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Bass Reeves

Birthplace: Paris, Crawford, Arkansas, United States
Death: January 12, 1910 (71)
Muskogee, Oklahoma (Bright's disease (nephritis))
Place of Burial: MEMORIAL ID 8584642, Muskogee, Muskogee County, OK, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of NN Reeves and Pearlalee Reeves
Husband of Nellie Reeves and Winnie J. Sumner Reeves
Father of Benjamin Bass Reeves; Homer Reeves; Robert Reeves; Newland Reeves; Edgar Reeves and 8 others
Brother of UFN Washington and Jane Reeves

Occupation: First black deputy U.S. marshal west of the Mississippi River
Managed by: Kenneth Kwame Welsh, (C)
Last Updated:

About Bass Reeves

Wife Winnie Reeves, Los Angeles, California
Daughter Sallie Sanders, Ft. Smith, Arkansas
Daughter Alice M. Spahn, Muskogee, Oklahoma
Son Bennie Reeves, Leavenworth, Kansas
Son Ed Reeves, Independence, Kansas
Granddaughter Mary Reeves, McAlester, Oklahoma
Grandson Rother Reeves, McAlester, Oklahoma

Bass Reeves Heirs on the "Oklahoma Probate Records, 1887-2008"

Bass Reeves was born into slavery in 1838 in Crawford County, Arkansas. [1][2] Reeves was named after his grandfather, Basse Washington. Bass Reeves and his family were slaves of Arkansas state legislator William Steele Reeves. [1] When Bass Reeves was eight (about 1846), William Reeves moved to Grayson County, Texas, near Sherman in the Peters Colony.[1] Bass Reeves may have served Colonel George R. Reeves, the son of William Reeves, the owner of Bass Reeves when he was a slave. George Reeves was also a legislator, in Texas, and at the time of his death in 1882 from rabies, George Reeves was the Speaker of the House in the Texas legislature.[3] During the American Civil War, Bass parted company with George Reeves. "Some say because Bass beat up George after a dispute in a card game.[2][3] "[4] Bass Reeves fled north into the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) and lived with the Cherokee, Seminole, and Creek Indians until he was freed by the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865.[3]

Later Reeves moved to Arkansas and farmed near Van Buren.[5] He married Nellie Jennie from Texas, with whom he had ten children, five boys and five girls.[5]


Reeves and his family farmed until 1875, when Isaac Parker was appointed federal judge for the Indian Territory. Parker appointed James F. Fagan as U.S. Marshal, directing him to hire 200 deputy U.S. Marshals. Fagan had heard about Reeves, who knew the Indian Territory and could speak several Indian languages.[5] He recruited him as one of his deputies and Reeves was the first African-American deputy west of the Mississippi River.[2][5] Reeves was initially assigned as a Deputy U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Arkansas, which also had responsibility for the Indian Territory.[6] Reeves served in that district until 1893, when he transferred to the Eastern District of Texas in Paris, Texas. In 1897 he was transferred to the Muskogee Federal Court.[6]

Reeves worked for thirty-two years as a Federal peace officer in the Indian Territory. He was one of Judge Parker's most valued deputies. Reeves brought in some of the most dangerous criminals of the time, but was never wounded, despite having his hat and belt shot off on separate occasions.[2] Once he had to arrest his own son for murder.[2]

In addition to being a marksman with a rifle and pistol, Reeves, during his long career, developed superior detective skills. When he retired in 1907, Reeves claimed to have arrested over 3,000 felons.[2][5] He is said to have shot and killed fourteen outlaws to defend his own life.[5]

One of his sons was charged with the murder of his wife. Marshal Reeves was disturbed and shaken by the incident but demanded to accept the responsibility of bringing his son to justice. His son was eventually tracked and captured, tried and convicted. He served his time in Ft. Leavenworth in Kansas before being released and living the rest of his life as a responsible and model citizen.[2]

When Oklahoma became a state in 1907, Reeves, then 68, became an officer of the Muskogee, Oklahoma police department.[2] He served for two years before he became ill and had to retire.[5]

He was himself once charged with murdering a posse cook. At his trial before Judge Parker, Reeves was represented by former United States Attorney W. H. H. Clayton, who had been his colleague and friend. Reeves was acquitted.[7]


Reeves' health began to fail, and he died of Bright's disease (nephritis) in 1910.[5] He was an uncle of Paul L. Brady, the first African-American appointed a Federal Administrative Law Judge (in 1972).[8] (

The story of the Lone Ranger is far more legend than reality. Most people know that. Most people also know that the portrayal of Tonto as the Lone Ranger’s sidekick is often stereotypical and racist.

Tonto’s fictionalized story was far from the only racist part of the adaptation of the Lone Ranger’s life. The Lone Ranger was very real, but he was not the white man seen on movies and TV. The Lone Ranger was an escaped slave named Bass Reeves.

Reeves was born into captivity in 1838. He was given the name of his owner, William Reeves. Bass Reeves served as a valet for his master’s son during THE CIVIL WAR.

During a game of cards with his owner, Reeves won, which caused his owner to beat him. Reeves didn’t just take it, though. He beat the man BACK AND depending on what you read, either killed him or almost killed him.

He knew that he would have to escape, so he went to what is Oklahoma today and found a HOME with the Seminole and Creek American Indians.

Eventually, he moved to Arkansas where he settled down, got married, had 10 children and his knowledge of THE INDIAN territories and the fact that he spoke several native languages landed him a job as the first African-American U.S. Marshal.

Reeves never learned to read, so he memorized his arrest warrants. He was never KNOWN to make a mistake.

Unlike most of his African-American brothers, REEVES was treated with respect and his legend, even as just a U.S. Marshal, lives on. There is a monument dedicated to him. There was a movie made in his honor. ( )

Bass Reeves also knew a thing or two about laying down the law. Reeves, a deputy U.S. marshal, was one of many black law officers, sheriffs, deputies, and judges who helped keep law and order alive in the "Wild West."

Reeves spent 30 years in the perilous job of a deputy U.S. marshal in Oklahoma's Indian Territory. A crack shot, he won 14 shoot-outs with men who all drew on him first without suffering a single wound. But what made him one of the best in the West was his smarts. Reeves could not read or write, but he was a skilled detective, a master of disguise, and an expert tracker. Of all the outlaws Reeves went after in his long career, only one ever escaped his iron grasp. (Reference unknown).

In 1872 the Federal Court for the Western District of Arkansas (which included 74,000 miles of Indian territory) established quarters in the former barracks building of Fort Smith. Here from 1875 until his death in 1896, the famous "Hanging Judge," Isaac C. Parker, presided over a court, keeping peace in the lawless territory. The only significant remains of the second fort [built in 1839] are the old stone Commissary Building and Judge Parker's Courtroom, which has been restored. (Fort Smith National Historic Site. Editors of AHM, A Guide to America's Greatest Historic Places, p. 9).

See also

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Bass Reeves's Timeline

July 1838
Paris, Crawford, Arkansas, United States
August 4, 1879
July 1882
January 12, 1910
Age 71
Muskogee, Oklahoma
January 1910
Age 71
.Harding Memorial, MEMORIAL ID 8584642, Muskogee, Muskogee County, OK, United States