Fort Smith, Arkansas

Fort Smith is a manufacturing city nestled in the River Valley between the Ozark and Ouachita mountains in northwest Arkansas. Forth Smith is situation at the edge of the Arkansas-Oklahoma border, lying gently along the banks where the Arkansas River meets the Poteau River, a spot known as Belle Point. It is county seat of Sebastian County and is the largest city in Arkansas based on population size.

Fort Smith grew around a western frontier military post in the early 1800s. On Christmas Day, 1817, the army post was established in order to protect European settlers heading west. The post was named "Camp Smith", in honor of Brig. Gen. Thomas Adam Smith, commander of the western frontier forces that built the fort. The city was incorporated in 1842.

Fort Smith would later gain recognition for its role in the settling of the "Wild West". The city is immersed in Old West lore, thanks in part to books like True Grit to real-life characters such US Deputy Marshall Bass Reeves and Belle Star. Its law enforcement heritage is very much alive in the 188th Fighter Wing (operated by the Arkansas Air National Guard) and the Fort Chafee Maneuver Training Center (operated by the Arkansas National Guard). Fort Smith has recently earned the accolade as the best city in America for cost of living.

Fort Smith is an attractive city for both local residents as well as tourists. There are intriquing options in entertainment, education, affordable living and many other benefits the city offers its residents. The city is known for its ambient social atmosphere and its lively residents.

Fort Smith History

The city of Fort Smith, Arkansas grew around a military post of the same name. In the early years of the 1800s, the Cherooke and Choktaw fled west to escape incursions by white settlers. The newcomers came into conflict with the old inhabitants, the Osage and the Quapaw. To maintain order between the warring tribes and to protect travelers heading east, General Adam Smith ordered military engineer Major Stephen H. Long in 1817 to build a fort there. Major Long chose the junction of the Arkansas and Poteau Rivers as the site of the military post. The fort was named for General Adam Smith.

The military presence in Fort Smith encouraged settlers from the east, and a community soon grow around the fort. Groups of trappers, traders, and businessmen arrived and developed the settlement. Businesses that catered to soldiers were opened, with the goal of keeping the military installation for as long as possible. Military forts during that period were short-lived. Indeed, the troops stationed at Fort Smith were relocated further west to Fort Gibson in 1824. Despite the absence of troops, Fort Smith continued to grow. Its location allowed the city to serve as transportation corridor for westward-bound travelers.

In 1838, the US army returned to their old post near the river junction. This time, the reason was not keep peace in the area, but to assist in the forced resettlement of Cherokees and Choktaws from their ancestral homelands west of Mississippi River to an adjoining Indian Territory. This law came to be known as the Trail of Tears. In 1858, Fort Smith was chose as the 7th Division Center of the Butterfield Overland Stagecoach Express.

The years 1861 - 1865 were a period of conflict. Fort Smith was occupied by Confederate forces, who used the fort as military installation and supply post. On September 1, 1863, the Union seized the fort and took control of it. The Union managed the post until the end of the Civil War in 1865. The garrison became a refuge for runaway slaves, citizens aligned with the Union, and other war victims. In 1865, Confederate forces turned over the states of Texas and Arkansas to the Union, and the people of Fort Smith, including members of the Confederate, began rebuilding the town.

Post-Civil War, Fort Smith realigned their focus from military to administration of justice. The most popular figure to rise from this period was Judge Isaac Parker. Parker earned the nicknamed "Hanging Judge" after meting out sentences to 18 people during his first term. Over the course of his 21-year term, Judge Parker had sentenced 160 people to death by the gallows.

In 1896, Fort Smith's role as a military outpost ended, and the community began to focus on municipal growth. The city has weathered the Great Depression of the 1920s followed by a long period of drought, to emerge as a manufacturing hub of Arkansas in the latter half of the century.

About Fort Smith, Arkansas

Forth Smith is a dynamic city that combines Old West and Old South traditions. Its distinctive history, beliefs, and personality can be glimpsed through the many restored old houses, museums, attractions, and festivals.

