• Rifle Regiment arriving at Belle Point, 1817. Artwork by Michael Haynes

    Fort Smith

    National Historic Site AR,OK

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  • Road Construction I-540

    Traveling West on I-40? To avoid construction delays, do not take Exit 7 (I-540 S). Stay on I-40 west and take Exit 1 Dora. Stay on Hwy 64D for 6 miles and follow signs to Fort Smith. After crossing over the river, turn right on 4th ST & right on Garland. More »

Building Tour

Program Description:

This ranger guided tour will take students through 24 years of Fort Smith's Federal Court history. Students will stand inside the first jail and learn about what it would have been like for prisoners incarcerated at Fort Smith's first federal jail. The tour then leads students to the second jail, which was built to improve prisoners' living conditions. Along with stories about prison life in the second jail, students will learn about the important role of the Deputy Marshals in the justice system. Students will finish their program in Judge Parker's courtroom where they will learn more about his life, some of the cases over which he presided. Depending on time and the teacher's lesson plan objectives, student can be taken to the outdoor gallows for a ranger talk about executions and what happened on the days in which they took place.

Students will learn about:

  • Daily life of a prisoner
  • Life of a US Deputy Marshal
  • Basics of the Federal Justice System
  • Life and times of Judge Parker (1875-1896)
  • Execution day on the gallows optional

Length: 45 - 60 minutes

Group Size: 45 maximum

Areas Visited:

  • First Jail (1872-1888)
  • Second Jail (1888-1896)
  • Judge Parker's Courtroom (1875-1890)
  • Gallows (1872-1896) optional


Program involves walking short distances covering two floors. There is an elevator for ADA accessibility.

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Did You Know?

Park staff and volunteers demonstrating using lindstock and slowmatch to ignite the cannon's primer

The soldiers who came to Fort Smith in 1817 were still using some 18th century technology and drill. The cannon was discharged using a lindstock and slowmatch to ignite the primer, which originally was loose powder or a turkey quill filled with powder.