Man with a Badge

Bass Reeves might be the most famous—and mistakenly identified—black lawman in the West.

Ned Huddleston aka Isom Dart (1849-1900) cowboyed in Texas and the Indian Territory before venturing north to the Montana and Wyoming Territories. He stole horses in Mexico and sold them in Texas. Later he moved to Colorado and changed his name to Isom Dart and became a rancher in Brown’s Hole. Soon thereafter, Dart became a member of the Tip Gault gang of rustlers in Wyoming and was killed by range detective Tom Horn in 1900. – True West Archives –

In recent years there has been an influx of images supposedly of Bass Reeves. Most have not been validated and it would be extremely hard to do so in some circumstances. Recently at Cowan’s Auctions Inc., a non-validated cabinet card supposedly of Bass Reeves sold for $12,500. The image came from eastern Kansas, but I personally do not believe it is Bass Reeves. I did locate an image of Bass Reeves standing in the doorway of a railroad car in a photo at a museum in Fort Worth, Texas. Another image shows Bass Reeves with a hunting party, but it also has not been authenticated.

This image purported to be of Bass Reeves was found in Kansas, and it sold for $12,500 at an auction. After studying the image, I am positive it is not Reeves. The lawman who looks to be African American is too light in complexion and too small in build and height. A close study of the facial features shows it is clearly not Reeves, but it is a nice image of a lawman of color during the 19th century.
– True West Archives –
Editor’s Note: True West published this photo in the June 2020 “Collecting the West” column, and reported that this photo, listed as Bass Reeves, lawman, was sold as part of Steve Turner’s African Americana collection by Cowan’s Auctions. Soon thereafter TW was challenged by numerous sources on the authenticity of the photo.
Some have identified the young man and woman as Bass and Jennie Reeves, but there is no information on where the image came from or its date. It might be Bass Reeves, but I am not totally convinced at this time. I would need more information before making a definitive statement on his or her identity.
– Courtesy Art T. Burton –
A young Bass Reeves is most likely seen in the upper left with a large hunting party. Date and location of the photo are unknown. After studying the image, I believe it is Reeves. The men could have been other lawmen he worked with in Arkansas and the Indian Territory.
– Courtesy Art T. Burton –

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