story info and photos submitted by the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith
Spencer Rapin will be a 10th grader at Van Buren High School this fall but he’s already working on an effort that will make him stand out when he applies for college —volunteering at the Drennen-Scott Historic Site operated by the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith.
Rapin and grandfather Rich Rapin, who was project manager for Crawford Construction during restoration of the Drennen-Scott home, were discussing volunteering and how it would put a positive spin on college applications.
“He told me I really needed to think about it,” said the younger Rapin, who is 15. “I knew I needed to volunteer. I have the grades, but that doesn’t set me apart from everybody else. I knew volunteering would do that.”
Rapin’s grandfather set up an interview with Tom Wing, site director and assistant professor of history at UAFS. Wing then “hired” Spencer.
Visitors to the Drennen-Scott Historic Site start at the Visitor Center, where Rapin or another volunteer greets them and tells them what to expect when they tour the house. After he shares with visitors the Drennen family timeline and a few historical points, he shows them the path to the house itself.
Rapin, the son of Wayne and Rebecca Lunsford of Van Buren, said he already knew some of the facts about the house, which dates back to the early 1830s, but a booklet he was given to study gave him even more information.
“The most interesting part is the house itself, how historic it is,” he said, “how all the furniture in the house is original and was kept in the same family for 169 years. It amazes me. This is the oldest single story house in Arkansas.”
He also points out the connections between John Drennen and Albert Pike, an attorney, Confederate officer and writer who helped craft Arkansas’s first constitution.
“It’s interesting what good friends they were,” said Rapin. “If you go to the courthouse in Van Buren, you’ll see on the grounds a tiny log school where Albert Pike once taught. John Drennen originally owned the land where the courthouse is located.”
He said he enjoys the reactions of the visitors to the Drennen-Scott Historic Site.
“Most of the time it’s ooh’s and ah’s,” he said, “and they are fascinated with the history. Most of the visitors are on vacation, so that adds more excitement to the historical value of the house that they came here.”
Rapin spends mornings at the site and then he’s busy this summer with two other activities — football and baseball. He’s on both teams for his school. In addition, Van Buren is hosting the 2012 Babe Ruth 13-15 World Series, and he’s on the Van Buren team.
All of this follows a busy school year at Butterfield Junior High, where he was president of the National Junior Honor Society and was active in Future Business Leaders of America, Youth Alive and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He was also chosen as the final Mr. Butterfield, which he finds worth noting, since the school structure is being reorganized and Butterfield as a junior high school will no longer exist.
Rapin is one of seven regular volunteers assisting Wing at the Drennen-Scott Historic Site. Wing said he was impressed with Rapin when he met him.
“He’s gone over and above everything I’ve asked him to do,” said Wing. “He’s an honor student, sharp, articulate.”
Wing said he understood from Rapin’s grandfather that the interview wasn’t the first time Spencer Rapin had visited the Drennen house.
“His grandfather told me that Spencer had been in a group of elementary school children who came to the house,” said Wing. “When Spencer told his grandfather about seeing the house, his grandfather told me that Spencer almost quoted verbatim what I had said during the tour. Wish I could get him to become a history major at UAFS.”
Rapin has other plans, however, and they include majoring in a medical field and going into pre-dentistry and then into orthodontics.
Wing’s other regular volunteers include retirees and former students.
“I also have a gentleman who comes on Saturdays,” said Wing. “He works for a Fort Smith company during the week and spends Saturdays here instead of golfing or bass fishing.”
Wing also uses younger college students as volunteers, students who are building up experience before applying for formal internships.
Drennen was a founder of Van Buren, politicians, Indian agent, landowner and businessman. Charles Scott was Drennen’s business partner and son-in-law. Charles and Caroline Scott inherited control of the estate after Drennen’s death in 1855.
The Drennen-Scott Historic Site serves as a museum and educational facility for UAFS. The University purchased the property in 2005 and received several grants to restore the property and the house. The site opened in May 2011.
The site is at 221 North 3rd St. in Van Buren and is open 1-5 p.m. on Thursdays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.