Fort Smith, Arkansas facts for kids
|City of Fort Smith|
Downtown Fort Smith
|Nickname(s): Hell on the Border|
Location of Fort Smith, Arkansas
|• City||64.6 sq mi (170.5 km2)|
|• Land||61.7 sq mi (160.5 km2)|
|• Water||3.9 sq mi (10.0 km2)|
|Elevation||463 ft (141.1 m)|
|• Estimate (2015)||88,194|
|• Density||1,391.2/sq mi (537.2/km2)|
|• Urban||122,947 (US: 257th)|
|• Metro||279,974 (US: 165th)|
|Time zone||CST (UTC-6)|
|• Summer (DST)||CDT (UTC-5)|
|GNIS feature ID||0076952|
|Website||City of Fort Smith|
Fort Smith is the second-largest city in Arkansas and one of the two county seats of Sebastian County. As of the 2010 Census, the population was 86,209. With an estimated population of 87,443 in 2012, it is the principal city of the Fort Smith, Arkansas-Oklahoma Metropolitan Statistical Area, a region of 298,592 residents that encompasses the Arkansas counties of Crawford, Franklin, and Sebastian and the Oklahoma counties Le Flore and Sequoyah.
Fort Smith has a sister city relationship with Cisterna, Italy, site of the World War II Battle of Cisterna, fought by United States Army Rangers commanded by Fort Smith native William O. Darby.
Fort Smith lies on the Arkansas-Oklahoma state border, situated at the junction of the Arkansas and Poteau Rivers, also known as Belle Point. The city began as a western frontier military post in 1817 and would later become well known for its role in the settling of the "Wild West" and its law enforcement heritage.
In 2007, Fort Smith was selected by the United States Department of the Interior to be the location of the new United States Marshals Service National Museum.
The site that would later become Fort Smith became part of the United States in the Louisiana Purchase (1803). Soon after, the Pike Expedition (1806) explored the Arkansas River. Fort Smith was founded in 1817 as a military post. A stockade was built and occupied, from 1817 until 1822, by a small troop of regulars commanded by Major William Bradford. Around the fort a small settlement began forming, but the Army abandoned the first Fort Smith in 1824 and moved 80 miles further west to Fort Gibson. Army sutler and land speculator John Rogers (who some genealogists claim to be an ancestor to 20th-century Oklahoma comedian Will Rogers) bought up former government-owned lands and promoted growth of the new civilian town of Fort Smith, eventually influencing the federal government to re-establish a military presence at Fort Smith during the era of Indian Removal and the Mexican War.
Fort Smith's name comes from General Thomas Adams Smith (1781–1844), who commanded the United States Army Rifle Regiment in 1817, headquartered near St. Louis. General Smith had ordered Army topographical engineer Stephen H. Long (1784–1864) to find a suitable site on the Arkansas River for a fort. General Smith never visited the town or forts that bore his name.
In 1838 the Army moved back into the old military post near Belle Point, and expanded the base as part of the federal policy of removing Cherokees and Choctaws from their ancestral homelands in the Southeast and resettling the survivors in the nearby Indian Territory. Many displaced Native Americans settled in Fort Smith and Van Buren, while Sebastian county was formed in 1851, separated from Crawford County north of the Arkansas River. In 1858, Fort Smith became a Division Center of the Butterfield Overland Mail's 7th Division route across Indian Territory from Fort Smith to Texas and a junction with the mail route from Memphis, Tennessee.
The fort was occupied by the Confederate Army during the early years of the U.S. Civil War. Union troops under General Steele took control of Fort Smith on September 1, 1863. A small fight occurred there on July 31, 1864, but the Union army maintained command in the area until the war ended in 1865. The town became a haven for runaway slaves, orphans, Southern Unionists, and other victims of the guerrilla warfare then raging in the Border States. Federal troops abandoned the post of Fort Smith for the last time in 1871. The town continued to thrive despite the absence of federal troops.
Two of Fort Smith's most notable historic figures were Judge Isaac Parker and William Henry Harrison Clayton, sometimes referred to as W.H.H. Clayton. In 1874, William Henry Harrison Clayton was appointed United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas by President Ulysses S. Grant. Fort Smith was a bustling community full of saloons and outlaws, just across the river from Indian Territory. William Clayton realized a strong judge would be necessary to bring law and order to the region. He knew of a strong judge in Isaac Parker. But there was a problem, as Judge Parker had been appointed Chief Justice of Utah Territory and confirmed by the US Senate. With the help of President Grant and US Senator Powell Clayton, former governor of Arkansas, William Clayton was able to undo that appointment and redirect Judge Parker to Fort Smith.
William Clayton was appointed US Attorney by four different presidents and later served as Chief Justice of Indian Territory. He was instrumental in achieving statehood for Oklahoma and together with Territorial Governor Frank Frantz, carried the Oklahoma Constitution to President Teddy Roosevelt after the state was admitted to the Union in 1907. Governor Frantz and Judge Clayton both lost their territorial positions when Oklahoma became a state.
