Panola GEAR UP students recently toured the Fort Smith National Historic Site. History unfolded as Park Ranger Cody Fagan explained the importance of the events during Judge Isaac C. Parker’s tenure as judge for the U.S. Court for the Western District of Arkansas. His term was unique in the history of the federal judiciary; while most U.S. district judges toiled away on civil cases, Parker heard thousands of criminal complaints involving disputes and violence between Indians and non-Indians. He sentenced 160 people to death, and for fourteen years he did so while the condemned had no right of appeal.
Upon arrival, the students were divided into several small groups. Each group had the task of researching specific events that occurred between 1817 and 1896. The museum is divided into categories: the First Fort, the Trail of Tears, the Second Fort, and the Federal Court. After completing the research questions, the students gathered in one large group.
The tour followed the time-line of the site. Fagan began the tour at the section that began in 1817. Students who researched questions in that area discussed their findings with the group. The students then moved to the next section, and the students who researched within that section led the discussion. The tour moved throughout the entire museum in this fashion. During each stop, Fagan elaborated specific details and revealed interesting stories.
At the end of the tour, the students were allowed to enter the courtroom where Judge Parker presided. Fagan explained the importance of each courtroom section and how the aspects of the court process worked when dealing with life on the edge of Indian Territory.
“The students had a wonderful time at the Fort Smith National Historic Site. Educational and cultural trips are an important part of Eastern’s GEAR UP program,” said GEAR UP Education Coordinator Melissa Juarez. “The students gained knowledge about important historical events from a local area.”
The field trip was sponsored by Eastern Oklahoma State College GEAR UP. Participating schools take two field trips each academic year—one to tour a college or university and one that is cultural/educational in nature.
Panola students at the Fort Smith National Historic Site
1st Row: Sandra Karstens and Joseph Holloway
2nd Row: Christian Coley, Hailey Scott, Alyssa Calvin, Andria Crouch and Kelsey Miller
3rd Row: Gabrielle Marmon, Jayda Crockett, Rhett Minshall and Billy Morrow
4th Row: Dora Cox, Lane Crouch, Rosetta Coley, Alison Corcoran, Chloe Ellis and Madison Rutledge
Back Row: Bryce Wilcox, Cody Johnson, Nick Walls, Jesse Cantrell, Alexis Hill, Austin Bloxham, Jacy Munch and Arianna Garcia
Chloe Ellis, Jayda Crockett and Jacy Muncy research their assigned historical questions.
Alison Corcoran, Madison Rutledge and Rosetta Coley listen intently as the ranger explains how the court process worked during Judge Parker’s term of service.
Bryce Wilcox and Sandra Karstens enjoyed looking at the collection for the Deputy Marshal display.