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The Reeds Revisited

I have much-needed work to do on my direct paternal line, the Reeds. I keep putting it off as I spend time on other lineage lines where I have even less information than I have for the Reeds. Still, I would love to know where the Reeds originated before they came to America in colonial times.

This week a very distant Reed relative’s message appeared in my inbox. She wants to do more research on our mutual, deeper ancestry. I am thrilled.

Caleb Reed (1756-abt. 1835) was our most recent common ancestor. This cousin wants to carry the study back in time from him.

Caleb came from Morris County, New Jersey and settled in what is now Fayette County, Pennsylvania around the time of the Revolutionary War. His brother Joshua served in the war, and I have his RW pension file.

Sometime after the war, Caleb relocated his family to Shelby County, Kentucky. His grown children later decided to move on from there to different places.

His son Thomas Reed, my ancestor, went to Coles County, Illinois. A daughter, Abigail Shaw, moved to Texas with her family. Caleb himself went with his widowed daughter Rachel Elliott and her sons to Washington County, Indiana. The elderly Caleb lived there with Rachel until his death.

Genealogists find Caleb’s natal family in New Jersey to be a tangled-up mess, partly because there was more than one Reed family in Morris County. My Reed cousin wants to tackle the puzzle, and I wish her luck. I will help in any way I can.

She will begin by studying the Reed DNA. In our branch of the family, both my father and his first cousin carried the Reed surname and took Y-DNA tests before they died. Thankfully, they matched each other. We have this valuable information to work with.

The Reed surname project at FamilyTree DNA will help connect these two Reeds with others of the same line. My distant cousin is contacting as many matches as she can find.

I will keep in touch with her to see what information she can locate. I hope she is good at colonial research. The Reeds seem to love genealogy, and I am glad one is taking the lead to uncover more of our roots.

 

Can It Be?!

My paternal grandmother Grace Reed (1896-1976) claimed to know nothing of her own family. She did once give me her mother’s name, Laura Riddle (1853-1933). Beyond that, whenever I asked about her heritage, she would simply shake her head and claim ignorance. She had no siblings around who I could ask for more information.

After she died, I began to research her family in earnest. I learned that her maternal grandmother, Olive Hall (Dunbar) Riddle, was born in Barnstable County, Massachusetts in 1823. I was excited to learn that I have New England ancestors.

Two things came to mind. First, I now had the possibility of a Mayflower ancestor. Second, New Englanders are among the most-researched people on earth. Scholars have compiled lists of names of Mayflower descendants.

At the Denver Public Library, I located resources that included these names.

I found out that Grandma’s Dunbar ancestors descended from Robert Dunbar of Hingham, Massachusetts. He arrived in the colonies in 1653, too late for the Mayflower which arrived in 1620. He may have been a deported prisoner, captured during one of the Scottish uprisings.

The women who married into the Dunbar line had surnames like Cole, Garnet, and Hathaway. None of these names appeared on the Mayflower list.

What about the Hall line? Bangs, Bramhall, Burgess, and Snow women married into the Hall family. Again, the Mayflower list included none of these names.

Some of these ancestors are known to have arrived in the new world later, aboard the Anne in 1623. Edward Bangs and Nicholas Snow were among those passengers.

I went no further with my research. I did not look for surnames of the mothers of the women who had married into the Dunbar and Hall families. I put aside my New England project because I lived far away from there, and I had more recent Midwestern families to investigate. Years have gone by.

This week I was poking around in the WikiTree website where my mother’s Finnish cousins have posted so much of that family tree. I wondered whether I should begin adding my father’s line into this database.

I knew that if I went back far enough, someone else may have already done some of it. I began working backwards to see if I could get a match to a known ancestor. Some of my brick wall guys (Caleb Reed of Morris County, NJ and John Davis Riddle of Mendon, MI) were in there. No one has any more information on them than I do.

Then I found Grandma’s Massachusetts grandmother, Olive Hall Dunbar. Most of her family tree is on WikiTree.

