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

    Fort Smith

    National Historic Site AR,OK

Federal Court Era Places (1872-1896)

interior of courtoom as it looks today with Judge's bench in center of wall

Restored Courtroom of Judge Isaac C. Parker

Memories by Jody

Today visitors come to Fort Smith to see the federal courthouse used by Judge Isaac C. Parker from 1875-1889. However, the building was originally the military barracks and not ideally suited for a courthouse. The courtroom was small and not lavishly furnished. The former mess halls in the basement were converted into two large jail cells, nicknamed "Hell on the Border."

 
 

Did You Know?

Interior of jail cell with box for prisoners to visit with their lawyers

The conditions at the federal jail at Fort Smith were so horrible that it received the nickname "Hell on the Border." Up to 50 men were crowded into one large cell with limited ventilation and poor sanitary conditions.