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True Grit Trail Expands Into Oklahoma!

The United States Marshals Museum in Fort Smith, Arkansas was the site of the launch of the True Grit Trail into Oklahoma on Sunday, Nov. 5, 2023. Fort Smith Mayor George McGill, Arkansas State Senator Gary Stubblefield, Arkansas State Representative Marcus Richmond and Oklahoma State Senator Warren Hamilton joined to wish Mattie Ross, Rooster Cogburn and Sergeant LaBoeuf success in their search for the murderer Tom Chaney in the Oklahoma Territory. Master of Ceremonies, Mike Cathey also announced the search for the Lost Ross Gold Piece with details to follow.

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True Grit Gold Form


True Grit Trail Posse Gets a Sneak Peek of the United States Marshals Museum

The ever-growing True Grit Trail Posse got a sneak peek of the incredible US Marshals Museum in Fort Smith on June 20. Former Sebastian County Judge, Jim Spears led the tour and shared stories about how the museum came to be located in Fort Smith and the monumental efforts of all those involved to make that happen. The USMM is a must see for anyone traveling the True Grit Trail. The Posse sincerely thanks Ben Johnson, President and CEO of USMM and all of his hardworking staff for an enriching, enlightening and fun time.


Scenes from the Tour


True Grit Trail Mural Unveiled at Front Street Grill in Dardanelle.

The newest addition to the True Grit Trail was unveiled Wednesday evening at The Front Street Grill in Dardanelle. A full wall mural of Rooster Cogburn noting the "Home of the True Grit Trail" is the creation of local artist Olivia Gaspard of OG Paints. A crowd watched as Marshal Tom Shay pulled down the covering exposing the work. Monti Kist, owner of the Front Street Grill plans to offer True Grit Trail themed fare in the near future. Stacey Daughtrey, Executive Director of the Dardanelle Chamber of Commerce orchestrated the event.


Charles Portis Literary Competition Ceremony

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And the WINNERS are...

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Winners of the Charles Portis Memorial Literary Competition at Dardanelle, Arkansas High School are, from left: 
Serenity Mills (third place), daughter of Jessica Nash and Henry Mills; Emily Young (first place), daughter of Ashley and Shane Young; and Cristianna Harris (second place), daughter of Kimberly Coburn and Matthew Martin.
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Jonathan Portis; Jimmy Witt

As a tribute and thank you (“near Dardanelle in Yell County”) to novelist Charles Portis, the first “Charles Portis Memorial Literary Competition” was held last Fall at Dardanelle High School in Dardanelle, Arkansas. The winners were announced at a ceremony held March 6 at DHS. The primary goal of the competition is to recognize student creativity, literary engagement, and writing achievement. As told by his brother Jonathan, Charles loved libraries, learning and writing. What better way to pay tribute to a world-renowned son of Arkansas than to invite students to join in his passion for storytelling. Congratulations and thanks go to the winners, Jonathan Portis, Mayor Jimmy Witt, and the staff at DHS. A special thanks goes to the tireless, hardworking, team of Debbie Witt and Denise Styles, the driving forces behind the success of the Competition. Current efforts are underway to expand and introduce the competition to schools along the True Grit Trail and ultimately across the State.—Photos by Stacey Daughtrey

Debbie Witt; Denise Styles


Launch of the First True Grit Trail Exhibit


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.

“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. 

Scenes from the True Grit Trail Launch Event

Dardanelle is the beginning of the True Grit Trail. If you don't think so, just ask Tom Shay, Marshal of the True Grit Trail Posse.

On March 25, 2022, Shay wrangled state and local political leaders, tourism and fundraising experts, beer-making monks, and the brother of True Grit author Charles Portis for a standing-room only celebration to launch the first True Grit Trail exhibit of many more to come.

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The event was a great success and our profound thanks go to Wendy Wells, Branch Manager of the Arkansas River Valley Library, Dardanelle, her hard-working staff and the talented volunteers who provided the delicious food and drinks.

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Future exhibits will be announced on this page, so stay tuned.

Meanwhile here are some scenes from the first event. Images by Isabelle Berryhill and The Fort Smith Museum of History


The Arkansas River Valley Regional Library

501 N. Front Street

Dardanelle, Arkansas 72834



Exhibits are compliments of the Yell County Historical Society and the Arkansas River Valley Regional Library system.

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