Wednesday, July 18, 2012

An Arkansas Reeves' Mystery Solved

When I originally came across the biography of a William Reeves of Montgomery County, Arkansas in Goodspeed's Biographical & Historical Memoirs of Western Arkansas, published in 1891, I had no idea which Reeves' family this particular William Reeves descended from. I saved the biography among all the copious Reeves' data I collect thinking that at some point his ancestry might be identified. And surprisingly, I recently found William in the probate records of the estate of William Reeves, Jr. who died in Smith County, Tennessee circa 1855. His mother died before 1842 when William Reeves, Jr. married again to Jemima Downing in neighboring Allen County, Kentucky.

Reeves-Melson House, built c1882William C. Reeves of Montgomery County, Arkansas was not the small child indicated by the Goodspeed biography for the 1850 census records his presence in his father's household at age 12. His father died sometime before February 1855 when his estate was being probated in the Smith County, Tennessee Court. The subject of this sketch is recorded in those court minutes as having sold his portion of his father's estate to his father's sister, Elizabeth and her husband Horace Oliver and his cousin Rhoda Reeves and her husband Richard C. Sanders. This estate was not finally settled until sometime circa 1870.

The grandfather of William C. Reeves was another William Reeves whose 1837 will was probated in Smith County in January of 1839. He had given a statement for his brother Daniel Reeves in support of Daniel's Revolutionary War pension application. The statements in that pension application record the father of William and Daniel Reeves as John Reeves of South Carolina. According to William's statement they lived in an area he described as above Camden (probably Lancaster County).

From Goodspeed's biography, William was a resident of Montgomery County in Arkansas's Quachita Mountains by 1859. On 14 Feb 1863, he enlisted as a corporal in Company A, Arkansas 1st Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Army which operated in Missouri, Indian Territory and Arkansas. He was promoted to Full Sergeant prior to being discharged.

In 1868 he was appointed sheriff of Montgomery County. After his term as sheriff, he homesteaded eighty acres of land adjacent a small branch of the Mazarn Creek. The Reeves-Melson house which he had built around 1882 is still standing and is a historic site. There is also a Reeves' Creek in this area which is presumably named for him.

William C. Reeves died on April 15th, 1920 in Womble, Montgomery County, Arkansas.

The following is the biography as published by Goodspeed but descendants should beware for numerous inaccuracies are found in the biography when compared to the historical records of this family ~
William REEVES The entire life of this gentlemen has been one unmarked by any unusual occurrence outside of the chosen channels to which he has so diligently applied himself, and although he was born in Smith County, Tenn., in 1839, he has been a resident of Montgomery County, Ark., since 1859, and has identified himself with every interest of his adopted county and State. His parents, Dr. William and Ruth (Campbell) Reeves, were born in North Carolina, but afterwards became residents of Smith County, Tenn., the father dying when William was a small boy, and his mother when he was nine years old. He was the youngest of two sons and one daughter born to them: John (deceased), and Mary J. (wife of Thomas Green), being the other two members of the family. William was reared by an uncle, Moses Reeves, of Smith County, until he was ten years of age, when he began doing for himself, working on a wood boat on the Cumberland River for several years, afterwards turning his attention to farming. He was married in 1850, to Miss Emily Jones, and the same year came to Montgomery County, and lived on the south fork of the Caddo River, where he has a fine farm of 368 acres. For about seven years he was engaged in merchandising at Black Springs, but has since devoted his attention to farming, a calling for which he is naturally adapted. In February, 1863, he became a member of Company A, First Arkansas Infantry, and operated in Missouri, Indian Territory and Arkansas. He organized Company I, of the second Kansas troops, but afterwards took part in the engagement at Jenkins' Ferry, besides several others. In 1868 he received the appointment of sheriff of Montgomery County, a position he has satisfied for four years. He is a demitted member of Crystal Ridge Lodge, of the A.F. & A.M., and for some time has been an earnest member of the Christian Church.

Photo of Reeves-Melson house from Arkansas Historic Preservation Program.


  1. James Chaney born 1747 possibly lived in Smith County TN and was married to a Reeves from Halifax Co. His son William was a charter member of the old Salem Baptist Church there in 1810

    1. Sorry for the delay, I just noticed your comment. In the years since I wrote this post, we have actually found William C. Reeves origins. He was the son of William Reeves, Jr. and Ruth Campbell originally of Lancaster County, South Carolina. As the Jr. would imply, his father was William Reeves, Sr. and his mother Rhoda Duke of South Carolina.

      DNA testing of descendants has established that this Reeves family is descended from George Reeve of Prince William County, Virginia.

      Thanks for the comment,

    2. P.S. You can see William C. Reeves' father's page at The Reeves Project here -