James Arcine (or Arcene) was Cherokee Indian who was living near the U.S. Army base at Fort Smith, Arkansas in the 1870s. In 1872, he and a friend by the name of William Parchmeal were traveling in Indian Territory near Fort Gibson, Oklahoma. At the same time, Henry Feigel, a Swedish laborer, had set out from Talequah en route to Fort Gibson on November 25th. However, before Feigel would arrive, he was overtaken by Arcine and Parchmeal about two miles outside of Fort Gibson. After firing on the Swedish man, Arcine then bludgeoned him with a large stone. Parchmeal later claimed he stood by helplessly, fearing Arcine would kill him if he intervened. Arcine then took just 25 cents from Feigel’s pockets and made off with his boots, later boasting that he had stolen them from a dead man. Feigel’s body was found in the brush the next day.
Though an investigation into his death took place and Arcine and Parchmeal were strongly suspected, no arrests were made and the affair was dropped for the next 13 years. In 1884; however, the case attracted the attention of U.S. Deputy Marshal Andrews, who uncovered new evidence that established their guilt and the pair were arrested the next year and taken to Fort Smith, Arkansas.
Upon his arrest, Arcine told authorities that he was 33 years old, which would mean that he was 20 when he committed the crime. Later; however, he would tell Judge Isaac Parker that he was only ten years old when he killed Feigel. In the meantime, Parchmeal had confessed to everything and even led U.S. Deputy Marshal Andrews to the very spot where the killing had occurred. Arcine’s attempt to secure leniency didn’t work. Though an appeal was made directly to President Chester Arthur for clemency, it was denied. On June 26, 1885, Arcine and Parchmealprayed and sang in the Cherokee language up to the minute they were led to the gallows. A few minutes later they were hanged.
By Kathy Weiser-Alexander, February 2020.