• Rifle Regiment arriving at Belle Point, 1817. Artwork by Michael Haynes

    Fort Smith

    National Historic Site AR,OK

The Death of Ned Christie

With Ned Christie wanted for the murder of a deputy U.S. marshal, lawmen virtually waged a war for his capture, but it would take four years before their efforts met with success.
During the months that followed the murder many attempts were made by some of Parker's best marshals to capture Christie but no one was successful in routing him from his heavily guarded stronghold. After an 1889 attempt to burn Ned out, during which he was blinded in his right eye, he constructed a wooden shelter within a natural rock wall on the top of a hill. This was loaded with enough ammunition, food and water to hold out for weeks.

Ned resisted all attempts at capture until twenty-five of the most capable lawmen in frontier history arrived at Christie's shortly after dark on November 1, 1892. They had with them ammunition, several boxes of dynamite, black powder, rifles and a field cannon. At daybreak the firing began! When the deputies began using the cannon, it did little damage except for knocking a few holes in the roof. Finally, they resorted to doubling the powder charge to blast out a wall of the fort. This however split the barrel, putting the cannon out of use. After twelve hours of battle, thirty-eight rounds from the cannon, and some 2,000 rounds of rifle ammunition, the deputies were no closer to capturing Christie.

The men next fashioned a rolling oak-plank shield to allow one deputy to approach the cabin and when close enough, to run forward with six sticks of dynamite. Shortly after midnight, the blast from this dynamite blew out an entire wall of Ned Christie's fort and ignited a fire that by dawn had completely engulfed the cabin. Christie suddenly leaped through the burning cabin and ran toward the possemen firing his two .44s. He was shot down and died shortly thereafter.

Ned Christie's remains traveled to Fayetteville and Fort Smith by train. Along the way, large crowds gathered to view the body which had been strapped to a plank from the door of Ned's fort. In this way, the corpse could be propped up and posed for pictures, something that occurred on the courthouse steps in Fort Smith.

Was Ned Christie, as he has been called, the Indian Territory's greatest outlaw? He was wanted for the slaying of only one man in a time when outlaws killed dozens. And in 1922 a witness to the murder of Deputy Dan Maples came forward to clear Christie of that crime.

Juliet Galonska
March 1996

References: The Last Cherokee Warriors by Phillip Steele.

This sketch is part of a series, “Fort Smith Minutes,” originally developed by the park staff to provide one minute long public service announcements for local radio stations. These sketches provide a light and entertaining glimpse into the complex history of Fort Smith.

Did You Know?

Parker seated at his bench in 6th Street courtroom

The only known image of Judge Parker in his courtroom is this one from the federal courthouse on Sixth Street which dates from the 1890s. There are no photographs of the courtroom located in the former military barracks.