Museum Dedicated To Bass Reeves Could Be Coming To Muskogee

Thursday, February 13th 2020, 12:49 pm
By: Erick Payne

U.S. Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves is one of the most legendary lawmen ever, and he might soon have his own museum in Green Country.

City leaders in Muskogee are trying to create a spot to highlight the first African-American U.S. deputy marshal west of the Mississippi.

Reeves arrested more than 3,000 felons in his day and Muskogee leaders say it's past time for people to truly appreciate Reeves' life and his career in the Indian Territory.

Bass Reeves was known for doing whatever it took to track down outlaws and they were terrified of his reputation of being fast with a gun and fearless.

Even though Bass Reeves was born as a slave, he escaped to the Indian Territory in the 1860s where he was later commissioned by a federal judge to be a deputy U.S. Marshal in charge of 75,000 square miles, in mostly what's now Oklahoma and Arkansas.

He killed 14 outlaws and arrested more than three thousand wanted criminals, including his own son, who was wanted for murder and his own preacher for selling whiskey.

When he retired in 1907, he became a Muskogee police officer.

"He is a Muskogee icon," Muskogee City Councilor Marlon Coleman said. "As an African-American, being a marshal at the time he was a marshal, that's ironic in itself."

Coleman is spearheading an effort to build a 'Bass Reeves African-American History Museum.' Reeves has his own national museum in Arkansas and has been the inspiration for comics, films, and shows, including the tv series, The Lone Ranger.

"I think that he deserves the recognition that he should get in the area that he actually managed," Coleman said.

City leaders say this recognition for reeves, is long overdue.

"The fact that the light is finally being shone on him the way that it should have been years and years ago is really great," Muskogee Tourism Director Justin O'Neal said.

City leaders are still in early talks and are working to decide what a Bass Reeves museum would look like. O'Neal says the city, and region could benefit from helping people learn about the legendary lawman.

"We're sitting on a gold mine of tourism possibilities," O'Neal said.