Fort Smith Things to Do

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    Executions at Fort Smith

    by Yaqui Updated Jan 4, 2014

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    During the twenty-four years the federal executions took place in Fort Smith, eighty-seven men died on the gallows. While Judge Isaac C. Parker sat on the bench, 160 people, including four women, were sentenced to hang. Just over half received a reprieve from execution through pardons, commutations, reversals or acquittals on appeal, or death in jail. The men listed below were hanged in Fort Smith.

    August 15, 1873 John Childers
    October 10, 1873 Six Killer, Tunagee alias Tuni Young Wolf
    April 3, 1874 John Billy, Isaac Filmore, John Pointer
    January 15, 1875 McClish Impson
    September 3, 1875* Edmund Campbell, Daniel Evans, Samuel Fooy, Smoker Mankiller, James Moore, William Whittington
    April 21, 1876 Gibson Ishtanubbee, William Leach, Orpheus McGee, Isham Seeley, Aaron Wilson
    September 8, 1876 Samuel Peters, Osey Sanders, John Valley, Sinker Wilson
    December 20, 1878 James Diggs, John Postoak
    August 29, 1879 William Elliot Wiley, alias Colorado Bill, Dr. Henri Stewart
    September 9, 1881 William Brown, Patrick McGowen, Abler Manley, Amos Manley, George W. Padgett
    June 30, 1882 Edward Fulson
    April 13, 1883 Robert Massey
    June 29, 1883 William Finch, Martin Joseph, Te-o-lit-se
    July 11, 1884 John Davis, Thomas Thompson, Jack Womankiller
    April 17, 1885 William Phillips
    June 26, 1885 James Arcine, William Parchmeal
    April 23, 1886 Joseph Jackson, James Wasson
    July 23, 1886 Calvin James, Lincoln Sprole
    August 6, 1886 Kit Ross
    January 14, 1887 John T. Echols, James Lamb, Albert O’Dell, John Stephens
    April 8, 1887 Patrick McCarty
    October 7, 1887 Seaborn Kalijah, alias Seborn Green, Silas Hampton
    April 27, 1888 Jackson Crow, Owen Hill, George Moss
    July 6, 1888 Gus Bogles
    January 25, 1889 Richard Smith
    April 19, 1889 Malachi Allen, James Mills
    August 30, 1889 Jack Spaniard, William Walker
    January 16, 1890 Harris Austin, John Billy, Jimmon Burris, Sam Goin, Jefferson Jones, Thomas Willis
    January 30, 1890 George Tobler
    July 9, 1890 John Stansberry
    June 30, 1891 Boudinot Crumpton, alias Bood Burris
    April 27, 1892 Sheppard Busby
    June 28, 1892 John Thornton
    July 25, 1894 Lewis Holder
    September 24, 1894 John Ponter
    March 17, 1896 Crawford Goldsby, alias Cherokee Bill
    April 30, 1896 Webber Isaacs, George Pierce, John Pierce
    July 1, 1896 Rufus Buck, Lewis Davis, Lucky Davis, Maoma July, Sam Sampson
    July 30, 1896 George Wilson, alias James Casherago

    A photo of George and John Pierce that hanged April 30, 1896 along with Webber Isaacs.~Photograph courtesy of the Fort Smith Museum of History.

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    Ross Pendergraft Park

    by Yaqui Written Sep 9, 2012

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    The plaque reads:
    After spending his early years on an Arkansas farm and completing college, he joined the Donrey Media Group in 1948 as an advertisting saleman. As executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Group, he became an nationally known newspaper executive. He gave of his resources and time to improve the exonomic development infrastructure and quality of life in this region, and became one of the most influential and respected men in the state. This pavilion and park is dedicated to his memory by his family and is a gift to the people of Fort Smith, Arkansas. June 24, 2001.

    They have dedicated a beautiful park where you will find this lovely plaque and is where you will find the awesome statue and historical plaque of U.S. Deputy Marshall Bass Reeves.

    The trolley even stops in front of here and then returns back towards town. Fort Smith National Historic site is not far from here too.

