Wednesday, 19 March 2014

PRINT THE LEGEND - The Man Who Inspired the Lone Ranger

Was Bass Reeves the basis for the fictional character, The Lone Ranger, based on a white man, Texas Ranger John Reynolds Hughes, or a black man, Deputy US Marshall Bass Reeves?


Initially a radio series, then later appearing in movies, TV series and comics, the Lone Ranger was a popular western hero:

  • Texas Rangers:  John Reid was one before becoming The Lone Ranger. 
  • Ambush:  He was part of a party left for dead when the other five (including the group leader, his brother Captain Dan Reid) were killed in an ambush leaving him as the lone Ranger surviving.
  • Native American skills:  When Reid was saved by Tonto who he had saved when his village was destroyed before he became a Ranger.  Tonto's skills came in handy for tracking and survival.
  • Lone:  As noted, he wasn't really alone, with Tonto being introduced in the radio show's eleventh episode, and his orphaned nephew Dan Reid Jr being added later.  Reid never married.
  • Revenge:  In the radio series, Reid was able to confront the dying leader of the gang that killed his brother and revealed his identity to him.  In the television series, the gang was never caught.
  • Disguises:  Besides the mask, the character was using disguises (mainly an old prospector).
  • Horse: Reid's second and most famous horse was a white horse (called Silver and shod with silver horseshoes).
  • Silver:  Besides the horse's name and shoes, Reid used silver bullets, which he would also leave as a calling card, representing justice (the silver was obtained from a silver mine that the Reids owned).


Native American skills
At 14, John Hughes left home to become a cowboy, eventually living amongst the Choctaw, Osage and Comanche and learning their customs.

Texas Ranger
Hughes became a farmer, and tracked down and killed a man who stole his neighbours horses.  Texas Ranger Ira Aten heard of this and when a man he was tracking picked up a partner, Ira enlisted Hughes to even the odds.  After they killed the outlaws, Hughes signed on to become a Texas Ranger.

Hughes initially worked alone, chasing outlaws across the border with New Mexico.  He was also assigned to, and eventually lead, groups of Rangers.

In 1890, Hughes was one of four Rangers stationed with a detachment of Company D of the Frontier Battalion to guard a silver mine.

In 1896, Texas Ranger Captain Frank Jones and five others were caught in an ambush while on their way to arrest members of the Olguin clan.  Although one of the five came to Jones's assistance, he told them to save themselves before being killed.  Soon after the survivors of the incident realised that they were no longer in Texas and had strayed into Mexico.  Mexican authorities arrested the Olguins, but they were never prosecuted.

Hughes volunteered to lead a group to capture the eighteen criminals - who, although the shooting occurred outside the US, were wanted for other crimes - leading to the shooting of some and hanging of other suspects.

Hughes gained quite a reputation, leading to several books being written about him, including the fictionalised The Lone Star Ranger (dedicated to Hughes who the author, Zane Grey, spent time with) a popular novel released 18 years prior to the radio series.


Slave-turned-lawman Bass Reeves was a Deputy US Marshall.  There should be a big Bass Reeves film.

Native American skills
Fleeing from his owner during the Civil War Reeves learnt to track and uses guns while hiding in Indian Territory with  Cherokee, Seminole, and Creek Indians.

Although he sometimes worked with a posse (and once shot the posse's cook), he most often worked alone.  Reeves was married twice and had ten children with his first wife.

He was known to wear disguises, including dressing as a tramp to convince a mother to introduce him to her outlaw sons and as a farmer with a stuck cart to trick a group of six outlaws to come out of their house.

A White Horse
Court documents say he rode "Large Grey" (which could mean a dark grey or white horse.)

He also, on at least one occasion, overpaid for a nights stay with a family with by paying them with a silver dollar, stating that he would be reimbursed.

Art Burton, Reeves' biographer says that Reeves would probably have been famous in Detroit prisons two years before the show first aired.
~ DUG.

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