‘Yellowstone’ Universe: Where Is Bass Reeves Buried & What Happened to Him?

David Oyelowo as Bass Reeves in Lawmen VS Real Life Bass Reeves
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The Wild West doesn’t get wilder than Paramount’s Lawmen: Bass Reeves and many Yellowstone Universe fans want the new show to connect with the franchise. The show is a welcome consolatory replacement for the Yellowstone prequel, 1883, which was canceled after one season. However, unlike Yellowstone’s Duttons, who are fictional, Lawmen’s Bass Reeves (David Oyelowo) was a real-life US Marshals’ Deputy in the 1800s, and fans would love to know what happened to him.

US Marshals’ Deputy Bass Reeves was born on July 16, 1838, to a black family enslaved by the then Arkansas state legislator William Steele Reeves. He earned his freedom during the Civil War and became the first black deputy US Marshal West of the Mississippi. He died on January 12, 1910, of Bright’s Disease after a legendary 32-year career as a lawman and is believed to be buried in the Old Agency Cemetery in Muskogee, Oklahoma.

While Taylor Sheridan’s show focuses on Bass Reeves’ life after he became a deputy US marshal, the real legend started way before Bass gained his freedom from slavery. From fighting for both sides in the Civil War (as a slave for the Confederates and a free man for the Union) to punching his former master in the face before running for his life, the man’s real life was a real spectacle, so let’s delve into whether Bass Reeves was “a lawman or an outlaw” in real life.

What happened to Bass Reeves in real life?

As one of the earliest black men in law enforcement, Bass Reeves’ life was full of ups and downs, but his career as a deputy US marshal was spectacular. He is believed to have made over 3,000 arrests in his career and killed 14 criminals in shootouts without ever getting significantly injured. However, most of this happened in his later years after he became a deputy marshal in his late thirties.

Before becoming a Lawman, Bass went through the inhumane treatment of every enslaved African American before the 13th Amendment. The Reeves family moved to Grayson, Texas, in the 1860s, where Bass, still a slave, was forced to work as a stable hand and a blacksmith’s apprentice.

He was later forced to fight for the Confederate army in the Civil War alongside his master’s son, Colonel George Reeves, whom he now served as a manservant. However, Bass fell out with his master (apparently after a dispute over a card game) and punched him in the face, after which he was forced to escape into Indian territory as a fugitive to avoid being lynched.

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Bass is believed to have joined a Unit of former African-American slaves fighting for the Union before the Emancipation in 1863. After becoming a free man, he married his first wife, Nellie Jennie, and settled as farmers in West Arkansas, where they had ten children.

Bass’s journey to becoming a Lawman started in 1875 when the infamous ‘Hanging Judge,’ Isaac Parker, became the federal judge of West Arkansas. Parker gave US Marshal James F. Fagan the commission to appoint 200 deputies for the district. Bass, having learned most of the local Indian languages and being one of the best gunslingers, made the perfect candidate.

Bass ended up becoming one of the greatest deputies in US Marshals history. He upheld the law so strictly that he arrested his own son after he was accused of murder. Reeve’s long career only ended 32 years later after he fell sick while serving as a police officer in the then-newly established Muskogee Police Department.

How is ‘Lawmen: Bass Reeves’ connected to Yellowstone?

Lawmen 1883 and Yellowstone connection

Despite living in the same era covered by Yellowstone’s prequel series 1883, Lawmen: Bass Reeves is not connected to Yellowstone in any way. The show, which is also written and directed by Taylor Sheridan is totally independent of the Yellowstone prequel, strictly focusing on the life of the real-life deputy marshal, so Bass Reeves won’t be meeting James Dutton and his family.

However, the setting of both shows is similar, as Bass Reeves’ career as a deputy marshal picks off in 1875, the same time James Dutton travels across the Wild West in 1883. Some of Bass Reeves’ greatest achievements as a lawman also come against the most ruthless outlaws of the time, so, like James Dutton, he spends most of his time fighting the bandits.

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Some of Bass Reeves’ greatest battles, which play a big role in the TV show, include his killing of the three infamous outlaw brothers known as the Brunters. The Bunters apparently cornered the lone marshal, who, despite being outnumbered, sarcastically asked them for the date before beating them to the draw and shooting all of them in a flash.

Bass also befriended the Native American law enforcement, just like James Dutton, and even learned to speak their languages. His knowledge of Indian country made him an invaluable asset to the marshals in hunting down criminals who often sought refuge in the vast lawless region.

Was Bass Reeves the Lone Ranger?

There are many conflicting accounts regarding the original inspiration behind the Lone Ranger. However, credible sources, including a Fox docuseries, insist that Bass Reeves , who was also called the Lone Marshal, was the inspiration behind the famous masked lawman of the Old West.

The Lone Ranger has been modified by TV and legend over the years to personify the ideal law enforcement officer of the lawless Wild West. However, Bass Reeves’ career still agrees with most of the details of the legendary lawman.

There weren’t many marshals of color then, so most criminals never realized that he was a lawman until after he showed them the badge, which worked in Bass’ favor. Apart from being super quick at drawing his gun, Bass was also cunning. He used different disguises to hide his real identity, although there is no proof that he wore a mask as the Lone Ranger is portrayed.

Bass also knew Indian territory better than most lawmen, having lived there as an outlaw after running away from his slave master. His partnership with an unnamed Indian Mounted Lawman made him the most dreaded Marshal in the Old West, personified as the outlaw’s worst nightmare, just like the Lone Ranger.

Who are the descendants of Bass Reeves?

Jordan Reaves in the CFL: Great Great Grandson of Bass Reeves

Paul L. Brady, the first black man named as a Federal Administrative Law Judge in the US in 1972, was the great-nephew of Bass Reeves. Bass had a total of 11 children, ten from his first marriage to Nellie Jennie, who died in 1896, and one from his second marriage to Winnie Sumter.

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Most of his children weren’t that famous, so their details have been lost throughout history. His son Bennie (Benjamin), who was sentenced to life in prison for murder and later had his sentence commuted for good behavior, is the most spoken of because his own father arrested him. Bennie is said to have lived as a model citizen for the rest of his life.

One of Bass’ sons changed the family name to Reaves, and some of the descendants of his family include the Canadian Ice Hockey player Ryan Reaves and his brother Jordan Reaves, who plays in the Canadian Football League. Little is known of the rest of Bass Reeves’ descendants.

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