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History of Fort Smith, Arkansas

Fort Smith, county seat of Sebastian County, is located at the junction of the Arkansas and Poteau rivers. The city lies west of Van Buren on the [1921:]Oklahoma border. Fort Smith was established as a military outpost to patrol the neighboring Indian Territory in 1817 and was named after General Thomas Smith. The fort was abandoned seven years later in 1824, but by that time a town founded by John Rogers was formed alongside the fort. The fort was re-occupied and expanded in 1838. It was again abandoned in 1871. The area once occupied by the fort is now the Fort Smith National Historic Site. Founded by area women in 1910, the Fort Smith Museum of History originally occupied the 1840's Commissary Building of the second Fort Smith. Following the acquisition of the property by the National Park Service, the Museum moved to the Atkinson-Williams Building, a four-story National Register structure located a half block away. The Fort Smith Regional Airport began as the Fort Smith Municipal Airport with two sod runways in 1939. Judge Isaac C. Parker, best known as the Hanging Judge, was noted for dispensing harsh justice from his court in Fort Smith. Oak Cemetery, now a national historic landmark, contains the graves of 28 outlaws who were ordered hanged by Judge Parker. The Fort Smith Trolley Museum runs a trolley through the Fort Smith Historic District past Judge Parker's courthouse. Established as Fort Smith Junior College in 1928, Fort Smith's public institution of higher learning became the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith at the start of 2002. In addition, the city is home to branch campuses of Webster University and John Brown University, both private. In 1887, Fort Smith witnessed the opening of Arkansas' first hospital, St. Johns' Hospital, which over more than a century has evolved into Sparks Medical Center. St. Edward Mercy Medical Center has been serving the Fort Smith area since 1905.