Meet Bass Reeves: Legendary Lawman Who Inspired The Lone Ranger

1883: The Bass Reeves Story
Bass Reeves [Image public domain] – David Oyelowo [Image @davidoyelowo/Instagram]

As Yellowstone fans know so well, Taylor Sheridan has the Midas touch when it comes to great shows, starring famous actors. However, while Yellowstone and its prequels are pure fiction, a new spinoff will tell the tale of a real Western hero on the wild frontier. In fact, 1883: The Bass Reeves Story tells the story of a true hero who inspired The Lone Ranger, Bass Reeves.

1883: The Bass Reeves Story on Paramount+

Taylor Sheridan’s latest spinoff, 1883: The Bass Reeves Story tells the story of a real-life hero, the man who inspired the Lone Ranger. While other series in the Yellowstone universe are strictly fiction, this latest series features David Oyelowo playing Bass Reeves himself. Read on to find out more about Reeves and his history.

Bass Reeves born into slavery

In July 1838, Bass Reeves was born into slavery before the Civil War. In fact, he and his family were owned by William Steel Reeves and his son, Colonel George R. Reeves. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Bass was forced to join the Confederate Army. However, he did eventually escape and went on to live in Indian Territory with the Creeks and the Seminoles.

Like Bass Reeves, David Oyelowo is also a family man [Image @davidoyelowo/Instagram]

After the end of slavery in 1863, Reeves moved to Van Buren, Arkansas. Once there, he worked as a farmer and married Nellie Jennie. Bass and Nellie went on to start a family and eventually had 11 children.

First black deputy US marshal west of the Mississippi

Britannica reveals that in 1875, Reeves was commissioned by Federal Judge Isaac Parker of the Western District of Arkansas to be a deputy US marshal. Due to his extensive knowledge of the area and his fluency in the Seminole and Creek languages, Bass was recruited to work in the Indian Territory. Meanwhile, he was tasked with apprehending wanted fugitives.

1883: The Bass Reeves Story on Paramount+
Reeves (left) with a group of Marshals in 1907 [Image public domain]

Meanwhile, he is reportedly one of the most successful lawmen in the Indian Territory. Over 30 years, Reeves brought around 3,000 fugitives to justice, including some of the most dangerous. One of the most famous stories relates to the marshal tracking outlaw Tom Story for five years until he eventually killed him in a gunfight.

As this period covered 1884 to 1889, it is possible fans could get to see Tom Story in the new Yellowstone spinoff. One major aspect of Reeves’ years as a marshal is that he was never injured, but did have his belt and hat shot off a number of times.

Bass Reeves as a man of the law

Statue dedicated to Bass Reeves in Fort Smith, Arkansas
Statue dedicated to Bass Reeves in Fort Smith, Arkansas [Image Wikimedia Commons]

The US marshal was often lauded for his integrity and was a fair and honest agent of the law. In fact, Reeves at one stage arrested his own son, following a long manhunt to track him down. While as a father, he was shaken by the arrest, he insisted on bringing him to justice.

Meanwhile, his career as a marshal ended in 1907 when the state of Oklahoma took over policing duties in the Indian Territory. However, Bass wasn’t ready to retire and at the age of 69 took a job as a policeman for the city of Muskogee.

After a full life, Bass Reeves died of Bright’s disease (nephritis) at the age of 71. However, this brave lawman left a major mark on history as one of the greatest American lawmen.

While 1883: The Bass Reeves Story is currently filming, it is unknown when the series will premiere on Paramount+

In the meantime, read more about the new Taylor Sheridan series and its cast here and here.

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