Frequently Asked Questions

1.Where did Fort Smith get its name?
Fort Smith was named for Gen. Thomas A. Smith who was commander of the military district that encompassed the region. There is no known record of him ever visiting the fort or the city.

2. When was Fort Smith established? The fort was begun in late 1817 and the city was incorporated in 1842.

3. How many men were executed in Judge Isaac Parker's federal court in Fort Smith? 79

4. Did many outlaws live in Fort Smith? Was it a "Wild West" town?
Many outlaws passed through Fort Smith, but few notorious ones lived in the city. Fort Smith, some citizens complained, got an unfair reputation for lawlessness because so many infamous outlaws were tried in the federal court here. Belle Starr was well-known to the citizens of the Fort Smith and her daughter, Pearl, later earned a reputation of her own as one of the more prominent madams in the bordello district of the city. There were doubtless some wild times in Fort Smith, but it probably was not a "Wild West" town in the popular Hollywood sense.

5. Why is Cisterna, Italy, Fort Smith's sister city?
Cisterna and Fort Smith developed ties that stemmed from the liberation of Cisterna by Col. William O. Darby in World War II. Darby was the commander of the Army Rangers during that conflict and a native of Fort Smith.

6. Who was the founder of Fort Smith?
John Rogers is the person most commonly cited as the 'father' or founder of the city. He was the sutler (storekeeper) for the first Fort Smith and established the first inn located in the city. Rogers stayed on after the first fort was abandoned and was instrumental in lobbying for a second fort near the site of the first. Rogers owned the land there and sold it to the federal government for $15,000 in 1836. He died in 1860. Rogers Avenue, the city's central east-west thoroughfare, is named for him.

7. What kind of city is Fort Smith? Southern? Western? Midwestern?
This is a difficult question to answer and there is no right or wrong response to it. Fort Smith is most assuredly a crossroads city, officially it was part of the Confederacy but on one of its most western borders. Despite Arkansas' secession in 1861, there was strong Union sentiment in Fort Smith as well. Fort Smith has also looked West for most of its history, decidedly influenced by its close proximity to the Indian Territory, later Oklahoma. Not far to the north are the midwestern states of Missouri and Kansas. Perhaps the easiest answer to this question is that Fort Smith is what you want it to be.