Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Fort Smith National Historic Site

This morning we drove the few miles into the town of Fort Smith to visit the National Historic site.  Fort Smith is all about two things--law enforcement and a supply depot for the Indian frontier.

The original fort was built in 1817 to help maintain peace and order between the local Osage Indians and the incoming tribes being removed from eastern lands and provide security for settlers.  In 1924 this small stockade was abandoned.  Nothing much remains of that fort today.

As Indian removal ramped up under President Jackson, plus the increasing numbers of settlers, the army started to build a bigger, better second Fort Smith.  Construction got underway, but money ran out and so did the Indian threat.  Construction was halted and plans were changed to make Fort Smith a supply depot.

During the Civil War, the fort changed hands a couple times, but ended up under control of the Union Army.  After the war and after the US government pushed the Indians still further west, the need for a supply depot no longer existed.  The army once again abandon the fort.  About a year later the Federal Court for the Western District of Arkansas moved in.

Judge Parker's courtroom

Along comes Judge Isaac Parker to sit on the bench. The barracks building became the courthouse and jail.  Conditions were so deplorable in the jail (which was in the basement) that even Parker petitioned for another jail to be built.  Thus the extension was add to the barrack building.  For 20 years Judge Parker presided over the court and sentenced many outlaws to death by hanging.

Today, we started our tour in the old jail, then moved upstairs to view the exhibits which are displayed in the area that became the new jail.  Over in the original barracks building, is Judge Parker’s courtroom.

Reproduction of the gallows 

The rain stopped, but the skies were still cloudy and a cold wind was blowing.  We quickly walked around the grounds and headed back to the warmth of the car.

The cupboards are bare so tomorrow will be a grocery run plus there’s one other thing we want to see in the area.  I’ll let that be a surprise for tomorrow’s post.

That’s all from here.  Thanks for tagging along.

No comments:

Post a Comment