Her maternal grandmother, our ancestor, was Lucy Snow (1760-1795), a name familiar to me. She was the first wife of Gershom Hall (1760-1844), one of my Revolutionary War ancestors. I had never done any research on Lucy’s family beyond learning that the Snows did not arrive on the Mayflower.

Yet there on WikiTree, beneath Lucy’s name, was this note:
Her Snow family lineage goes back to immigrant Nicholas Snow, and his wife, Constance (Hopkins) Snow, a passenger on the Mayflower in 1620.

Remember Nicholas? He was on the Anne, not the Mayflower. But his wife, Constance Hopkins, who was also my ancestor, made the Mayflower crossing.

Can it be true? Have I finally learned of a Mayflower ancestor?

Constance Hopkins and her father Stephen Hopkins were indeed passengers on the Mayflower. If the WikiTree contributor is correct that I am descended from Constance Hopkins, I do have a Mayflower family in my lineage. I have not verified Lucy Snow’s ancestry myself, but I do have good documentation for my descendancy from her.

When I did a cursory search to find more about the Hopkins family, I found even more astonishing information. They have a documented English lineage extending to the 1200’s in the county of Hampshire. What a heritage to stumble upon.

One of these days I will need to look at all this more closely. I should post it all into my database and connect us up in WikiTree. At long last, I hope I finally to have identified a Mayflower ancestor.

The Box

Beginning when I was a teenager, I have amassed a tremendous number of genealogy-related books and papers. My home office contains several file cabinets and bookcases filled with materials I use to pursue my research.

A lot of it I inherited a few years ago when my father’s 93-year-old cousin passed away. She, too, was an avid researcher. Her family did not want her library or her work, so I offered to give it a home.

After some time has passed, I have integrated much of our two collections. I am always amazed at what she discovered about our family in the years before the internet. She never used a computer, and all her work lies in paper folders and notebooks. I love digging into them to see what she already had collected when I begin investigating an ancestor.

One of her large boxes, however, remained untouched. Filled with miscellaneous papers, the contents do not fit easily into either of our filing systems. I have kept meaning to empty it one day, but the task seemed daunting. I continued to put it off.

Finally, I have become tired of looking at this box and receiving its silent rebuke. I can no longer procrastinate on the task of cleaning out this box.

I have decided that each evening I am home, I will take one item from the box. Each paper will go into a new or existing file, into the to-do tray, or into the trash. I began this week.

One of the first papers I removed turned out to be a little gem. It was a long-ago letter from a cousin. She was writing about our mutual great-grandfather, Samuel H. Reed (1845-1928), and his activities after his 1904 divorce.

She said he had acquired land in Sayre, Oklahoma that he thought had potential for oil. Fearing that a woman with whom he was involved would make a claim on it, he conveyed the property to some of his grandchildren. Unfortunately, my dad would not be born for another decade, so he missed out.

Following the clue in the letter, I learned that Sayre is in Beckham County, Oklahoma. Family Search has their deed index online. Sure enough, I found my great-grandfather’s name on the index, both when he received the property and when he passed it on to some of my father’s cousins. The public records verify the story told by a relative, and I can request copies of these deeds from the county.

Who knows what else the box contains? At the rate of a few papers a week, it will take me a long time to find out. I hope will find some more treasure in my cousin’s box. Now I have some motivation to clean it out.

Living in the Great American Desert

One hundred forty years ago, the one-armed explorer and geologist John Wesley Powell drew a long line in the dirt. This survey line, along the 100th meridian, runs north-south through the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. It marked the then-separation point between the arid west and the more humid east.

Powell, who lost his arm during the Civil War battle of Shiloh, explored much of the American West. He observed the climate and was wary of allowing settlement in the dry area west of the demarcation line he had identified. The United States government ignored his recommendations. They encouraged the settlement of the West, and today I, and many others, live on the Great Plains.

Here, nothing much will grow without supplemental water because we receive little rain and snow. Our fields must be irrigated with large sprinkler systems. Our lawns, too, have automated watering. We constantly worry about and squabble over water supplies.

