Overview of Historically Interpreted Sites at Fort Smith
First Fort (1817-1824) - more...
The first Fort Smith was established at the confluence of the Arkansas and Poteau Rivers in 1817 at a place named Belle Point. It was the highest navigable point on the Arkansas River at the time the site was chosen by the U.S. Army. The army abandoned the fort in 1824 and while used intermittently by transient troops, it was never maintained. Its exact location remained unknown until 1963, when archeologists uncovered the foundations visitors can see today.
Second Fort (1838-1871) - more...
In 1838 construction of a second fort was begun, this one built at a higher elevation and away from the river. Major buildings included two officer's quarters, a barracks, commissary, and quartermaster storehouse; all enclosed by a stone wall. Today visitors can see the Commissary Storehouse (the oldest building still standing in Fort Smith) and the former military barracks which was converted into the federal courthouse in 1872.
Federal Court (1872-1896) - more...
When the military barracks was used as a courthouse, the basement was fashioned into a jail. The conditions in the first jail that the facility housed was nicknamed "Hell on the Border". In 1888 a new jail wing was constructed to remedy the deplorable conditions suffered by prisoners. The federal courthouse, which originally was a 1 1/2 story structure with full porches, was changed to reflect its current appearance in 1890.
Did You Know?
The Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, (Muscogee) Creek and Seminole Indian tribes were forcibly moved to Indian Territory on what became known as the Trail of Tears. The Arkansas River served as a water route to Fort Smith where they received supplies before crossing the river into Indian Territory.