Midwest Social Sciences Journal


The details of the heretofore unexamined Reeves Gang may serve as an important case study of violence and lawlessness in the Lower Midwest in the decades following the Civil War. Unlike the “social bandits” such as the Jesse James and Dalton Gangs of the Middle Border region, most outlaw gangs made little attempt to get along with locals. These groups ruled by fear and typically fell afoul of vigilante hangings and shootings— a one-act play, if you will. The Reeves Gang, the focus of this study, would come to be atypical, their tale turning into a three-act play, moving from petty crime to more sophisticated criminal activities, and then to an attempted life of normalcy. Though now long forgotten, several instances of the Reeves Gang’s violent activities, as well as their eventual capture, were to be found in newspapers across the nation at the time.