Fort Smith National Historic Site

Last updated
Fort Smith National Historic Site
Fort Smith National Historic Site in 2009
USA Arkansas location map.svg
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Location Sebastian County, Arkansas
Nearest city Fort Smith, Arkansas
Coordinates 35°23′18″N94°25′47″W / 35.388210°N 94.429834°W / 35.388210; -94.429834 Coordinates: 35°23′18″N94°25′47″W / 35.388210°N 94.429834°W / 35.388210; -94.429834
Area75 acres (30 ha)
EstablishedSeptember 13, 1961
Visitors86,122(in 2011)
Governing body National Park Service
DesignatedOctober 15, 1966
Reference no.66000202 [1]
DesignatedDecember 19, 1960

Fort Smith National Historic Site is a National Historic Site located in Fort Smith, Arkansas, along the Arkansas River.

National Historic Site (United States) protected area in the United States

National Historic Site (NHS) is a designation for an officially recognized area of national historic significance in the United States. An NHS usually contains a single historical feature directly associated with its subject. A related but separate designation, the National Historical Park (NHP), is an area that generally extends beyond single properties or buildings, and its resources include a mix of historic and sometimes significant natural features.

Fort Smith, Arkansas City in Arkansas, United States

Fort Smith is the second-largest city in Arkansas and one of the two county seats of Sebastian County. As of the 2010 Census, the population was 86,209. With an estimated population of 88,037 in 2017, it is the principal city of the Fort Smith, Arkansas-Oklahoma Metropolitan Statistical Area, a region of 298,592 residents that encompasses the Arkansas counties of Crawford, Franklin, and Sebastian, and the Oklahoma counties of Le Flore and Sequoyah.

Arkansas State of the United States of America

Arkansas is a state in the southern region of the United States, home to over 3 million people as of 2018. Its name is of Siouan derivation from the language of the Osage denoting their related kin, the Quapaw Indians. The state's diverse geography ranges from the mountainous regions of the Ozark and the Ouachita Mountains, which make up the U.S. Interior Highlands, to the densely forested land in the south known as the Arkansas Timberlands, to the eastern lowlands along the Mississippi River and the Arkansas Delta.



Fort Smith park map Fort smith park map.jpg
Fort Smith park map

The park visitor center is now located in the old Barracks/Courthouse/Jail building. Exhibits in the visitor center focus on Fort Smith's military history from 1817–1871, western expansion, Judge Isaac Parker and the federal court's impact on Indian Territory, U.S. Deputy Marshals and outlaws, Federal Indian policy, and Indian Removal including the Trail of Tears. Located on the grounds are the foundation remains of the first Fort Smith (1817–1824), the commissary building (c. 1838) and a reconstruction of the gallows used by the federal court. A walking trail along the Arkansas River includes wayside exhibits on the Trail of Tears. This was also one of the areas Bonnie and Clyde stopped at and they were killed after leaving. Land on the Oklahoma bank of the Arkansas River was authorized to be included in the National Historic Site to preserve a historic viewshed, but has not been acquired. [2]

Isaac Parker American judge

Isaac Charles Parker was an American politician and jurist. He served as a United States Representative from Missouri and was a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas.

Indian Territory U.S. 17th-, 18th- and early-20th-century territory set aside by the United States Government for the relocation of the indigenous peoples of the Americas

As general terms, Indian Territory, the Indian Territories, or Indian country describe an evolving land area set aside by the United States Government for the relocation of Native Americans who held aboriginal title to their land. In general, the tribes ceded land they occupied in exchange for land grants in 1803. The concept of an Indian Territory was an outcome of the 18th- and 19th-century policy of Indian removal. After the Civil War (1861–1865), the policy of the government was one of assimilation.

United States Marshals Service federal law enforcement agency of the United States

The United States Marshals Service (USMS) is a federal law enforcement agency within the U.S. Department of Justice. It is the oldest American federal law enforcement agency and was created by the Judiciary Act of 1789 during the presidency of George Washington as the Office of the United States Marshal. The USMS as it stands today was established in 1969 to provide guidance and assistance to Marshals throughout the federal judicial districts. USMS is an agency of the United States executive branch reporting to the United States Attorney General, but serves as the enforcement arm of the United States federal courts to ensure the effective operation of the judiciary and integrity of the Constitution.


The site was established in 1961 in order to protect the remains of two 19th-century U.S. military forts, including a building which once housed the United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas. Fort Smith was also notable as a major stop along the "Trail of Tears." It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1961. [1] [3]

The United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas is a federal court in the Eighth Circuit.

