Notes for Benjamin Harrison Reeves

A Wilson Family Tree

Notes for Benjamin Harrison Reeves

From the Parks manuscript:

I said B. H. Reeves was well known both in Kentucky and Missouri. Before the death of Aunt Sallie Ewin, (of whom I shall speak more particularly) she requested him, (then about eighteen or nineteen years old) as the oldest and most experienced of the little band of cousins in the far, far west, to carry her little daughter Jeannetta to her sister Margaret Smith, that she might be a mother to her orphan child. Faithfully did Ben Reeves perform the task, but Jeannetta was never to see her Aunt Smith. The two sisters were sick about the same time and neither knew of the death of the other till they met on the Shining Shore. [Daniel] Smith, then a practicing lawyer, gladly assumed the duty of educating his young cousin. On his way to Virginia, B. H. Reeves visited his Aunt Donly, and made such progress in winning the affections of her daughter, his cousin Martha, that on his way back they were married, and he surprised his mother, bringing a wife home with him. He was not twenty years old; his wife a year or two older. This was in 1806; and in 1812 the war with Great Britain was commenced and a company was speedily raised in Christian County, notwithstanding its sparse population. For the captaincy there were two candidates, B. H. Reeves and Ben Patten, a young lawyer of great promise and remarkably fine personal appearance, residing in Hopkinsville, the county seat. Before the close of the campaign, he attained to a majority. Before the termination, his services were called for in the Legislature of the state, and again Mr. Patten was his competitor, and again Reeves was the successful candidate. From this time until 1818 (when he removed to Missouri) he represented Christian County in the Legislature. Emigrating to Missouri in 1818, he was a member of the convention which enacted the first constitution of the State, and represented the County of Howard, (in which he settled) as long as it remained a Whig County, until after the election of J. Q. Adams to the Presidency of the United States, when Howard County, being a strong Jackson man county, he was left in the minority. His wife, Martha Donly, died in the spring of 1835. They had five children, who lived to maturity; William Long, Clark Davis, Jeannetta, Mary Elizabeth and Benjamin; and some three or four who died in infancy. Clark married, but died soon after his mother, leaving one daughter, Ellen.
After the death of his wife, B. H. Reeves went back to Kentucky, leaving his mother with his daughter Jeannetta, then the wife of the late Judge Leonard. He married and resided there until his death.

Some time after Col. Reeves’ return to Kentucky, he married Virginia Cross, widow of George Cross. They had three children, two daughters and one son. Col. Reeves died April 16, 1849; his wife not long afterwards.He was at the time of his death a member of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.

"History of Todd County, Kentucky", ed. J. H. Battle, F. A. Battey Publishing Co., 1884, pp. 328-30:

[From the biography of Crittenden Reeves] Of his father, an obituary notice says: "Benjamin H. Reeves, the eldest son of Brewer and Martha Reeves, was born in Augusta County, Va., March 21, 1787, and moved with his parents to Christian County, Ky., about the commencement of the present century, and settled on the West Fork of Red River. Shortly after their arrival in Kentucky his father died, leaving his widow and infant children in comparatively a wilderness, surrounded by the red men of the forest. His mother, a lady of uncommon energy, firmness, and fine powers of mind, richly stored with the truths of the Gospel, in the absence of anything like good schools, laid the foundation for his future elevation in life by her industry, and, with his assistance, they managed to support the younger members of the family. To them he was both a parent and an elder brother; his heart seemed to be entwined around them during life. By his own generous worth and energy of character he soon acquired the esteem and confidence of his countrymen. On the declaration of war by the United States against Great Britain in 1812, he took up arms in defense of his country's rights, and was, on the fourth day of July in that year, elected Captain of the first company of volunteers from Christian County, and in a short time joined the army in the then Territory, now State, of Indiana, stationed at Vincennes; was shortly after promoted to the rank of Major; commanded an escort to the relief of Zachary Taylor, the present President of the United States. In November, 1812, he returned to Kentucky, having been, at the August election previous, elected a member of the Legislature of Kentucky from Christian, and took his seat as a member of that body on the first Monday in December thereafter, and continued a member of that body, with the exception of one or two years, until 1818, when he moved to the then Territory of Missouri. In 1821 he was elected a Delegate from the county of Howard to assist in framing a Constitution for that State, and was, a few years thereafter, elected Lieutenant-Governor of Missouri. In 1826 [should be 1825] he was appointed by the Government of the United States a Commissioner to survey and mark out a road from Missouri to the Spanish provinces in a direction to Santa Fe. In the recent Indian wars on the frontiers of Missouri, he again took up arms in defense of his country. In 1836 he returned from Missouri, and settled in Todd County, Ky. The partiality of his countrymen soon called him to represent them in Legislature in several successive years. He filled many civil and military offices in Missouri and Kentucky. In private life his virtues shone most conspicuous--a dutiful child, a kind husband, a fond parent, a devoted friend. Warm-hearted, generous, and devoted in his sentiments, he had many personal and devoted friends. About the first of January last his health began to decline rapidly, and on Monday, the 16th day of April, 1849, at his residence in Todd County, having, as his friends fondly hope, made his peace with God, with a smile on his countenance, and without a struggle or a groan, fell asleep in Jesus, universally lamented by his family, relations and friends." Brewer's sons were: Benjamin H., Willis L., Ottaway and Archibald. Subject's mother was Virginia T. (Garth) Reeves, who died in 1850. Col. Benjamin's children are: William L., Jennette (Leonard), Mary (Wilson), Benjamin, Missouri (Ainslie), Eugenia (Griffin) and our subject.

