Mena Weekly Star, Aug. 27, 1936
THE HISTORY OF ACORN SCHOOL #30-1878
By Ralph Payton
The Acorn community was settled sometime near the year 1820 by early pioneers who were searching for homesites. They staked out claims and livid on them receiving deeds for their lands in 1890. In the early days of the community there was no law. There was much rustling going on at that time so the settlers decided to make laws of their own. This resulted in an organization known as the “Blue Ribbon Gang,” so named because of the blue ribbons they wore on their arms when attending their meetings. This secret club had its own passwords and signals similar to the lodges of the present day.
The sole purpose of the “Blue Ribbon Gang” was to bring to an end some of the lawlessness of the time and its purpose was carried out. The men of the organization were divided into four groups and each group was given a certain section of the country to watch, in an effort to keep out the rustlers of livestock. Their plans worked well. This was the only law of the community until 1886 when "legal law" was adopted.
The first name given the Acorn district was “Goardneck”. Why it received this name is not known but it was known by this name for a great number of years. There are now a number of descendants of those early pioneers living in this community. The best known are Owens, Reeds, Garlands, and the Whisenhunts. The early settlers had to go to Old Dallas to send and receive their mail, that being the nearest post-office.
After the community had been settled several years, the people realized the need of a school and church house, so in 1876 a small log house, with a fireplace was constructed about one mile southeast of the present Acorn school building. The seats were made of split logs, wooden shutters took the place of windows. Morton Imoe, a civil engineer was the first teacher. His salary was $15 per month. The money was paid from the state apportionment, and by money made up by the people as there were no local taxes for the support of schools at the time. The subjects taught were arithmetic, reading, writing and spelling. Grammar was not known in these early schools. Spelling matches were common. The school books used were those handed down to the students from their ancestors. Practically every student’s books were different. There were no grades at the time. They had ten hours of school daily, the recesses being limited to the time the teacher had to spare. Goose quills were used for writing pens. The writing fluids were made from maple bark, sumac, and poke berries.
Some of the students possessed slates upon which to write. Painted boards were used for black boards. There probably was fifteen or twenty students who attended the first schools. The length of the school term varied from one to three months, whichever the people wanted and could afford. There were no directors for the first schools.
Sometime shortly before 1883 the first school house was torn down and another one of the same type was erected less than one-half mile north of the campus of the present school building. J. C. Garland’s father was the first teacher in this new building. He received a salary of $25 per month. The same kind of school was conducted here as in the former school. At this location there was no well, so the students had to carry water from a spring nearby. The school district at this time extended from some points near Eagleton to within about a mile from the present town of Mena.
In 1886 another building was erected, being constructed on the present site. It was a boxed house twenty by thirty feet. The structure was on land donated by Gene Anderson’s father. In 1890 there was a post office located in the Acorn community about two miles south of the school house. Sometime during this period the name of the district was changed from Goardneck to Acorn, presumably for the reason of the stately oaks around the school building.
In 1887 the first school tax was levied. It was a five mill tax and some of the old nesters thought it was ridiculous to levy a high tax. It was about this time that the school began its progressive movement. Another new school was built in the place of the old one. Two teachers were hired, both teaching in the same room. Two or three years later another room was added. James Rogers, one of the teachers at that time, established grades and persuaded the people to buy textbooks, the first used in the district.
Sometime near 1910, the people in the southern end of the district, set up a school of their own and named it Oak Ridge. The reason given for this action was that the students had too far to go to school. The real reason, it is said, was that they thought the Acorn school was becoming too modern.
By the year 1914 another room was added to the school building and another teacher was employed, making three rooms and three teachers. A few years before this there had been constructed between Acorn and Eagleton another school house. Here they taught for the first four grades. In 1916 the latter building was torn down, the lumber used for constructing a teacherage at the Acorn site. In the same year there was a dormitory built where several students boarded. This same year also marked the first graduating class of the Acorn High School. The class consisted of two members, Etta Garland and Maud Ried.
In 1921 basketball was introduced by Prof. T. D. Mullins, now deceased, but it was some years later before games with outside schools were permitted. Once when the Acorn team was playing Oak Ridge one of the Acorn girls wore a pair of bloomers that did not quite reach her ankles. The people thought it was ridiculous to see a girl in public dressed so indecently.
In 1923 the average attendance of the school was 69. Its high school was not accredited until 1925 when it was classed as an “X” class school, signifying that some of its work would be accredited by the high school department of the state. Mr. and Mrs. W. E. Middleton, present teachers in our school, and Miss Willie Jones of Nashville were employed in 1924 and in 1925 a fourth teacher was added.
In 1928, through a combined effort of W. E. Middleton, A. W. Dodson, and the school board with other prominent patrons of the district, the Oak Ridge district was consolidated with the Acorn district and the first bus was purchased to transport the children of that district to and from school. In the same year a room in the teacherage and one in the dormitory were remodeled to serve as school- rooms. The fifth teacher was then added. In 1929 the high school was classified as class “D” by the state department of education and received credit for all subjects taught. In the same year the grade school received a classification of ”B”.
Two years later, through the efforts of the same men combined with those of the outlying districts, two other schools, Union Grove and Eureka were consolidated with Acorn. In 1930 the consolidation program was completed by adding the Eagleton, Rich Mountain-Howard district. This was done after much and earnest cooperation on the part of the prominent individuals in that district with those in the newly made Acorn district. In this last consolidation it was agreed that all high school students in the Northern part of the district would be provided a school at Eagleton. To accommodate the students, two new buildings were constructed, one at Eagleton and one at Acorn. The Approximate cost of the buildings were $27,000. Both are modern and among the very best in western Arkansas. It was necessary to purchase an additional bus and the number of the faculty was increased to eight.