The Black Men Who Rode for Parker
Shortly after Judge Parker was sworn in as federal judge, blacks were recruited as Deputy U.S. Marshals working out of his court. Their duties took them mostly into Indian Territory, and some worked as far south as Texas, as far west as the Oklahoma Territory, and as far north as Kansas. These African American men were of varying backgrounds–some had been born slaves some were Black Indians, some were well educated, while others had little formal training.
The exact numbers of all the of the black U.S. Deputy marshals is not known only because some had brief temporary assignments, while others had careers that spanned several decades. All of these black men had one element in common—they worked out of the Federal District Court of Ft. Smith. Most were recruited by the presiding federal judge of the court----Isaac C. Parker.
This page is dedicated in honor of those black men whose names are forgotten in most Ft. Smith circles–both black and white. Their work took them in and out of Ft. Smith. Some died in the line of duty. Most were recruited shortly after Parker accepted his post in Ft. Smith, and served during the years between 1875-1900. These black men, helped develop the rich history of Ft. Smith Arkansas, they helped bring law and order to the Territory, and their contributions forgotten by most directly contributed to the settlement of the western frontier.
To All Descendants of These Men:
Explore your family history, and share your legacy!
It his hoped that the many hundreds of descendants of these Black US marshals will come forth, and share their family histories. For many the task at hand is to learn the family histories, for many grandchildren, and great grand children, have never heard of the legacy left behind by their courageous forebears. The records exist in Ft. Smith at the federal courthouse in downtown Ft. Smith. Dust off the covers of the old court records. Your tax dollars pay for the maintenance of these records, and the records belong to the public. After 100 years, the time to claim your history has arrived.
To the residents of Ft. Smith and Van Buren:
Teachers, students, retirees, visitors, residents----you are urged to look more closely at this untold story of the area's local history. The colorful past of Ft. Smith and Van Buren, cannot be told without the stories of Bass Reeves, Ike Rogers, Rufus Cannon, Grant Johnson and others. There are descendants of these persons living right now in Ft. Smith, who probably do not know of their ancestors contribution to Ft. Smith history. Ft. Smith has many stories reflecting a true frontier spirit.
For all of the courageous pioneers moving westward for a new life—there were the many Exodusters, as they were called—the black migrants from eastern states going to the west, fleeing terror in the post Civil War south. Ft. Smith was one of the many destinations. For the rich legacy of what Judge Parker did for bringing order, his legacy would be thin if not for the fierce tenacity and accuracy of Bass Reeves, John Garret, and others, when pursuing an outlaw. It is a tragedy, that many of these persons lie buried in unknown grave sites, with no honor wreaths or recognition begin placed on their graves.
Part of the legacy of your ancestors exists at the National Historic site in Ft. Smith. You are encouraged to visit the site!!! Become acquainted with your own history!
It lies there quietly with rich stories waiting to be told.