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

    Fort Smith

    National Historic Site AR,OK

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    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 »


In the 19th century, Indian Territory was home to not only law-abiding Indians, but also desperate criminals trying to hide out from U.S. law.

While Indian courts had their own tribal courts and tribal police, they had no jurisdiction over cases involving non-Indians. Deputy marshals from Fort Smith were sent into Indian Territory to find and arrest those individuals who were to be tried by the federal court. With a territory of over 74,000 square miles, the outlaws knew that finding them would be a difficult job.

While the stories of the outlaws charged with violent crimes such as rape and murder are most commonly associated with this court, the majority of cases heard by Judge Parker were not capital crimes. Individuals were arrested and brought to the Fort Smith jail on charges such as petty theft, whiskey peddling, arson, illegal timber cutting, and violation of the postal laws.

For an outline of the steps that a criminal case would follow, from complaint to sentencing, click here.

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.