News and Opportunities


Fort Smith Historical Society’s

Griffin Theater Opening Soon at the Museum of History


The Griffin Charitable Organization has awarded the Fort Smith Historical Society a $10,000 donation for use in establishing a theater in the Darby Room at the Fort Smith Museum of History. This theater will be used by both the Museum and the Fort Smith Historical Society to present videos of interviews with World War II veterans and other historically important subjects. The Griffin Theater, the culmination of a dream for participants in the oral history project, is expected to be completed before the end of the year. With over 200 interviews recorded in the last five years, there is a wealth of material for the public to view. It is hoped this theater will be used by museum visitors, students, researchers, and anyone interested in the unwritten stories of World War II.


The 30th Annual Frontier Achievement Awards Ceremony


Fort Smith Historical Society Annual Membership Meeting

Thursday, April 14, 2011, 5:30 p.m.

West Room at the Riverfront Park on Clayton Expressway


The Fort Smith Historical Society joins with the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in honoring citizens, businesses, and industries that have made an outstanding contribution to the historical development of our city and/or helped to preserve the heritage of Fort Smith at the 30th Annual Frontier Achievement Awards ceremony.  Please join us for this important event.


All members and guests are encouraged to attend. Visitors are welcomed.



Fire Destroys Historic Home

Fort Smith lost another of its jewels in the early morning of July 7, 2010, when the historic Angus McLeod home was destroyed by fire. Early in the 20th century, Angus McLeod, owner of the Fort Smith Contracting Company, supplied railroad ties for the Fort Smith and Western Railroad and the Midland Valley Company. He and his wife, Elizabeth McLeod, purchased lots for construction of their new home in 1904. McCloud used many imported materials in the construction of the Neo-Classical dwelling, which was completed in 1905 and was featured in the 1982 movie "The Blue and the Gray,"

The cost of the home’s construction and imported materials is thought to have exceeded the 1914 sale price of $102,500. Shortly after completion the home was sold to Ben Wolf, and the Wolf-Pollack family owned the home until 1958, when it was sold to Mrs. Virginia Rush. It has since had several more owners, with the last being Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Hearne. The Angus McLeod house was listed on the Register of Historic Places in 1978.


Photograph of John Childers Discovered

The first of eighty-six men to be executed by the U. S. District Court

 for the Western District of Arkansas at Fort Smith

 August 15, 1873

Mrs. Linda Seamans McGahan received this photo after her father’s death and has given permission for its use to the Fort Smith Historical Society in her father’s memory. Her father, Joe Seamans, worked for the Sebastian County Road Department in waste management, driving a truck throughout the county for the weekly trash pick-up. People often put items out that might be of use to others. Seamans would often pick these up and put them in the cab of his truck, as he always knew someone in need. McGahan feels sure the photograph of John Childers came to her father in a cigar box or was in a box set to the side of the road. He put the photograph with the family photos where it was forgotten for years.

When her father died, McGahan’s mother gave her the family photographs which she then put away until her retirement. While looking through the old photos recently she saw the photograph of the man in chains sitting in a chair. The chains caught her attention, then the date. She researched the name of the man, learning who he was and the lawlessness he stood for. When contacted by Joe Wasson of the Fort Smith Historical Society, McGahan agreed to allow the use of the Childers photograph for historical purposes. How proud this would have made Joe Seamans.

History of John Childers

John Childers, born in the Cherokee Nation in 1848, fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War. Returning to the Nation in 1865, he took up with seven other men whose business it was to steal, mostly horses of the Osage, and occasionally to kill men.”

On October 24, 1870, near Caney Creek in the Cherokee Nation, Childers murdered Reyburn Wedding with an axe to the back of his head,  for his horse and property and because he was a “Kansas man.” In December, 1870, Childers was arrested by Deputy Joseph Vannoy near present day Bixby, Oklahoma, but escaped after they had traveled about ten miles. On January 26, 1871, he was arrested again by Vannoy and taken to Van Buren, where the U. S. Court was then located. On May 3, 1871, his birthday, he escaped again. For the third time Vannoy captured Childers. This time he was held for trial and execution at Fort Smith, where the U. S. Court had moved in 1872. John Childers was executed August 15, 1873.



