Walking Tour of Fort Smith Arkansas
This short walking tour includes several historic buildings and museums in downtown Fort Smith along the Arkansas River. The walking tour concludes at the Fort Smith National Cemetery.
This statue is of a local African American named Bass Reeves. He was the first African America west of the Mississippi River to become a U.S. Marshal. He served under the jurisdiction of Judge Isaac C. Parker. This 25-foot statue depicts Reeves on horseback, with a rifle in his hand, and a dog at his side, as they head into what used to be Indian Territory.
The federal courthouse is not a tourist attraction and is still in operation. This was the courthouse where famous Judge Isaac Parker practiced law. Isaac Parker is famous for bringing law to the furthest extents of American territory(at that time) and notorious for his use of hanging as a punishment. Hence his moniker 'The Hanging Judge.'
The Fort Smith National Historic Site covers around 80 years of Fort Smith, Arkansas history from 1817 to 1896. This site primarily focuses on the years in which Judge Isaac C. Parker served the Federal Court of the Western District of Arkansas, 1875-1896. This site includes an indoor museum, several outdoor exhibits, and a walking trail that leads visitors to the foundations of the First Fort Smith. This National Park Site is a great place to take friends and family to learn more about the history of the town.
The Fort Smith Museum of History was established in 1910 and offers exhibits that interpret the history of Native Americans, early settlers of European descent, and the growth of the community in the 19th and 20th century. Highlights of the museum include the courtroom, collections of military memorabilia, exhibits related to agriculture and business, and a collection of radios and other items related to the history of technology. The historic trolley, which is part of the Fort Smith Trolley Museum, stops right outside the museum to provide rides for visitors between the two museums.
Dating back to 1985 with the creation of a car barn that could hold recently-renovated historic trolley cars, the Fort Smith Streetcar Restoration Association has operated this museum and also offered trolley tours in the city. The museum now includes several cars, including four of the original Fort Smith trolley cars. The museum also includes several railcars, cabooses, and a Frisco steam engine. The museum is best known for its operation of a daily trolley that offers practical transportation for residents and visitors to Fort Smith.
In the early 1830’s in Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina and Florida, over 100,000 Native Americans lived on land that had been owned by them for generations. By the end of the decade, however, few Native Americans lived in Southeastern U.S. Due to the valuable land that they lived on, European Americans desired such territory for the cotton that it could grow. Eventually the Federal Government would step in, forcing the Native Americans to leave into their now designated “Indian Territory.” The long and deadly journey along the Mississippi River would come to be known as the Trail of Tears, and in 1936 a monument would be created at one of the last resting camps of the traveling men and women along the trail.
Fort Smith National Cemetery is located at the site of a local cemetery that was originally created in the early 1800s. Over 13,000 soldiers and some notable civilians have been buried at Fort Smith National Cemetery. There are multiple Civil War generals and over 1000 unidentified soldiers buried in the cemetery which continues to accept new internments. \
This Pinustaeda tree, more commonly known as the Loblolly Pine, was planted in Fort Smith Arkansas on March 15, 1976. This tree is known as a moon tree because there is something very special about it. When it was just a seed, it hopped aboard Apollo 14 and journeyed to the moon and back in 1971. It was planted in Fort Smith on Arbor Day. The fact that this tree has traveled to space and back certainly separates itself from others.
During the Civil War, Fort Smith and Sebastian County primarily supported the Confederacy, and the town was occupied by both United States and Confederates forces. Many Confederate dead were buried in the post's cemetery, which was designated as Fort Smith National Cemetery in 1867. In the 1870s, a small monument was erected in the cemetery to several Confederate generals, but it was destroyed by a tornado in 1898. A local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy formed shortly after and raised over $2,300 to erect a large replacement monument honoring Confederate dead. The United States government refused to allow the Confederate monument on cemetery grounds, so the city allowed the monument to be erected on courthouse grounds. It was dedicated on September 10, 1903 to much fanfare. In the summer of 2020, a local petition circulated calling for the monuments removal, but the city has yet to take any course of action regarding the monument.
Dedicated in 2016, this statue honors Fort Smith local General William O. Darby, the first commander of the U.S. Army Rangers. The unit became known as Darby’s Rangers, and several area schools and a military installation are named in honor of the unit's leader. Darby was even the subject of a popular 1958 Hollywood production, Darby's Rangers. Darby led the first Americans who engaged the German army in combat in North Africa as part of Operation Torch. This statue was dedicated 71 years to the day when Darby was killed by a German artillery shell in Italy.