Is Bass Reeves buried in an abandoned Muskogee County cemetery?

Published: 04/18/2022, 7:32 PM
Edited: 04/18/2022, 7:33 PM
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(MUSKOGEE, Okla.) Whether Bass Reeves really inspired “The Lone Ranger” television series or not, he’s still one of the biggest heroes of the South. 

After escaping from slavery during the Civil War, Reeves found a safe haven in Indian Country for a decade. Researchers believe Reeves even fought in the war with the Union Indian brigades. 

After the slaves were freed, he moved to Fort Smith, Arkansas, got married, and started a family. 

Reeves left the quiet life behind to become the first Black U.S. marshal west of the Mississippi, per Judge Isaac C. Parker’s request. He's believed to have arrested more than 3,000 lawbreakers in Indian Country during his law enforcement career, a feat he managed without ever being shot. 

Reeves became a Muskogee Police Officer following Oklahoma statehood in 1907. He died in Muskogee in 1910. 

But where he is buried remains a mystery to this day. 

STORY CODE: BASSREEVES

Despite the official location remaining unknown, rumors and online sources attest he is buried at Union Agency Cemetery, also known as Old Agency Cemetery and Agency Cemetery. 

The historical cemetery has long-since been abandoned and is covered with overgrowth and brush, despite the fact that it is said to hold as many as 1000 graves

We reached out to the land records supervisor for Muskogee County. She told us the land is privately owned. 

In Oklahoma, private landowners are not required to conduct maintenance work on cemeteries on their property. In fact, cemeteries in Oklahoma are not regulated much at all

But Oklahoma state law does permit access to abandoned cemeteries that are on private land. 

Oklahoma State Statute Title 8, Section 187 “Declares that any person who wishes to visit an abandoned cemetery which is completely surrounded by privately owned land, for which no public access is available, shall have the right to reasonable access for the purpose of visiting the grave of a deceased relative.”

Historians told us the cemetery is a Muscogee (Creek) Freedmen cemetery, full of former slaves of the Muscogee Nation and their relatives. 

With a decades-long connection to Indian Country, this historic cemetery is clearly a likely contender for Reeves’ final resting place.

Click here for more photos of Union Agency Cemetery.

While historians work to bring awareness to the old cemetery, entertainment companies work to share Reeves' legendary life with the masses. 

He was portrayed by British actor Delroy Lindo in Netflix’s "The Harder They Fall" last year, and a new film about him is currently under development in the Fort Smith area. A new limited series called "Bass Reeves" is also in the works from Paramount+ and "Yellowstone" creator Taylor Sheridan.

And, as reverence for Reeves grows nationwide, so grows the possibility the mystery of his final resting place might finally be solved.

Comments

Ann Marie Worthley
04/18/2022, 7:52 PM

Great Story

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