The Arkansas State Archives and Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced March 1 the acquisition of a historically significant collection of court documents related to "Hanging Judge Isaac Charles Parker in Fort Smith.
“These important documents now will be preserved and made available for generations to come,” Dr. Richter said. “These papers are a unique find, and we hope they will be of great interest to researchers.”
The acquisition of the U.S. District Court of Western Arkansas collection means the State Archives now has about 6,000 records connected with famous figures like Parker.
Parker served as the federal judge with jurisdiction over Western Arkansas and the Indian Territory between 1875 and 1896. During his tenure as judge, he sentenced 160 people to death, including four women.
Gov. Hutchinson said during the Arkansas Territory Bicentennial Celebration that the new collection will let Arkansans see what life was like in rough-and-tumble Fort Smith. The collection is special and will add to the historically significant holdings at Archives.
Several documents include the mark “signature” of Bass Reeves, who was the first black lawmen west of the Mississippi River. Reeves, an Arkansas native, was famous for his ability to catch outlaws under trying circumstances.
Other documents in the collection include jury lists, warrants, bonds, receipts from deputy marshals, payroll information, and lists for day-to-day items, like office supplies. Outside of court records, the collection also contains a Jan. 2, 1839, letter from Lucy Ames Butler, of Red Clay, Tennessee, to Drusilla Burnap, of Lowell, Massachusetts, that describes events surrounding the Cherokee removal.
Acquiring the collection was a joint effort among Dr. Richter; Gov. Asa Hutchinson; Stacy Hurst, director of the Department of Arkansas Heritage; and other staff. The documents previously were held in a private, family collection.
“The Arkansas State Archives has the largest repository of historical documents and artifacts in Arkansas,” said Stacy Hurst, director of the Department of Arkansas Heritage. “This fascinating acquisition is an outstanding addition to our collections and will help preserve our state’s heritage and its important place in U.S. history.”