When Sweetums and I went on a road trip over the summer through Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kentucky, we stopped in the city of Fort Smith, Ark. We went because we’d heard of a historic gallows owned by the National Park Service because we’re creepy like that. But we were pleased to find the city also featured some really cool murals. We loved our quick stop in Fort Smith.
Let’s start with the gallows. They are a reproduction of the original gallows used by Judge Iasaac Charles Parker, known as “The Hanging Judge.”
The NPS website says: “The gallows at Fort Smith served as an instrument of federal justice for 23 years, from 1873-1896. During those years, 86 men were executed for capital offenses. While the gallows that stands today is a reconstruction, visitors are still drawn to the place where these executions were conducted. Perhaps no other place in Fort Smith elicits such interest and strong feelings.”
The gallows, located near the courthouse used by Parker, is part of the Fort Smith Historic Site. The courthouse was restored and the gallows duplicated in the 1950s.
“By May of 1957 the restoration of Parker’s courtroom was completed and a replica of the gallows had been built,” according to Park Ranger Eric Leonard. “The reconstructed gallows was based on descriptions in historic newspapers and the image of the 1886 gallows. This reconstruction remained in place until 1981, when it was torn down, and the National Park Service built a reconstructed gallows on the original location. The second reconstruction remains in place today. Archeology done at the site of the gallows in the early 1980s was not able to locate any trace of the original wooden wall or gallows structure.”
NOTE: The Visitors Center and some buildings are closed due to Covid. Click here for info.
Check out our photos.