A constant influx of people every year means that the same amount of water must be shared by more and more people. They come here to enjoy our abundant sunshine and to escape what one local politician describes as the lawless cities on the west coast.

My water portion inevitably must be reduced. Just yesterday a few of my neighbors and I walked about my neighborhood with a landscaper who specializes in low-water-use designs. We must do something to rid ourselves of acres of thirsty Kentucky blue grass before our local water department cuts off our supply of water for outdoor use.

Yet even with this bleak outlook, I will stay on because I have deep roots here. My people first came to this land in the 1880’s shortly after Powell published his findings. Both my dad’s grandmothers took advantage of the Homestead Act to attempt farming in the west. When faced with scant water supplies and harsh weather, neither had much success:

  1. Laura Riddle (1853-1933) arrived in McCook, Nebraska in 1885 with three sons in tow. They took a 160-acre homestead near her sister’s family in Red Willow County. Later, Laura moved west to another homestead in Hayes County. When 320-acre tracts became available early in the 20th century, she moved west yet again to Dundy County. Life for her was hard, very hard, and she even had to hand over her only daughter to a sister to raise.
  2. Anna Petronellia Sherman Reed (1865-1961) homesteaded alone in Wyoming after World War I. She settled northwest of Cheyenne where she detested the wind and treeless landscape. Life for her, too, was difficult on the homestead. One year, her only crop was a bucket of potatoes. She sold her place as soon as she was able to prove it up and moved back to Missouri.

These women came west because they could not make a living elsewhere. Their families stayed on and remain here today. Despite our challenges with water, we hope our leaders can find solutions to the water supply problem. It helps if we each do our part to conserve.

Powell was right that the Great American Desert presents an inhospitable land. Not many have had success with farming here. Ranching and mining presented greater opportunities. Today, climatologists are observing that the dividing line Powell identified may be shifting eastward from the 100th meridian due to climate change. Additional settled areas will face the need to adapt to a dry climate as we have. Powell’s observations about the West were correct.

A Significant Memorial Day

Memorial Day weekend lies ahead, and I have everything ready at last. Although Congress set aside this day to honor our war dead, many of us now decorate the graves of all our loved ones on Memorial Day. This year I will lay flowers marking the day on my father’s grave for the first time.

My father did not fall in battle, but he did serve his country. Last autumn he passed away at the age of ninety.

When he was buried on a chilly day in November, the cold weather prevented the immediate engraving of his cemetery marker. The silent tombstone stood over him all winter. Recently, I learned that the stonecutter finally completed the task earlier this spring when the weather warmed up. He also affixed to the stone a bronze medallion commemorating Dad’s Navy service.

At my father’s graveside, I had received his veteran’s flag from the hands of the sailors who folded it. Over the winter, the flag, too, waited as I considered the best way to preserve it.

Just yesterday, the cherry flag case I finally ordered arrived at my door. I carefully inserted the flag. To the front I applied an enameled Navy insignia and an engraved plaque. It reads:

    Earl E. Reed

    Proud Veteran of WWII

    8/18/1927 – 10/25/2017

Just in time for Memorial Day, I can display the encased flag on a shelf in my home. This weekend I will visit my father and view his completed cemetery marker. As a good genealogist, I will take a photograph to post on his Find A Grave memorial.

All is ready for this solemn holiday of remembrance.

Away Too Long

After many years of diligently posting to this blog, suddenly last fall I became overwhelmed with life and just could not find the time. Why? My dear Dad and one of my brothers passed away within a month of each other. As guardian and executor for both of them, I really had a lot to do. Now, after quite an absence, here is a post in remembrance of them.

 

Earl E. Reed (1927-2017)

Dad was born in Wheatland, Wyoming, the fifth of six children. His father died in an accident when Dad was seven. Without a breadwinner, the family moved to Loveland, Colorado where an uncle made a house available to them. All the boys went to work, and Dad helped deliver milk. Dad graduated from Loveland High School in 1945. He immediately enlisted in the Navy and served aboard a minesweeper, the USS Seer, in the South China Sea. After his service, he returned to school, eventually graduating from the University of Wyoming with a degree in business in 1954.

