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

    Fort Smith

    National Historic Site AR,OK

January 25, 1889 Execution

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On January 25, 1889 Richard Smith was executed for the murder of Thomas Pringle. Although a dying Pringle named Smith as his assassin, the key to conviction was a unique footprint at the crime scene. This showed that the murderer wore a pair of boots with soles full of roundheaded tacks, twenty-one in the right foot and fourteen in the left. When arrested, Smith was wearing boots matching the footprints but the heels and tacks had been removed. A witness led officers to the location where Smith had thrown the heels and while the tacks were never found, the holes from them were visible in the shoe soles. Despite confessing to the deputy who arrested him, Smith declared his innocence on the gallows.

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.