January 12, 1910 – Death of Bass Reeves – 1st Black Deputy Marshal West of the Mississippi River

Bass Reeves was born into slavery in the summer of 1838 in Crawford County, Arkansas. Like most slaves, he was given the surname of his owners, the Reeves family. During the Civil War, Reeves fled north to what is now Oklahoma, and lived with the Cherokee, Seminole, and Creek Indians, learning their languages, until he was freed in 1865 by the Thirteenth Amendment which abolished slavery. Reeves and his family farmed until 1875, when a couple of fortuitous appointments changed his fate. Isaac Parker was picked as federal judge for the Indian Territory, and he named James F. Fagan as U.S. marshal, directing him to hire 200 deputy U.S. marshals. Fagan had heard about Reeves, who knew the Indian Territory and could speak several Indian languages. He recruited him as a deputy; Reeves was the first black deputy to serve west of the Mississippi River. Reeves was initially assigned to be a deputy U.S. marshal for the Western District of Arkansas, which had responsibility also for…

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