Thursday, May 30, 2013

Those Places Thursday - The Cumberland Gap

The Cumberland Gap is a pass through the Cumberland Mountains section of the Appalachians located just north of the point where Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia meet. Native Americans had used this pass through the mountains long before the American colonists became aware of it. After a team of loggers led by Daniel Boone widened the path and made it more accessible to settlers migrating westward, it became a major passageway through the lower central Appalachians and an important part of the Wilderness Road.

The Cumberland Gap Looking Toward Kentucky
Around the age of 65, my ancestor William Reves left Wake County, North Carolina which had been his home for most or possibly all of his life and migrated to Madison County, Kentucky around 1806.  His youngest sons, George and Jeremiah, had made this trip several years before along with other settlers from the Granville-Wake County area.

William Reves lived most of his life on a 400 acre tract granted to his father William Reves, Sr. in what had been Orange County in the 1750s, Johnston County in the 1760s, then Wake County and is now Durham County.  In her book Durham County - A History of Durham County, North Carolina, Jean Bradley Anderson states "Among the first to take up land in present Durham County were William Reeves, who received 400 acres where Ellerbee Creek runs into Neuse River (1746)".

In August of 1760, as William Reaves, Jr. he registered his cattle brand in Orange County.  He is found listed in the minutes of the Wake County Court from the county's inception in 1771 through 1803. He is recognized as a Revolutionary War Patriot based upon his civil service as a tax assessor in Wake County during the revolution by the DAR. From the 1770's, he served on juries, was overseer of roads, assessor and tax gatherer in Captain Woodson Daniel's district and from 1787 to 1803 was a Magistrate Justice of the Wake County Court.

Many of the documents that refer to him spell his name Reeves, but he and his sons who were all literate, always spelled their name Reves which tends to set them apart from the many other Reeves families of North Carolina.  DNA of several of his descendants also establishes that they were unrelated to the other Reeves families in the Neuse basin but to date no records have been found with clues to their origins.

His final appearance as a justice of the Wake County Court is recorded in 1803 and on Sept. 16th, 1806, his son William Jr. sold his 130 acre tract south of Ellobey's Creek. These were the last records for either of them in Wake County and by the 1810 census, both are recorded in Madison County, Kentucky.  

Several years ago my cousin and I made a trip to North Carolina by way of southern Kentucky through the Cumberland Gap into Virginia and drove a two lane highway through the Appalachians from Virginia into North Carolina. Even in a modern vehicle on modern roads, it is apparent what an accomplishment it was for my 65 year old 4th great grandfather to make such a trip through the Cumberland Gap in 1806.


  1. That must have been quite an adventure in 1806! That's a beautiful area. I remember going through Cumberland Gap on one of our summer vacations when I was growing up.

  2. I am a reeves! My family tree on took me all the way to Peter t reeves and his father was William Jr. And Williams father was William reeves Sr. My grandfathers name is Gerald reeves from Piggott ar mostly but lives in Holcomb mo now

    1. William Reeves Jr & Sr. are my ancestors. My 3rd great grandfather was George, brother to Peter (there is no T) Reeves of Halifax VA. Do you know who Gerald Reeves father or grandfather was? I know that Peter's grandsons Thomas Bird Reeves and Peter M. Reeves left Virginia and settled in SE Missouri and NE Arkansas after their father William T. Reeves' death.

  3. I descend from Josiah Reeves, born 1782 in VA, and died circa 1860, in Crawford Co, MO. He came to Crawford Co by way of KY and TN with William Harrison. I believe Josiah's father was George Reeves, and his mother was most likely Mary Young. I know that George Reeves of Grayson County is not the correct George, but I have not been able to determine who the correct George is. Josiah named his firstborn son George, and first born daughter Mary. If any f this sounds familiar I'd love to hear from you! Thank you. Karyn (