Executions at Fort Smith, 1873-1896

Executions at Fort Smith, 1873-1896


From 1873 until 1896, the federal court conducted executions on the grounds of the courthouse. The gallows scaffold was located against the southeast corner of the wall that surrounded the old fort. From 1873 through 1896, eighty-six men were executed on the gallows at Fort Smith. All the men executed were convicted of rape or murder. After the Civil War, there was a mandatory federal death sentence in cases of rape or murder.

Stories about Executions at Fort Smith, 1873-1896


    On October 10, 1873, this was the scene of the execution of two men. Tunagee (alias Tuni) and Young Wolf were Cherokee Indians who had killed two trappers on the Grand River in the Cherokee Nation. The motive for the crime was apparently robbery, but the culprits only secured a few steel traps and other items of little value. Both men were sentenced by Judge William Story and were among the seven men hanged for murder before the arrival of Judge Isaac C. Parker

    On April 3, 1874, this was the scene of the execution of three Indian men for three separate crimes. John Billy, a Choctaw Indian was convicted of the murder of deputy marshal Perry Duval on November 2, 1873. Isaac Filmore, a full-blood Choctaw approximately seventeen years old was found guilty of killing a traveler from California for his shoes and $1.50. John Pointer, a Seminole Indian, had murdered a white man in the Chickasaw Nation. This was the third of four executions that occurred before Isaac Parker was appointed District Judge in Fort Smith

    While federal executions began in Fort Smith in 1873, the one that occurred on September 3, 1875 was the first under Judge Isaac C. Parker. Smoker Mankiller shot and killed his neighbor.

    On August 29, 1879, this was the scene of the execution of two men convicted for unrelated murders. William Elliott, alias Colorado Bill, killed David J. Brown in Muskogee in February 1879. Suspected of murders in four different states, a local newspaper noted that "He will hardly be wanted...after they get through with him here." Dr. Henri Stewart, a physician educated at Harvard and Yale, abandoned his family in Illinois in 1877 for reasons unknown. Arriving in Indian Territory, he joined a gang of outlaws and in May 1879 killed J.B. Jones in an attempted train robbery in the Choctaw Nation.

    On June 29, 1883, this was the scene of the execution of three men for three separate crimes. William Finch shot and killed two U.S. soldiers who were transporting him to Fort Sill to face charges of desertion. Martin Joseph shot and killed Bud Stephens and then raped and murdered Stephens' wife. Te-o-lit-se, a Creek Indian, shot and killed a traveler, E.R. Cochran, to rob him of the $7.40 he carried. Each of these men pled not guilty to their crimes, but juries convicted them after hearing the evidence at trial. All three later confessed.

    On July 11, 1884, this was the scene of the execution of three men for three separate crimes. John Davis killed a traveler in the Choctaw Nation in 1883. Jack Womankiller killed a settler in the Cherokee Nation.

    On June 26, 1885, this was the scene of the execution of two men. In November of 1872, Henry Feigel, a native of Sweden, was traveling in the Cherokee Nation. He was overtaken by two Cherokee Indians, James Arcine and William Parchmeal. They shot Feigel four times, crushed his skull with a large rock, and robbed the body of its clothing and 25 cents. Thirteen years passed before a diligent deputy marshal gathered the evidence to arrest Arcine and Parchmeal. Although a first trial ended in a hung jury, the second attempt resulted in a guilty verdict. Both men later confessed to the crime on the gallows.

    On October 7, 1887, this was the scene of the execution of Silas Hampton and Seaborn Kalijah. Hampton, an 18 year old Cherokee, killed a white farmer, Abner Lloyd, for $7.50 and a pocketknife. When arrested, Hampton reportedly said "Don't take me to Fort Smith; kill me right now." After arresting Seaborn Kalijah on January 17, 1887, Deputy John Phillips left the prisoner in the care of his possemen: Mark Kuykendall, Henry Smith and William Kelly. Upon returning the next morning, Phillips found his three men murdered and Kalijah gone. The prisoner was rearrested and found guilty of the killings.

    A jury found Boudinot Crumpton guilty of having shot and killed his traveling companion. Crumpton asserted his innocence until his death by hanging on June 30, 1891. On the gallows he "warned those present when they took a drink of liquor to look at it close and they would see the hangman's noose in the bottom of the glass."

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