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“A Lot of History Here!” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Fort Smith National Historic Site

Fort Smith National Historic Site
301 Parker Ave, Fort Smith, AR 72901
479-783-3961
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Ranked #1 of 8 Attractions in Fort Smith
Type: Historic Sites, Cultural
Attraction details
Harlan, KY
Top Contributor
95 reviews 95 reviews
40 attraction reviews
Reviews in 38 cities Reviews in 38 cities
59 helpful votes 59 helpful votes
“A Lot of History Here!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed June 9, 2011 via mobile

One stop for a lot of history. The fort served many purposes, all of which are interesting. A costumed guide came in when we were beginning our tour. He told us so many facts and interesting stories. He interacted with the kids and let them do the Jr Ranger Program. This gave them activities that kept them interested and let them earn a badge in which one of the park rangers did a little swearing in ceremony. The rangers and costumed guide were super friendly and helpful. I just can't say enough about them. This was a wonderful, well kept historical site! There is something interesting and to be learned for all ages.

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146 reviews from our community

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English first
Blluffton, SC
Top Contributor
103 reviews 103 reviews
26 attraction reviews
Reviews in 38 cities Reviews in 38 cities
73 helpful votes 73 helpful votes
“Fort Smith National Historic Site, well worth the time to visit”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed October 25, 2010

We stayed an extra day while traveling through Ft. Smith to see the sites and are glad we did. The National Historic site is a treasure. It has been well-maintained and offers a superior visit experience. Although most people may be familiar with the Judge Parker/Hang'em High aspect of the Ft. Smith site (and that is well covered in the displays), there is much more to the history of the fort, including the Trail of Tears connection and the long-term relationship with the Indian Territory. All are well covered. Excellent visitors center and film. Although the bulk of the original Fort has been gone for over 100 years, the remaining portions and the interpretive displays do a good job bringing it back to life. Take the short walk towards the river and the original fort site.

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Houston, Texas
Senior Reviewer
9 reviews 9 reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
4 helpful votes 4 helpful votes
“See an old jail”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed May 23, 2010

Overall not as good as Museum of History. You can see the site where the outlaws were hung outside the Historic site. Inside, they have some information on Judge Parker and the court house and jail

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Alexander, AR
Reviewer
4 reviews 4 reviews
3 attraction reviews
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
“Good history!!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 23, 2009

My husband and I went to the Fort Smith Historic Site on a Sunday, the entrance fee was $4, but the park was free that day. (not sure why). The jail was eye-opening, it made you think about being in a room with 50 other people, no privacy, etc. The courtroom on the 2nd floor was a lot smaller than I thought it would be, but very nice. We walked all over the grounds and it was nice and peaceful. We visited the Trail of Tears site near the river. Recommend for first time visitor to Fort Smith.

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Newbern, Tennessee
Top Contributor
150 reviews 150 reviews
120 attraction reviews
Reviews in 85 cities Reviews in 85 cities
563 helpful votes 563 helpful votes
“Soldiers, outlaws, marshalls, a famous judge, and a nice park, too!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 2, 2007

The Fort Smith National Historic Site provides an excellent insight into frontier life, ranging from the military, to treatment of Indians, to frontier justice in the late 1800's. It also makes for a peaceful and pleasant walk along the banks of the Arkansas River.

The dominate feature of this park is a huge federal courthouse complex, which is now the visitors center. Through a unique interpretive display, you can see portions of the three floors inside, all at once from the main floor. Sections have been reconstructed showing the jail, the courtroom, and more. (I have included a photo of this). Interpretive displays talk about outlaws, Indians, the soldiers here, the marshalls keeping order in the later years, and one judge in particular: Issac C. Parker.

For 21 years, in the late 1800's, Parker held court for what was then the Western District of Arkansas, which primarily included land of what would become Oklahoma. Parker got himself quite a reputation. During his term, he sentenced 160 men to death for the crimes of rape or murder. Of these, 79 executions were carried out. There were a total of 86 executions at Fort Smith during that time. A reproduction of a hanging gallows capable of hanging six at once is near the courthouse.

The park's parade grounds include the Commissionary Building, associated with the military part of the fort. There is also a huge flagpole in the center of the grounds, with a 37-star flag atop.

The current Fort Smith was the second fort here. It served from 1838 to 1871, when the military left it, and the federal court system moved in. Other structures that are no longer standing have positions marked.

On the western side of the park, on what is called Belle Point, is the site of the first Fort Smith, founded in 1817. It served both as a military post on the frontier, and as a supply center for the region. It was ideally located on the banks of the Arkansas River, right at the edge of what was called Indian Territory. Today the foundation remains of this fort can be seen.

The Indian history aspect of the fort is now told in even better detail, with the establishment of the Trail of Tears memorial. In the 1830's, the U.S. government forcibly removed thousands of Indians from lands east of the Mississippi River, and sent them to what is now Oklahoma. Thousands died along the way. Fort Smith was the last jumping off point for them before they went into their new "homeland." Today, the memorial contains plaques to the five main eastern tribes that were removed: Cherokees, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Muscogee Creek, and Seminole. The site is accessed below the first fort site, via a paved trail, which also leads from the park's visitors center and parking lot.

Fort Smith has quite a number of stories to tell. The National Park Service has done well in re-telling those stories for the generations of today. Whenever I visit family in the area, I always try to go by and see this park. It's worth a visit no matter how many times you've seen it.

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