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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Fort Smith in Sebastian County, Arkansas — The American South (West South Central)
 

The Women’s Jail, 1872-1888

 
 
The Women’s Jail, 1872-1888 Marker image. Click for full size.
By Denise Boose, July 13, 2012
1. The Women’s Jail, 1872-1888 Marker
Inscription. After the U.S. Army closed Fort Smith in 1871, the guardhouse served the Federal Court for the Western District of Arkansas. It remained in use as a jail, detaining primarily women suspected or convicted of federal crimes until 1888. At that time, the court moved quarters for female prisoners into the courthouse/jail building. Although not as numerous as their male counterparts, female prisoners were no novelty in Fort Smith. They committed the same crimes as men in the Indian Territory, ranging from illegal sale of whiskey to murder. When convicted, they received the same sentences – fines, jail time or death by hanging. From 1873 through 1874 the guardhouse also briefly functioned as “Death Row” by holding the men condemned to die on the gallows.
 
Erected by Fort Smith National Historic Site National Park Services, U.S. Department of the Interior.
 
Location. 35° 23.338′ N, 94° 25.756′ W. Marker is in Fort Smith, Arkansas, in Sebastian County. Marker is on Park Avenue, on the left when traveling north. Touch for map. Within the Fort Smith National Historic Site. Marker is at or near this postal address: 301 Parker Avenue, Fort Smith AR 72901, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking
The Women’s Jail, 1872-1888 Marker image. Click for full size.
By Denise Boose, July 13, 2012
2. The Women’s Jail, 1872-1888 Marker
distance of this marker. The Guardhouse, 1849-1871 (a few steps from this marker); The Flagstaff (a few steps from this marker); The Parade Grounds (a few steps from this marker); Deputy U.S. Marshal Bass Reeves (within shouting distance of this marker); The Bastion That Never Was (within shouting distance of this marker); Old Federal Building (within shouting distance of this marker); Bass Reeves - Lawman on the Western Frontier (within shouting distance of this marker); Officer’s Garden (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Fort Smith.
 
Categories. Government
 
The Women’s Jail, 1872-1888 Marker image. Click for full size.
By Denise Boose, July 13, 2012
3. The Women’s Jail, 1872-1888 Marker
Jail Guard Robert Jackson, circa 1896. During the time that the old guard house was used as a women’s prison, the U.S. Marshal had to hire additional guards to watch over female prisoners in the guardhouse. Working as a jail guard was considered very desirable, as guards were paid a fixed salary often much higher than that of a deputy marshal.
The Women’s Jail, 1872-1888 Marker image. Click for full size.
By Denise Boose, July 13, 2012
4. The Women’s Jail, 1872-1888 Marker
Front view of the guardhouse taken from the original 1849 construction drawings. Although an 1894 fire severely damaged the guardhouse, it probably remained standing until 1896.
Belle Starr image. Click for full size.
By Denise Boose, July 13, 2012
5. Belle Starr
Romanticized in the movies as a “Bandit Queen” or “Lady Robin Hood,” Belle Starr was neither. She had entered into a life of petty crime during the Civil War and continued in the vein until her murder in 1889. Belle was brought in front of Judge Parker on charges of horse theft in 1883, found guilty and sentenced to a year in the Detroit House of Corrections. It is likely that while awaiting trail, Belle Starr was imprisoned here.
The Women’s Jail, 1872-1888 Marker image. Click for full size.
By Denise Boose, July 13, 2012
6. The Women’s Jail, 1872-1888 Marker
In 2000, the National Park Service places this concrete pad on the approximate location of the guardhouse.
The Women’s Jail, 1872-1888 Marker image. Click for full size.
By Denise Boose, July 13, 2012
7. The Women’s Jail, 1872-1888 Marker
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on August 6, 2012, by Denise Boose of Tehachapi, California. This page has been viewed 557 times since then and 25 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. submitted on August 6, 2012, by Denise Boose of Tehachapi, California. • Craig Swain was the editor who published this page.
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