Posts Tagged ‘Bass Reeves’


June 22, 2008


Bass Reeves was born around 1838, in Texas or Arkansas, to Bass reeves, U.S. Marshallparents who were slaves of a Master named Reeves.  It was customary for slaves to take the surname of their master, so the family were known as Reeves also.  Bass’s mother worked in the kitchen, and his father was a house servant.  Bass was an active little boy, constantly underfoot in the big house, and he was a favorite.  When Bass came of age he became the personal servant of Master Reeves.  With the advent of the Civil War Master Reeves assumed the duties of a Confederate Officer, taking Bass with him as his man.

Bass evidently had no fear of his white superiors and evidently was treated almost as an equal.  One evening during the course of a card game an augment arose which came to blows.  Bass threw a punch which left his master out cold on the ground.  As it was a hanging offense for a slave to strike his master, Bass felt it in his best interest to flee the scene.

 Bass fled to the Indian Territories, where he joined the tribes in the Cherokee-Siminole Nations.  There he honed the skills in tracking and scouting that would serve him so well later in life.  He became a proficient shot with the pistols and rifles, in fact later he would be barred from shooting in Turkey Shoots.  One author stated that Bass participated  in the Civil War with the Cherokee Battalions.

When the war ended and blacks were freed he moved to western Kentucky where he married and had a son and daughter.  Bass did a little farming, but supplemented his income substantially by preforming duties for various peace officers as a scout and tracker.  His service also included enforcement things as small as petty misdemeanors to murder.

In 1875 Judge Isaac C. Parker, assumed jurisdiction of  the Fort Smith, Arkansas Federal Court.  This was 75,00 square miles of pure hell.  It was known as “The Indian Territory”, comprising what is now Oklahoma and Western Arkansas.  This was the home of all the Indians who had been transplanted from their eastern homes, and a refuge for criminals of every description.  Towns and villages were few and far between with little in the way of communication.  The Indians had no jurisdiction other than their own.  And the lawless elements were free to roam as they pleased, with no one to monitor them.

Judge Parker began by appointing some 200 Deputy U. S. Marshalls, some we have already met in previous chapters — Heck Thomas (Ned Cristie),  Bill Tighman (little Britches and Cattle Annie, The Doolin Gang).  Judge Parker was eager to enlist good black marshals when he could.  The Indians had a natural distrust of the white deputies, some had abused their powers, and the Indians often trusted Black Deputies more than their white counterparts.  There had been black freemen in the Five Civilized Tribes for years.  In some instances blacks had served as Indian Police, and had served on tribal councils for years.  Even in several towns blacks had been chiefs.

When Bass Reeves was called to Judge Parker’s attention he was delighted.  He felt that as a black marshal this man who boasted that “he knew the Indian territory like a woman knows her kitchen” would be a wise investment.

Bass was a natty dresser, his boots were always polished to a glossy shine, he favored a wide straight brimmed black hat with just slight upturn in the front.  One old timer stated that Bass wore his pistols in different fashions but favored them with the butts facing forward.  He carried a pair of 38-40 Colts, and liked a Winchester Carbine in the same caliber. (more…)