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

    Fort Smith

    National Historic Site AR,OK

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Parker's First Sentencing of Rufus Buck -- 1896

The five members of the Rufus Buck Gang were convicted of rape and sentenced to die in 1895. This initial verdict and sentence was appealed to the Supreme Court. Following their unsuccessful appeal to the Supreme Court, Judge Parker had the opportunity to resentence them to death. The execution of the Rufus Buck Gang on July 1, 1896 was the second to last execution to occur at Fort Smith.

I want to say in this case that the jury under the law and the evidence could come to no other conclusion than that which they arrived at. Their verdict is an entirely just one, and one that must be approved by all lovers of virtue. The offense of which you have been convicted is one which shocks all men who are not brutal. It is known to the law as a crime offensive to decency, and as a brutal attack upon the honor and chastity of the weaker sex. It is a violation of the quick sense of honor and the pride of virtue which nature to render the sex amiable has implanted in the female heart; and it has been by the lawmakers of the United States deemed equal in enormity and wickedness to murder because the punishment fixed by the same is that which follows the commission of the crime of murder.

Your crime has been proven beyond question, and the evidence showing the manner of its commission exhibits it as of the most repulsive and abhorrent character. The proof shows that each of you first took part in the robbery of the house of Henry Hassen, and afterwards that each of you in the most revolting and brutal manner in turn outraged his wife, Mrs. Rosetta Hassen. Some of you held the family at bay. Some of you overcome all resistance by armed violence while each of you in turn committed the terrible crime against decency and virtue, and you all exhibited the most horrid and brutal depravity. The acts so aroused the indignation of your own people, the Creek Indians, that they were almost persuaded to take you from the officers and execute upon you summary vengeance. It was only through respect for the law, and the belief that it would be enforced in this court, that induced them to permit the officers to bring you here.
The enormity and great wickedness of your crime leaves no ground for the extension of sympathy to you. You can expect no more sympathy than lovers of virtue and haters of vice can extend to men guilty of one of the most brutal, wicked, repulsive and dastardly crimes known in the annals of crime. Your duty now is to make an honest effort to receive from a just God that mercy and forgiveness you so much need. We are taught that His mercy will wipe out even this horrible crime; but He is just, and His justice decrees punishment unless you are able to make atonement for the revolting crime against His law and against human law that you have committed. This horrible crime now rests upon your souls. Remove it if you can, so the good God of all will extend to you His forgiveness and His mercy.

Listen now to the sentence of the law, which is, that you, Rufus Buck, for the crime of rape, committed by you upon Rosetta Hassen, in the Indian country, and within the jurisdiction of this court, of which crime you stand convicted by the verdict of the jury in your case, be deemed, taken and adjudged guilty of rape; and that you be therefore, for the said crime against the laws of the United States, hanged by the neck until you are dead; that the marshal of the Western District of Arkansas, by himself or deputy, or deputies, cause execution to be done in the premises upon you, on Thursday, the 31st of October, 1895, between the hours of 9 o'clock in the forenoon and 5 o'clock in the afternoon of the same day, and that you be now taken to the jail from whence you came, to be there closely and securely kept until the day of execution, and from thence on the day of execution, as aforesaid, you are to be taken to the place of execution, there to be hanged by the neck until you are dead.
May God, whose laws you have broken, and before whose tribunal you must then appear, have mercy on your soul.

As reported in the Fort Smith Elevator, September 27, 1895.

Did You Know?

reproduction of keelboat on Arkansas River with first fort soldier reenactors

Fort Smith was established on Christmas Day, 1817. Approximately 70 Rifle Regiment soldiers arrived by keelboat after a long journey on the Arkansas River.