Nathaniel Reed was born in Madison County, Arkansas to Mason Henry and Sarah Elizabeth Prater Reed on March 23, 1862. The next year, his father was killed in the Civil War. He then lived with a number of relatives, including his maternal grandparents. At the age of 21, he moved westward where he worked at various jobs in Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and Texas until he reached Oklahoma, where he became a ranch hand for the Tarry outfit.
During the summer of 1885, the ranch foreman recruited him to help rob a train at La Junta, Colorado. After the successful robbery, Reed received $6,000 for his part in the hold-up. Encouraged, he then turned to a full-time life as an outlaw. During the next nine years, he, along with others, robbed trains, stagecoaches, banks, and, on one occasion, captured a large shipment of bullion in California.
By 1894, he was living near Muskogee, Oklahoma, and claimed to have pulled off four train robberies, seven bank jobs, and three stagecoach holdups. That year, he recruited several other outlaws to help him rob a train carrying a gold shipment headed north from Dallas, Texas on November 13, 1894. The thieves intended to rob the train near Wybark, about eight miles north of Muskogee. However, the railroad, anticipating the possibility of a robbery, moved the gold to another train and placed several armed messengers to guard the express car. When Reed and the others approached the express car, a gunfight broke out that lasted for nearly an hour. One of the outlaws was killed and as Reed rode away, he was shot by U.S. Deputy Marshal Bud Ledbetter.
Wounded, Reed was still able to escape, but the following year, turned himself into Judge Isaac Parker at Fort Smith, Arkansas. Making a deal to provide information on more notorious outlaws, Reed received just a five-year sentence. However, after just one year, he was released. Much like more famous outlaws, such as Cole Younger and Frank James, he began exhibiting himself with carnival companies and Wild West Shows as “Texas Jack, the famous bandit and train robber.” He also wrote a small book entitled “The Life of Texas Jack, Eight Years a Criminal – 41 Years Trusting in God.” Though he desperately wanted to interest motion picture producers in his life story, they never responded, probably because he had turned himself in, rather than being captured with “guns blazing.”
He died in Tulsa, Oklahoma on January 7, 1950, at age 88.