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True Grit in Fort Smith
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True Grit: Based on a Real Place
Rooster Cogburn. Mattie Ross. Tom Chaney. LaBouef. Judge Parker's Court. They all started here, in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Learn about what's fact, what's fiction, what's still here to see and what never was.
Read about True Grit and Fort Smith History
"The Real Fort Smith: The Fact and Fiction Behind True Grit"
"Fort Smith Has True Grit"
from Rural Arkansas Living Magazine
Historical photo essay:
"The Truth Behind True Grit"
True West Magazine's April 2011 True Grit-themed Collectors Edition Travel Issue
Rooster's List: 20 True Grit Things to See and Do Around Fort Smith
Visit Judge Parker's Courthouse at the Fort Smith National Historic Site
, entering the actual courtroom as Mattie Ross would have when she first heard Marshal Rooster Cogburn on the stand giving his testimony.
"Hell on the Border Jail"
where Rooster intended to take Lucky Ned Pepper and Tom Chaney back to await trial by "Hangin' Judge" Isaac C. Parker.
Stroll down historic downtown Fort Smith's main thoroughfare, Garrison Avenue
See how much has changed in 140 years since Mattie would have first ambled into town and look for signs of the booming frontier town of the past. Hint: Of the structures still standing from the 1870s, the most prominent is
Varsity Sports Grill
Visit Frisco Station
and imagine you've just gotten off a train from Yell County
and must now go find someone to go after your father's
If it's a Saturday in January through March,
take a ride from Fort Smith on the A&M Scenic Excursion Train
, and see the countryside in old-timey style. Other times of the year, the Excursion Train departs from nearby Van Buren's Frisco Station on
Historic Main Street Van Buren
Fort Smith Riverfront Park
stand on the banks of the Arkansas River and look across into what used to be Indian Territory
and wonder how a girl and a horse could have forged this river (it was shallower then).
Directly to the north of Fort Smith River Park,
visit the future site of the national U.S. Marshals Museum
, which will honor not only the real Deputy U.S. Marshals who served out of Fort Smith and inspired the character of Rooster Cogburn and others, but also the entire 220+ year span U.S. Marshals history. A capital campaign is currently underway for the $50 million museum.
Take a scenic drive through western Arkansas, Eastern Oklahoma and the Choctaw Nation
, from Fort Smith to the
Winding Stair Mountain National Recreation Area
, where the climax of True Grit occurs.
Take a day trip from Fort Smith to two hours away to
Mount Nebo State Park
near Dardanelle, in Yell County, home of Mattie Ross.
Schedule a Wilderness Trail Ride
through natural scenery in what was once Indian Territory.
Related to one of the dozens of Deputy U.S. Marshals from Fort Smith?
Request assistance with genealogical research
Fort Smith National Historic Site
Genealogy Department of the Fort Smith Public Library
Take a queue from these True Grit fans and
hallenge Lucky Ned Pepper to a showdown
right in front of
Judge Parker's Gallows
Tour the reportedly haunted Victorian home of Judge Parker's prosecutor
. As an agent of the court, Rooster would have worked closely with U.S. Attorney William Henry Harrison Clayton. who owned the finest home of the day in the Belle Grove Historic District.
Stop in for a drink and live music at Rooster's on Garrison Avenue
. Downtown Fort Smith has been known for its clubs and bars since the True Grit era and earlier.
Catch a Night Court
. Several evenings a year, the volunteers at the Fort Smith National Historic Site re-enact one of Judge Parker's trials using the actual court transcripts in the actual courtroom. 12 members of the audience get to serve as jurors and "weigh the evidence" themselves.
Contact the Fort Smith National Historic Site
to see when the next Night Court is scheduled. Reservations required.
See the fascinating exhibit, "In the Shadow of the Gallows" at the Fort Smith Museum of History
, chronicling the colorful culture and grim history of Ft. Smith's Hanging Judge Parker era. A new exhibit this summer will also showcase the research the Coen Brothers' Hollywood production team did at the museum before designing the set and costumes for the 2010 True Grit film.
Party where Rooster would have.
The Knoble Brewery was built in 1848 and its beer garden was a popular Fort Smith gathering place from its earliest days. Today the
world-famous steakhouse Doe's Eat Place
is housed in the historic stone building, and the beer garden remains a fun spot out back.
Visit Fort Smith during a festival or special event and you'll likely have a chance to see a re-enactor group do an Old West shoothout.
The Lawbreakers & Peacemakers
The Border Town Legends
are two of the biggest re-enactor groups in the area, and can be booked for conventions, festivals and other special occasions.
Pay your respects to the Hanging Judge himself at the Fort Smith National Cemetery
. Many of Parker's Marshals are buried here, as well as Confederate and Union Civil War veterans.
Then stroll through the grounds of Fort Smith's historic Oak Cemetery where dozens of Marshals and outlaws alike are buried
Be sure to have a hearty Southern breakfast at one of Fort Smith's award-winning eateries. Order the grits. You know they'll be true.
Conventions and Meetings
FORT SMITH CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAU
2 North B, Fort Smith, Arkansas 72901
1-800-637-1477 | (479) 783-8888 | Fax (479) 784-2421
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