Girls, Inc. Wins First Bloom Youth Garden Design Contest

Local Group Wins National Recognition and Trip to Washington, D.C.


In June, 2010,a garden created and maintained by members of Girls, Inc., was named a national winner in the 2010 First Bloom Youth Garden Design Contest. Located near the old commissary building at the Fort Smith National Historic Site, the period garden was the only entry from Arkansas and was one of twenty-six semifinalists. The top prize was an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C. in July for six of the girls and the First Bloom coordinator, Park Ranger Keri Powers.


Above: (L) Alice Schwin, and (R) Park Ranger Keri Powers at work.                                 Above: Girls, Inc., girls in Heritage Garden at Fort Smith National Historic Site

In 2009, the Fort Smith National Historic Site received a National Park Foundation grant of $13,000, which provided funding for the establishment of the Officer’s Wife’s Garden or the Officer’s Family Garden. The Fort Smith Historic Site’s Heritage Garden was one of twenty-six National Park gardens to receive the grant the first year it was open to proposals. Keri Powers, First Bloom coordinator, along with Tena Coker, of Girls Inc., decided to make it a summer program starting in May 2009. The Heritage Garden is a representation of an 1860s Officer's Wife's Garden during the second Fort era.  The garden is behind the officers quarters where many of the officers’ wives would have had their gardens growing vegetables, flowers and herbs.  Everything in the garden served a purpose during the Victorian age; a garden was an outdoor parlor, a place to educate and to gossip.

Girls Inc. participants ranged from five to fourteen years of age, with an average of twenty to thirty girls participating in the program. No power tools were used, only period tools. Seeds planted were from the 1860s or earlier. The only modern tool used was the water hose used by Powers when the girls were not present; the girls used watering cans. They learned how to play with tops, make cats cradles and buzz saws, and also to make church dolls. History lessons provided the girls the story of Judge Parker and the history of Fort Smith. The girls were taught gardening, sewing, quilting, and how to act like young ladies.  Plans for the future include cooking in Dutch ovens and canning, giving the girls skills which will be useful to them throughout their lives.

While in Washington, during the first week in July, the girls met with Senator Mark Pryor, Senator Blanche Lincoln, Congressman John Boozman, and National Park Service Deputy Director Mickey Fearn.  They were invited to the White House where they watched the President of the United States walk across the White House Lawn and board Marine One.  Pryor, Lincoln and Boozman promised to visit the girls and their Heritage Garden.

First Bloom promotes urban underserved youth by having native or heirloom gardens planted in the National Parks. The guidelines are to teach urban, underserved youth about our National Parks through gardening. This helps promote stewardship, teaches youth about their heritage, and gives them an understanding of where their food comes from.  First Bloom is about building the future stewards of our National Parks. 

See  for more information on the program.


Confederate Rest Memorial Service

Held at Historic Oak Cemetery

Sunday, May 16, 2010, members of the Varina Jefferson Davis Chapter #252, United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) and members of the General R. M. Gano Camp #561, Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) presented a memorial service in remembrance of those Confederate veterans buried in Confederate Rest at Oak Cemetery in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Guest speaker Judge Jim Spears gave a short memorial presentation.             

Barbara Coleman, registrar for the United Daughters of the Confederacy, became interested in the Confederate Rest lot at Oak Cemetery when she found the original deed for the property among old UDC records. The plot was in disarray and only one of the graves of Southern veterans in the plot was marked. Coleman researched  the veterans’ records, and completed the applications for the official markers, a two-year process. Mrs. Sue Clark, author of Oak Cemetery, Fort Smith, Arkansas, Fort Smith’s City Cemetery, assisted with the research. Coleman coordinated the work of members of the UDC and SCV, as well as the Oak Cemetery staff, in setting the grave markers and getting Confederate Rest ready for the ceremony. Richard Lewis, Sexton of Oak Cemetery was instrumental in seeing that the markers were received, stored, and placed correctly.  Friends of Oak Cemetery donated funds to pay for restoring the coping at the side of Confederate Rest and two non - military markers, those of Mrs. Josephine Foster and Noah Belote. Members of the SCV and their families, along with UDC members and families helped set the stones.


