School and Community History

The community of West Fork is located on the west fork of the White River, in a broad valley just north of the Boston Mountains. Eight miles to the north of West Fork is the city of Fayetteville. The area was originally populated by the Osage Indians and by the turn of the 19th century, Cherokee Indians had also taken up residence in the valley. In the early 1800s, pioneer families also lived primitively in this area.

It was not until 1828 that the first families of record moved into the area. At this time, Arkansas was still a territory and Northwest Arkansas was in the Cherokee Nation. In 1836, Arkansas became a state and more families started moving into this area signaling the beginning of village life. In 1881, the construction of the St. Louis and San Francisco Railway through West Fork was the catalyst for the rapid development of the village and subsequently, the village became a town and was incorporated in May 1885.

In terms of education, the early settlers to this area educated their own children, but as the community became more thickly settled, subscription schools of three months were organized. Fifty cents tuition was paid for the younger children to attend and one dollar for the older students. Sometime before 1855, the first building housing such a school was built near Dye Creek and was called Dye's School Shed. A few years later the Winn Shed was constructed. In 1879, a two-story frame house was built at what is now the south end of our present school site. The ground floor was to be used as a schoolroom and the second floor as a lodge hall and became known as ``The Hall`` which was the home of the Masonic Order and Knights of the Horse, which later became the Anti-Horse Thief Association. Finally on July 15, 1885, after West Fork was incorporated, the Washington County court ordered the creation of the West Fork School District. In 1886, a two-story frame building was built near the district's current bus garage and became the first school to be used only for school. The younger children went to school downstairs and the older children went to school upstairs. Later in 1907, a one-story house with two classrooms was built and later expanded in 1913. In 1920, the first class from an eight-year grade school plus a four-year high school course graduated.

West Fork has the Works Progress Administration, better known as the WPA, to thank for a new school that was built in 1936-37. This building consisted of six classrooms, a gymnasium, a basement, and had no restrooms. This building, after many changes over the years, is still used today and houses the Boston Mountain Educational Cooperative.

The district grew tremendously in the 1940s when thirteen rural districts were annexed to West Fork, which led the district to purchase an additional twenty-acre tract of land in 1949 to provide room for an outdoor athletic field and space adequate for expanding school facilities. Many of these annexed districts consisted of a one-room schoolhouse and still stand today.

Since the purchase of the twenty acres, the district has undertaken many building projects and grade reclassifications. Today, the West Fork School District sits on those same twenty acres and consists of an elementary school that houses grades KG-4; a middle school that houses grades 5-8; a high school that houses grades 9-12, as well as additional curricular and extra-curricular buildings and facilities.

In closing, West Fork is a beautiful and proud community that is extremely supportive of the West Fork School District and is a great place to raise a family. We are confident that the future of our community and school district is as bright as its historic past, and we look forward to educating future generations of children.

Historical Facts credited to: Lillian A. Garnett & John Selph