at Fort Smith
For more than 20 years, Judge Parker had possessed almost absolute authority over the vast Indian Territory. Now, the US planned to dissolve his court and distribute his authority between multiple judiciaries. The Indians were being supplanted; Indian lands were opening to white settlement, and Parker’s reign would end. As he lost his kingdom, Indians would lose the last home they thought would be their own.
In 1895, Judge Parker sentenced young half-black, half-Indian Rufus Buck to 90 days in the Fort Smith jail for illegally selling liquor in Indian Territory. During Rufus’ incarceration, notorious half-black outlaw Cherokee Bill, whom Parker had sentenced to die, sat in the same jail. So did the notorious one-quarter Cherokee bandit Henry Starr.
Just after Buck’s release, Cherokee Bill attempted escape. He failed, but he shot and killed a guard in the attempt. Henry Starr played an integral role in convincing Bill to surrender. No one knew how Bill got the gun and ammunition he used to kill the guard.