Fort Smith is a historical place where archaeologists found remnants of a 19th-century fort set just above the Poteau and Arkansas rivers.
A new fort was built later that would serve as barracks, courthouse, and jail with gallows right outside the building where those arrested, convicted, and sentenced to death would be hanged. The court had jurisdiction over Indian Territory, and many of the people hanged in the gallows were Native Americans charged with killing white men "in cold blood." This building is now the visitor center, where you can watch an informational video, tour extensive exhibits, and purchase souvenirs at a gift shop.
The commissary building lies across the field from the visitor center. This is the oldest standing building in Fort Smith, built between 1838 and 1846, and it supplied military forts in Indian Territory during the Mexican War. An old Frisco train station, built in 1903, is on one side, and the officers' garden is on the other.
The entire park can be seen by walking a well-paved trail that is ADA accessible and that connects all areas of interest, including the Trail of Tears Overlook. This spot overlooks the river and commemorates the thousands who died on this long and painful journey from tribal lands in the south after the Indian Removal Act was signed in 1830. Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Muskogee, and Seminole people were forcibly removed from their ancestral homelands to reservation lands in Oklahoma. Nearly a quarter of the Cherokee forcibly removed, about 4,000 to 6,000 people, died along the way.