By Parker Anderson

One of the most enduring legends of Yavapai County is the story of outlaw James (also known as Fleming) Parker who was hanged on a gallows on the east side of the Courthouse in Prescott on June 3, 1898. His life and crimes have been told and retold, with varying degrees of accuracy, countless times in the 111 years since his execution.

Parker had been a cowboy who was a close friend of then future Sheriff George C. Ruffner before Parker’s lawless ways drove them apart. Parker robbed a train near Peach Springs, Arizona, and later broke out of jail in Prescott with two other men, killing Deputy District Attorney Lee Norris who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I have researched the story for years, and I wrote a play about it in 2000 titled "Until the last Dog is Hung," which was performed by Sharlot Hall Museum’s Blue Rose Theater at that time.

I had long desired to visit Parker’s hometown of Visalia, California and, in August 2008, I had the opportunity to do just that. I went by Greyhound Bus from Phoenix, traveled overnight and arrived at my destination the next morning. In Visalia, I was met at the depot by Visalia historian Terry Ommen from the Tulare County Historical Society. He graciously spent his day showing me the city and, in particular, things pertaining to Fleming Parker.

At the very beautiful Visalia Cemetery, I located the graves of Parker’s parents. The outlaw’s mother, Mary Elizabeth Parker, had died in childbirth with her fifth child on April 23, 1875. She was just 29-years-old. Four years later on February 4, 1879 his father Daniel Parker committed suicide in a fit of insanity and depression over his wife’s untimely death. In short, Fleming Parker was an orphan by the time he was 14-years-old. His maternal grandfather, Fleming Work (whose grave I also located) took him in, but the incorrigible young man was too much for him.

Terry Ommen also took me to the Tulare County Museum to which a number of area historically significant buildings had been relocated, similar to the relocated buildings on the grounds of Sharlot Hall Museum. Among the buildings was the old Visalia jail from the 19th century where the young Fleming Parker undoubtedly spent much time as a youth for various transgressions.

My trip to Vasalia was short but I had a wonderful time. I’m grateful to Mr. Ommen for the time he took out of his busy schedule to show me around and talk with me. It added a great deal to my continuing study of James Fleming Parker. Other Days Past articles about him are available at for 7-9-2000, 11-12-2000 and 12-14-2003.

Fleming Parker is buried in Citizens Cemetery in Prescott in what is referred to as the "Potter’s Field", an area distinguished by modest, rectangular slabs of cement. Each bears a name, date of death and age. It was here that people were buried at the expense of Yavapai County. These people included the poor, travelers with no known relatives and criminals, especially those hanged for committing murder. Fleming Parker was only 33years of age at the time of his hanging.

Sharlot Hall Museum’s Blue Rose Theater is reviving the 2000 play, "Until the Last Dog is Hung," next weekend, August 20th at 6:30pm, August 21 and 22 at 7:30pm with a Saturday matinee at 2:00pm. Contact the museum for tickets at 445-3122.

(Parker Anderson is an active member of the Sharlot Hall Museum Blue Rose Theater and author of the play to be presented next week.)

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Sharlot Hall Museum Photograph Call Number:(h104pe). Reuse only by permission.

The wanted poster for Fleming Parker, 1897, tells some of the life of crime that he led. He was involved in many other criminal acts in his short life.

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Sharlot Hall Museum Photograph Call Number:(courtesy author) Reuse only bypermission.

Parker Anderson at the Visalia, California gravesite of Daniel Parker and wife Mary Elizabeth (tombstone is fallen), parents of outlaw James Fleming Parker.

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Sharlot Hall Museum Photograph Call Number:(courtesy author) Reuse only bypermission.

The 19th century Visalia jail, now on the grounds of the Tulare County Museum, where James Fleming Parker undoubtedly spent some time as a youth.