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The 1886 murder trial of Jack Spaniard will be recreated at Fort Smith National Historic Site June 13-14 in the Judge Parker Court Room. The event will begin at 7 p.m. each night with members of the audience to serve as jurors. Space is limited, so reservations are encouraged. There will be a $5.00 fee to attend the event.
One of the unique aspects of this particular trial is the introduction of Jack Spaniard’s own dog as evidence. Jack Spaniard and a companion, Frank Palmer, were traveling in Indian Territory when they encountered Deputy U.S. Marshall William Irwin transporting a prisoner back to Fort Smith. At the time of the encounter witnesses reported seeing Jack Spaniard and his companion along with Jack Spaniard’s dog. After the crime had been committed the dog was left behind at the scene and was subsequently taken back to serve as primary evidence. It was lodged in the jail at Fort Smith until the trial for Jack Spaniard commenced.
In an effort to be as authentic as possible for this presentation a dog will be used to represent Jack Spaniard’s dog. Owned by park ranger Keri Powers, who will portray Pearl Starr, a witness, for the trial, the dog will be used similarly to the events that unfolded in Judge Parker’s Court Room in 1886.
“This trial is one of the more interesting trials that took place before Judge Parker,” said Bill Black, superintendent of Fort Smith National Historic Site. “I can’t think of many cases anywhere that a canine played such an integral part of proving anyone’s guilt or innocence,” Black continued.
Park Ranger Keri Power’s husband, Steven Long, will portray Jack Spaniard. Long said he is looking forward to this opportunity to assume the role of a character that played a role in the history of Fort Smith.
To learn more about this event and others contact Fort Smith NHS at 479-783-3961 or visit us online at www.nps.gov/fosm. The park is located in downtown Fort Smith, Arkansas at the corner of 3rd Street and Parker Street. Hours of operation are daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. CST except December 25 and January 1 when the visitor center is closed.