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    Miss Laura's Social Club~Fort Smith Visitor Center

    by Yaqui Updated Sep 9, 2012

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    Miss Laura’s Visitor Center is a restored turn-of-the-century brothel that is now the city's official visitor center; interpretive tours discussing the building's colorful past and the history of the former Fort Smith "Row" of seven bordellos from the time prostitution was legal in the district. Miss Laura's Visitors Center was the first former bordello to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The folks here are so friendly and just so knowledgable of all the history. Lots of artifacts and beautiful historical photo's. They work on donations. Lets keep this piece of history alive.~

    Free, comprehensive visitor Information, brochures, maps, family friendly guided tours, and ideas for fun things to do in the entire area. Museum Gift Shop too.

    Open 7 Days!
    Hours: Monday - Saturday, 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM
    Sunday, 1:00 PM - 4:30 PM

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    Ride a Historical Trolley~

    by Yaqui Written Sep 9, 2012

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    I was so excited to ride this little trolley. It's main boarding station is at the Fort Smith Museum of History. It was about $2 a person and the trolley engineers are all volunteers who have lovingly restored this wonderful pieces of history. The Trolley Engineers are tourguides and share the history of the local area. It takes you to Ross Pendergraft Park and then it reverses back to the Fort Smith National Cemetery. What is unique about these trolley's is when the trolley engineer needs to go back the same direction, they remove their lever and reattach it to the opposite end of the trolley and the backs of the trolley seats move so you can face the direction of which the trolley takes you. A small warning, it jolts pretty good when it begins to move....lol!

    You can purchase a token at the front desk in the Fort Smith History Museum. Well worth your time.

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    Fort Smith Museum of History

    by Yaqui Written Sep 9, 2012

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    This to me is one of the nicest museums I have seen. Very detailed and so educational. They have so many wonderful artifacts and historical photo collections. A must to see if your in the area ever!!

    For over 100 years, we have been the "keeper and teller" of Fort Smith's rich and colorful history. Located in the 1907 Atkinson-Williams Warehouse Building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Fort Smith Museum of History is a 501(3)(c) organization.

    The Fort Smith Museum of History acquires, preserves, exhibits and interprets objects of historical significance relevant to the founding and growth of Fort Smith and the region. Our exhibits illustrate the contributions of Fort Smith's citizens to the cultural, political, and economic development of the area.

    The old fashioned soda fountain features handmade sodas, floats and sundaes.

    Visit the museum gift shop for unique, locally produced pottery and crafts. Prints of historic Fort Smith are now available. Choose from an excellent selection of books on area history.

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    Union Occupation of Fort Smith

    by Yaqui Written Sep 9, 2012

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    On Sept. 1, 1863, U.S. troops under Gen. James Blunt seized Ft. Smith. It remained a Union post for the duration of the war. Fort Smith became a haven for white war refugees and former slaves, many of whom joined the Union army. Fort Smith troops fought in the 1864 Camden Expedition, but most local fighting focused on guerrilla units infesting the area. In the summer of 1864, Union troops withstood a series of Confederate attacks from the Indian Territory. Soldiers and civilians faced a supply shortage until peace came in 1865. Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission Preserve America, National Park Service, Department of the Interior Fort Smith National Historic Site Fort Smith Noon Exchange Club Rotary Club of Fort Smith. Erected 2011 by Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission. (Marker Number 15.)

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    Barracks, Courthouse, Jail

    by Yaqui Written Sep 9, 2012

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    The building in front of you is very much as it appeared in the 1890s. First built as military barracks, it was later converted for use as a courthouse and jail. Over time its appearance changed to accommodate different needs of the people using it.

    Compare these photographs to the building you see today. Notice clues of its former appearance by examining bricked-in-windows, remnants of porch foundations, changing rooflines, and brick color variations.

    Under the circular patch of grass before you is the site of a well. Sheltered by a small gazebo, this well supplied water until the courthouse and the new jail were added to the city water system in the late 1880s.

    Compare these photographs to the building you see today. Notice clues of its former appearance by examining bricked-in-windows, remnants of porch foundations, changing rooflines, and brick color variations.

