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The Trial of Cherokee Bill…


Cody Faber preparing us for what we will learn about Cherokee Bill

We had a lovely evening at the Fort Smith National Historic Site for the first reenactment of 2023–The Trial of Crawford Goldsby aka Cherokee Bill.

Cherokee Bill was a young multiracial outlaw in the 1890s. His life was complicated and his opportunities were somewhat limited. Eventually, he killed a man and ended up in the jail located on the second floor of what is now the Fort Smith National Site while his appeal on his conviction was being considered by the courts. Before that would happen, Cherokee Bill killed jail guard Lawrence Keating. What happened next in 1895 was presented by volunteer reeactors. After introducing us to the topic at hand and previewing what we would be experiencing, Park Ranger Cody Fabor led us upstairs and gave us a tour of where events that led up to this trial happened. What made tonight’s reenactment so poignant and interesting, both the jail where Cherokee Bill shot Larry Keating and Judge Parker’s Courtroom where he was tried for that crime were a few feet apart on the second floor of the Historic Site.


Historians Tom Wing and Kevin Jones quickly showed us where Goldsby shot Guard Lawrence Keating.

I was intrigued as Tom Wing and I have been working on a book titled “Julia and Maud” for the last four year…and bits of this story are woven into our tale. However, Cherokee Bill is a just background character in our book. Tonight’s reenactment filled in the pieces of his sad short life.







And then we were directed to Judge Parker’s Courtroom a few feet away where Goldsby was tried for that murder.







While I’ve attended several reenactments in Judge Parker’s Courtroom since moving back to Fort Smith, this was the longest and most complex performance we’ve seen yet. It was also the most informative.


For Fort Smithians interested in what came before us…especially someone like me who is trying to learn as much as I can as fast as I can in order to write books that both entertain and educate…the work that Cody and Tom and Kevin and all the volunteers do to tell these stories where it happened is very much appreciated

Tom Wing as Jailer Eoff describing the event that led to the murder of guard Larry Keating.

Additional reading:

Hanging Times at Fort Smith, by Jerry Akins

Law West of Fort Smith, by Glenn Shirley


Here are the names of the reenactors:





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