Words are not sufficient to describe the man known as Bass Reeves. He was probably
one of the first African Americans to received a commission as a U.S. Deputy
Marshal west of the Mississippi.
Reeves was a man very large in stature, believed to have been born in Texas.
After the Civil War, he came western to Arkansas, and settled in the town of
Van Buren Arkansas, having taken up farming as a living. In the 1870 census
he is married and working on his farm in Van Buren. By 1880, he was working
in his new profession—as a U.S. Deputy Marshal, under the direction of Judge
Isaac C. Parker in Ft. Smith. His family continued to reside in Van Buren
during these years.
Receiving his commission in 1875 his career began the most colorful,
noteworthy, and successful careers of the western frontier marshals.
Full anecdotal accounts of Reeves are to be found in the work by Art
Burton, Black Red and Deadly. Black and Indian Gunfighters of Indian
Territory. (Eakin Press) As early as 1878, the Reeves starts appearing
in Ft. Smith and Indian Territory newspapers. He was working in Parker
court at the time of the execution of James Diggs, who had been wanted
for years. He assisted in the capture of the outlaw Bob Dozier. In 1883
the Ft. Smith Elevator describe Reeves involvement in the capture of
Johnson Jacks. In 1884, the Elevator described his effort in bringing
a load of prisoners from Indian Territory. Later in ‘84, Reeves received
pres in the Muskogee Indian Journal.
A month later his efforts were written up in two different newspaper papers
describing the same event, one in Ft. Smith, and one in Muskogee. His
reputation began to grow as the years passed. In 1896 Judge Isaac Parker
died, and the Federal Terriotry was later divided into districts. Shortly
after that time, Parker was transferred to Muskogee in the Northern District,
where he served till his death in 1910.
Ironically, as successful as this man's life is, he lies today in
an unknown spot in or near Muskogee Oklahoma. It is believed that he may
lie in Agency Cemetery–an abandoned cemetery in Muskogee now without access
from public roads. Hopefully a movement may someday surface to restore this
black resting ground, where persons such as Bass Reeves and those of his
caliber can receive honor from their descendants.
More on Bass Reeves
The Legacy of Bass Reeves
Back to Black Marshals of Ft. Smith
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