For much of its early life, Arkansas did not have a formal, organized public education system. Private establishments (often called “academies” or “subscription schools”) were common, though not accessible to all citizens nor affordable. It wasn’t until 1868, under the administration of Governor Isaac Murphy, that the modern system began to take shape. Under the law passed on March 18, twenty cents of every one hundred dollars levied on “taxable property” would be used to fund education.  For the purpose of this article,  Section 15 and 16 deserve special mention. They stipulated that any “congressional township” was considered a school district, and any incorporated town had the power to become one.[1]

In 2003, Russell P. Baker processed all of the available census data from Lawrence County.[2] In his estimation, they are among the oldest school records in the state of Arkansas There are only two surviving sections: 1908-1911, 1930-1964. These records identify eighty school districts in Lawrence County, an astonishing number. The data answers key questions about the districts themselves: name, location, the nearest post office, their fate, and whether the majority of the students were white or “colored.”[3]

Powhatan, which had featured a school since 1855, was part of four different districts. The data does not specify when these districts were first formed. What follows is a verbatim copy of the entries:

1.      District #9: Powhatan, located at Powhatan, majority of students white, consolidated with Black Rock in 1947.

2.      District #62: Oak Grove-Wildcat, located at Powhatan “between Oak Grove and Oak Ridge,” majority of students white, consolidated with Walnut Ridge in 1948

3.      District #65: Stewart/Stuart, located at Powhatan, majority of students white, consolidated with Black Rock in 1948.

4.      District #68: Oak Ridge, located at Powhatan, majority students white, consolidated with Black Rock 1946.



[1] Weeks, Stephen B. History of Public School Education in Arkansas. United States Bureau of Education. Bulletin No. 27. Washington Printing Office. 1912. p. 50.

[2] Copies of these charts are housed at Powhatan Historic State Park.

[3] Of the eighty districts listed, only thirteen have any record of African-American students attending.