Arson suspected in burning of school in Yell County

Arson is suspected in the burning of an abandoned school in Yell County.

CARDEN BOTTOMS, Ark. (KTHV) — An abandoned piece of Arkansas history burned down in an apparent act of arson and deputies are offering a reward to find the person responsible.

Carden Bottoms School set fire Monday and even though class has not been in session for over 40 years, people in surrounding communities and state historians are upset to see it go.

Johnny Cross was born and raised in the area and said looking at the remains is devastating.

"Sad to see it gone. I'd been in it a few times before and it was a pretty school," Cross said.

For people like Cross, family history burned down with it.

"My dad, went to school in this school. Been here for a long time. All of his friends went here. They had fun here,” Cross said.

Ray Bertram frequently photographed the school and said it closed down in the 1970s. He said the school closed down when surrounding cities started to become more advanced.

The town is also on the Arkansas River, so it flooded frequently. Today, not much remains in Carden Bottoms.

"Carden bottoms was at one time a thriving, agricultural community. It would have had churches. It would have had stores,” Bertram said. “The town essentially, just bit by bit, faded away."

Bertram also said it is unfortunate someone potentially set the school on fire.

"They did more than destroy a structure. This was the legacy of those men who built it,” Bertram said.

The school was constructed around the Great Depression era and supplied men who did not have jobs with work. The school is considered large for a town the size of Carden Bottoms. It had six large classrooms, three on either side of the hallway.

"These were men that built with their hands. They did not have the luxury of power tools,” Bertram said.

But underneath all the rubble, still lies a rich history.

"You could literally walk into the school and instantly you're transported back into time, seventy eighty years. You see the little children running around, playing,” Bertram said. “That’s what we see when we look at it but then there’s folks that look at it and see firewood.”

So, people in the community hope to see it brought back to life.

"Memories are still here. People still come by, looking for it. We’ve had people stopping me all the time asking me where it is and I say you’ve just got to go back a little ways and look for the trees, you’ll find it,” Cross said.

The Yell County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the fire and looking for the persons who may be responsible. The department is offering a $1,000 reward. 

Photos courtesy of Abandoned Arkansas.

© 2017 KTHV-TV


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