• 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?

Interior of jail cell with box for prisoners to visit with their lawyers

The conditions at the federal jail at Fort Smith were so horrible that it received the nickname "Hell on the Border." Up to 50 men were crowded into one large cell with limited ventilation and poor sanitary conditions.