Washington, D.C.— Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) recently recognized the Fort Smith National Historic Site in the Congressional Record as part of his initiative to highlight Arkansas’s National Parks and Historic Sites in celebration of the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary. You can find the full text of Senator Cotton’s recognition in the Congressional Record below, or here.
In honor of the National Park Service’s 100th birthday year, I want to recognize Fort Smith National Historic Site in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Situated along the Arkansas River, Fort Smith was officially recognized as a historic site in 1961 to preserve two frontier forts from the nineteenth century as well as the courtroom of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas. These sites are a wonderful representation of the history of the Arkansas River Valley.
The first fort was first established to resolve disputes between the Osage and Cherokee in 1817. But as frontier settlement continued further west the fort was eventually abandoned in 1824. The remnants of its foundation were later uncovered by archeologists, and are visible on site today.
The second fort was built in 1838, just two years after Arkansas officially became a state. It served a variety of functions for over three decades. Two of the fort’s original buildings are still intact today and are open for tours. Visitors to Fort Smith can make a stop in the fort’s original Commissary Building and experience first-hand what it was like when it functioned as supply warehouse for provisions waiting to be sent to troops out west.
Fort Smith is also home to the jail and courtroom where the infamous Judge Isaac Parker—also called the “Hanging Judge” for the number of death sentences he handed down—presided for two decades in the late nineteenth century. Although jurisdiction of this particular court has since shifted, at the time Judge Parker and the court wielded vast influence over an expansive area.
The Fort Smith National Historic Site is just another example of Arkansas’s rich American history. I encourage Arkansans and all Americans to stop by and learn about some of the prominent figures and characters in nineteenth century Arkansas—including U.S. Marshals, outlaws, and judges. In honor of the National Park Service’s 100th year – I encourage you to find your park!