Fort Smith

Overview

Introduction

Located on the Arkansas River and sitting on the Arkansas-Oklahoma border, Fort Smith feels more Western than other Arkansas towns. It was founded in 1817 as a military outpost to protect settlers from Native American attacks. Ironically, most of the Indians in the area were passing through on the forced relocation known as the Trail of Tears.

The fort was later used by both armies in the Civil War, but it gained its greatest notoriety when the abandoned barracks became the court of "Hanging Judge" Parker, who sent 79 men to the gallows in the late 19th century. The judge's court and what's left of the old military outpost are preserved in the Fort Smith National Historic Site. Across the street is the Fort Smith Museum of History, which is interesting in its own right and provides further detail about the history of the fort and city. The Fort Smith Trolley Museum is in the same area and includes a collection of vintage streetcars. The museum also operates a working streetcar along a route of several blocks. Both can be seen daily May-October, weekends-only the rest of the year.

You might also consider visits to the Fort Smith Art Center, which occupies a house built in the 1850s, and the Belle Grove Historic District, which has many well-preserved homes. The Old Fort River Festival is held each June in Fort Smith, offering arts, crafts, sporting events and food. 105 mi/170 km west of Little Rock.

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