Those buried in Confederate Rest receiving markers

George W. Cox

Christopher Cook

John Foster

Mrs. Josephine Foster
John R. Sy/See

Thomas Moore

Wiley W. Early

John Story

Thomas B Hays

 William J. Ming
Samuel Chase

Isaac M. Davis

James McDaniel
Benjamin Stephens

James B. Long

Samuel E Walker

Co H 4th AL Infantry

Co G 2nd KY Cavalry, (had a marker)

Co H Martin's TX Cavalry
Wife of John Foster

Co G 20th AR Infantry

Co C Dobbins 1st AR Cavalry

Co H  43rd Batt VA Cavalry

Co E  2nd  MO Infantry

Co B  Harrell's AR Cavalry

Co B  15th AL Infantry

Co C  Davenport's Batt 12th MS Cavalry

Co A  8th Batt GA Infantry

Co C  2nd  MS Infantry

Co F   5th GA Reserves

Co C  37th TN Infantry

Co D 14th  VA Infantry

Those in Oak Cemetery, not in Confederate Rest, but graves received markers

Elias C. Boudinot
Charles W. Williamson
Agrippa S Hopkins
Noah Belote*
Co B 1st Cherokee Mounted Volunteers, "Watie's Reg”  
Co C 18th Reg SC Infantry  
Co I 23rd MS Volunteers
Willet's Provost Guards AR Infantry
*(No marker, as no muster roll found.) 


In 1998, historian Wanda M. Newberry Gray, Commissioner, Arkansas State History Commission and State Archives, made an extensive effort to locate all the burial sites within the boundaries of the city of Fort Smith and in Sebastian County. A limited number of directories of her findings were published. A copy of this publication, Directory for Cemeteries, Names, Locations, and References for Sebastian County, Arkansas, was placed in the genealogy department of the Fort Smith Public Library and in the state archives. This list is a research tool to assist individuals in finding the cemeteries in which their ancestors are buried. It is in alphabetical order by name with locations and the name of the literature referencing the burials of Sebastian County, Arkansas. It is published for the knowledge of future generations of researchers. Mrs. Gray has graciously given permission to the Fort Smith Historical Society to place this directory on the Society’s website.

Check it out at SebastionCountyCemeteries


Physicians and Medicine, Crawford and Sebastian Counties, Arkansas, 1817-1976

By Amelia Martin

Available with Donation to Fort Smith Historical Society

This 688-page historical reference, Physicians and Medicine, Crawford and Sebastian Counties, Arkansas 1817 – 1976, compiled by Amelia Martin and published by the Sebastian County Medical Society in 1977, is a fully documented and indexed text written against a background of the history of the area. 

Content includes health conditions and diseases, medicines and legislation, hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, public health, and biographies of 1,535 physicians who practiced in this area from the establishment of Fort Smith Post in 1817 until 1976. It also includes a history of the Army Medical Corps at Fort Chaffee from 1941 to 1976.

This valuable, historical reference book may be ordered from the Fort Smith Historical Society.  A donation of $25 is suggested. For information email:



Honor Roll of Donors

 Oral History Project Grants and Donations

The Griffin Charitable Organization

Fort Smith Area Community Foundation

River Valley Paranormal Research & Investigation (RVPRI Inc.)

Roy Henderson

Emery Lundquist

Lisa L. Hammersly



William “Bill” Cox

            By Dr. and Mrs. Jim S. Wells


Annual Business Sponsors 

Special School District of Fort Smith

Spiro State Bank

Arkansas Best Corporation

Hanna Oil & Gas

Coca Cola Bottling Company of Fort Smith



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