Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Reeves' Descendant - Frederick C. Geer

Frederick Colbert Geer was the great grandson of William Reeves of Wake County, North Carolina. William Reeves' daughter Sarah married Frederick Geer the son of John & Martha Geer who left Brunswick County, Virginia and settled during the late 1740's in the area of present Durham, North Carolina at the time when the area was part of Orange County.

His father, Jesse B. Geer, owned a large plantation, the location of which is now within the city limits of Durham, in the northeast section of town just off the Roxboro Road several miles east of Duke University's east campus.

Frederick C. Geer was a prominent business and civic leader in early Durham County. The laying out of main street in Durham, North Carolina as described in Chapter 9 of the book ''Durham County: a history of Durham County, North Carolina'' by Jean Bradley Anderson:
The story of the laying out of Main Street in 1869 conveys the primitive state of the town in the 1870s. "There are men, strong yet," a reporter wrote in 1896, "who remember the Saturday afternoon when Robert F. Morris, M.A. Angier, Col. D.C. Parrish, Morgan Closs, Washington Duke, Soloman Shepherd, Atlas Rigsbee, J.W. Cheek, Frederick Geer, and Col. W.T. Blackwell, with Brown Jordan as ploughman, and two big mules laid out Main Street, beginning at Esquire Angier's store running east through an old field. When the work was done, the two long furrows on either side about a mile long showed where the street was to be, the less credulous of us gathered just as the sun was setting to criticize such foolishness, and to guy the "Fathers" with sarcasm as to the price of corner lots and exasperating questions as to how they proposed to people their newly made town. But they builded better than they knew, and every one of them lived to see their new laid street build on and occupied from end to end." At the town board meeting following this achievement, Morris moved that Main and Pratt street be established "as it is now plowed."

Some of the same "founding fathers of Durham" as mentioned above - Washington Duke and M. A. Angier along with Benjamin Duke and George Watts organized the Fidelity Bank in 1887. After the construction of F. C. Geer's Geer Building at the corner of Main & Corcoran Streets in 1915, Fidelity Bank was the primary tenant of that property.

F. C. Geer is also mentioned in the history of Grace Baptist Church (formerly North Durham Baptist church) as having donated the land upon which the new church was built. The property at the corner of Roxboro Road and Geer Street (now Mangum Street and Trinity Avenue) was donated to the Trustees of the “Baptist church worshipping on Mangum Street” by Fred C. Geer in 1887. Mr. Geer also gave a gift of $1,000 to begin work on the building in 1906.

Another of F. C. Geer's activities included being one of the founders of the Durham Railroad Company, incorporated in 1880 which failed to carry out its plans. He was also the owner of a mill and producer of flour. With his brother-in-law James W. Cheek he was involved in the reorganized tobacco operation "Pride of Durham".

The history of Durham, North Carolina credits Frederick Geer as being one of the many men who played an important role in Durham's past.

(Photos by Endangered Durham.)

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