John Childers

John Childers was born in the Cherokee Nation to a white father and a Cherokee mother. As a young man, he served in the Confederate army before returning home and joining a notorious band of outlaws.

On October 24, 1870, Childers encountered Reyburn Wedding, whose horse Childers admired. When Wedding refused a deal for the horse, Childers persisted. When that persistence did not change Wedding’s mind, Childers killed him. He was not the first man Childers had killed.

Childers was arrested on December 26 and transported to Van Buren, Arkansas, to be arraigned and held for trial. En route, he escaped and eluded capture for a month.

Once apprehended and jailed, Childers escaped again. This time he was able to elude recapture for months.

By the time he was apprehended, Congress had divided the judicial district of Arkansas into the Eastern and Western District and moved the home of the Western District to Fort Smith. Childers became the first capital defendant to be tried and hanged there.

At trial, Childers was found guilty on November 11, 1872. He was sentenced to die on May 19, 1873.

Wilmington (Delaware) Daily Gazette, August 29, 1873

On August 15, 1873, John Childers was hanged before a large crowd at Fort Smith, Arkansas. He was buried nearby.

Author: Bill Lofquist

I am a sociologist and death penalty scholar at the State University of New York at Geneseo. I am also a Pittsburgh native. My present research focuses on the history of the death penalty in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), Pa. This website is dedicated to collecting, analyzing, and sharing information about all Allegheny County cases in which a death sentence was imposed. Please share any questions or comments, errors or omissions, or other matters of interest related to these cases or to the broader history of the death penalty in Allegheny County.

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