Photo courtesy of Eureka Springs Historical Museum
In honor of the 128th Eureka Springs Alumni Association Banquet that will take place on Saturday, May 26, at the Inn of the Ozarks Convention Center, today we will showcase the man who started it all — Professor C.S. Barnett.
Professor Barnett and wife Adda, along with their four children, came to Eureka Springs in 1889 from Bowling Green Ky., where he attended Ogden College. There was no other man living in Eureka Springs who did so much for education as Professor Barnett. He served 38 years as superintendent of Eureka Springs schools, and taught English and literature. His wife also a primary teacher, and for several years, principal of the grammar school.
In accepting the position of superintendent of schools, Professor Barnett set for himself a stupendous undertaking —building a good school system. Many obstacles confronted him. No planning had ever been made for an educational process, and in respect to financing a school, there was no money except for a school tax of 5 mills. The district owned no land, schools were held in old buildings where broken windows were stuffed with rags. There was no high school and the teachers had no formal education. Barnett himself was paid a very small salary, as the finances of the school board were limited. He spent much of his salary on books and experiments for his classrooms, demonstrating his dedication to education. Little by little, Professor Barnett brought the schools forward, and a new spirit of pride and respect was at work for both students and parents.
Professor Barnett’s ‘School Notes’ column was published in the local newspapers, and he appealed again and again for a new school. At the close of the school year in 1890, he wrote, ‘If before another year you concentrate all of your interests in good schools — all of your hopes for the future of your children —we will see, rising majestically from one of our mountains, a public school building worthy of your children.’ Finally, in 1892, a substantial brick building was erected on a mountain near the Crescent Hotel, the W.H. Reid School, otherwise known as the Old Red Brick Schoolhouse.
Professor Barnett also founded the Eureka Springs High School Alumni Association. This group is still active, and celebrates 128 years this year. So, as an alumnus, I challenge all current Eureka Springs Alumni to support this longstanding organization. If you do not attend the banquet, please help by sending in yearly dues. Let’s attempt to keep Professor Barnett’s legacy alive by our participation.
— Stephanie Stodden, Museum Operations Manager