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 local children.

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 enrolled.

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.

Bibliography:
Historic Fayetteville-Noted Seminary by Martha Ann Moore UofA Journalism Project 1950


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