Bass Reeves in The Federal Official Family, Nov. 16, 1907, Muskogee, Oklahoma, Oversize Photograph

The Federal Official Family. Nov. 16, 1907. Oversize albumen photograph, 9.5 x 7.5 in (244 x 194 mm), mounted to 12 x 10 in. Pierson Photo.: Muskogee, 1907. Photographer's imprint in negative alongside title and date. Illegible pencil signature on verso. 

Born into enslavement in Arkansas, Reeves (1838-1910) was moved to Texas by his owner. When the Civil War broke out, his enslaver joined the Confederacy and brought Bass along with him. It is unclear how Reeves escaped, but he almost certainly fled to Indian Territory where he lived as a fugitive among the American Indian populations learning survival skills and languages in the process. After the war, he farmed back in Arkansas until 1875 when he was recruited as a US Deputy. He had likely scouted for the US Marshals during his farming years and became very valuable to the Marshals for his superior tracking, marksmanship, and language skills in addition to his intimate knowledge of the land. He is reported to have brought in over 3,000 outlaws and was never wounded.

This photograph was taken in Muskogee, Oklahoma on the day of Oklahoma statehood and commemorating the last day of the "first federal family" of the Western District, as the newspapers referred to the U.S. Marshals in the region. Reeves is pictured at the far left wearing a large hat and Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Bud Ledbetter the second from right in the first row. With statehood, most of the duties formerly performed by the marshal service were assigned to the new counties and municipalities across the state. The Western Age newspaper of the African American town of Langston, Oklahoma reported on January 10, 1908, that Reeves had found employment as a policeman in Muskogee, despite his advanced age (he was now 70), and "a bullet in his leg, received while in the government service, gives him considerable trouble. He is as quick of trigger, however, as in the days when gun men were in demand." Another copy of this image is housed in the Oklahoma Historical Society and another sold from the Robert G. McCubbin Collection. 


Very light chips to mount corners. 

Estimate: $3,000 - $4,000
Price Realized Including Buyer's Premium

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