In the spring of 1884, while in the Chickasaw Nation near the Canadian River, U. S. Marshal, Bass Reeves shot and killed his posse cook, William Leech. Conflicting theories of the day debated whether the unfortunate outcome of Reeves and Leach’s encounter was an argument over a disagreement about a dog or if the misfiring of a gun due to a jammed round may have caused Leach’s death. On October 12, 1887, U.S. Marshal Bass Reeves, was tried for murder in the death of William Leach. There was much debate about what actually occurred in the spring of 1884 on the banks of the Canadian River. Did Bass Reeves intend on shooting William Leach over the disagreement about the dog? Was it possible Reeves was aiming at the dog? Was the jammed round an excuse to cover up an intentional act or was it truly an accident? Was U.S. Marshall Bass Reeves innocent or guilty of murder? Accounts state that after the bullet struck Leach, Reeves attempted to provide help to save Leach’s life; however, William Leach does not survive. In 1886, two years after shooting his cook, Reeves was indicted for first-degree murder.
On Saturday, June 25, the Fort Smith Museum of History presents a Roundtable Discussion at 11:00 am and the “Trial of Bass Reeves” at 6:00 pm.
The Roundtable Discussion, beginning at 11:00 am, will explore the life and legacy of Bass Reeves. Discussions will cover who Reeves was as a man, the U.S. Deputy Marshal he became, the laws he swore to uphold, the circumstances he endured as a defendant in a murder case, how this case changed his future, and the legacy of his life. Guest speakers for the Roundtable are; Oscar and Shiron Ray, founding members of the BASS REEVES LEGACY TROUPE/BASS REEVES POSSE, founded in 2011 in coordination with the 3 Rivers Museum and Muskogee Main Street in Muskogee, OK; Tom Wing, Assistant Professor of History, and Director, Drennen-Scott Historic Site, University of Arkansas-Fort Smith; and David Kennedy, Curator of Collections and Exhibits at the United States Marshals Museum in Fort Smith, Arkansas.
Join us for this in-depth discussion of the history of Bass Reeves.
The “Trial of Bass Reeves”, slated for a 6:00 pm start, is a reenactment of witness testimony given in the 1887 trial. Earlier debated theories became the arguments brought before the Court. What was the final verdict? You, dear audience member, will make that decision as you listen to testimony from the witness’ Mary Grayson, Tobe Hill, Jim Grayson, John Brady and Bass Reeves himself from the original court transcripts. Shiron and Oscar Ray will fulfill special roles during the trial. Audience members will be selected to sit on the jury and decide the outcome. Perhaps it’s the same verdict issued in 1887, perhaps not. The evidence will tell.
Join us for the reenactment of witness testimony in the “Trial of Bass Reeves”.
Tickets: $25.00 per event or $45.00 for both events