells, John Harrison Redington, saloon man, Ellie Keith, wife of T.R. Keith
who started Rome City, Ina Redington, a "Victor girl", Barton M. Roberts,
Sarah Levitisia Ballinger Roberts, and Cora (Roberts) Nelson. Several persons
are not identified. The photo was from the collection of Mrs. J.A. Lindsay,
granddaughter of Barton M. Roberts.