The Army returned to Fort Smith in 1941 with the establishment of the Fort Chaffee Military Reservation east of the city.
On April 21, 1996, a large tornado destroyed and heavily damaged much of historic downtown Fort Smith around the Garrison Avenue Bridge. The storm left four people dead in western Arkansas. Days later, the Eads Brothers Furniture building in downtown Fort Smith was destroyed by one of the largest fires in the city's history.
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According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 64.6 square miles (167 km2), of which, 61.7 square miles (160 km2) of it is land and 3.9 square miles (10 km2) of it (6.3%) is water.
Fort Smith has generally mild winters and hot, humid summers. The monthly mean temperature ranges from 39.4 °F (4.1 °C) in January to 82.3 °F (27.9 °C) in July; on average, the high stays at or below freezing on 5 days, reaches 90 °F (32 °C) on 74.7 days, and 100 °F (38 °C) on 10.7 days annually. The average first and last occurrences for freezing temperatures are November 5 and March 29, respectively. Extreme temperatures range from −15 °F (−26 °C) on February 12, 1899 to 115 °F (46 °C) on August 3, 2011. Fort Smith is situated near an area known as Tornado Alley in the central United States. The city has been struck by three major tornadoes, which occurred in the years of 1898, 1927 and 1996.
|Climate data for Fort Smith Regional Airport, Arkansas (1981–2010 normals, extremes 1882–present)|
|Record high °F (°C)||81
|Average high °F (°C)||49.9
|Average low °F (°C)||29.0
|Record low °F (°C)||−11
|Precipitation inches (mm)||2.81
|Snowfall inches (cm)||2.4
|Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in)||7.5||7.8||9.7||9.1||10.7||9.3||6.5||6.3||7.7||8.4||7.5||7.7||98.2|
|Avg. snowy days (≥ 0.1 in)||1.1||0.8||0.4||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.7||3.0|
|Source: NOAA (sun and relative humidity 1961–1990)|
As of the census of 2010, there were 86,209 people, 34,352 households, and 21,367 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,391.2 people per square mile (537.2/km²). There were 37,899 housing units at an average density of 612.3 per square mile (236.4/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 69.3% White, 9.0% Black or African American, 1.8% Native American, 5.3% Asian (2.2% Vietnamese, 1.7% Laotian, 0.3% Asian Indian, 0.2% Filipino, 0.1% Korean, 0.1% Chinese, 0.1% Hmong, 0.1% Pakistani), 0.1% Pacific Islander, 10.3% from other races, and 4.2% from two or more races. 16.5% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race (11.6% Mexican, 2.2% Salvadoran, 0.4% Guatemalan, 0.3% Puerto Rican, 0.2% Honduran, 0.1% Cuban, 0.1% Peruvian, 0.1% Colombian).
In language, Fort Smith has over ten Asian languages with over two percent and the rise of Hispanics from immigration in the late 20th century increased the total of residents who speak Spanish. 7.10% reported speaking Spanish at home, while 3.38% speak Vietnamese and Lao, and 2.50% speak Tagalog.
In 2000 there were 32,398 households, of which 30.8% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.1% were married couples living together, 12.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.3% were non-families. 30.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.42 and the average family size was 3.03.
In the city, the population was spread out with 25.4% under the age of 18, 9.8% from 18 to 24, 29.3% from 25 to 44, 21.8% from 45 to 64, and 13.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females there were 94.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.0 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $32,157, and the median income for a family was $41,012. Males had a median income of $29,799 versus $22,276 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,994. About 12.1% of families and 15.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 22.2% of those under age 18 and 9.6% of those age 65 or over.
- Fort Smith Regional Art Museum opened to the public on January 19, 2013.
- Fort Smith Museum of History, almost adjacent to the National Historic Site the museum contains numerous exhibits, displays and artifacts that tell the story of Fort Smith's history—from the first fort in 1817, through the westward expansion, and on to the Civil War, the Gay Nineties, Fort Chaffee, and the emergence of a modern city.
- Fort Smith Trolley Museum is a railroad museum which displays a number of antique trolleys and related items. One of the trolley cars and three of the locomotives in its collection are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
- Fort Smith Air Museum is dedicated to preserving the history of the development of aviation in Western Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma.
- The Clayton House Museum The Clayton House Museum is the original home of William H.H. Clayton. It is open for tours and rentals for weddings, meetings, events, and much more. The house holds many Clayton artifacts, and boldly tells the history of Mr. Clayton as well as the western frontier.
Fort Smith has an active music scene. There are frequent live performances in the downtown area by local and national Jazz, Blues, Country, and Rock bands. Local bands regularly frequent the riverfront area highlighting the river valley's finest.
