Listen here to an audio introduction to the Fourth District Agricultural School. Narrated by Professor Mark Trout.
The Fourth District Agricultural School was founded on April 1, 1909, when Arkansas Governor George W. Donaghey signed Act 100 creating and funding four agricultural schools. The Fourth District School was to serve citizens of the state’s southeast region.
To locate a school in their communities, towns had to raise money matching the state appropriation. Zachary T. Wood headed a Monticello committee outbid offers from Pine Bluff and Fordyce. Raising the actual funds for the Monticello bid, however, proved difficult. The school was built on 500 acres of farmland three miles southwest of Monticello.
During 1910, the school’s board of trustees employed a principal and oversaw construction of campus and farm buildings. Controversy surrounded the long, autocratic leadership of the man selected as principal, Frank Horsfall, who led the school for twenty-five years.
The first semester began on September 14, 1910, with 180 students, although campus buildings were not yet finished. Students followed a practical curriculum of vocational agriculture and home economics courses and such core subjects as were necessary for a high school degree.
Many students came from poor families and worked to pay for their education. Tuition was free, but boys worked on the farm and girls in the dining hall to earn the cost of monthly room and board. Strict rules governed student behavior at work, in the classroom and dormitories, and off-campus.
Extracurricular activities included literary societies and sports. The four agricultural schools’ athletic teams in the earliest years were often called Aggies, but each school adopted a unique name. Monticello’s football team was named the Boll Weevils soon after the school fielded its first team.
Monticello, like the other agricultural schools, built facilities in the early years that were large enough to permit the institution to evolve into a residential college.
Two trends encouraged a change to full collegiate status. In the Smith-Hughes Act of 1917, Congress funded vocational agriculture and home economics instruction in the nation’s regular high schools. Students no longer had to leave home to attend specialized agricultural high schools. In addition, Arkansas began to improve public education. Special Act 223 of 1923 assigned the agricultural schools responsibility for training teachers for the state’s rural schools. Act 45 of 1925 provided each agricultural school with a junior college name. The Monticello school became State Agricultural and Mechanical College, Fourth District. It became a four-year institution in 1939 when Act 106 renamed the school Arkansas Agricultural and Mechanical College. Act 9 of 1971 merged Arkansas A&M College with the University of Arkansas system and renamed the college the University of Arkansas at Monticello.
University of Arkansas at Monticello http://www.uamont.edu/
For more information about the Fourth District Agricultural School at Monticello, see Donald Holley, “Hail to the Chief: Frank Horsfall and His Campus of Controversy,” Drew County Historical Journal 11(1996): 4-20.