Conference celebrates frontier lawman

Submitted photoOscar Ray, Kelvin Brown, Jonita Mullins and Russell Bell greet guests for the Fort Gibson Tour last year.

MUSKOGEE – The public is invited to a two-day event honoring one of the greatest lawmen to serve on the American frontier – U.S. Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves. The Bass Reeves Western History Conference will be held in Muskogee on July 26 and 27, 2019.

Three Rivers Museum and the Muskogee Civic Center will be host locations for the event. Conference tickets may be purchased at the website or at Three Rivers Museum. Tickets for seats on the bus tours are limited and available on a first paid basis. Registration for the event will begin at 9:00 a.m. on Friday, July 26 at the museum.

The Tenth Anniversary Conference will include two interactive tours and keynote speaker Art Burton, a renowned Reeves biographer. The event also includes great western chow, a mustache contest, a western movie about Bass Reeves, shootouts and robberies, and some of the friendliest hospitality found anywhere.

On Friday the Western History Conference will include a guided bus tour with local author Jonita Mullins to historic sites in Fort Gibson and an evening reception at Three Rivers Museum. At the reception, guests will be treated to a presentation by “The Marshals” a group of re-enactors from Pryor Creek, Oklahoma. This will be followed with a showing of the film “Black Marshal” by Oklahoma filmmaker Marlon Ladd. The movie was shot in Oklahoma.

Saturday’s events include an interactive bus tour with costumed interpreters sharing the remarkable life of Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves along his police beat in Muskogee. This will be followed by a Shootout at the Okay Corral and a barbecue lunch at the Muskogee Civic Center. The luncheon speaker will be Art Burton of Chicago, the foremost expert on Reeves and his career as an Indian Territory lawman.

Bass Reeves was the longest-serving U.S. Deputy Marshal on the frontier. His career in law enforcement spanned 32 years at a dangerous time when the average marshal served less than five years. He also served as a Muskogee police officer. Reeves was among the first African Americans to serve as a marshal west of the Mississippi. His devotion to duty was legendary, leading him even to arrest his own son.

This event, now in its tenth year, began as a simple walking tour through downtown Muskogee and has grown to a two-day conference that draws attendees from across the country. Seats for the bus tours are limited and available on a first paid basis. Tickets can be purchased at