The life story of renowned lawman Bass Reeves, which began in slavery, is explored in the Western series “Lawmen: Bass Reeves” on Paramount+. In actuality, Bass is regarded by many as the first African American deputy marshal to be appointed across the Mississippi River. Riding across the area’s Indian Territories on a fascinating horse, he is said to have killed over a dozen outlaws and captured thousands of prisoners. Bass was a well-known lawman in Oklahoma and Arkansas in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Bass is said to have resided in several Southern states while serving as a law enforcement officer, and he was frequently seen riding a magnificent horse!
From Arkansas to Oklahoma
Bass was born into slavery in Arkansas’s Crawford County. William Steele Reeves, an Arkansas state politician, owned him and his family. Bass relocated to the Lone Star State when William settled in Grayson County, Texas. Bass was compelled to leave his family in Texas when the Civil War broke out in order to fight alongside his master George Reeves as a Confederate soldier. He travelled throughout the Southern United States throughout the War. At approximately the same time, Bass got into a fight with his master and fled, ending up in what is now Oklahoman Indian country.
Bass moved to Van Buren, Arkansas, after slavery was abolished. where he first made his farming home. Bass Reeves and his family resided in Van Buren’s First Ward, per the 1870 census. We now know that Bass Reeves resided at the intersection of Second and Vine streets, block 54, lot 1, according to the 1880 Crawford County tax records. Historian Art T. Burton stated in his book Black Gun, Silver Star: The Life and Legend of Frontier Marshal Bass Reeves that “his house was across the street from the tracks of the Little Rock and Fort Smith Railroad that ran alongside the Arkansas River.”
Bass sold his Van Buren home in 1887, based on Burton’s book. In 1889, Bass relocated to North Twelfth Street, Park Place, which was at the edge of Fort Smith, Arkansas. This house would have been on the fringes of Fort Smith at that time, according to Burton. Bass began his career as a constable and was assigned to the Western District of Arkansas. He was moved to the Eastern District of Texas in Paris in 1893. Following his move in 1897, he was sent to work in the Native Territory, which was governed by the Muskogee Federal Court. Bass also worked as a Muskogee Police Department officer in his final years.
Bass’ Majestic Horse
There are no records of Bass owning a named horse, therefore it is unknown if he ever gave his horse a name. But Pistol is the name of Bass’ horse in the show. Burton’s book claims that the lawman was mounted on a horse that appeared to be white. It’s possible that at one point in his career, Reeves rode a white horse. Witnesses stated in Bass Reeves’s murder trial that the cook had threatened to shoot Reeves’s grey horse. Black Gun, Silver Star states, “A grey horse can look anywhere from near black to near white, so it was possible that Reeves rode a horse that appeared to be white.”
One of the reasons Bass is regarded as the potential inspiration for the fabled Lone Ranger is the appearance of his horse. The Lone Ranger rode Silver, a white horse, same like Bass. For the same reason, author Chad Feehan desired that his protagonist ride a white horse. “Clearly, a lot of reporting has been done on Bass Reeves serving as the Lone Ranger’s inspiration. […] We thus dressed him up as a white horse and a grey horse, partly as a poke at the audience for the prospect of that,” he said to TheWrap.
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