Scenic USA - Arkansas

Fort Smith NHS

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Visitor Center (Courthouse, Barracks, Jail) Fort Smith National Historic Site, Arkansas

Photos by Ben Prepelka
Scenic USA Artist Website

     The task of maintaining law and order in the wide open Arkansas and Oklahoma territories fell to Judge Isaac Charles Parker. Fort Smith Commissary - Fort Smith National Historic Site, AR Remembered by most as the hanging judge, Parker presided over the second floor Fort Parade Grounds - Fort Smith National Historic Site, AR Smith Courthouse beginning in May, 1875. The Missouri congressman from St. Joseph volunteered to take the Fort Smith job to replace the corrupt Judge Story. During his 21 year stay at Fort Smith, Parker presided over 13,490 cases, heard thousands of criminal complaints, settled disputes between settlers and Native Americans and sentenced 160 to death. While violent crimes made thrilling newspaper stories, the majority of cases heard by Judge Parker involved petty theft, whiskey peddling, arson, illegal lumbering and violation of postal laws. Sensational cases and mass executions overshadowed Parker's efforts in rehabilitating criminal offenders, Reconstructed Gallows - Fort Smith National Historic Site, ARhis contibutions to reform the justice system, and his advocacy for the rights of Indian nations.
     Established as a historic site in 1961, a Fort Smith restoration project was completed in 2000, having returned the building to its 1890s appearance. The Arkansas Fort Smith National Historic Site stands as a reminder of 80 years of history regarding the Federal Indian Policy. The combination barracks, courthouse and jail, shown here, houses today's visitor center, ante room, the Eastern National Bookstore, and the infamous hell on the border jail in the basement.

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