Dad joined Marathon Oil Company (formerly the Ohio Oil Company) as a petroleum landman. He spent his career with them in Bismarck, North Dakota; Sidney, Nebraska; Casper, Wyoming; and Cody, Wyoming. In his free time, he participated in team sports like bowling and volleyball, served as treasurer of his son’s Scout pack, and ushered at the local Lutheran Church. He was an avid reader, and he liked to fish. He belonged to the Elks club and enjoyed taking meals at Elks lodges whenever he traveled on business.

Dad married Joyce Bentsen while he was still in college. Their marriage lasted 47 years until she passed away in 2000. After his retirement, they enjoyed traveling from Wyoming to the east coast to spend the winter in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. He referred to those years as “golden”.

Dad lived alone in Casper in the years following Joyce’s death. When he began to need more assistance from family members, he moved to the Denver area and remained there for the rest of his life.

People always described my Dad as a real gentleman. He was generous and provided well for his family. He valued education and was the first in his family to finish college. He was a great Dad despite having lost his own at such a young age.

Dad was buried next to Joyce in the Casper cemetery. On a cold November day, Navy service members from Cheyenne, WY traveled to Casper to stand guard during his burial service and to fold the flag that covered his casket. Dad had lived to the age of 90, longer than any of his siblings. It was time for him to rest.

 

James E. Reed (1959-2017)

My brother Jim enriched our lives by being different. He was born in Bismarck, North Dakota, the third child of four in our family. He had severe developmental disabilities and needed care all his life.

Jim lived at home until he was nine, and then my family placed him at the Wyoming Life Resource Center (formerly the Wyoming State Training School) in Lander, Wyoming.

Some people think institutional life is a terrible thing, but it was not so for Jim and the other clients in Lander. They lived on a beautiful, tree-filled campus with easy access to everything they needed—cozy houses, a recreation center with swimming pool, a canteen, medical and dental offices, and a chapel. They had the opportunity to attend school and other therapy. Staff provided wonderful leisure activities like parties, dances, holiday celebrations, and picnics. For all of this, they had the freedom and safety of the large campus. Jim never had to be confined to a small group home in a busy city where he would have been locked in for fear that he would wander into traffic.

He and the other residents who were able enough had meaningful work to do in the gardens, in the craft center making items to sell, or helping with janitorial services. Jim worked as a janitor for many years. Towards the end of his life, when he grew more frail, he helped with paper shredding and mail delivery. These jobs gave structure to his life and provided interaction with others.

Jim lived on the Lander campus for 48 years until his health failed. After a funeral in Lander (I never knew he had so many friends!), he was buried in the Casper cemetery next to our mother.

A CCC Record Sheds Some Light on the Family

As a youngster, I heard that my Dad’s older brother, Owen Howell Reed, had served in the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) during the Great Depression. No one ever offered any details, and I did not think to ask. I was vaguely aware that the CCC was a
public work relief program that operated from 1933 to 1942 in the United States for unemployed, unmarried men from relief families as part of the New Deal. I knew nothing about where or how long my uncle served.

Some time ago, one of the genealogy newsletters that I read regularly contained an article about how to obtain CCC records from the National Archives. I recalled my uncle’s service and decided to learn more.

I submitted a search request on Form NA 14136 (02-14) to the National Archives at Saint Louis asking whether they had a personnel record for my uncle. I provided his birthdate, birthplace, parents’ names, and hometown at time of CCC employment. They soon replied to tell me they had the record I sought.

I sent in an Order for Archival Reproduction Services with my $70 payment (pretty steep!). Of course they processed my credit card payment right away, but the record never arrived. That was in March of this year.

After nearly three months had passed, I finally sent an e-mail message asking about it to the Archivist who had handled my request. She sent the record again, and this time I received it.

