Little Rock Look Back: Jesse Brown

Map showing boundaries of original City of Little Rock

Map showing boundaries of original City of Little Rock

This is Teacher Appreciation Week.  In keeping with that, today highlights one of Little Rock’s first mayors, who was also a teacher.

Jesse Brown was Little Rock’s sixth mayor. He was also Little Rock’s first teacher. In the 1820s and 1830s he operated Little Rock’s first school.

On March 10, 1823, he founded the coeducational Little Rock Academy. One of his early pupils was C. P. Bertrand, stepson of Little Rock’s first physician, Dr. Matthew Cunningham.  Cunningham, Brown and Bertrand would each serve as Little Rock mayor prior to the Civil War.

By 1826, Brown had added a second employee.  In his advertisement in the Arkansas Gazette for March 7, 1826, he says: “Jesse Brown, principal of the Little Rock Academy, returns thanks for patronage during the past year and solicits its continuance.” His terms for spelling, reading, writing, and arithmetic were $24 per annum. (This is the equivalent of $556 in 2016–a bargain for private school!)  These branches, with geography, grammar, elocution, history, chronology, bookkeeping, and ”Italian method,” were taught for $36. Subscriptions less than a year were $1 per month extra. French was also offered.

In 1829, Brown started offering night classes. He continued to expand his offerings throughout the 1830s.  However, by 1837, he was forced to remind customers who were in arrears to pay up because he “could not live upon the wind.”

Brown served as mayor from January 1838 until January 1841.  He was out of Little Rock recovering from illness from April to November of 1839, but was subsequently elected to a third one-year term commencing in January 1840.