Arkansas Historic Preservation Program
Maness Schoolhouse
Maness Schoolhouse

MANESS SCHOOLHOUSE, BARLING, SEBASTIAN COUNTY

SUMMARY

Located on Wells Lake Road, two and half miles southwest of the town of Barling, Arkansas, is the Maness Schoolhouse. Constructed in 1937 to serve the community of Massard, the stone one-room school building was built by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The structure is the only existing Massard building that was not moved or destroyed when the Department of Defense acquired the surrounding 72,000 acres to build Camp Chaffee in 1941. German POWs added a rear porch in 1943. It is being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion A for its association with early 20th Century education in Sebastian County. It is also being nominated under Criterion C as a good example of WPA and Geman POW construction.

ELABORATION

In the 1820’s, President Monroe awarded William McAlister a land grant. The current Maness Schoolhouse was eventually built on land from this grant. The community of Massard grew in this area, and a need for a schoolhouse quickly developed. The first school structure was a log building located a half-mile east of the current building. Sometime later, a white frame building was built to replace the log schoolhouse. This schoolhouse was called the Mazzard Schoolhouse because it was located on the Mazzard Prairie.

 

In 1889, another school was built on Little Rock Road near the Massard Post Office. The town’s name changed from Mazzard to Massard, sometime in the mid-1800s. Since there were two schools named Mazzard/Massard, the first Mazzard School was renamed. Following the custom of the time, the first schoolhouse was named after the family that lived closest to it, which was the John Maness Family. The Maness family was one of the early settlers and was active in the community.

 

In 1930, the white frame building was replaced with a red brick building. This building burned in November 1936. In February 1937, the current stone building was completed by WPA workers. The schoolhouse was the only public building and was the center of community life. It was used for school, Sunday school, prayer meetings, gospel singing, 4-H Club and Home Demonstration Club meetings, Christmas programs, pie suppers and ice cream socials. After electricity was installed in the building, movies were held once a week.

 

In 1941 and 1942, the United States Army acquired 72,000 acres to develop Camp Chaffee, including the community of Massard. This was a difficult time for area residents. Approximately 1,300 families were forced to leave their farms and homes when Camp Chaffee was built. The Maness Schoolhouse was saved since the building was only four years old when the military acquired the land. It was turned into a recreational building for military personnel.

 

In 1943, German World War II prisoners built a rock porch across the back of the building. They also built a stone bar-b-que pit and laid a concrete slab. When the base closed in 1997, the military marked it as an historical landmark to be preserved.

 

Since 1990, former Maness pupils have held school reunions. A non-profit Maness School Historical Society was organized to keep and preserve the school building. Fundraisers have been held to assist with the preservation of the building and pursue restoration options.

Today, the Maness Schoolhouse in Fort Smith is a living reminder of the now non-existent community of Massard, and the workmanship of the WPA and German POWs. Also, as the last remaining building associated with Massard, the Maness Schoolhouse represents a rare and fast vanishing resource type.

SIGNIFICANCE

Located on Wells Lake Road, two and half miles southwest of the town of Barling, Arkansas, is the Maness Schoolhouse. Constructed in 1937 to serve the community of Massard, the stone one-room school building was built by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The structure is the only existing Massard building that was not moved or destroyed when the Department of Defense acquired the surrounding 72,000 acres to build Camp Chaffee in 1941. German POWs added a rear porch in 1943. It is being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion A for its association with early 20th Century education in Sebastian County. It is also being nominated under Criterion C as a good example of WPA and Geman POW construction.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Arnold, J., Cande, R.F., Imhoff, S.M. (1997). Mid-Continental Research Associates, Inc., Documentation of Native Stone Architecture Fort Chaffee, Arkansas.

Hansen, T. "Fort Chaffee created in 1941." Times Record Insight 2000. p. 150.

Smith, S. "WPA program held things together." Times Record Insight 2000. p. 120.

Smith, S. "WPA program helped city get new look." Times Record Insight 2000. p. 172.

Wingfield, L. "Country schools disappeared with creation of Fort Chaffee." Times Record Insight 2000. P. 151.