As I read the 12-page file, I enjoyed learning a bit more about my uncle’s life. The file also contained some new family information for me:

  1. It provided a physical description of my 17-year-old uncle in 1940—5’10” and only 125 pounds.
  2. It included the education levels achieved by his parents, my grandfather and grandmother. They had completed the 7th and 8th grades, respectively.
  3. It told me that my uncle had done Very Satisfactory work as an Assistant Education Advisor in Wellington, Colorado for 5 months after his high school graduation in 1940. He left on his 18th birthday to join the United States Army.
  4. I learned that my widowed grandmother had received a $22 per month allotment during the time of his service.

I know that times were hard for my Dad’s family during the Depression years. His father, the breadwinner, had died in 1935, and all the young boys had to work after that. A place in the CCC must have been a real blessing for the family. My Dad surely benefited from that monthly payment earned by his older brother. I am glad I ordered the record to find out more about this chapter of the Reed history.

 

Centenarians in the Family

We have some longevity in our family. My own father will reach the age of ninety this year, and several of his cousins lived into their nineties, too. One claimed she would be the first Reed to live to the age of 100, but she did not make it. Maybe my father will claim that accomplishment.

Some of his more distant relatives have lived even longer than that. I know of two well-documented cases of women in our family who passed the century mark:

  1. Maggie Sherman Hendricks (1872-1976). Maggie was my dad’s first cousin, twice removed, on his father’s side. The daughter of Anderson Sherman and Sarah Jane Prewitt, she was born in Indiana. She died at age 104 and is buried in the Greenlawn Cemetery in Franklin, Indiana. The family story says that Anderson Sherman’s maternal grandmother, who was my dad’s third great-grandmother, lived to be 111 years old. Perhaps Maggie (and my dad!) received some good genes from her.
  2. Lula Mae Riddle Ferris (1893-1999). Lula Mae was a Michigan farm wife and my dad’s first cousin, once removed, on his mother’s side. Her parents were Ethan Henry Riddle and Sophronia McClish. The maternal line for both Ethan Riddle and my dad comes from New England stock which is known for longevity. When Ethan’s daughter Lula Mae passed away at the age of 105, she had come close to living in three different centuries. She is buried in Leonidas Cemetery in St. Joseph County, Michigan.

I wonder whether these people were glad to live that long. My dad does not seem to get much enjoyment out of life any more, and he is still many years younger than these cousins lived to be. With the infirmities of extreme old age, one must give up many of the things one once enjoyed. That is why the adage says we all want to live longer, but we do not want to grow old. I would agree with that.

Ancestors, Community, and the Vote

After this week’s tumultuous election, I began to reflect on why I may have voted the way I did. I hope I objectively examined the issues and voted for those candidates who would best represent my views. Yet I cannot help but think that my upbringing and surroundings played a part in influencing my opinions.

How did my ancestors think, and what did I hear discussed at home as I grew up? Over years of genealogical research, I have assembled some information about the political leanings of my forbears:

  1. Caleb Reed (1818-1903), an Illinois farmer. According to the history of Coles County, he was a strong Whig although he never sought political office. The conservative Whig party (1833-1854) was organized by the politician Henry Clay in opposition to the Jacksonian Democrats, and they derided Jackson as “King Andrew”. Appealing to large landowners, the Whigs supported the supremacy of Congress over the President and favored economic protectionism. They opposed Jackson’s Indian removal policies. Many Whigs gravitated to the Republican Party after the demise of the Whig Party. I wonder whether Caleb voted for Republican Abraham Lincoln, a fellow resident of Illinois, in 1860 and 1864. Lincoln’s parents lived near Caleb in Coles County.
  2. John Carter (1790-1841), another Illinois farmer and neighbor of Caleb Reed. Originally from Tennessee, John had served in the War of 1812 under Andrew Jackson. I do not know how he felt about Jackson and his policies. Was John a Jackson Democrat?
  3. Bjarne Bentsen (1906-1986), a policeman, later an electrician, who grew up in Montana and lived in several western and Midwestern states. He professed strong support of the Democratic Party.
  4. Grace Riddle (1896-1976) and Martha Mattila (1906-1977). I find it amazing that when these women, my grandmothers, were born, women did not have the right to vote. That did not come until 1920. Even so, neither of them talked about politics, and I do not know if or how they voted.
  5. Joyce Bentsen (1929-2000), a schoolteacher from Minnesota. She never disclosed how she voted, but over the years she expressed admiration for Minnesota Democratic native sons Walter Mondale and Hubert “The Happy Warrior” Humphrey.
  6. My Dad, a petroleum landman. During my lifetime, he usually has expressed conservative views and leaned Republican, not surprising for an oilman. Yet he proudly cast his first vote in a Presidential election for Harry Truman in 1948. He told me that his mother kept a photograph of Democrat Franklin Roosevelt in their home.