The place to begin for anyone who wants to get to know the city well is the Fort Smith National Historic Site, which is located south of Garrison Avenue. This history-themed park has the original Wild West forts, the "Trail of Tears" land route, and the restored gallows of Hanging Judge Isaac Parker. Another popular historical site, the Belle Grove Historic District, is located north of Downtown Forth Smith. The district covers 22 square-block area. All the 25 homes there - some of which are 150 years old - have been restored and included in the National Register of Historic Places. Some of the most notable residences are the Clayton House and the Vaughn-Schaap House. On B Street is the Miss Laura's Social Club and Visitor Center. This former house of prostitution is the only one of its kind to be included in the National Register of Historic Places. On Highway 22 is the Chaffee and Chaffee Crossing, a military fort that became famous as the place where Elvis Presley received his basic military training.

Fort Smith also has a vibrant music scene. Live performances showcasing jazz, blues, rock, or country music frequently take place in the downtown area. Some of the city's most prominent musical groups are the Fort Smith Symphony, Fort Smith Chorale, and Fort Smith Community Brass Band, a Salvation Army-

Visual art can be experienced at the Fort Smith Art Center, which is housed in the Vaughn-Schaap House. Here, local and national artists put up art shows and exhibits each month. Performance arts , on the other hand, are held at Fort Smith Little Theater, the University of Arkansas, and other cultural venues in the city.

Each May, on Memorial Day weekend, the city of Fort Smith celebrates its Wild West past with rodeo parade, barrel races, and other rodeo events. In June, the city celebrates Old Fort Riverfest, a 3-day festival that features local food, music, and art. In the fall, the city gives its Scottish heritage a toast with Scottish foods, music, and contests.

Fort Smith also hosts various conventions, exhibits, trade shows, and concerts each month. They are held in various event venues in the city. In fact, Forth Smith has some of the largest venues in western Arkansas. These include the Riverfront Amphitheatre, the Fort Smith Convention Center, the Phoenix Expo Center, and the Fort Smith Event Center.

About Sebastian County, Arkansas

Sebastian County, located on the western border of Arkansas, was established on January 6, 1851. The county, which was formed from a territory that previously included Crawford, Polk, and Scott Counties, was named after US Senator William Sebastian. The county lies on the sprawling Arkansas Valley 446 feet above sea level. The county is bordered by the Arkansas River to the north, and the Ouachita Mountains to the south. The county is home to Fort Smith and Fort Chaffee cities.

Beginning the late 19th century up to the first half of the 20th century, Sebastian County's economy was dependent on mining and lumber. Arkansas' largest coal-mining operations were found in Sebastian County. During the 1960s and onwards, other industries began to move in. The county diversified its economic base to agriculture and service-based industries. Because of its close proximity to the Arkansas River and other transportation access as well as abundance of skilled work force and raw materials, many manufacturing companies came to build factories there. Some of the manufacturing giants in Sebastian County are Whirlpool Corp (maker of refrigerator, washing machines), Baldor Electric Co (maker of motor and generators), and ABC Freight Systems.

Demographics: Sebastian County is home to a diverse group of peoples. Whites, African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics, Europeans, and Asians have gathered in this area to live and work. Sebastian County offers a stable economy, low unemployment rate, low cost of living, and plenty of employment opportunities in the industrial, agricultural, manufacturing, and professional sectors. All these elements make Sebastian County a thriving and well-balanced place to live in.

Historic Sites: The National Register of Historic Places lists 53 historic sites and districts in Sebastian County. Most of them are found in the city of Fort Smith. One of the most visited is the Fort Smith National Historic Site. This sprawling park features Fort Smith's military history, the Indian Removal and Trail of Tears, Judge Isaac Parker (the Hanging Judge), and US Judge Marshalls. Other notable historic sites are the Robert Atlas Harper House (Greenwood City), Old US-Jenny Lind Segment (Jenny Lind), Oak Cemetery (Fort Smith), and Hartford Water Tower (Hartford).