Paramount+’s Western series ‘Lawmen: Bass Reeves’ sheds light on legendary lawman Bass Reeves’ life journey, which started from slavery. In reality, Bass is widely considered the first black deputy marshal appointed west of the Mississippi River. He rode on a captivating horse through the Indian Territories in the region, reportedly capturing thousands and killing over a dozen outlaws. Bass was a prominent lawman in Arkansas and Oklahoma during the late 19th century and early 20th century. During his tenure as a lawman, Bass supposedly lived in multiple Southern states and he was often spotted riding a majestic horse!
From Arkansas to Oklahoma
Bass was born into slavery in Crawford County, Arkansas. He, along with his family members, was owned by Arkansas state legislator William Steele Reeves. When William moved to Grayson County, Texas, the Lone Star State became Bass’ new home. After the Civil War broke out, Bass was forced to part ways with his family in Texas to take part in the same as a Confederate soldier along with his master George Reeves. The War took him to different parts of the Southern United States. Around the same time, Bass ran away from his master, after an altercation between them, to end up in an Indian territory, which is currently located in Oklahoma.
After the abolition of slavery, Bass started to live in Van Buren, Arkansas. Where he originally settled as a farmer. “According to the 1870 census, Bass Reeves and his family lived in the First Ward in Van Buren. From the 1880 Crawford County tax records, we know today that Bass Reeves lived on the corner of Second and Vine streets, block 54, lot 1. His house was across the street from the tracks of the Little Rock and Fort Smith Railroad that ran alongside the Arkansas River,” historian Art T. Burton wrote in his book ‘Black Gun, Silver Star: The Life and Legend of Frontier Marshal Bass Reeves.’
According to Burton’s book, Bass sold his house in Van Buren in 1887. “He [Bass] moved to North Twelfth Street, Park Place, on the outskirts of Fort Smith, Arkansas, in 1889. At that time, this house would have been on the outskirts of Fort Smith,” Burton added. After becoming a deputy marshal, Bass first served in the Western District of Arkansas. In 1893, he was transferred to the Eastern District of Texas in Paris. His 1897 transfer then took him to serve in the Native Territory that was under the jurisdiction of the Muskogee Federal Court. During his later years, Bass also served as an officer of the Muskogee Police Department.
Bass’ Majestic Horse
It is unknown whether Bass ever named his horse or in other words, there are no records of him having a named horse. In the show, however, Bass’ horse is named Pistol. According to Burton’s book, the lawman rode a horse that appeared white. “Reeves may have ridden a white horse during one period of his career. During the trial of Bass Reeves for murdering his cook, witnesses testified that the cook threatened to shoot Reeves’s gray horse. A gray horse can look anywhere from near black to near white, so it was possible that Reeves rode a horse that appeared to be white,” reads ‘Black Gun, Silver Star.’
Bass’ horse’s appearance is one of the reasons why he is considered the possible inspiration behind the legendary Lone Ranger. Like Bass, the Lone Ranger rode a white horse named Silver. Creator Chad Feehan wanted his protagonist to ride a white horse for the same reason. “There’s obviously a lot of reporting done on Bass Reeves being the inspiration for the Lone Ranger. […] And so we put him on a gray horse, a white horse, partially to wink at the audience for the possibility of that,” he told TheWrap.