Legendary Lawman Bass Reeves

Reeves is reported to have apprehended more then 3,000 outlaws during his 35 years serving as a Deputy United States Marshal.


November 27, 1890 saw Reeves and his posse attempt to capture the infamous outlaw Ned Christie, thought by many to be the most feared outlaw in the Indian Territory. Christie had been on the run since May 1887 and had successfully eluded or out shot his pursuers. Apparently Christie was run to ground in a makeshift fort he had built near Vinita, Oklahoma. An extended gunfight resulted in the fort being burnt to the ground, but Christie escaped once again, swearing to kill Bass Reeves. The complete story of this ordeal is worthy of a book all by itself. I may have to elaborate on this story in the future is there is interest.

In 1893, Reeves was transferred to the East Texas federal court in Paris, Texas and stationed at Calvin in the Choctaw Nation. In 1897 he was again transferred, this time to the Muskogee federal court within the Indian Territory. Here Reeves would marry again (1900) to Winnie Sumter. He first wife had passed away in Fort Smith (1896).

While these and many more of his exploits are in fact legendary, the greatest act of character was still to come. After having delivered two prisoners to U.S. Marshal Leo Bennett in Muskogee, Oklahoma, he arrived to bad news. His son had been charged with the murder of his wife. The warrant had been lying on Bennett's desk for two days. It seems the other deputies were reluctant to take it and though Reeves was shaken, he accepted the responsibility for finding his son. Two weeks later, Reeves returned to Muskogee with his son in tow and turned him over to Marshal Bennett. His son was tried and sent to Kansas' Leavenworth Prison. However, sometime later, with a citizen's petition and an exemplary prison record, his son was pardoned and lived the rest of his life as a model citizen.

Reeves would work as a Marshal until 1907; the year Oklahoma would gain its statehood. At this time he became a police officer for the city of Muskogee. During the two years that he served in this capacity there were, remarkably, no reported crimes on his beat. Reeves was diagnosed with Bright's disease in 1909, finally ending his career in law enforcement. He died January 12, 1910 and though he was buried in Muskogee, Oklahoma, the exact location of his grave is unknown.

Reeves is reported to have apprehended more then 3,000 outlaws during his 35 years serving as a Deputy United States Marshal. Having killed 14 men during that time he always said he "never shot a man when it was not necessary for him to do so in the discharge of his duty to save his own life." Feel free to drop me a line if you'd like to learn more about Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves.



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