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    The Fishback Block in 1872

    by Yaqui Written Sep 9, 2012

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    In 1870, ground was broken for the three-story Fishback Block on the site of Jeremiah Kannady's blacksmith shop which manufactured Bowie knives for the Confederate Army. The builder, future Gov. William Meade Fishback (1831-1903), named the 7,000 square foot third floor ballroom after his wife, Adelaide Miller Fishback. Adelaide Hall quickly became the scene of grand balls, beautiful dinner parties, wedding receptions, public meetings and firey political gatherings. City Hall was relocated here. In 1885 the building burned to the ground, Fishback's new two-story building in the same style would be named Adelaide Hall in honor of his wife who had died three years earlier. 110 years later, Adelaide Hall was purchased and completely restored by Richard and Jaunice Griffin.

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    W.J. Murphy - Eads Brothers Building in 1903

    by Yaqui Written Sep 9, 2012

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    The first mention of this property is from 1838 when it was part of the brickyard that manufactured bricks to build the second Fort Smith. In 1877 the City Hotel was built here. In 1897, identical buildings were constructed to house the W.J. Murphy Harness and Saddlery Company at 410-12 Garrison. In 1901, Charles and Louis Eads established Eads Brothers Furniture Company in the former Rodgers-Wade building. In 1923, Eads Brothers purchased the Murphy building, removing the walls and combining the buildings. After 95 years in the same location, Eads Brothers relocated not long before the April 21, 1996 tornado hit downtown Fort Smith and Van Buren. The Eads Brothers building survived with minor damage but three days later on April 24, the building exploded into flames soon after the utilities services were reconnected. Three other adjacent businesses were destroyed in the ensuing fire.

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    Reynolds - Davis Wholesale Grocery Company

    by Yaqui Written Sep 9, 2012

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    This facade is all the remains of the five story building occupied from 1907 to 1955 by Reynolds - Davis Wholesale Grocery Company. The building subsequently served Checker Transfer & Storage Company from 1957 thru 1988 as well as other tenants throughout its long history.

    A tornado ripped through downtown Fort Smith on the ill fated Sunday night of April 21, 1996. The storm destroyed this and numberous other buildings located along the west end of Garrison Avenue. The facade was preserved as a reminder of the grandeur of this once fine structure.

    Griffin Properteries of Fort Smith, LLC

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    Deputy U.S. Marshal Bass Reeves

    by Yaqui Written Sep 9, 2012

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    This statue was erected in 2012 as a result of growing awareness of the extraordinary service of Bass Reeves, an African-American former slave who became a highly respected Deputy U.S. Marshal. The deeds of African-American and Native American lawmen and citizens were often overlooked in standard history accounts for much of the 20th century. A fuller picture of the diversity of the people who contributed to the development of the United States is available at the Fort Smith National Historic Site as well as the various state and tribal sites and museums across the Arkansas River in the former Indian Territory, now the state of Oklahoma.

    Deputy Marshal Reeves went into Indian Territory prepared to bring back his captives. His time on the trail was spent with a cook and his chuck wagon, a guard, a least one posse man and a wagon to transport prisoners. Reeves preparedness, his cleverness at disguises, and his determination to carry out the law led to over 3,000 arrests of whites, blacks and Indians. Belle Starr surrendered to Reeves when she learned he had a warrant for her arrest - such was her respect for the Deputy Marshal. By far, the most difficult arrest Bass Reeves ever made was that of his own son Benjamin for the murder of Benjamin's wife. Bass Reeves was never wounded during his time as a Marshal and killed only fourteen men in the line of duty over a 32 year career. When Indian Territory became the state of Oklahoma, Reeves was out of a job. Not ready for retirement, Reeves joined the police force in Muskogee, Ok. He was 70 years of age and walked with a cane! He spent two years as a Muskogee policeman where not a single crime was committed on his beat! Bass Reeves passed away on January 12, 1910 of Bright's disease - kidney ailment - in Muskogee, OK. His passing was mourned by people of every race, color, and creed. Reeves left a legacy of honor, duty, fairness and character that are not only traits of a successful lawman, but ones of a true man - no matter his color.~Photograph courtesy of the Fort Smith Museum of History

