February 8, 1884 | Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves


The Fort Smith (AR) Elevator reported an impressive feat by legendary lawman Bass Reeves:

Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves came in on Friday last with 12 prisoners: John Black (white) charged with murder; Joseph Sadler (white), assault with intent to kill; Wm. Hulsey, (Indian) larceny; J.B. Tumbull (white), Thomson Mitchee, Sybom, Sonny Harjo, alias Peters, Fleachy, Artisonubby, Parcheny, Geo. Bearhead, one Jessy (Indians) introducing whiskey in the Territory.*

Twelve is a lot of prisoners, but not a record for Reeves—once he brought in 17 prisoners on a single day. At 6’2” and 180 pounds, Reeves was known as the toughest deputy U.S. marshal in the Western District of Arkansas. The district covered 75,000 square miles including Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma). Reeves routinely traveled hundreds of miles on horseback, usually accompanied by a single guard who acted as cook and drove the prison wagon. In that vast territory, making multiple arrests on one trip was cost efficient, but few dared to travel over hundreds of miles of rough terrain with that many prisoners. Reeves estimated that he arrested 3,000 men and women during his 32 years in the U.S. Marshals Service (1875-1907).


*From Paul L. Brady’s The Black Badge: Deputy United States Marshal Bass Reeves from Slave to Heroic Lawmen.