L-R: Yell County Judge, Mark Thone; State Senator Breanne Davis; Dardanelle Chamber of Commerce Board Member, Celia Carter, Tysons Foods; Dardanelle Chamber of Commerce Board Member, Leticia Pina-Sierra, Pina-Gonzalo Landscaping; State Representative and House Majority Leader, Marcus Richmond; Dardanelle Mayor Jimmy Witt; State Representative Mary Bentley; members of True Grit Trail Posse; Bob Gray, Marilyn Shay, Tom Shay; Dardanelle School Student and Ribbon Cutter, Miklyn McIntyre, portraying Mattie Ross; John T. Wayne; Branch Manager of the Arkansas Regional Library in Dardanelle, Wendy Wells; Chairman of the Board of Directors, Dardanelle Chamber of Commerce, Tonya Moles. Fort Smith Museum of History photo.

Launch of the First True Grit Trail Exhibit

“More than what I expected,” was the comment made by Jonathan Portis, brother of the author of True Grit, Charles Portis, when he participated in the launch of the first True Grit Trail exhibit on Friday, March 25.

Those attending comprised a “who’s who” of Arkansas lawmakers, tourism experts, and fundraisers:

  • Carolyn Joyce, the “First Lady of Arkansas Tourism”

  • Judge Jim Spears, the force behind the US marshal Museum and numerous statues in Fort Smith

  • Dardanelle Mayor Jimmy Witt

  • Yell County Judge Mark Thone

  • State Representative Mary Bentley, responsible for creating the True Grit Trail

  • State Senator Breanne Davis

  • State Representative Marcus Richmond

  • Caroline Speir, director of the Fort Smith Museum of History

More than a hundred attendees stood wall to wall in the exhibit, eventually overflowing to adjoining rooms in the library. Miklyn McIntyre, the young actress chosen to portray Mattie Ross, the heroine and main character of the book, was introduced just before the ribbon cutting ceremony sponsored by the Dardanelle Area Chamber of Commerce. As the exhibit was being presented, the True Grit Trail Posse announced it would be moving to the Paris Library later this Spring, and a new True Grit Trail exhibit would be coming to the Dardanelle Library. Exhibits will also be coming to the Charleston Library and the Fort Smith Museum of History. Additional components of the True Grit Trail theme will be coming to Dardanelle and communities in the Arkansas River Valley. 


True Grit is a New York Times bestseller by Charles Portis and twice made into motion pictures starring John Wayne and Jeff Bridges.

Whether you like Wayne or Bridges as Marshal Rooster Cogburn; Glen Campbell (a native of Delight, Arkansas) or Matt Damon as Sergeant LeBeouf, take the 75 mile journey from Dardanelle to Fort Smith and see the True Grit Trail—Arkansas Highway 22.


Arkansas is where “True Grit” began, and lives today. The True Grit Trail is anchored in the East by Dardanelle in the Arkansas River Valley. It was, and is, the home of Mattie Ross, her family and a great community.


In the West the Trail is anchored by Fort Smith on the Oklahoma border. It’s the home of the US Marshals Museum and Judge Isaac Parker's court. 


Visit the Arkansas River Valley Library located on Union Street in Dardanelle. There you will find the Yell County Historical Society's True Grit Trail Community Room featuring an exhibit about True Grit.


Ongoing exhibits tell stories about both the fictional and non-fictional True Grit, starting with where the story of  True Grit really took place. 


The mission of the Yell County Historical Society is to promote individual and general interest in the history of Yell County. We collect, preserve and publish pertinent information concerning Yell County history.

The history of the True Grit Trail begins in Yell County, Arkansas, with the people who have demonstrated their true grit for over 100 years.