William M. Reed
Michael A. Landwehr
William Reed was the younger of the two sons born to Ralph A. and Mary (Hall) Reed. In the 1850 census record of the Ralph Reed family, enumerated in Prairie Township of Washington County, Arkansas, William was listed as two years old. By 1860, the Ralph Reed family was living in Barry County, Missouri, and William was listed as 13 years of age. Both census records indicate that William was born after his parents moved their family from Missouri to Arkansas.
The 1860 census provides us with our last opportunity to identify William Reed, son of Ralph Reed, with certainty. We don’t know where Ralph and Mary Reed resided between 1860 and 1880, and we don’t know when William Reed left his parents’ home. To the best of my knowledge, no one has uncovered any records, after 1860, which positively identify any William Reed as being the son of Ralph and Mary Reed. There are at least two men named William Reed in the 1870 and 1880 census records of northern Arkansas who were born in Arkansas about 1848, and might have been the son of Ralph and Mary Reed. Based on my own research, I strongly subscribe to the theory that William Reed, son of Ralph and Mary Reed, married Hannah McCurley, daughter of Joseph Reed McCurley and Elizabeth Lock. In the following pages, I will document what we know about the family of this William and Hannah Reed.
It may be helpful, at this point, to briefly discuss the Joseph Reed McCurley family. McCurley family researchers report that Joseph Reed McCurley was born in Tennessee about 1810, and was the son of James Joseph McCurley and Rebecca Reed. McCurley family researchers also report that James Joseph McCurley and Rebecca Reed were married in Warren County, Kentucky, in 1802. It is more than curious that this couple was married in Warren County just five years after John Reed and Hannah Shipman, the parents of Ralph Reed, were married in that same county.
After their marriage, researchers report that James Joseph McCurley and Rebecca Reed lived in Tennessee and Alabama before migrating to Morgan County, Illinois, in the 1820’s. It was in Morgan County that their son, Joseph Reed McCurley, married Elizabeth Lock. Several children, including Hannah, were born to Joseph and Elizabeth McCurley before they migrated to Missouri in the early 1840’s, and then to Prairie Township in Washington County, Arkansas, in the late 1840’s. Other than the family’s stay in Illinois, their migration path matches that of John Reed and Hannah Shipman family, and the Ralph Reed and Mary Hall family. Were Ralph Reed’s father, John Reed, and Joseph Reed McCurley’s mother, Rebecca Reed, either siblings or cousins? We don’t know the answer to that question, but there is certainly reason to suspect that they may have been.
We have already indicated that both the Ralph Reed family and the Joseph Reed McCurley family, including their nine-year-old daughter, Hannah McCurley, were listed in the 1850 census of Prairie Township, in Washington County, Arkansas. We know that the Ralph Reed family moved from Washington County to Flat River Township, in Barry County, Missouri, where they appear in the 1860 census. The Joseph Reed McCurley family also moved from Washington County, Arkansas, to Barry County, Missouri, between 1850 and 1860. It is important to note that the Joseph Reed McCurley family, including 20-year-old Hannah, born in Illinois, was listed in the 1860 Barry County census in dwelling #938, “next door” to the Ralph Reed family, including 13-year-old William Reed, in dwelling #939.
By 1860, there had already been a marriage between the Ralph Reed family and the McCurley family. Two years earlier, in 1858, Ralph Reed’s oldest son, John W. Reed, married Lucinda McCurley, daughter of Jesse McCurley. The Jesse McCurley family also lived in Barry County, Missouri, and McCurley researchers report that Jesse was a first cousin of Joseph Reed McCurley.
Our first record of William and Hannah Reed as a couple appears in the 1870 census of Jefferson Township, in Boone County, Arkansas. The couple’s post office was at Mount Pleasant, later renamed Bellefonte. The household consisted of William Reed, age 21; Hannah Reed, age 24; James Reed, age 7; Jo Shelby Reed, age 4; and Frances E. Reed, aged 4 months. Hannah listed her birth place as Illinois. All other members of the household were born in Arkansas.
