Bass Reeves, a man that not only beat the odds for a black man born into slavery, but a man whose dedication to duty made him a legend in his own time.
By Unknown author - http://www.legendsofamerica.com/photos-oldwest/BassReeves-275.jpgThe Western History Collections at the University of Oklahoma Library have a copy of this image in their holdings., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1134185
Born into slavery in 1838, Bass became the property of Arkansas State Legislator, Robert Steele Reeves. At the young age of eight, Bass moved with his master to Texas where he would spend his growing up years. Bass then served George Reeves, the son of Robert. With the Civil War less than a month into the fighting, George organized a company within the 11th Regiment of the Texas Calvary. There are some sources that say Captain and eventually Colonel George Reeves brought Bass along with him to the war efforts.
Whether he did or not we do know that Bass ran away, living as fugitive slave in the territory of the Creek and Seminole Indians where he learned the lay of the land and became acquainted with them and the Cherokees. Like all legends, unsubstantiated stories followed and Bass was no exception. One story goes that Reeves beat his owner during an altercation over a card game before disappearing and hiding in the Indian Territory. It is believed he fought for the Union Army with the Indian Home Guard Regiments.
When the war ended and Reeves became a free man, he returned to Arkansas and became a farmer in Van Buren. He married Nellie Jennie and had eleven children, six boys and five girls.
In 1875, Federal Judge Isaac Parker appointed U.S. Marshal James Fagan to hire 200 U.S. deputy marshals. Having heard of Reeves knowledge of the Indian Territory and his ability to speak several Indian languages, he recruited him as a deputy making Bass Reeves the first black U.S. deputy to serve west of the Mississippi River.
The deputy marshals
Bass was never shot although his hat was shot off as well as his belt (not sure how that works!). Dubbed as one of the most successful deputies, Reeves never gave up on the men he sought. After several years of tracking Bob Dozier and finally finding him, Bass tried to bring the man in but he refused to surrender. Bass killed the murderer as well as known cattle and horse rustler. On another occasion a five year search finally ended in tracking down outlaw Tom Story. Tom also refused to surrender and died in a gunfight with Reeves.
Reeves, who was not only known to be good at what he did, he was also known for his integrity. The man could not be bought or bribed. He brought in his church minister for selling illegal alchohol. But I think the arrest that showed the man's true worth as a lawman was the arrest of Bennie Reeves, his son. Benjamin had been charged with the murder of his wife. It is said that Bass heard overheard the judge asking if someone else should be assigned to the case and Bass replied, "just give me the warrant." He brought his son in who was tried and found guilty.
In 1907 Oklahoma became a state and the 6'2", 68 year old Bass Reeves became an officer of the Muskogee Police Department. After serving for two years, Bass became ill and retired. In 1910, Bass Reeves died of Bright's Disease.
Debbie Lynne Costello is the author of Sword of Forgiveness, Amazon's #1 seller for Historical Christian Romance. She has enjoyed writing stories since she was eight years old. She raised her family and then embarked on her own career of writing the stories that had been begging to be told. She and her husband have four children and live in upstate South Carolina with their 5 horses, 3 dogs, cat and miniature donkey.
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