You are here

National Park Mystery Photo 9 Revealed: Reviewing Stand? Hardly!

A short rope and long drop were used to deliver Western justice at Fort Smith back in the late 1800s. Larry Repanshek photo.

He was known, quite appropriately, as the "hanging judge." During his 21 years at Fort Smith, Judge Isaac C. Parker sent 160 men to the gallows, a replica of which this latest Mystery Photo depicts.

Judge Parker ruled from the bench of the U.S. Court for the Western District of Arkansas. His seeming predilection for seeing justice served with a short rope and a long drop could be found in his self-professed motto, 'Do equal and exact justice.'

According to the Fort Smith National Historic Site website:

Sensational cases and mass executions overshadowed Parker's contributions in rehabilitating offenders, reforming the criminal justice system, and advocating the rights of the Indian nations. In Fort Smith he tried to create, in his own words, "the moral force of a strong federal court."


That said, don't get the wrong impression about the judge's fascination with the gallows.

According to federal law, if the jury returned a verdict of guilty for rape or murder, the judge was required to hand down a death sentence. This mandatory death sentence remained federal law until 1898. In several cases at Fort Smith, Judge Parker petitioned the president on behalf of defendants sentenced to death. The nature of the court's jurisdiction provided for an unusually large number of criminal cases, including those with the death penalty.


Well, you could still call it a "reviewing stand" of sorts, given the people who thought (would still think?) public executions to be a form of popular entertainment.

Add comment


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

National Parks Traveler's Essential Park Guide