According to the logline for Taylor Sheridan’s upcoming Paramount+ western opus, 1883: The Bass Reeves Storywith David Oyelowo as the gunslinger will be a “epic limited seriesabout the “greatest frontier hero in American history.” Author and historian Art Burton told Steve Lackmeyer of Oklahoma that Bass Reeves was probably the greatest gunslinger in the Old West. He added that relatives of the U.S. Marshal’s first black deputy say that when he was little he carried water through the cotton fields of Texas and sang songs about knives, guns and shooters. . The family feared he would become an outlaw because he sang about them so much.
While Western movies and TV shows have long featured stories centered around real-life lawmen like Doc Holiday, Wild Bill Hickok and Wyatt Earp, Reeves never received such fanfare even though Delroy Lindo played Reeves in the western netflix 2021. The more they fall. All of that is about to change.
Despite the debates, there are some remarkable similarities between Bass Reeves and the Lone Ranger.
Bass Reeves was born a slave in 1838 in Crawford County, Arkansas, but grew up in Texas, much like the fictional Lone Ranger character. After escaping and traveling west, Reeves settled in the Indian Territory now known as Oklahoma, living among the tribes and learning their languages. He returned to Arkansas with his family as a freedman and became a farmer after gaining his Thirteenth Amendment freedom in 1865. Reeves did not wear a mask but was known to be a master of disguise. For example, when Reeves discovered two criminals he was pursuing hiding in a cabin, he shot bullet holes through his hat in an effort to disguise himself.
The Lone Ranger distributed silver bullets. Reeves gave silver dollars as a business card. Both men rode light-colored horses and had Native American companions. Tonto was the Lone Ranger’s companion and sidekick. Grant Johnson was a freed Deputy U.S. Marshal from Chickasaw who worked alongside Reeves. See the video below for a bit more history on Bass Reeves.
Although Art Burton theorized Reeves to be the closest resemblance to the Lone Ranger character, another historian named Martin Grams debunked the theory. That didn’t stop others from believing that Reeves was the inspiration for the famous masked man. David Oleyowo gave his opinion in a Paramount+ video:
“He’s the guy the Lone Ranger was based on, who was cleared of history, and I just can’t wait to get on that horse and tell his story.”
Nonetheless, by the end of his 32-year career in 1907, Bass Reeves had a record of over 3,000 criminal arrests, including that of his own son, Benjamin Reeves for the murder of his wife. Benjamin Reeves served 11 years before a sentence reduction at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
A release date for 1883: The Lower Reeves The story has yet to be announced.