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52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, no. 31—Thomas Reed (1783-1852)

Thomas Reed was my paternal 3rd great-grandfather. He was born in one place, raised in another, and lived his adult life in yet a third locality.

According to family records, Thomas arrived perhaps on the 18th of December, 1783 in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. His father was Caleb Reed, and his mother may have been Rebecca Carr. Thomas’ actual birthdate remains uncertain because his cemetery marker in the Reed family cemetery provides the calculation for a different date. It states that he died on 21 December 1852 at the age of 70 years, 11 months, and 23 days. This information means he would have been born 29 Jan 1781. So far I have no explanation for the difference in proposed birth years, nor do I know which, 1783 or 1781, is more likely correct.

In either case, Thomas came into the world during the close of the Revolutionary War era. The family lived on the fluid border between Pennsylvania and then-Virginia, now West Virginia. His uncle Joshua Reed served in the Virginia militia during that conflict. As with all American families at the time, the Reeds were affected by the war.

At some point, the Reeds relocated to Kentucky, near Louisville. Thomas married Ann Kirkham in Nelson County, Kentucky on 24 November 1806. The couple settled onto a place in Spencer County and had a family of five children:

  1. Robertson Mitchell Reed (1808-1871)
  2. Eliza Reed (1810-1886)
  3. Jane Reed (1817-1899)
  4. Joseph Caleb Reed (1818-1903), my great-great grandfather
  5. William Reed (1822-1845)

In 1829, Thomas and Ann made the decision to move on to new lands opening up for settlement in Illinois. They left Kentucky on December 1, their son Caleb’s 11th birthday, and headed for southeastern Illinois, near the Indiana border. With a 6-horse team, the journey took nearly a month. They stopped in Edgar County, Illinois for a few days, and they liked the Grandview area very much. However, the “milk sickness” malady was rumored to be common there, so they went further west into Coles County. They settled about a mile and a half northeast of the village of Ashmore where Thomas entered a tract of land. Among his Coles County neighbors was Thomas Lincoln, father of the future President.

Once settled in, Thomas Reed went walking one day with his neighbor, Daniel McAlister. They stopped at a particularly beautiful spot and decided it would make a lovely place for a burial ground. They set it aside as the Reed-McAlister Cemetery. Both would be buried there someday.

In 1832, Thomas’ father Caleb, who had also left Kentucky and moved on to Indiana, passed away. Thomas received his timepiece.

Thomas and Ann worked to build up their farm and raise their family in Illinois. Thomas was known as a quiet and industrious man, and at one time he farmed nearly a thousand acres. It was about half prairie and half woodland with streams of water flowing through most of it.

Politically, Thomas was a strong Whig, but he never sought public office. Farming took all his time.

Thomas passed away on 21 Dec 1852 and was buried in the family cemetery in Coles, County, Illinois. He died intestate, and his farm was divided into four parts. Each surviving child received a share, but the daughters sold theirs to the sons, with Robertson, the eldest, receiving a larger share. Thomas’ daughter Eliza’s husband James Walton served as Personal Representative.

Thomas Reed became the patriarch of a large Reed clan in Coles County, Illinois. Descendants live and farm there to the present day. Thomas chose a good place to settle down.


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