My ancestry research has produced colorful and scandalous ancestors but none were famous. Last week changed that. I found that my first cousin three times removed was notorious outlaw, Nathaniel “Texas Jack” Reed.

Nathaniel "Texas Jack" ReedTruthfully, that didn’t mean anything to me as I’d never heard the name. Apparently, he was a 19th-century American outlaw. He robbed trains, stagecoaches and banks mostly in the Indian Territory and Rocky Mountains. The more I researched, the more impressed I became – in an odd sort of way. I don’t condone his actions but he had guts.

Before I get to his actual exploits, let’s trace how little ol’ me is related to the man. My 2x great-grandfather was Hugh H Prater. His sister, Sarah Elizabeth, married Mason Reed and had two children. William Elijah and Nathaniel. Mason was killed in action during the Civil War. Sarah remarried around 1865 and moved to Missouri with her children. I have census records that prove she was Elijah and Jemima’s daughter, that she was married to Reed and Cochran. The 1870 Census shows William and Elijah with the surname of Cochran but birth dates and places lead me to believe they were indeed Reeds.

Reed claimed to have ridden with the Dalton Gang and other outlaws but no evidence has been found to corroborate. He did however make a living as an outlaw for nearly ten years. His last job, a train holdup at Blackstone Switch left him wounded and ready to give up his life of crime. He struck a deal with Judge Parker and spent very little time behind bars.

It’s said he became an evangelist and preached against a life of crime as well as traveled the country in Wild West Shows. He also wrote a small book entitled “The Life of Texas Jack, Eight Years a Criminal – 41 Years Trusting in God.”

I don’t know how much is truth or fiction but the following three links give some interesting highlights of Nathaniel Reed’s life:

The Spell of the West: Texas Jack
Legends of America: Nathaniel Reed “Texas Jack” (1862-1950)
Wikipedia: Nathaniel Reed