The Western District of Arkansas Court extended across approximately 75,000 square miles from western Arkansas into Indian Territory in modern day Oklahoma. Within that area were law-abiding Indians, United States citizens, and criminals. The court dispatched deputy marshals from Fort Smith into the Indian Territory to arrest and bring to trial individuals accused of crimes.
The court is known for its criminal cases involving legendary individuals. The court's judge, Isaac Parker, nicknamed the "Hanging Judge," served for twenty-one years and sentenced 160 people to death. In 1875, Bass Reeves, a former enslaved person, was among the first deputies to be hired by Parker's court. Reeves' served as a deputy until Oklahoma became a state in 1907; participated in numerous shootouts, but was never wounded; was illiterate and memorized his writs and warrants; and, while an expert with guns, also reportedly had almost superhuman strength. Though many outlaws were tried by the court, the most notorious was likely Crawford Goldsby, alias Cherokee Bill. He was executed by hanging at Fort Smith in 1896.
This collection contains case files comprised of documents such as arrest warrants, subpoenas, jail records, court proceedings, and complaints. There is also other procedural paperwork, including receipts, expense reports, bonds, and vouchers. Please see the United States Western District Court of Arkansas records research tips for additional information on searching this collection.
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