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Saturday, May 05, 2007

Who Was Bass Reeves?


I was watching something on the History Channel this morning, while enjoying my tea, and they discussed a man who was born a slave, and is believed to have been the first black U.S. deputy marshal west of the Mississippi. I did a little Googleing, and found this article:

[quote:3g3q2pss]Born to slave parents in 1838 in Paris, Texas , Bass Reeves would become the first black U.S. Deputy Marshal west of the Mississippi River and one of the greatest frontier heroes in our nation’s history.

Owned by a man named George Reeves, a farmer and politician, Bass took the surname of his owner, like other slaves of the time. Working alongside his parents, Reeves started out as a water boy until he was old enough to become a field hand.

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Freed†by the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and no longer a fugitive, Reeves left Indian Territory and bought land near Van Buren, Arkansas, becoming a successful farmer and rancher. A year later, he married Nellie Jennie from Texas , and immediately began to have a family. Raising ten children on their homestead -- five girls and five boys, the family lived happily on the farm.

However, Reeve’s life as a contented farmer was about to change when Isaac C. Parker was appointed judge for the Federal Western District Court at Fort Smith, Arkansas on May 10, 1875. At the time Parker was appointed, Indian Territory had become extremely lawless as thieves, murderers, and anyone else wishing to hide from the law, took refuge in the territory that previously had no federal or state jurisdiction.

One of Parker's first official acts was to appoint U.S. Marshal James F. Fagan as head of the some 200 deputies he was then told to hire. Fagan heard of Bass Reeves' significant knowledge of the area, as well as his ability to speak several tribal languages, and soon recruited him as a U.S. Deputy.

The deputies were tasked with “cleaning up†Indian Territory and on Judge Parker’s orders, “Bring them in alive --- or dead!"

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Though Reeves could not read or write it did not curb his effectiveness in bringing back the criminals. Before he headed out, he would have someone read him the warrants and memorize which was which. When asked to produce the warrant, he never failed to pick out the correct one.

An imposing figure, always riding on a large stallion, Reeves began to earn a reputation for his courage and success at bringing in or killing many desperadoes of the territory. Always wearing a large black hat, Reeves was usually a spiffy dresser, with his boots polished to a gleaming shine. He was known for his politeness and courteous manner. However, when the purpose served him, he was a master of disguises and often utilized aliases. Sometimes appearing as a cowboy, farmer, gunslinger, or outlaw, himself, he always wore two Colt pistols, butt forward for a fast draw. Ambidextrous, he rarely missed his mark.

Leaving Fort Smith, often with a pocketful of warrants, Reeves would often return months later herding a number of outlaws charged with crimes ranging from bootlegging to murder. Paid in fees and rewards, he would make a handsome profit, before spending a little time with his family and returning to the range once again.
This piece, including a 1910 obituary from an Oklahoma newspaper, mentions how Reeves' devotion to duty included arresting his own son for murder, and bringing him to justice.

posted by Clayton at 2:59 PM permalink[/quote:3g3q2pss]
 

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Tinkerhell said:
I hear he worked out of a town called Rock Ridge.

:lol:
There might be legal precedent! Of course, Landsnatching... land, land, Land, see Snatch. Ah, Hailie vs. United Sates. Hailie: 7, United States: nothing. You see, it can be done!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I remember my grandparents telling me I had an ancestor that was a United States Marshall (probably a deputy - hard to remember what you are told when you are a kid) in Oklahoma Indian territory. That is all I know. I wish I knew more than that.

I do know I had a great grandmother that was Chickasaw Indian, and she grew up on a reservation in Oklahoma. I knew her, but unfortunately she died in my late teens, and I never did get as much information from her as I would like to have now (kids do not appreciate "the old days" and forget half of what they were told anyway, like the name of the U.S. Marsall . . .).

:cry:

Anyway, when I read those articles on Bass Reeves, I just knew people here would like it. What character!
 

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It is a good article. It actually reads like a description of some John Wayne type western hero - good with disguises, carried his guns butt first & was ambidestrous, understood various indian laguages, couldn't read or write but mem'ed his warrants wears his black hat & polished his boots... I can't think of many more architypal points to include.
 
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