Did Bass Reeves Kill His Master in Real Life?

The first episode of Paramount+’s Western seriesLawmen: Bass Reeves’ depicts Bass, a slave, beating up his master Colonel George Reeves. In reality, as the historical show depicts, George was the master of Bass, who was originally owned by the former’s father William Steele Reeves. During the Civil War, Bass was forced to accompany his master to the Civil War to fight as a Confederate soldier. After taking part in a few battles together, an altercation did happen between Bass and George but did the same result in the death of the latter?

Bass Wasn’t a Murderer

Bass didn’t kill his master George Reeves. The first episode of the series depicts Bass beating the colonel up and running away from his estate, without clarifying what really happens to the latter. George did survive the attack since the same wasn’t fatal or even near fatal. Bass “laid him [George] out cold with his fist and then made a run for the Indian Territory north across the Red River, with the hue and cry of ‘runaway n—’ hounding him up until the Emancipation,” Bass’ daughter Alice Spahn recollected the incident, as per Art T. Burton’s ‘Black Gun, Silver Star: The Life and Legend of Frontier Marshal Bass Reeves.’

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Bass and George’s altercation happened sometime before 1865 since the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery after the lawman ended up on the run upon turning against his master. George lived nearly twenty years more after the incident. In 1866, he was elected to the Texas State Legislature from Grayson County. He remained in the Legislature for a long period since he was re-elected in 1873, 1878, and 1880 as well. In 1881, he became the Speaker of the House of Representatives for the State of Texas, one of the major milestones in his life.

George’s Real Cause of Death

George Reeves died of hydrophobia on September 5, 1882. His health deteriorated after getting bitten by a rabid dog. During his last days, he had to live in a wooden shed padded with mattresses to safeguard him from any potential self-inflicted wounds. He is buried in Georgetown Cemetery, located in Pottsboro, Texas. As per oral histories, the rabid dog bit George while he was trying to save a kid from the same. George died only three years before a vaccine was discovered for rabies. Reeves County in Texas is named after George to honor his memory.

It is unlikely that Bass and George’s lives ever intersected after the fight they had pre-1865. Having said that, Bass did work as a deputy marshal in the Eastern District of Texas in Paris, which is only around seventy miles from Grayson County, for a short while.

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