John Pointer (Execution of)
On April 3, 1874, a young Native American man named John Pointer was executed in Fort Smith (Sebastian County) for allegedly murdering a white man named Blue in Choctaw Territory in 1872. Although there was some doubt as to how thorough authorities were in pursuing defense witnesses, Pointer was eventually executed for the crime.
According to historian Jerry Akins, Pointer was an eighteen-year-old Seminole man “of middle size and good countenance.” According to Pointer’s story, he and his brother and Sam McGee were near the Canadian River in the Choctaw Nation when McGee declared that he intended to kill someone. When they met a drover named Blue, McGee said he would kill him, and the Pointer brothers tried to dissuade him. McGee killed the man, and the brothers fled.
John Pointer was arrested and pleaded his innocence. On June 26, 1872, his lawyer filed a motion for a continuance, which was not granted. The judge, however, did give permission for authorities to find witnesses whom Pointer felt would help in his defense, although the authorities did not pursue the witnesses very diligently. Although Pointer said they could be found in the Creek Nation and at the Cheyenne agency, they searched the Cherokee Nation instead. One potential witness was Jenny McGee, but the woman authorities located lived 150 miles from witness Jenny McGee’s home and was most likely the wrong person.
This information did not sway authorities, and Pointer was tried for murder at a jury trial on November 19, 1873, and found guilty. He was executed on April 3, 1874, still proclaiming his innocence. He reportedly died without a struggle.
For additional information:
Akins, Jerry. “Hangin’ Times in Fort Smith.” Journal of the Fort Smith Historical Society 25 (September 2001): 7–15. Online at https://uafslibrary.com/fshsj/25-02_Complete_Issue.pdf (accessed August 10, 2023).
Nancy Snell Griffith
Davidson, North Carolina
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