Only since 2007 have we been organized as a Pea Ridge High School Alumni Association, but of course Pea Ridge High Schoolers have been graduating and becoming High School Alumni for much longer. The Pea Ridge Public High School began in 1916, when the old Masonic College closed its doors and deeded the school property to the Pea Ridge Public Schools.
The old Pea Ridge College, as it was commonly called, had its beginnings in 1874, at Buttram's Chapel. At that time Buttram's Chapel had a two-story building located about the center of the property and facing east. The upper story served as the meeting place of the Masonic Lodge, and the lower story served as church, community building and as a schoolhouse upon the opening of the Pea Ridge Academy. During the first several years there were apparently no graduates, but by the time the school moved into its new brick building in Pea Ridge in 1880, the Academy was graduating high school seniors.
Beginning in 1884, the Pea Ridge Public Elementary School was formed, but its classes for the first eight grades continued to be held in the Academy building, under an agreement by which the Public Elementary School was overseen by a local School Board, while the Academy, which offered the high school and college courses, was overseen by the College Board of Trustees. This cooperative facilities-sharing agreement between the Academy and the Public School continued until 1916. During that period, the college went through several administration changes,initially operating as the Pea Ridge Academy, becoming the Pea Ridge Normal College in 1994, and reorganizing as the Pea Ridge Masonic College in 1902.
Actually, the formal names of the private school were Mt. Vernon Academy, Mt. Vernon Normal College and Mt. Vernon Masonic College, but commonly the Pea Ridge town name was used when people spoke of the school, rather than the township name. Still more commonly, through all its administrations, the College was referred to simply as the Pea Ridge College.
Over the years, many of the graduating classes from Pea Ridge High School held class reunions from time to time. Some of the most enduring and regular reunions were held over many years by the classes of 1958 and 1967. These classes have held regular reunions every five years, and more recently, at least one of these has begun holding a reunion every year. There may be other classes which have held regular reunions that I have not been aware of. During the 1990s, several classes began holding cluster reunions, involving at least five classes, such as 1955 through 1959, and a cluster reunion held at the Community Room of the Emergency Services Building invited Pea Ridge graduates from any year to come by for a visit. The strength of that gathering, and the expressed interest by many PRHS alums, led to the first All-Years Reunion and organization of the PRHS Alumni Association in July of 2007.
In 2007, the Alumni Association offered its first Alumni Scholarship, a$1,000 scholarship awarded to a PRHS graduate beginning college education. The first recipient was Heather Marlow. Through the succeeding years, with the steady support of many alum, the Alumni Association Scholarship Program has grown, so that currently the Association is awarding 11 or 12 scholarships to PRHS graduates each year.
One of my purposes in this column is to send out thank-yous to the many PRHS alums who support and sustain the Alumni Scholarship Program and the annual All-Years School Reunions for Pea Ridge High School.
To raise funds for Alumni Scholarships, the Alumni Association has turned to a number of endeavors, ranging from seeking donations from individuals and businesses, to sales of Blackhawk chairs, stadium seat cushions, memory books, auctions and food events. Two of the developing regular traditions have been the Springtime BBQ Dinner and the Autumn time Ham & Bean Dinner, both combined with pie auctions.
I want to especially thank the pie-makers and pie auction bidders, as well as our auctioneer Jerry Fitzner, for their indispensable help. Most recently, our pie-makers and makers of other auction goodies have included Penny Schwitters, Elizabeth King, Sharon Webb, Beulah Prophet, Judy Patton, Peggy David, Linda Schooley, Pat Dean, Nancy McGuire, Jane Cooley, Karen Light Grady, Fayrene Jones, Charlotte Foster, Barbara Owen and Donna Beaver. Several of the ladies have contributed multiple pies. Their efforts at each pie auction have funded at least one $1,000 scholarship, and usually more.
Editor's note: Jerry Nichols, a native of Pea Ridge and an award-winning columnist, is vice president of Pea Ridge Historical Society. He can be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com, or call 621-1621.Editorial on 11/28/2018
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