Michael C. O'Donohue

A teacher in the first Fort Smith public school, Michael C. O'Donohue arrived in America from Ireland on April 4, 1867. He taught school in Ozark for a while there then at a Catholic school in Fort Smith. While in the Fort Smith job, he took up an offer to instruct the students in the first Fort Smith public school in arithmetic and higher mathematics, a position he held until 1871.

Because some of the male students had become "ungovernable," the organizers of the public school sought a male teacher whom they felt might have better success at maintaining discipline. He was not a strong believer in corporal punishment but did resort to it from time to time. Instead, O'Donohue said he preferred to read to misbehaving students from "Maurey's Good Morals and Gentle Manners."

Shortly before his death at the age of 86 on Feb. 17, 1929, O'Donohue recalled that he received criticism for introducing calisthenics. Parents objected that time was taken away from students for the learning of academic subjects until O'Donohue persuaded them of its healthful effects. According to O'Donohue, the first public school in Fort Smith was located at North Fifth and D streets in a building constructed by Joseph Sneider in 1855. Among the textbooks used to instruct students were "McGuffey's Reader" and "The Blue-black Speller," he said.

Born July 6, 1843, in County Cavin, Ireland, he left that country during the upheavals caused by the Fenian movement there. O'Donohue left Fort Smith and its schools when the Belle Grove School was built. He returned to Fort Smith a few years before his death.

Source: "First Teacher in Fort Smith Schools Dies," Southwest American, Monday, Feb. 17, 1929. This date is approximate. The source is an undated clip in a scrapbook in the archives of the Fort Smith Historical Society.