1875 Interview with Judge Parker

From: Saint Louis Daily Globe-Democrat

July 6, 1875 page 8

Judge I. C. Parker.

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Affairs in Arkansas---Progress, Money and Crops.

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United States District Court—Bad White Men----Projected Railroad, Etc.

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Hon. I. C. Parker, Judge of the United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas, arrived in the city yesterday on his way to St. Joseph, his former home, which has twice honored by an election to Congress, and where he is held in the kindliest

remembrance by thousands of his friends, ambitious of his greater pre-eminence in the future. Judge Parker bears the same look of genial dignity that has ever characterized him, wears a head of silver gray hair, with perhaps more silver in it than formerly, and received with his usual urbanity a Globe-Democrat reporter, who called at the hotel to interview him yesterday afternoon.

Rep. Well, Judge, how do you find things in Arkansas?

Judge Parker. In reference to affairs in Arkansas, I can tell you some few things that will perhaps be of interest here. Political affairs just now are pretty quiet. People of all political parties have turned their attention to the development of the State and the production of crops. The crops are very fine, particularly the wheat crop. Both corn and cotton promise very well.

Rep. How about money matters?

Judge Parker. In regard to financial matters, money is very scarce in the State; but when the new crop comes in it will be plenty; and Arkansas bids fair to receive a heavy immigration this coming year. The people are disposed to welcome immigrants to the State, and assist them. The climate of the State being good, the soil productive, and the country rich in minerals, the prospect for Arkansas, taken altogether, is very fine.

Rep. Tell me something about the United States District Court over which you preside.

Judge Parker. The District Court for the Western District of Arkansas has jurisdiction over a part of the State of Arkansas, and over the whole of the Indian Territory. The principle business of the court is of a criminal nature. Very few criminal offenses come from the State of Arkansas, but they are principally from the Indian country. This being the only United States Court which exercises any jurisdiction over that country, offenders in offenses of all kinds committed there are brought to this court for trial. Affairs in the Indian country are ordinarily quiet, except among the Cherokees. Just now there is a great deal of excitement among the Cherokees over the approaching election of a Chief, which takes place in August. A great deal of bad blood is manifested by the members of the different parties, but it is possible that the election may come off without bloodshed. It is a matter of great difficulty to administer the law in the Western District of Arkansas, because of the great distances witnesses have to travel to get to court, and of the unwillingness of witnesses in many cases to appear and give evidence. Frequently they are under the apprehension that violence will be offered to them by the friends of those against whom they are called on to testify. It is a fact that should be set down to the credit of the Indians that that the great proportion of the criminals tried in my court at the last term were white men. The fact is that the murders and outrages that are committed in that country are committed principally by white desperadoes, refugees from justice from the States of Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, and the other States of the Union. It is true that this court has no jurisdiction over offenses committed by one Indian upon another. This may account for the small proportion of Indians who are brought to my court; yet, from the best information I can gain, the great proportion of crimes are committed by white men. This court is necessarily a very expensive one. Witnesses have to be brought sometimes a distance of four hundred miles, and when arrests are made, prisoners have to be transported that distance, and this involves great expense. I think the main object to be attained, however, is to make life and property secure in the Indian country, regardless of expense, and while it is the duty of every officer of the court to practice the most rigid economy, yet enough expense should be incurred to bring every violator of the law to justice.

Rep. What do the people down there think about a transcontinental line of railroad along the thirty-fifth parallel?

Judge Parker. The people of Arkansas are very anxious that a railroad should be built along the thirty-fifth parallel. One thing that is the matter with the whole State is the want of railroad facilities. The people experience great difficulty in getting a fair market price for what they produce, because of the distance from any line of railroad which will transport their products to market. A railroad along the 35th parallel would open up a vast region of productive and fertile country, and would be highly beneficial to Arkansas and especially to St. Louis.

Rep. How do the Indians feel about it?

Judge Parker. I think the Indians would be favorable to the building of any other lines than those that have been projected. These are what is called progressive and non-progressive Indians. The progressives are those under the lead of Colonel Boudinot and are in favor of opening up the country to white settlement. The others are opposed to it, and a great deal of feeling is manifested. A great part of the opposition is due to white refugees from justice, who have taken up with the Indians and married among them, and who are opposed on principle to having any decent people around. Their feelings are also shared by the wilder and more savage Indians. The better classes are in favor of white settlement, if it can be made upon equitable terms to them. However, this questions of railroads and the entire matter of white settlement are among the chief issues in the coming election, which is in that light of great importance to St. Louis and Missouri.

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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