What Is the True Story Behind 1883: The Bass Reeves Story? Real-Life Events Explained 

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1883: The Bass Reeves Story is the newest addition to the ever-expanding Yellowstone universe, created by Taylor Sheridan. Unlike other Yellowstone-related shows, however, 1883: The Bass Reeves Story will have a ton of real-life characters and events depicted in the series. So, what is the true story behind 1883: The Bass Reeves Story?

Bass Reeves was a real-life Deputy U.S. Marshal, serving in the late 1800s and early 1900s across the Oklahoma and Arkansas territory. He was the first Black Deputy U.S. Marshal in history west of Mississippi and is considered to be one of (if not) the greatest frontier heroes in American history.

Now, it’s had to gauge just how much of the show will be historically accurate and how much will be fictionalized for dramatic purposes, but the entire show will be based on Bass Reeves’ life and real events that transpired while he was in service. We’ll know more once the plot of the show is revealed, but for now, let’s explain the real-life events behind the titular character.

Is 1883: The Bass Reeves Story based on a true story?

1883: The Bass Reeves Story is based on real-life events and a true story of Bass Reeves, America’s greatest frontier hero of the 19th century who captured over 3000 felons and dangerous fugitives without ever getting shot or wounded.

The series is bound to be dramatized a bit, but the casting agency behind the show, Legacy Casting, already announced on Facebook that they are casting extras to portray Union and Confederate soldiers in the show.

That means the show will depict the American Civil War and real-life events that Bass Reeves was a part of. Let’s hear more about the titular character himself and his hard but illustrious life that made him such a renowned historical figure and hero.


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Who was Bass Reeves?

Bass Reeves was born into slavery in 1838 in Crawford County, Arkansas, and named after his grandfather, Bass Washington. His family was enslaved by the Arkansas state legislator, William Steele Reeves. At age 8, Bass was sent to Texas to serve George R. Reeves, William Reeves’ son.

When the American Civil War began, Bass was forced to join the Confederate Army with George R. Reeves, and at some point, he escaped to the Indian Territory. There, Bass was accepted and lived among the Native American tribes, learning several Native American languages and their way of life, including their skills.

When the Thirteenth Amendment was made in 1865 that abolished slavery, Bass Reeves became a free man. He started a family and became a farmer before he was hired by James F. Fagan as a Deputy U.S. Marshal in the Western District of Arkansas. Bass was hired for his knowledge of Native languages and overall knowledge of the Territory.

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Bass Reeves (far left) along with other Deputy U.S. Marshals in 1907 (Source)

He was the first African American Deputy U.S. Marshal in history west of the Mississippi River and served for over 30 years. During that time, Bass became a prolific marksman, cowboy, and detective, directly responsible for capturing over 3000 dangerous fugitives, felons, and criminals. He even brought his own son Bennie to justice after he murdered his wife.

Despite having to shoot and kill 14 felons in self-defense and having his hat shot off his head several times, Bass Reeves was never wounded or shot on the job. He is believed to be the inspiration for the character of the Lone Ranger and is considered to be the greatest frontier hero in American history due to his dedication and prolific work resume.

Bass died in January 1910, aged 71, after falling ill with nephritis, aka Bright’s disease.

How much of 1883: The Bass Reeves Story will be historically accurate?

It’s hard to say how much of 1883: The Bass Reeves Story will be historically accurate since the plot hasn’t been revealed yet. In fact, filming only started on January 17, 2023, as announced by David Oyelowo on Instagram (the actor who’ll portray the titular character, Bass Reeves).

That being said, it seems that there are already some apparent discrepancies between the show and real-life events. Most of the show will be shot in Texas, including Fort Worth, Waxahachie, Weatherford,  and Glen Rose.

While Bass Reeves was situated in Texas for a while, most of his career took place in the Oklahoma and Arkansas territory, covering around 75000 square miles, which Reeves patrolled for over thirty years. The area is adjacent to Texas, but there’s no word about potential filming in those exact locations.


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It’s not really that important since the filming locations will certainly be staged to look absolutely spot-on with historical accuracy, but it would be fun to know that the action in the show is taking place at the very same spots that Bass Reeves once actually patrolled.

Perhaps some of the show will take place in Texas – especially the parts about the Civil War. Who knows? Maybe that’s where the story will tie into the 1883 series storyline, as the Duttons did start their journey in Texas, and some of the show was also shot in Fort Worth.

All remains to be seen, as we will get all the answers when the show premieres by the end of this year, exclusively on Paramount Plus.

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