These family members obviously did not agree about politics, so I received mixed messages at home. What about the influence of my community?

  1. I grew up in Wyoming, a politically conservative state. This week nearly 70% of their electorate voted for Donald Trump. Although Wyoming was the first state to grant women the right to vote, they did not do so for progressive reasons. Without women counted as citizens, Wyoming could not reach the requisite number of voters to qualify for statehood in 1890.
  2. Today I live in the purple state of Colorado where I have been for over 30 years. I reside between very-conservative Colorado Springs, and very-liberal Boulder (referred to by the locals as “The People’s Republic of Boulder”). Ironically, the Libertarian Party was founded in Boulder, so we have that influence as well.

These conflicting views around me all contribute to my political views. I hope I did a good job synthesizing them before I cast my vote this year.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, no. 32—Ann Kirkham (1782?-1869)

Ann Kirkham, my 3rd great-grandmother, pursued the hard life of a pioneer but lived to a ripe, old age nevertheless. She must have been made of tough stuff.

Her actual birth place, date, and year have not been proven as far as I know. Records agree that she was born during the month of August, but the date varies as 1782 or 1783. Some sources say she was born in Kentucky; others report her birthplace as Pennsylvania.

By 1806 she lived in Nelson County, Kentucky when she married Thomas Reed. They wed on November 24 and then relocated to live near Thomas’ family in Spencer County. There the couple had five children: Robertson Mitchell (1808), Eliza (1810), Jane (1817), Caleb (1818), and William (1822). Given the long spaces between Eliza and Jane, and again between Caleb and William, perhaps there were other children who died young.

In 1829, Thomas Reed sold his Kentucky holdings. He and other family members struck out for newly opened lands in Indiana and Illinois. Thomas and Ann chose the latter, settling in Coles County, Illinois after the new year in 1830. They took along as much of their household goods as they could, including Ann’s spinning wheel.

Early Coles County families faced a primitive life. They built cabins of unhewn logs with puncheon floors. Chimneys were made of sticks and clay. Perhaps Ann could enjoy some time quilting or sewing with nearby women-folk while Thomas and the other men constructed the first homes.

The couple built a financially successful life in Illinois, but personal tragedy struck periodically. Ann made the trip to the fresh graves of family members many times over the years:

  1. In 1836, her son-in-law John Mitchell McAlister (Eliza’s husband), died,
  2. In 1845 her son William passed away,
  3. In 1852 her husband Thomas died, leaving her a widow,
  4. In 1853 her daughter-in-law Nancy McAlister Reed, who was Robertson’s wife, died,
  5. In 1854, her grandson and Caleb’s third son, Thomas B. Reed, died in infancy,
  6. In 1855, her granddaughter and Caleb’s oldest daughter, Mary C. Reed, died at the age of eight,
  7. In 1856, her granddaughter Susan McAlister Galbreath (Eliza’s daughter) died from complications of childbirth,
  8. In 1864, another grandson, Caleb’s son James N. Reed, died in infancy.

During her latter years, after Thomas’ death, Ann made her home with her son Caleb and his family. When she reached her mid-80’s her life was drawing to a close. Ann passed away on 3 February 1869. She was buried beside Thomas in the Reed-McAlister Cemetery in Coles County, Illinois.