National Historic Landmark formal designation assigned by the United States federal government to historic buildings and sites in the United States

A National Historic Landmark (NHL) is a building, district, object, site, or structure that is officially recognized by the United States government for its outstanding historical significance. Of over 90,000 places listed on the country's National Register of Historic Places, only some 2,500 are recognized as National Historic Landmarks.

The original fort itself was settled on December 25, 1817 by Major William Bradford to maintain harmony between the local Cherokee and Osage Indians. This time would later be historical referenced as the "First Fort", which ends in 1824 when the U.S. Army abandons Fort Smith after settling Fort Gibson further west. [1] [4]

United States Army Land warfare branch of the United States Armed Forces

The United States Army (USA) is the land warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces. It is one of the seven uniformed services of the United States, and is designated as the Army of the United States in the United States Constitution. As the oldest and most senior branch of the U.S. military in order of precedence, the modern U.S. Army has its roots in the Continental Army, which was formed to fight the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783)—before the United States of America was established as a country. After the Revolutionary War, the Congress of the Confederation created the United States Army on 3 June 1784 to replace the disbanded Continental Army. The United States Army considers itself descended from the Continental Army, and dates its institutional inception from the origin of that armed force in 1775.

Fort Gibson

Fort Gibson is a historic military site located next to the present day city of Fort Gibson, in Muskogee County Oklahoma. It guarded the American frontier in Indian Territory from 1824 until 1888. When constructed, the fort lay farther west than any other military post in the United States; it formed part of the north–south chain of forts intended to maintain peace on the frontier of the American West and to protect the southwestern border of the Louisiana Purchase. The fort succeeded in its peacekeeping mission for more than 50 years, as no massacres or battles occurred there. The fort site is now managed by the Oklahoma Historical Society as the Fort Gibson Historical Site. It is a National Historic Landmark.

As a result of the increased tension between the local settlers and the Indians following the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the U.S. Army created a second Fort Smith near the original's ruins in 1838. This is the beginning of the historical "Second Fort" period. During General Zachary Taylor's command of the fort in the 1840s, it became a supply depot for other forts within the Indian Territory until its capture during the Civil War in 1863 by Union troops. It remained a supply depot to other forts in the region until it was no longer occupied in an official capacity by 1871; historically the end of the "Second Fort" era. [1] [4]

Indian Removal Act a law signed on May 28, 1830 by President Andrew Jackson

The Indian Removal Act was signed into law on May 28, 1830 by United States President Andrew Jackson. The law authorized the president to negotiate with southern Native American tribes for their removal to federal territory west of the Mississippi River in exchange for white settlement of their ancestral lands. The act has been referred to as a unitary act of systematic genocide, because it completely discriminated against an ethnic group, to the point of certain death of vast numbers of its population. The Act was signed by Andrew Jackson and it was strongly enforced under his administration and that of Martin Van Buren, which extended until 1841.

Zachary Taylor 12th president of the United States

Zachary Taylor was the 12th president of the United States, serving from March 1849 until his death in July 1850. Taylor previously was a career officer in the United States Army, rose to the rank of major general and became a national hero as a result of his victories in the Mexican–American War. As a result, he won election to the White House despite his vague political beliefs. His top priority as president was preserving the Union, but he died sixteen months into his term, before making any progress on the status of slavery, which had been inflaming tensions in Congress.

American Civil War Civil war in the United States from 1861 to 1865

The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States from 1861 to 1865, between the North and the South. The most studied and written about episode in U.S. history, the Civil War began primarily as a result of the long-standing controversy over the enslavement of black people. War broke out in April 1861 when secessionist forces attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina shortly after Abraham Lincoln had been inaugurated as the President of the United States. The loyalists of the Union in the North proclaimed support for the Constitution. They faced secessionists of the Confederate States in the South, who advocated for states' rights to uphold slavery.

A small city grew around the fort, eventually becoming the seat of the U.S. Court for the Western District of Arkansas which presided over the western half of Arkansas and Indian Territory. Its first judge was a man named Isaac C. Parker who took charge of the court from 1875 to 1896. [1] [4]

See also

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 "Fort Smith". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. 2007-09-26. Archived from the original on 2007-03-01.
  2. National Park Service, Fort Smith National Historic Site. Click "View Park Map" to see existing park boundary.
  3. Frank B. Sarls, Jr. (December 10, 1958) National Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings: Fort Smith (First and Second Sites) and Judge Parker Courtroom, National Park Service and Accompanying 4 photos, exterior, from 1940 and undated.
  4. 1 2 3 "Fort Smith National Historic Site". World Book Advanced. 2018.