We left Hot Springs Friday morning, May 15, and headed to Fort Smith, AR. We stayed at an old closed Army base, Fort Chaffee. It now is occupied by the Arkansas National Guard. It seemed to be a fairly busy base as there lots of activity. Perhaps it was because it was a weekend and a lot of soldiers were getting their points in for the month.
The site was established in 1961 in order to protect the remains of two 19th-century U.S. military forts, including a building which once housed the United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas. Fort Smith was also notable as a major stop along the "Trail of Tears." It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960.
The park visitor center is now located in the old Barracks/Courthouse/Jail building. Exhibits in the visitor center focus on Fort Smith’s military history from 1817–1871, western expansion, Judge Isaac Parker and the federal court's impact on Indian Territory, U.S. Deputy Marshals and outlaws, Federal Indian policy, and Indian Removal including the Trail of Tears.
Located on the grounds are the foundation remains of the first Fort Smith (1817–1824), the commissary building (c. 1838) and a reconstruction of the gallows used by the federal court. A walking trail along the Arkansas River includes wayside exhibits on the Trail of Tears.
Above, the visitor's center, and below, posters for several movies that were filmed here.
Fort Smith embraces the remains of two frontier forts, plus the Federal courtroom of the Western District of Arkansas. Hanging Judge Isaac C. Parker's court and jail have been restored as reminders of 80 turbulent years in the history of the government's Indian policies (1817-1896). The museum exhibits illustrate the court's impact on the Indian Territory (Oklahoma), U.S. Marshals, outlaws and regional history.Hanging Judge Parker's infamous gallows have been recreated on the site of the original structure.
There were a lot of bad boys in the Western Frontier, and Judge Parker used his gavel and gallows freely. Unfortunately, in trying to maintain law and order, many US Marshalls were killed in the process.
Reconstructed sections of the old jail...
We happened to be here during National law enforcement week. And the local police and sheriff's office along with the NPS Rangers conducted a nice memorial service for all the fallen officers, from the days of Judge Parker up to the most recent lost-in-the-line-duty officer.
The flag was placed at half-staff for the service, the bagpipes did Amazing Grace, and taps were played. Pretty nice.
Above, Nancy walks along the parade grounds while glancing at the little memorials placed along the walkway by the Eagle Scouts several years ago memorializing the officers who were killed during the early days of Fort Smith.
Above, the old commissary building. Below, a couple pics from inside.
The reconstructed gallows, located on the spot where the original one stood.
We walked over to the location of the original Fort Smith, which was very near the banks of the Arkansas River.
Nancy looking at the foundations of the old fort...
...and more of the old foundation..
Above, an artist who was present the day Cherokee Bill was hanged, sketched the image above. Below, a list of Judge Parker's hangings.
After Fort Chaffee was BRACC'ed in 1994, most of the gates and guard shacks for those gates were closed and retired. Someone took the initiative to salvage and preserve one of the guard houses.
It's also noteworthy that the base has remembered some of the significant events the base was asked to support and provide. These plaques describe two of those events.
Well, that about wraps up our stay in the Fort Smith area, and the tornado warnings we experienced one evening as well. Scary! In a motorhome especially! So, from the Monaco Maintenance facility in Coburg, OR, this 6th day of June, 2015, RVing Beach Bums signing off.