Guard House

Guard House and Women’s Jail

The guardhouse, constructed in 1849 was a focal point of daily activity at the second Fort Smith. Not only did the men assigned to guard detail operate out of this building, the officer of the day, who was responsible for the daily business of the post, worked out of an office located here. The guardhouse was also the place of confinement for soldiers under arrest for such offenses as drunkenness, desertion, or fighting.

After the U.S. Army closed Fort Smith in 1871, the guardhouse served the Federal Court for the Western District of Arkansas. It remained in use as a jail until 1888, primarily housing women suspected or convicted of federal crimes. At that time, the court moved quarters for female prisoners into the courthouse/jail building. Although not as numerous as their male counterparts, female prisoners were no novelty in Fort Smith. They committed the same crimes as men in the Indian Territory, ranging from the illegal sale of whiskey to murder. When convicted, they received the same sentences – fines, jail time, or death by hanging. From 1873 through 1874 the guardhouse also briefly functioned as “Death Row” by holding the men condemned to die on the gallows.

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A red brick rectangular gazebo with US flag flying in the background on a sunny day.
A red brick rectangular gazebo stands in the location of the old guardhouse and Women's Jail

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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