Fort Smith National Historic Site Recreates a Case

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Date: May 8, 2008

Jack Spaniard was charged with murdering Deputy U.S. Marshal William Irwin in Indian Territory in April 1886.  Deputy Irwin was transporting Felix Griffin to the Fort Smith Federal Jail at the time of his death.  Witnesses reported seeing Jack Spaniard and Frank Palmer, as well as a dog believed to be owned by Jack Spaniard, before the murder occurred.  Other witnesses that testified at the Jack Spaniard trial included Pearl Starr and Ed Reed, the children of the infamous Belle Starr. 


Newspaper accounts and court records describe the case and trial.  Using this material, park staff and volunteers will assume the roles of lawyers, witnesses, defendant, judge, and other court personnel.  There will also be a dog used during the living history event to serve as evidence.  After hearing the evidence presented to the jury, which will consist of members of the audience,  the jury will render a verdict of guilty or not guilty.  At the conclusion of the program the historical verdict will be revealed and discussed.


“Presenting living history events such as recreating a trial heard in Judge Parker’s Courtroom, is a dynamic way for people to learn about the historical significance of Fort Smith.  This will surely prove to be an entertaining, as well as informative evening” said Bill Black, superintendent of Fort Smith National Historic Site

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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Fort Smith, AR 72901


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