- Fort Smith Symphony, the oldest orchestra in the state. The symphony is a per-service professional orchestra composed of musicians from Fort Smith, Fayetteville, Springfield, Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Norman, Dallas, Little Rock, New York, Florida and other communities. The Fort Smith Symphony, conducted by John Jeter, regularly performs at the Arkansas Best Performing Arts Center.
Dance and theatre
- Western Arkansas Ballet, a regional dance company which regularly presents programs at area schools and the Performing Arts Center. Their major annual event is the presentation of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Ballet.
- The McCafferty School of Irish Dance offers instruction in the art of Traditional Irish Dance. Dancers from the school have competed at local, regional, national and world championship levels of competition, and some have performed professionally in international shows such as Riverdance and Lord of the Dance. Dancers perform at many local events. The Fort Smith branch of the school is supported by the Fort Smith Irish Dance Council, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization founded to provide support and facilities for the dancers.
As the largest city in western Arkansas, Fort Smith offers many activities and attractions. Fort Smith's theatres and event venues regularly host major concerts and touring theatre companies.
- Riverfront Amphitheater - Located next to the Arkansas River, the Riverfront Amphitheater represents one-third of the River Park Complex.
- Fort Smith Convention Center, with 140,000 square feet of space, is one of the largest convention centers in the region, second only to Little Rock's Statehouse Convention Center, with 225,000 square feet. Fort Smith Convention Center has more than 40,000 square feet (3,700 m2) of exhibition space. Many trade shows, conventions, and other events are held here each year. The performing arts theater is home to the Fort Smith Symphony and has seating for 1,331 people.
- Kay Rodgers Park - site of the Expo Center, with 24,000 square feet (2,200 m2) of meeting and exhibition space, and the Harper Arena, which is a covered open-air stadium that can seat 7,000 to 14,000 attendees for a variety of events.
- Second Street Live - This Performing and Visual Arts Center has an intimate 250-seat theater and 1,500 square feet (100 m2) Art Gallery.
Fort Smith is the main shopping destination of Western Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma. Central Mall is the state's largest indoor shopping center in terms of area. Retailers in the city include Dillard's, J. C. Penney, Sears, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, The Home Depot, Lowe's, and Kohl's. Several smaller and niche retailers also can be found throughout the city as well.
Some notable shopping locations in the city of Fort Smith are:
- Rogers Avenue
- Central Mall
- GreenPointe Shopping Center
- Massard Crossing
- Stonewall Village
- Williamsburg Square
- Phoenix Avenue/Greenwood Ave.
- Fort Smith Pavilion
- Maybranch Square
- Phoenix Center
- Fort Smith National Historic Site, the most prominent landmark, which includes the remains of the original 1817 fort on the Arkansas River. Inside is the restored courtroom of the famed "Hangin' Judge" Isaac C. Parker, and the dingy frontier jail aptly named "Hell on the Border." Eventually, this would become the unofficial nickname for all of Fort Smith.
- Belle Grove Historic District, a 22-block area in downtown Fort Smith comprises nearly 25 restored homes that span 130 years of varying architectural styles.
- Fort Chaffee, primarily used as a training facility by regional National Guard and Reserve Corps units as well as active military units from other installations. In 1958, the entertainer Elvis Presley stopped off at Fort Chaffee en route to his basic training in Texas. It was here that the public information officer John J. Mawn told a news conference that Presley would receive the standard "G.I. haircut" and would resemble a "peeled onion".
- Old Fort Days Rodeo - Fort Smith's annual Old Fort Days Rodeo and Barrel-Racing Futurity offers nearly ten days of Wild West activities. It has been held every May since the mid-1930s and is now rated as one of the top all-around rodeos in the country.
- Hanging Judge Border Feud High School Rodeo is held every March or April, schedule permitting. This event is held at Kay Rodgers Park, and includes rodeo events as well as a spring livestock show. The events are open to any high school students.
- Fort Smith Riverfront Blues Fest, held since 1991
- Arkansas-Oklahoma State Fair - One of the largest bi-state fairs in the nation, Fort Smith's Arkansas-Oklahoma State Fair occurs over a ten-day period in late September.
- Fort Smith Airshow - sponsored by the 188th Fighter Wing of the Arkansas Air National Guard, the Fort Smith Airshow occurs bi-annually every other spring or fall.
- Fort Smith Juneteenth Community Festival - Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.
Recreation and sports
In addition to sports teams sponsored by the schools and UA Fort Smith, Fort Smith has several independent recreational sports programs administered by local organizations.
- Fort Smith is named by Forbes as having the lowest cost of living in the United States.
- Fort Smith is also ranked sixth on its list of "Cities in America for Cost of Doing Business".
- The bathrooms at Fort Smith Regional Airport were voted as the best public restrooms in the United States in 2005.
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Fort Smith, Arkansas Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.