This census record raises a couple of questions. The first involves the ages of William and Hannah. Based on the ages listed in the 1850 and 1860 census records, we would expect that the age of William Reed, son of Ralph and Mary Reed, to be about 22 or 23. And, we would expect that the age of Hannah McCurley, daughter of Joseph Reed McCurley, to be about 30 or 31. William’s age in the 1870 census record is close enough to expectation to easily dismiss as typical census age error. Hannah’s age, however, is several years younger than would be expected. While troubling, I suspect that Hannah was represented to the census enumerator, by either William or Hannah, as significantly younger than she actually was, because she was married to a much younger husband. This discrepancy in her age would be more troubling if there was not so much other circumstantial evidence that Hannah was the daughter of Joseph Reed McCurley.
The second question raised by the census record is the parentage of James and Jo Shelby Reed. Their ages suggest that it is very unlikely that they were the children of William Reed. It seems more likely that James Reed and Jo Shelby Reed were Hannah’s sons, born before she and William married. It shouldn’t be a surprise that, in later years, James and Joe Shelby Reed would be referred to as William Reed’s step-sons. I believe that their young daughter, Frances, listed as four months old in June of 1870, was the first child born to William and Hannah. On the basis of that assumption, it would seem reasonable to estimate that the couple was married about 1869. The accuracy of this estimate would later be validated, when William would report in the 1900 census that he had been married for 30 years, and report in the 1910 census that he had been married for 41 years.
The birthplace of all but one of the members of the William and Hannah Reed household in 1870 was reported to be Arkansas. Hannah’s birthplace, however, was listed as Illinois. There were very few natives of Illinois living in that area at that time, but we know that Hannah McCurley was born in Illinois. Both William and Hannah indicated that they could neither read nor write, and William valued his personal estate at $100.
We have not located Ralph or Mary (Hall) Reed in the 1870 census, and suspect that they were missed by that census. However, we can identify some of the neighbors of the William and Hannah Reed family in the 1870 census records. William and Hannah were listed in dwelling #186. In dwelling #184, we find the family of Hannna McCurley’s parents, Joseph Reed McCurley and Elizabeth Lock. The family in dwelling #185 was the Henry and Nancy Mann family. I believe that Nancy Mann was Hannah McCurley’s sister. And, in dwelling #187, we find the family of Joseph and Betheny McCurley. Joseph was Hannah McCurley’s brother.
During the decade of the 1870’s, at least four more children were born to William and Hannah Reed. While we are relatively confident of the sequence of their births, the information available to us about the dates of their births is confusing. Lydia E. Reed was probably born in 1874. William and Hannah Reed may have moved their family from Boone County to Pope County, Arkansas, between 1870 and 1874, as a daughter, Sarah Jane Reed, was reportedly born in Pope County in January of 1876. However, there is some information suggesting that another daughter, Nancy R. Reed, was born in February of 1876, so either Sarah’s or Nancy’s date of birth is obviously in error. Polly Reed was probably born in October of 1879.
In June of 1880, census records indicate that William and Hannah Reed were farming in Martin Township of Pope County, Arkansas. Their five children were still living at home, as was Hannah’s son, Joseph Shelby Reed. Hannah’s oldest son, 16-year-old James, was living with a family listed “next door” to William and Hannah, where he was apparently working as a farm laborer. William’s age was reported as 32, and Hannah’s was reported as 37. William’s place of birth was listed as Arkansas, while Hannah’s was again listed as Illinois. The birthplaces of William’s parents are listed as Tennessee and Illinois, but I believe this information was recorded in error. William’s step-son, James Reed, was living with the family of their neighbor, and James Reed’s census entry appears on the line immediately above William Reed’s census entry. The birthplaces of William Reed’s parents exactly match the birthplaces of James Reed’s parents, and I believe that the information for James Reed was, for some reason, erroneously duplicated for William Reed.
William and Hannah Reed were listed in dwelling #29 in the 1880 census of Martin Township. Dwelling #27 was the household of Henry and Mary Foster. Mary Foster was Mary (Reed) Foster, daughter of Ralph and Mary (Hall) Reed, and sister of William Reed. Living with Henry and Mary Foster in 1880 was 66-year-old Ralph A. Reed, father of both William Reed and Mary (Reed) Foster.
William and Hannah Reed had one more son, John W. Reed, who was born in Arkansas in March of 1882. By July of 1888, when Hannah’s oldest son, James, was married, the William and Hannah Reed family was living at Point Peter, in western Searcy County, Arkansas. Frances Reed, the oldest child born to William and Hannah, was married later in the same month.
