The Branch and the Scaffold by Loren D. Estleman

branchReviewed by Jud Hanson

For anyone familiar with the history of Arkansas, one name stands out above all others: Isaac Parker, known throughout Arkansas and Indian Territory in the 1870s-1890s as the “Hanging Judge.”

The Branch and the Scaffold by Loren D. Estleman gives a fascinating look into the life of the Old West’s most enduring characters. Parker was known as a very stern judge, with no sympathy towards those who didn’t deserve any. He administered swift justice to the likes of the Dalton gang, Belle Star and Cherokee Bill. The Eastern press often frowned upon Parker’s methods and frequently portrayed him in a less than flattering light. He recruited the toughest and best to be Marshals in his jurisdiction and his men were loyal to a fault. His hangman, George Maledon, took his job as seriously as a French winemaker does his vineyard, ordering only the best rope and keeping the famous 6-person scaffold in perfect working order. At the time of his death Parker had accumulated some impressive numbers: 13,490 case tried, resulting in 9,454 convictions. He presided over 344 capital cases with 165 resulting in conviction; all but 5 resulted in hangings.

The Branch and the Scaffold should be required reading for students and is an enjoyable and informative read for the rest of us.

Leave a Reply