photos by Ruby Dean
Despite the threat of stormy weather in the afternoon, hundreds of guests came out to help celebrate the 174th birthday of Judge Isaac Parker at the Fort Smith Museum of History on Saturday (Oct. 13).
The guest of honor, Judge Parker (portrayed by Floyd Robison), arrived to the museum riding in a wagon.
“This is the fourth year we have had this event. It is very popular and gets people into the museum even bringing in a new audience. It is a fun event and cake and punch are always fun,” said Leisa Gramlich, executive director of the museum.
Admission to the birthday party was free. Wagon rides were also available at no charge. Later in the afternoon, the Law Breakers and Peace Makers participated in a gunfight outside the museum in a nearby street.
Parker was born Oct. 15, 1838 in Belmont County, Mo. He studied law, passed the bar exam in 1859 and began his legal career in St. Joseph, Mo. Parker was elected United States Congressman from Missouri for two terms (1871-1874), and was appointed Federal Judge for the western District of Arkansas by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1875.
Known as “The Hanging Judge,” Parker began his famous tenure as the Federal Judge in Fort Smith by hanging six men his first year on the bench. He would hold the federal post until his death in 1896.
The famous judge tried 13,490 cases in 21 years. He found 1,155 guilty on charges of either rape, murder or manslaughter. Of those, 151 were sentenced to hang — including four women. Only 76 would eventually feel the gallows floor fall beneath them. The others either died in jail, were shot trying to escape or were pardoned. (Link here for more Parker information from the National Park Service.)
The museum's next events are Blood on the Border Haunted House which begins on Oct. 19 starting at 7 p.m., with $5 admission. Also, the museum's Murder in Mayhem trolley ride begins on Oct. 19 at 5:30 p.m., with some dates already sold out.