Arkansas Historic Preservation Program
Brewer School
Brewer School

BREWER SCHOOL, BREWER, CLEBURNE COUNTY

SUMMARY

The Brewer School is located in the Brewer Community which is in the northwest corner of Cleburne County, Arkansas. The building functioned as a one-room school from 1910 until 1950 when the school was consolidated with the West Side School District. The building was built in 1910 after a fire destroyed the original school building. After the school was closed the building continued to serve as a church and community meeting place. The Brewer School is being nominated to the National Register under Criterion A with local significance for its association with education in the Brewer Community. It is also being nominated under Criterion C as an excellent example of a Plain-Traditional designed school building.

ELABORATION

Present day Cleburne County was first settled in 1815 by the John Standlee family. The family homesteaded and built a ferry near the mouth of the Devil's Fork of the Little Red River a relatively short distance from present day Brewer. The area along the river was settled rather quickly due to the flat fertile soil in the river bottom. The mountainous areas, like Brewer, were only sparsely settled throughout the first half of the nineteenth-century.

On February 20, 1883, Cleburne County became the seventy-fifth and final county established in Arkansas. It was created from land annexed from Van Buren, White and Independence counties. The area around Brewer slowly began to grow as better roads were cut through the treacherous hills that had isolated the location from the rest of the county.
 
The Brewer community lies in the northwest corner of Cleburne County. Known since 1890 as Poff Township, present day Brewer was first awarded a post office in 1906. Although the area was already known as Poff Township, the post office was named for postmaster George G. Brewer and the community became known by that name.

The first school to serve the area was built sometime around 1900 and was known as Copper Springs School.  This school was located within a few hundred yards of the current building and was adjacent to the community cemetery. Copper Springs School burned between 1908 and 1909 leaving the community without a place to educate their children.

In 1910 the Poff family donated one acre of land and residents pulled together funds and labor to build a new school. The Brewer School’s purpose was primarily to hold classes for local children. However, as was tradition in most rural hill communities, the building served to meet both the religious and educational needs of the local citizenry.

The school covered first through seventh grade. At one time there were as many as 40 students attending the school.

It is believed that Mr. Albert Stark was the first teacher.  Some other teachers at Brewer School were Buena Smith Turney, Louise Smith, Orf Sutterfield and Lena Mae Hipp.  The teachers traveled to the school on horseback and boarded with the Hughs family during bad weather. One former teacher, Louise Smith, recalled in a recent interview riding her pony through the hollow and crossing a creek to reach the school.  

The school was officially consolidated with West Side School in 1950.  However, the students were unable to get to the consolidated school because a bridge between the community and the school was out of service.  So, the school was not physically consolidated until 1951.  

With the completion of the Greers Ferry Dam near Heber Springs in 1963, the already somewhat isolated area of Brewer was cut off from other small towns to the south with the filling of Greers Ferry Lake. Population in the area declined and today Brewer is home to only a small group of full time residents.  

Although the building no longer hosts church services and has not held classes for over fifty years, it still serves the community. Each election year the building once again serves the community as the polling location for area residents. 

Until 1948 many small one and two room school buildings dotted the landscape of Cleburne County and most other rural parts of Arkansas. Today very few remain. Built in 1910, the Brewer School remains as an almost unaltered example of this once common building type. It stands today as a reminder of what education once was in rural Arkansas. Although the building was last used as a school over fifty years ago, the building continues to serve the community as a polling place during elections. By listing the building on the National Register of Historic Places, it is hoped that the building will gain recognition for the important role it has played in the community for over ninety years. 

 

SIGNIFICANCE

Good examples of the traditional one-room church/school of rural areas are becoming scarce. Brewer School is being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion C as an excellent example of the Plain-Traditional style of architecture that was often used in the construction of rural schools.  It is also being nominated under Criterion A with local significance for its association with rural education in Cleburne County, more specifically the Brewer Community.    

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Berry, Evalena. Time and the River: A History of Cleburne County. Cleburne County Historical Society, (Heber Springs) 1982. pp. 61, 131,134-137,145, 221, 236.

Brown, Lois. Interview with Kay Roseberry, January2004.

Brown, Willie. Interview with Kay Roseberry, January2004.

Duren, Paul. Interview with Kay Roseberry, January2004.

Endsley, Fate. Interview with Kay Roseberry, January2004.

McElroy, Junior. Interview with Kay Roseberry, January2004.

McElroy, Otis. Interview with Kay Roseberry, January2004.

Knapp, Bess. Interview with Kay Roseberry, January2004.

Smith, Louise. Interview with Kay Roseberry, January2004.

Ware, Doc. Interview with Kay Roseberry, January2004.