Road Construction I-540
Traveling West on I-40? To avoid construction delays, do not take Exit 7 (I-540 S). Stay on I-40 west and take Exit 1 Dora. Stay on Hwy 64D for 6 miles and follow signs to Fort Smith. After crossing over the river, turn right on 4th ST & right on Garland. More »
On June 29, 1883, Martin Joseph, a Texas horse thief, was executed on the Fort Smith gallows for the double murder of Bud Stephens and his 16-year old wife. Joseph had convinced Stephens to accompany him on a horse stealing expedition. It was while the two were roping some horses that Joseph killed Stephens with a gunshot to the head. He then returned to the Stephens home and told Mrs. Stephens that her husband had been thrown from his horse and was badly injured. She got on the horse behind Joseph and started, as she supposed, to where her husband was. Instead, Joseph abducted Mrs. Stephens, raped and killed her, and threw her body into a cave in the Arbuckle Mountains. Joseph might have got away with his crime had he not confessed the details to a drinking companion who in turn notified Deputy Marshal J. H. Mershon.
References: Law West of Fort Smith by Glenn Shirley; Fort Smith Elevator.
This sketch is part of a series, “Fort Smith Minutes,” originally developed by the park staff to provide one minute long public service announcements for local radio stations. These sketches provide a light and entertaining glimpse into the complex history of Fort Smith.
Did You Know?
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.