• Rifle Regiment arriving at Belle Point, 1817. Artwork by Michael Haynes

    Fort Smith

    National Historic Site AR,OK

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January 16, 1890 Execution


Twice in the history of federal hangings in Fort Smith, six men were hanged at one time: September 3, 1875 and January 16, 1890. On that 1890 date Harris Austin, John Billy, Jimmon Burris, Sam Goin, Jefferson Jones and Thomas Willis died on the gallows.

Austin was found guilty of shooting and killing Thomas Elliott in a dispute over whiskey. Billy and Willis robbed W.P. Williams in the Kiamichi Mountains and then killed him. A jury convicted Jones of the murder of Henry Wilson for the $12.00 he carried. Burris and Goin killed Houston Joyce as he traveled through Indian Territory. Originally, Judge Isaac Parker had sentenced nine people to be executed on this date, but three received reprieves or commutations.

Did You Know?

Park staff and volunteers demonstrating using lindstock and slowmatch to ignite the cannon's primer

The soldiers who came to Fort Smith in 1817 were still using some 18th century technology and drill. The cannon was discharged using a lindstock and slowmatch to ignite the primer, which originally was loose powder or a turkey quill filled with powder.