words: Marla Cantrell images: courtesy U.S. Marshal's Museum
2015 is a big year for Fort Smith, Arkansas. Just days ago, the United States Mint released the new U.S. Marshals Service Commemorative Coins, including one that shows an Old West lawman holding a poster that reads “Wanted in Fort Smith.” It’s a strategic design, since a surcharge added to the price of the coins will be used to help construct the U.S. Marshals Museum, which is scheduled to open in just two years.
Limited (maximum) quantities:
100,000 $5 gold coins $ cost varies due to fluctuating gold prices.
500,000 silver-dollar coins $46.95
750,000 clad (layered metal) half-dollars $14.95
A timeline of how Fort Smith became a big player in the nation’s oldest law agency:
- September 24, 1789 George Washington signed the Judiciary Act, as part of Senate Bill One, which created the U.S. Marshals Service.
- 1875 Judge Isaac C. Parker became the federal judge for the Western District of Arkansas, which had jurisdiction over the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). That same year, Bass Reeves was hired as a deputy U.S. marshal, making him one of the first black lawmen west of the Mississippi River.
Parker was given the nickname “The Hanging Judge” because of the number of outlaws hanged under his watch. The federal courthouse, jail, and the gallows are now part of Fort Smith’s National Historic Site.
- 1969 John Wayne played the fictional one-eyed U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn, who rounded up criminals in the Indian Territory for trials held in Judge Isaac Parker’s court. Wayne won his only Oscar for playing the role.
- January, 2007 Fort Smith, Arkansas was selected as the site for a new U.S. Marshals Museum to be built near the Arkansas/Oklahoma border, overlooking the Arkansas River.
- July 23, 2014 Designs were unveiled for the $5 gold, the silver-dollar, and the clad half-dollar U.S. Marshals Commemorative Coins. The silver-dollar shows an Old West marshal holding a wanted poster that reads, “Wanted in Fort Smith.”
- September 24, 2014 A groundbreaking ceremony was held for the 50,000-square-foot, estimated $50 million U.S. Marshals Museum.
- January 29, 2015 The U.S. Mint began selling the commemorative U.S. Marshals coins.
February 7, 2015 – 6 PM. This drop-in launch party (free to attend) will be held at the Blue Lion, downtown Fort Smith. Marshals coins will be for sale, and the popular local musicians, The Crumbs, will be playing.
March 14, 2015 – Kickin’ Up the Dust Gala, Expo Center at Kay Rodgers Park in Fort Smith. This fundraiser includes numerous entertainers, including Asleep at the Wheel. The center will be transformed into an Old West town, with food, drinks, Blackjack, Texas Hold’em, prizes, great food, a live auction, a raffle, and a mechanical bull. For details, visit usmarshalsmuseum.com/gala.
2017 – The estimated opening date for the U.S. Marshals Museum in Fort Smith.