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The Reeds and a Natural Disaster

American Ancestors, the family history center for the New England Historic Genealogical Society, puts out a genealogy related survey every week. Not long ago they asked whether an ancestor had been involved in a natural disaster.

I answered “no” because I was not aware of anyone who had been so affected. This week I learned that I may have such a connection after all.

I have come across an intriguing obituary that mentions my grandfather’s second cousin, Margueritte Reed (1894-1985), and the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

Here is the backstory. Our common ancestor Thomas Reed (1783-1852) settled in Coles County, Illinois. I am descended from the second son, Caleb (1818-1903). Caleb’s older brother and Margueritte’s ancestor was Robertson Mitchell Reed (1808-1871).

Robertson was married twice and had two families. When the Reeds in Illinois attempted to put together a family history during the 1980’s, they could find little information on the second wife, Margaret Potts (1819-1871) and her children. No one seemed to know how many children there were or what became of them.

An article in The History of Coles County, Illinois (1876) claims Robertson and Margaret had 4 children: James W. (1857); Kate L. (1859); Joseph V. who married a Gould and went to Eugene, OR; and Anna Belle who married Schyler Glassco and went to Alabama. I decided to search again for the fate of these children, beginning with boys since they are easier to trace.

I found no record of James W. Reed born in 1857.

I did locate Joseph Van Reed, son of Margaret and Robertson Reed, who was born that same year. Could these sons, James and Joseph, be the same person? At least one Reed descendant thought Joseph was nicknamed James, but I have found no proof of this.

Leaving that question aside for now, I continued to look into the life of Joseph Reed.

Further investigation told me that Joseph left Coles County for New York where he perhaps married into the Gould family. A daughter Margueritte was born in New York City in 1894. Her obituary does not tell me her mother’s name.

By 1900, Joseph had removed to the west coast where he was working as a restaurant keeper in Portland and living in a boarding house. He had no wife or daughter with him, and the census listed him as a single man. Sometime later he returned to Coles County where he married Mamie C. Emerson in 1905.

Both his obituary and that of his daughter say the family (presumably Joseph, Mamie, and Margueritte) lived in San Francisco after the marriage. Margueritte’s article goes on to say the family left there after the 1906 quake to settle in Oregon.

The Joseph Reed family probably resided in San Francisco during the historic earthquake. I do not know how they were affected by it, but perhaps its aftermath was the reason they left the area and resettled in Oregon.

Did the Reeds in Illinois know of Joseph Van Reed’s time in San Francisco? The county history mentioned only that he went to Eugene, OR. By the 1980’s the Reed family members who remained in Illinois did not know even that much about their cousin Joseph.

My quest to learn the fate of Joseph V. Reed has given me an outline of his life and uncovered an interesting connection to a famous natural disaster.

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