Seventeen-year-old Nancy R. Reed, daughter of William and Hannah Reed, was married to James M. Williams in Searcy County in January of 1893. Nancy’s half-brother, Shelby Reed, is listed as the surety on Nancy’s Bond for Marriage License. Nancy’s Marriage License lists her residence as Mount Hersey. Mount Hersey is located in Newton County, Arkansas, about seven miles south of the Boone County line, and one-half mile west of the Searcy County line. Mount Hersey is also about seven miles northwest of Peter Point, where the family was living in 1888.
Attached to the record of Nancy’s marriage is a small piece of note paper, on which two notes were written. The first note was from the groom’s father, giving his permission for his son to marry. The second note was from Nancy’s father, giving his permission for her to marry. The first note reads “Mt Hersey Jan 12 1893 to the Clerk of Searcy Co this is to Certify that my son James M. Williams has my approval to take Lisens to marry his age is 18”, and is signed “Asa Williams”. The second note reads “I W. M. Ried Consents for J M Williams to Marry My Daughter Nancy R Reid her age is 17”. The note is signed “W. M. Reid”. Both of the notes appear to be written in the same hand. Both William and Hannah Reed were illiterate, so it seems likely that someone else wrote the note for William.
William and Hannah Reed apparently lived at Mount Hersey for several years. When their daughter, Sarah Jane, was married in September of 1895, Sarah reported her residence as Mount Hersey. A note giving permission for Sarah to marry was signed by “Willam Reed” and “Hannar Reed”.
William and Hannah Reed apparently moved from eastern Newton County into western Searcy County in the mid-1890’s. When Hannah Reed’s son, Joseph Shelby Reed, was married in Searcy County in July of 1897, he listed his residence as St. Joe.
On April 11, 1898, William Reed was issued a land patent, based on a homestead application, for 160 acres of Searcy County land. This land may have been the first that William Reed ever owned. The land was described as the South ½ of the NE ¼ and the North ½ of the SE ¼ of Section 28 in Township 16 of Range 18 West. This land is located about five miles west and two miles south of St. Joe, in western Searcy County.
It appears that Henry and Nancy (McCurley) Mann were neighbors of William and Hannah Reed in Searcy County. In January of 1900, Henry Mann was issued a patent for 160 acres of land immediately north of the William Reed farm.
In June of 1900, census records indicate that William Reed and his family were residents of Richland Township, in Searcy County. I assume that they were living on the farm that William had recently homesteaded. Living with William were three of his daughters, Lydia, Nancy and Polly, and his son, John W. Reed. Though Nancy had married in 1893, she was living in her father’s home in 1900. Nancy’s three children were also listed in the census of the William Reed household, but Nancy’s husband was missing from the household. William’s wife, Hannah, was also missing from the William Reed household in 1900. It is important to note that the census of 1900 indicates that both of William Reed’s parents were born in Alabama, which is where both Ralph and Mary (Hall) Reed were born.
William and Hannah Reed were not alone in their move to Richland Township of Searcy County between 1880 and 1900. Also listed in the 1900 census of Richland Township were the family of Mary (Reed) Foster, daughter of Ralph Reed and sister of William Reed, as well as the families of both of Hannah Reed’s sons, and the families of several of the children of William and Hannah Reed.
William and Hannah Reed’s daughter, Lydia, was married in Searcy County in April of 1903. Their daughter, Polly, was married in Searcy County in September of 1904. Then, no later than 1910, William Reed relocated to Washington County, Arkansas, where we believe that he was born. In April of 1910, William was enumerated in the north half of Prairie Township, in Washington County. William’s daughter, Lydia, was divorced from her husband, and she and her six-year-old daughter were living with William.
Unfortunately, we don’t know what happened to William Reed after April of 1910, as the 1910 census is the last trace we have of him. Hannah’s absence from the William Reed household in the 1900 census suggests that she may have died between 1895 and 1900. However, there is some evidence suggesting that Hannah and William may have separated, and we simply haven’t found any record of Hannah after their separation. Wanda Morris, a granddaughter of Joseph Shelby Reed, reports that Hannah died in 1917, and was buried in the Narrows Cemetery, near Woolum, in western Searcy County. And, it is worth noting that both the 1900 and 1910 census records for William Reed list his marital status as “married”, rather than “widowed” or “divorced”.
NOTE TO READERS: This biographical sketch was last updated in February of 2012. If you are interested in more recent updates to this information, have questions about the content, or can add anything to the material provided by this sketch, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.