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    Bass Reeves - Lawman on the Western Frontier

    by Yaqui Written Sep 9, 2012

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    Bass Reeves, a slave born in Arkansas and reared in Texas, rose to become one of the best known and effective deputy U.S. marshals to ride out of Fort Smith for Judge Isaac C. Parker. Recognized as one of the first African Americans commissioned as a federal lawman on the western frontier, Reeves was a master of disguise, expert with firearms, and over a thirty year career, arrested thousands of felons, including his son and minister. Newspapers reported that he killed over twenty men in the line of duty.

    After leaving Fort Smith, Reeves served the federal courts of Paris, Texas and Muskogee in the Indian Territory. Following Oklahoma statehood in 1907, he worked for the Muskogee Police Department until 1909. Reeves died in 1910 at the age of 71 in Muskogee. This statue is a dedication to Bass Reeves and all federal lawmen who bravely served our nation with valor, fortitude, and unwavering integrity.

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    Fort Wall

    by Yaqui Written Sep 9, 2012

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    Security has always been a concern for the U.S. military. The army designed the second Fort Smith (1838-1871) as part of line of forts from Minnesota to Louisiana to separate the territory occupied by Native American tribes from that settled by American citizens. To provide protection in the event of an attack, military engineers called for the construction of a fort with five bastions (gun emplacements), and a massive stonewall that was 12 feet high and 2 feet thick.

    Fort Smith represents the last of a dying breed; from the 1840s on, virtually all frontier forts were built without walls. After Fort Smith was built, the cost of constructing a wall was considered too great in comparison to the benefit of a fortified defense. The fort walls remained in place throughout the federal court era (1872-1897), affording a level of security for proceedings and the executions that took place. Today the location of the original wall outlined by continuous band of stones.

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    The Gallows

    by Yaqui Written Sep 9, 2012

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    With the largest criminal jurisdiction of any federal court at the time, the Western District of Arkansas handled an extraordinary number of murder and rape cases. When a jury found defendants guilty in these capital cases, federal law mandated the death penalty. In Fort Smith, that meant an execution by hanging on a “crude and unsightly” gallows.

    A visitor to the city in 1893 recommended constructing a new gallows to evoke the “sacredness and majesty of the law.” This was never achieved and a year after the last execution, the city of Fort Smith destroyed the gallows structure.

    “I do not desire to hang you men. It is the law.” Judge Isaac C. Parker.

    This sketch is the only known image of the gallows. It depicts the execution of Crawford Goldsby, alias Cherokee Bill, on March 17, 1896. Although cameras were prohibited at hangings, a young man captured the scene with a Kodak, which he quickly hid in his coat. The sketch was later taken from that photograph.~Photograph courtesy of the Fort Smith Museum of History

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    The Commissary Storehouse

    by Yaqui Updated Sep 9, 2012

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    This is the oldest building still standing in Fort Smith. Originally built as part of a larger fortification, over the years its appearance and use changed dramatically. The building held supplies used by explorers and soldiers, played a crucial role in two wars, and served as an office for Federal Judge Isaac C. Parker.

    Today the commissary is furnished with reproductions of supplies that the U.S. Army stored here in the 1850s. A number of post located farther west benefited from these rations. As part of Fort Smith National Historic Site, the commissary building helps tell one dimension of Fort Smith’s rich and varied history.

    The Commissary Storehouse Marker
    Brigadier General Thomas Jesup, Quartermaster General, 1816-1860. Referred to as “the father of the modern Quartermaster corps, “ Jesup decision to change Fort Smith from a defensive position to a supply depot had a significant effect on the development of the region.

    The Commissary Storehouse Marker
    “Fort Smith is the head of steamboat navigation on the Arkansas river and an important point for a depot for supplies for a force operating on that frontier as well as for the posts in advance on the Red river, and Fort Gibson.” –Quartermaster General Thomas Jesup, 1845.

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