Bass Reeves is dead. He passed away yesterday afternoon about three o'clock and in a short time news of his death had reached the federal court house where the announcement was received in the various offices with comments of regret and where it recalled to the officers and clerks many incidents in the early days of the United States court here in which the old negro deputy featured heroically.
Bass Reeves had completed thirty-two years service as deputy marshal when, with the coming of statehood at the age of sixty-nine he gave up his position. For about two years then he served on the Muskogee police force, which position he gave up about a year ago on account of sickness, from which he never fully recovered. Bright's disease and a complication of ailments together with old age, were the cause of his death.
The deceased is survived by his wife and several children, only one of whom, a daughter, Mrs. Alice Spahn, lives in Muskogee. His mother, who is eighty-seven years old, lives at Van Buren, Arkansas, where a sister of his also is living.
The funeral will be held at noon Friday from the Reeves' home at 816 North Howard Street. Arrangements for the funeral had not been completed last evening.
In the history of the early days of Eastern Oklahoma the name of Bass Reeves has a place in the front rank among those who cleansed out the old Indian Territory of outlaws and desperadoes. No story of the conflict of government's officers with those outlaws which ended only a few years ago with the rapid filling up of the territory with people, can be complete without mention of the negro who died yesterday.
For thirty-two years, beginning way back in the seventies and ending in 1907, Bass Reeves was a deputy United States marshal. During that time he was sent to arrest some of the most desperate characters that ever infested Indian Territory and endangered life and peace in its borders. And he got his man as often as any of the deputies. At times he was unable to get them alive and so in the course of his long service he killed fourteen men. But Bass Reeves always said that he never shot a man when it was not necessary for him to do so in the discharge of his duty to save his own life. He was tried for murder on one occasion but was acquitted upon proving that he had killed the man in the discharge of his duty and was forced to do it.
Reeves was an Arkansan and in his early days was a slave. He entered the federal as a deputy marshal long before a court was established in Indian Territory and served under the marshal at Fort Smith. Then when people started to come into Indian Territory and a marshal was appointed with headquarters in Muskogee, he was sent over here.
Reeves served under seven United States marshals and all of them were more than satisfied with his services. Everybody who came in contact with the negro deputy in an official capacity had a great deal of respect for him, and at the court house in Muskogee one can hear stories of his devotion to duty, his unflinching courage and his many thrilling experiences, and although he could not write or read he always took receipts and had his accounts in good shape.
Undoubtedly the act which best typifies the man and which at least shows his devotion to duty, was the arrest of his son. A warrant for the arrest of the younger Reeves, who was charged with murder of his wife, had been issued. Marshal Bennett said that perhaps another deputy had better be sent to arrest him. The old negro was in the room at the time, and with a devotion of duty equaling that of the old Roman, Brutus, whose greatest claim on fame has been that the love for his son could not sway him from justice, he said, "Give me the writ," and went out and arrested his son, brought him into court and upon trial and conviction he was sentenced to imprisonment and is still serving the sentence.
Reeves had many narrow escapes. At different times his belt was shot in two, a button shot off his coat, his hat brim shot off and the bridle reins which he held in his hands cut by a bullet. However, in spite of all these narrow escapes and many conflicts in which he was engaged, Reeves was never wounded. And this not withstanding the fact that he said he never fired a shot until the desperado he was trying to arrest had started the shooting.
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