Okay here's an odd one...read a newspaper article concerning William Finch hanged in Fort Smith in 1883. It states that his younger brother came from Louisville for the purpose of taking William's body home for burial but the article states at the end that he was buried with the other two hanged men in the "garrison cemetery" located "west" of Fort Smith. Would this be the current National Cemetery? It sure doesn't sound like Oak Cemetery which is located east of the Ft Smith Historical Site. I believe that Ft Smith's older portions are right there as you cross the river and I know of no cemeteries located "west" of Ft Smith.
On the Trail
Secretary, Oklahombres Inc.
Yes, indeed. It was highly likey that the news article was referring to the National cemetery.
Finch was an army deserter so technically, he was still a soldier in the U. S. army.
William Finch - An outlaw horse thief, Finch had also deserted from the U.S. Army. When two soldiers were transporting him to Fort Sill, Oklahoma in 1882 to face charges, he killed them. Convicted of murder he was hanged at Fort Smith, Arkansas on June 29, 1883. Source:
After I posted the above I found another very interesting news article that gives a lot of details on Finch and the two other men who were hung that day (but still no mention of burial loation)
Enforcing the Death Penalty
Hanging of three men in Arkansas
Fort Smith Ark., June 29—Three murderers—Martin Joseph, colored; William H. Finch, white, and a creek Indian named Tualista—were hanged here to-day. At 11:15 A. M. the condemned men, with their spiritual advisors and a guard, proceeded to the scaffold, on reaching which one of the ministers offered prayer for the doomed men, and a hymn was sung, Finch joining. In response to the question whether they had anything to say, Tualista replied that he had not, but putting his hand on his breast remarked that his heart was broken. Joseph also replied in the negative. Finch then made a brief speech, in which he said: “I cannot find words to explain the feelings that overpower me as I stare at the dreaded fate that awaits me. I am perfectly reconciled to my God, and it is nothing more than right and just that I should make things right with my fellow-men. I killed those two men that I might escape, rather than suffer the torture of the commanding officer.”
He then asked to see a photograph of his sister, on which he imprinted a kiss, saying it was all he had to leave her. After shaking hands with the attendants on the scaffold the black caps were adjusted and the arms and feet of the doomed men pinioned. At 11:48 the trap was sprung by Jailer Burns. The Indian’s neck was broken by the fall, and life was extinct in three and a half minutes. The negro died in six a half minutes, and Finch in nine minutes. After hanging 20 minutes the bodies were cut down and placed in coffins.
Tualista killed Emanuel C. Cockran, who was on his way to Texas, by shooting him from behind, in July, 1881. Finch shot and killed Burt Johnson and Washington Grimky, colored soldiers, in July, 1882. Finch was a deserter from the army, and had been captured, but made his escapte by killing the two men. Joseph killed Bud Stevens and his wife in April last.This message has been edited. Last edited by: Norm,
Talked to Supt. Bill Black yesterday and he said that here was an original garrison grave yard that was located southwest of the fort. Some of the bodies were later moved. It is very close to where they built railroad tracks into Fort Smith. This may be the location of this garrison graveyard mentioned in the newspaper article. Supt. Black also said no one as yet has been able to locate this original grave site.
Jerry Akin from Fort Smith sent the following information on Finch. Diron, what newspaper did you find your information.
New Era, June 5,1883, page 3, Col, 4, under title, " Friday's Execution", second para.,"Only about forty people witnessed the execution, among whom was a brother of Finch, who took charge of his brother's body and had it shipped to Georgia, where his relatives reside."
I found no mention in the Elevator or the Independent of where any of the three were buried, or mention of a Garrison cemetery. The Louisville part doesn't agree with Finch's history either. He was originally from Georgia.
The other two, Joseph and Te-o-litse, are buried in Oaks Cemetery. There were at least two ocassions when deceased were buried "on the reservation", meaning the garrison grounds, but I know not where. Two Indians were hung in August and the family planned to take them away when the weather was cooler. There was one other mention of burial on "the reservation," but it was not Finch. Jerry Akins
Thanks for the responses guys.
Art - I'll need to double check what paper this info came from; very interesting info about the garrison grave yard. I had never run across that before.
Regarding Finch...he was not actually an army deserter. He was a civilian employee at Fort Sill who got in trouble for keeping company with the post barber's daughter. I believe Finch was a tailor.
On the Trail
Secretary, Oklahombres Inc.
Actually this William F. Finch was, in fact in the Army and was white according to the news articles.
The Tailor you mention was a black man. This comes from a book: THE NEGRO COWBOYS, By Philip Durham and Everett L. Jones. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company. 1965.
Quote: "Negroes like badman William Finch, post tailor at Fort Sill, who could by no stretch of the imagination be classed as a cowboy."
The National cemetery was first the Post, or "Garrison" cemetery until Congress estabished the location as a National cemetery. As an old Army ground pounder we used the term Garrison for Army post locations.
So, logically speaking, the reporter was using a slang term when he said Finch was buried in the Garrsion cemetery. I think the cemetery was named a national in 1868 (from memory).
There is a Louisville, Georgia. It was established in 1795, and was the state capitol from 1795 to 1806. It is presently the county seat of Jefferson County, Georgia. So, Finch's brother possibly took his body home to Louisville, Ga.
Diron: In a book "Law West of Fort Smith", by Glenn Shirley... Appendix A, p. 216...
WILLIAM FINCH, a mulatto, thirty years old, shot and killed two military guards who were returning him to Fort Sill from Decatur, Texas, where he had fled after stealing a horse from an Indian named Quinette. He was rearrested in Texas by deputy marshals and taken to Fort Smith.
It seems the reporter was not aware of this when he penned his article. Note that Shirley did not state Finch was a deserter. Seems that this horse thief was the same one you pegged as the Post Tailor.
I was reading a book about 2 soliders murdered at Fort Sill and remmebered a discussion of William Finch, hanged at Fort Smith in 1883 for killing two military guards near Fort Sill...
Most likely these two:
"In July 1882, Sergeant Bushrod Johnson and Private Washington Grimke were murdered by a horse thief they were escorting near Fort Sill in what is now western Oklahoma. Two days later they were accorded a "most impressive" funeral: "Each body was followed by his horse, trimmed in the usual manner. The sun had set as we left the post and when the last volley was fired and taps sounded, the full, clear moon rose upon the scene."
So, almost one year later, on June 29, 1883, Finch is hanged in Fort Smith. Justice was served and his send off probably didn't hold a candle against the one for those two soliders he murdered.
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