Fort Smith Historical Society

The express purpose of the Fort Smith Historical Society (FSHS) is to locate, identify, collect, and preserve historical data; to record oral history; and to publish source materials and historical articles relating to Fort Smith (Sebastian County) and the surrounding area. The society is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, staffed by volunteers and funded entirely by memberships and contributions.

A small group of people concerned with preserving the written and oral history of Fort Smith held the organizational meeting of the Fort Smith Historical Society on April 15, 1977. The first issue of The Journal of the Fort Smith Historical Society, Inc., was published in September 1977, with Amelia Martin and state Representative Carolyn Pollan serving as co-editors. The FSHS publishes The Journal twice a year, in April and September. The journal is indexed, and a link to the index and to downloadable issues is available on the society’s homepage, courtesy of the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith Library website. The journal has won awards over the years from the Arkansas Historical Association, including the Walter L. Brown Award for Best County or Local Journal in 2009 and 2018. The FSHS has co-sponsored history conferences with the Fort Smith Heritage Foundation, History Tellers, Fort Smith Museum of History, and the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith’s College of Arts, Social Sciences, and Theater.

In 2004, the society established its website in order to provide an additional forum for the history of the Fort Smith area. The website contains a large gallery of photographs of past and present Fort Smith, as well as an overview of a World War II oral history project that includes photographs and brief biographies of veterans, transcripts of interviews, and an excerpt from the interview with a Pearl Harbor survivor. The website also contains a census of the Washington Cemetery, an African-American cemetery in Fort Smith, as well as a link to the searchable index of Oak Cemetery burials and a directory of Sebastian County cemeteries.

In 2007, the FSHS opened its office and recording studio in the Fort Smith Museum of History. Three brothers constructed the rooms, donating the materials in honor of their father, Ben Whitson Jr., a World War II veteran who served in Africa and Italy. Since the office and studio have been open, the oral history interviews have been conducted in the recording studio, with DVDs made of the interviews—and all tapes, transcripts, photos, and other materials preserved in digital format for future research.

For additional information:
Fort Smith Historical Society. http://www.fortsmithhistory.org  (accessed April 7, 2020).

Carole Barger
Fort Smith, Arkansas

Last Updated: 04/07/2020

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