Site of Fayetteville Female Seminary
301 West Mountain Street
Fayetteville AR 72701
Picture drawn by William Quesenbury, early local artist
One of the first movements in educating the unsettled southwest was
initiated by Miss Sophia Sawyer when she founded the Fayetteville Female
Seminary in 1839. Miss Sawyer was a missionary teacher among the
Cherokees first in Georgia and then in Indian Territory following the
Cherokee Removal known as the Trail of Tears. She was associated with
the Ridge family which signed the New Echota treaty that was used by
President Jackson and Georgia to force the removal in 1838. The Ridge
families had left in 1837 and settled west of present day Southwest City
Missouri at a place called Honey Creek. John Ridge built a school there
and Miss Sawyer came from her home in New England to join them. After
John, his father Major Ridge and his cousin Elias Boudinot were killed
because of the treaty signing, John's widow, Sarah brought her seven
children and Miss Sawyer to Fayetteville. Miss Sawyer continued her
teaching of the Ridge children and soon more students were added,
including some children from the Cherokees in Indian Territory, and
Land was given to Miss Sawyer for new school buildings by Judge David
Walker and merchant Stephen Stone. This site was located just south of
the Walker-Stone House built by Judge Walker and later owned by Stone.
It was also just south of the log cabin bought by Sarah Ridge for her
family now known as the Ridge House on Center Street. Some girls boarded
at the Seminary and others lived with families nearby. Increased
enrollment in 1847 caused more teachers to be added. By 1854, 103 were
Miss Sawyer died of pneumonia in 1854. She was initially buried on the
Seminary grounds but was later moved to Evergreen Cemetery as one of the
early burials there. Her stone obelisk monument donated by some former
students, is engraved "She Hath Done What She Could". See Evergreen Cemetery
page for picture or monument.
Miss Lucretia Foster assumed leadership of the Seminary and in 1859 the
school was incorporated by the State. The last diploma was issued in
1861. The school was used as were most buildings in the area as a
hospital for the many wounded from the Battle of Prairie Grove. Despite
efforts of many neighbors, the school buildings were burned beyond use
during the Civil War as were most public buildings in the City.
A historical marker was placed at the site by Fayetteville PTA in 1928.
The standard of education set by Miss Sawyer as well as others in the
area before the War, likely contributed to the location of Arkansas
Industrial University, later the University of Arkansas, here in 1871.
Historic Fayetteville-Noted Seminary by Martha Ann Moore UofA
Journalism Project 1950
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Click here for a map to Female Seminary Site.