Fort Smith National Historical Site helps to preserve almost 80 years of history. From its establishment of the first fort in December of 1817 to the final days of Judge Parker’s reign over the Indian Territory in 1896, many different stories are waiting for visitors to hear. Visitors can walk where soldiers drilled, reflect along the Trail of Tears overlook, and stand where justice was served and carried out. Many different people who made history at Fort Smith, and their actions and attitudes can serve both as inspiration and lessons learned. The Fort Smith National Historic Site includes the remains of two frontier forts and the Federal Court for the Western District of Arkansas. Judge Isaac C. Parker, known as the “hangin’ judge,” presided over the court for 21 years.
Fort Smith National Historical Site is part of the Middle Arkansas River Valley Study Unit. This makes it the least known archeological region of Arkansas. Because of this, every artifact found and every site discovered are considered significant. A full-scale archeological excavation to document serving structural remains was conducted in the late 50s and early 60s. Most of this was done around Belle Point. Beyond this site, little exploration was done elsewhere in the park. Most archeological work done today, is mainly to help learn more about the fort and to serve as monitoring efforts for archeological clearance projects. Although no major projects have been done, the data provided is still crucial to understanding the site’s past and protecting it in the future.
For more information about Fort Smith National Historical Site, check out its website. For more information about the archeological aspects of work done in the park, check out this report. To take a virtual tour of the site, check out this link.