The fifth episode of Paramount+’s Western series ‘Lawmen: Bass Reeves’ begins with an intense shootout between Bass and Jim Webb, a notorious outlaw who terrorizes the Wild West. The deputy marshal, along with his posse man Billy Crow, fights Webb and his men bravely. Webb puts up a challenging contest against the lawman, who has to deal with a rain of bullets that targets him. Bass eventually wins the engrossing fight by putting an end to Webb’s life. The outlaw is based on a real person. As the show depicts, Webb was killed by Bass after an intense confrontation, which ended with the outlaw acknowledging the potency of the lawman!
The Killer of a Preacher
In 1883, Jim Webb, a cowboy from Texas, ended up in the Chickasaw Nation. He was employed by Billy Washington, who made the former the foreman of his ranch which he ran with Dick McLish, a Chickasaw Indian. As a foreman, Webb was a brute. “Jim Webb was an ideal choice as a foreman because he ran the ranch with an iron hand. The cowboys he couldn’t whip with his fists, he fired, and his gun was always ready to argue any point if anyone was foolish enough to stand up to him. This tendency to argue with a gun led to his clash with Bass Reeves,” Art T. Burton wrote in his book ‘Black Gun, Silver Star: The Life and Legend of Frontier Marshal Bass Reeves.’
Webb surfaced on Bass’ radar when he killed a black preacher named Reverend William Steward, who owned a piece of land next to the Washington-McLish ranch, the same year he arrived in the region. When a fire broke out in Steward’s land in the spring of 1883, the same spread into the neighboring ranch. As the foreman, Webb looked into the same, only to start a series of arguments with Steward. The fight between the two ended with Webb killing the preacher.
When a warrant was issued to capture Webb for murder, the job ended on Bass’ lap. Along with a posse man named Floyd Wilson, Bass went to Webb’s ranch, pretending to be a traveling cowboy looking for breakfast. After establishing his cover, Bass waited for the right opportunity and attacked Webb when it was time. However, the lawman didn’t kill Webb right away. Bass arrested Webb intending to take the outlaw to prison in Fort Smith, Arkansas. The outlaw ended up in the federal jail but two of his friends paid $17,000 to get him released after almost a year. When Bass learned about Webb’s release, the lawman decided to hunt the outlaw down.
Bass went to the Chickasaw Nation and located Webb with a posse man named John Cantrell. As the show depicts, a shootout ensued between the lawman and the outlaw while the former was on horseback. Webb’s shots grazed the horn of Bass’ saddle and cut a button from his coat, in addition to cutting off both bridle reins below his hand, as per D. C. Gideon’s book ‘Indian Territory, Descriptive, Biographical and Genealogical.’
The Death of the Outlaw
The shootout between Bass and Webb ended with the lawman killing the outlaw. After getting shot, Webb fell to the ground and called Bass to go near him. “Give me your hand, Bass. You are a brave man. I want you to accept my revolver and scabbard as a present and you must accept them. Take it, for with it I have killed eleven men, four of them in Indian Territory, and I expected you to make the twelfth,” Webb told Bass, as per Gideon’s book. Bass accepted the gift and stored the same away. Although Webb and Bass were on different sides of the law, they acknowledged each other’s bravery.
“The bravest man I ever saw was Jim Webb, a Mexican that I killed in 1884 near Sacred Heart Mission,” Bass told about Webb in an interview given to a newspaper in 1907. “He [Webb] was a murderer, I got in between him and his horse. He stepped out into the open 500 yards away and commenced shooting with his Winchester. […] I shifted my six-shooter and grabbed my Winchester and shot twice. He dropped and when I picked him up I found that my two bullets had struck within a half-inch of each other. He shot four times, and every time he shot he kept running closer to me. He was 500 yards away from me when I killed him,” the deputy marshal added, detailing how he killed the outlaw.