A letter from W.L. Reeves to J. Leonard, dated 24 Apr 1849, Todd County, KY (from the Abiel Leonard Papers in the State Historical Society of Missouri Manuscript Collection, obtained from John Wanamaker):

Dear Sister

Your letter of date not recollected came to hand some days ago, which I omitted answering till I would see the final result of our dear old father, which has terminated in death. He has gone to try the realities of another World. He drew his last breath on Monday the 16th of this month, twenty minutes before twelve o’clock of that day. His remains were taken the next day to Uncle Willis L. Reeves’s and there consigned to his narrow dwelling. Oh, my dear distant Sister, can you imagine the weight of my feelings in recording to you the death of a dear father. He is gone. Gone, I hope, to rest, he expressed a hope, beyond the grave. I have lost all now. I have no ties in Kentucky now. His talk while on his bed of affliction was Missouri. The last conversation he had with me was, he wanted to sell his land and go to Missouri, which he no doubt would have done could he only have got up again. Three days after he died they lost a bitchy young Negro girl. He left a will. Uncle Willis and P. L. Garth his executors. The [most of a line obliterated here]. I cannot at this time say where my destiny will be. I am without a home here. I would be glad, my dear Sister, if you would write to Ma soon and solicit her strongly to move to Missouri. It was Pa’s wish for her to do so. Brother Ben is anxious to move to Missouri. We have lately had a spell of cold, frosty weather; killed all the fruit, bit the corn down, injured the wheat crops very much. H. C. Ewing is quite sick at this time. The balance of the relations, so far as I know, are well. Ma and the children are well. We are all on foot here [?]. I must draw to a close. My heart is too full to write. Give my love to all the friends in Mo. When did you see sister Mary?

For yourself, receive a brother’s love.
W.L. Reeves

[This letter was written by B.H.'s son, William Long Reeves, to sister Jeanette Reeves Leonard. William was living in Kentucky at that time. He was still there the following year at the time of the 1850 census, but he moved back to Missouri soon after that. William spends part of the letter talking about getting Virginia ("Ma") to move to Missouri, but she would die not too long after this. William took all the younger children to Missouri after she died. The two girls (Missouri and Eugenia) were already living with the Leonards in Missouri in the 1850 census. Crittenden and Ben Jr. were with William in Kentucky. Crittenden and Ben Jr. went to Missouri with William and his family, but Crittenden went back to Kentucky after a few years. Crittenden might have joined his sisters with the Leonards while he was in Missouri; Ben Jr. would have been out on his own soon, though he might have stayed with William until he married in 1855. Uncle Willis, B.H.’s younger brother, is mentioned in a couple of places. He lived in Todd County. B.H.’s other brothers were already dead by this time. I’m not sure who some of the other names were. A Garth is mentioned; that was Virginia’s maiden name, so it might be her father or brother. H. C. Ewing is probably Henry Clayton Ewin. At the end of the letter, William mentions “sister Mary”, who would be Mary Reeves Wilson. More letters by and about Ben can be found at .]

From the McGrew letter:

Ben was appointed by the President of the United States to survey the Santa Fe Trail from Independence, Missouri, to Santa Fe, New Mexico, when it was built.

WFT 22, 1690:
He surprised his mother by marrying her niece and namesake.
During the war of 1812 he became the Captain of a volunteer company rom Christian Co., KY. Before the war ended he attained the rank of Major. He ran for the Legislature of KY and won. He represented Christian Co. in the legislature until 1818 when he moved to Howard Co., MO. He was a member of the committee that enacted the first Constitution of MO. He served as representative of Howard Co. in the MO legislature.

From the Missouri State Archives Web site ( & governors.html), he was the second lieutenant governor of Missouri, from 1824 to 1825. His term was supposed to run until 1828, but he resigned in July 1825 (to become one of the three commissioners tasked with surveying the Santa Fe Trail). The governor died in office in August 1825, so Benjamin would have succeeded to the governorship if he had not resigned.

According to Bob Reeves, he was named for Benjamin Harrison, the father of President William Henry Harrison. Benjamin Harrison was a friend, neighbor, and sometime business associate of Brewer Reeves. They were co-founders of the Presbyterian Church in Harrisonburg, VA.

There is a nice biography of him in: "Benjamin H. Reeves" by F. A. Culmer (Missouri Historical Review, Vol. 25, No. 4, pp. 556-562, July 1931). Available from the web site of the State Historical Society of Missouri, . The Wanamaker manuscript has a great deal of information about him as well.

A transcription of Ben's journal of the expedition to survey the Santa Fe Trail can be found in "The Road to Santa Fe: The Journal and Diaries of George Champlin Sibley" by Kate L. Gregg (University of New Mexico Press, 1952). Note the following lines from "The Santa Fe Trail: Its History, Legends and Lore" by David Dary (2000), p. 93:

Missourians were not surprised when Benjamin H. Reeves was appointed one of the three commissioners to mark the road to Santa Fe. After all, he was the most influential citizen in Howard County, the center of Santa Fe trade in Missouri. Reeves arrived in Missouri from Kentucky in 1819; was a member of the first constitutional convention; and was elected state auditor, state senator, and in 1824 lieutenant governor, a position he resigned when appointed commissioner.

Note that Benjamin Harrison Reeves and Martha Donley were first cousins.

Note: Some of the information in these pages is uncertain. Please let me know of errors or omissions using the email link above.    ...Mike Wilson

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