First Fort Smith


Belle Point and First Fort Smith

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Founding of Fort Smith

In 1817 the U.S. Army ordered Major William Bradford to “…ascend the Arkansas river to the point where the Osage boundary line strikes that river… with the advice of Major Long select the best site to be found upon it… and therein erect as expeditiously as circumstances will permit a Stockade…” In the late 1700’s the Cherokee tribe, encouraged by the federal government, began to migrate to new lands in the west. However, the Cherokee settlers did not get along with the neighboring Osage and the resulting raids by Osage and Cherokee warriors threatened all-out war. In response, the Fort was established, and the troops contained the Cherokee/Osage hostilities until the garrison was ordered further west in 1824. Major Stephen H. Long selected Belle Point as the site for Fort Smith and provided a plan for its construction. Two years later he embarked from St. Louis, Missouri on an expedition to the Rocky Mountains during which he surveyed and mapped much of the Great Plains.

The First Fort Smith

During the early 1800’s, pressure from the rapidly-growing white settlement forced many eastern American Indian tribes to migrate west. In 1817, Cherokees migrating from the southern Appalachian Mountains clashed with the local tribe, the Osage. United States troops were sent here to take all proper measures for the restoration of peace, and the preservation of harmony between the Osage and Cherokee tribes.

More extensive reading on the history of Belle Point:
The Bad Tempered Buffalo Affair
The First Fort Smith
Building the Second Fort Smith

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A sidewalk winds through gray stone lines in grass with tress and a river in the background.
Foundation of the first Fort Smith

NPS/Pat Schmidt


Last updated: May 12, 2020

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301 Parker Ave
Fort Smith, AR 72901


479 783-3961

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