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

    Fort Smith

    National Historic Site AR,OK

Parker's Sentence of Gus Bogles, 1888

The period of 1885 to 1892 represents the height of the operation of the court in Fort Smith, as the number of criminal cases substantially increased. The sentence of Gus Bogles is typical of these later sentences. Gus Bogles was hanged for the crime of murder on July 6, 1888.


"Gus Bogles, the court, in the performance of its duty, is now about to sentence you to death for the crime of murder, have you anything to say why that sentence should not now be pronounced?"

Bogles replied that he had never seen the man he had been convicted of murdering, and knew nothing about the murder except what he had learned from the testimony of the witnesses in his case.

The Judge then continued:

The murder of which you have been properly convicted, and which you and three others, judging from the evidence in your case unquestionably committed, was one of unusual wickedness and brutality.
You and your confederates in crime overpowered your victim, and garroted him to death for a paltry sum of money and a few clothes. The proof in your case makes your crime unquestioned.

You have committed the terrible crime of murder, and in your efforts to escape the consequences, you have added to your crime that of perjury. This, of course, is not to be wondered at, as the nature that will prompt to murder, will much sooner prompt to perjury to escape the consequences of the crime. It is expecting too much of wicked and depraved human nature for us to look for truth from one who has stained his hands with innocent human blood, and seared his conscience with the revolting and wicked crime of deliberate, premeditated murder. Sometimes such persons have succeeded, by their falsehoods, in deceiving juries and in cheating justice. You have not succeeded, and you stand before the bar of this court to have announced to you the sentence which the law attached to murder.

Before pronouncing that sentence, I want to admonish you that it is your duty to prepare for death. You are evidently not in a fit condition to stand before the dread tribunal where you must soon answer for the crimes and wrongs committed for you. You can not appear there with a hope of pardon for these crimes unless you do that which the great God has commanded shall be done. Before mercy and forgiveness is extended there must be penitence and sorrow. You must first come to a knowledge and appreciation of the terrible character of the crime you have committed, and after you have fully appreciated its wickedness you must approach your Maker with a sorrowful mind, and a penitent heart. You must make preparations for death. You have no grounds for any hope of interference with the sentence of the law. It will be executed on you at the time appointed; then prepare for it. Prepare for the hereafter for although you are steeped in crime you may still be forgiven. You may still receive mercy, but not without effort. Not without rolling from your soul that terrible load of crime which blackens and corrodes it. Then do everything in your power to escape the consequences of your act when you stand before a higher tribunal than those of earth.

By the laws of your country, for the sake of protection due members of society you must pay the penalty of your crime with your life. Society is, as yet, so improperly organized that with a due regard to its own safety it can not extend that mercy to the murderer which would exempt him from punishment. He must be punished as an example to others. Screening him from punishment is the greatest cruelty to the members of society, and the murderer must look to a Higher Court, to a Higher Power, to a Higher Law, for mercy, for absolute forgiveness. He can obtain it nowhere else.

Listen now to the sentence of the law as pronounced by the Court, which is that you, Gus Bogles, for the crime of murder, committed by you in willfully and of your malice aforethought, taking the life of William D. Morgan, in the Indian country, and within the jurisdiction of this court, of which crime you have been convicted by a verdict of the jury in your case, be taken and adjudged guilty of murder, 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 this Court, the District Court for the Western District of Arkansas, by himself or deputy, or deputies, at some convenient place in the Western District of Arkansas, cause execution to be done in the premises upon you upon Friday, July 6, 1888, between the hours of 9 o'clock in the forenoon, and 5 o'clock in the afternoon of the same day, and that you now be taken to jail, from whence you came, there to be closely and securely kept until the day of execution appointed as aforesaid, and from thence on the day of execution appointed as aforesaid, there to be hanged by the neck until you are dead, and may that God whose laws you have broken, and before whose tribunal you must then appear, have mercy on you soul.


From the Fort Smith Elevator, June 1, 1888

Did You Know?

Children and families helping to raise the garrison flag on Flag Day 2006

The garrison flag flown on the old military parade ground of Fort Smith National Historic Site bears 37 stars and is 20 x 30'. On special occasions visitors assist in raising the huge flag.