Jan 12, 2017

January 12 - From Slave To Lawman: The Story Of Bass Reeves

   On January 12, 1910, one of the most prolific and successful  U.S. Marshals, Bass Reeves, died at the age of 71 in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Reeves served as a U.S. Marshal for more than 30 years and arrested over 3,000 wanted men, and was respected for his superior marksmanship and tracking  capabilities, despite being born (in 1838, exact date unknown) a slave in Crawford County, Arkansas.

   He was owned by Arkansas state legislator William Steele Reeves and was the servant for Williams' son, George R. Reeves. George was a Colonel in the Confederate army during the Civil War. It was during the war that Bass "parted ways" with his owner after he beat up George during a dispute over a card game. George went on to become Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives until his death in 1882 from rabies. Bass hid out until 1865 when slavery was abolished. During that time he lived with Cherokee, Seminole, and Creek Indians, learning their culture and languages. Bass Reeves then moved to Arkansas to be a farmer with wife Nellie Jennie and their eleven children.

   Reeves and his family farmed until 1875, when famed federal judge Isaac Parker directed U.S. Marshal James F. Fagan to hire 200 deputy U.S. Marshals. Fagan sought out and recruited Bass Reeves (for Reeves' knowledge of Indian Territory and Indian languages) making Reeves the first black deputy west of the Mississippi River.

    For over thirty years as a U.S. Marshal, Reeves captured over 3,000 felons, and killed fourteen outlaws in self defense, amazingly he was never wounded despite having his hat and belt shot off on separate occasions. After 32 years as a Marshal, Reeves retired at 68, and became an officer of the Muskogee, Oklahoma police department until his death on this date in 1910.

Image: Bass Reeves (public domain photo)