George William Reeves
Elizabeth Wilkinson Reeves
George William Reeves was born
Colony of Virginia. Halifax
is in southern Virginia, adjacent to Mecklenberg County, Virginia
and just across the border from Granville County, North Carolina.
researcher says the Reeves family, including George, moved from Wake County,
North Carolina, to Madison County, Kentucky, in about 1801.
With George moved his father, William Reeves,
and his brothers William, Jr.
(and his wife and children) and Jeremiah.
The exact year of the move has not been confirmed, but 1801 seems likely
since George took out a marriage license with Elizabeth Wilkinson in Madison
on January 1, 1802.
Census records showed he and his family lived there in 1810.
They list him as a resident, along with his wife, three sons and one
daughter. These were his daughter
Susan and his sons Walter Avis, Curtis F. and Jesse Britt Reeves.
Later that year, Peter M. Reeves would be added to the family.
In addition, there was a white female over 46 years of age living with
them. Two slaves rounded out the
to a Kentucky
was of English descent.
next few years were busy ones for George. He
served under General—later President—William Henry Harrison in the War of
His dates and places of service are not known, but history records that
in 1813 Harrison’s forces, including a bunch of Kentucky militiamen,
pursued British troops and an army led by the famous Shawnee Indian chief
Tecumseh into Upper Canada.
October 5, 1813, in a battle near Moraviantown, the British turned to fight, but were dispersed
and Tecumseh was killed. It is
likely that George William Reeves was one of the militiamen involved in this
battle. His regard for his general
was shown by his later naming his fourth son “William Harrison Reeves” in
honor of him.
moved to Warren County,
Kentucky, in about 1815.
At that time,
was strictly a rural area. Not
quite wilderness, but almost. There
were fewer than 12,000 people in the entire county, a density of only about 17
people a square mile.
The largest town, Bowling Green, had only a few stores, a brick tavern, and several modest homes facing the
square. The federal census taker
listed 23 households in the small town, with a total of 98 white and 56 slave
There were fewer than half a million people in the entire state, most of
them along the Ohio River
and in the eastern parts of the state.
1820 census for Warren County showed that the George Reeves family had grown.
There was one male and one female between the ages of 26 and 44 (George
and Elizabeth), one female and three males between 10 and 15 (these
are the same children shown
in the 1810 Madison
census) and three males under age 10 (Peter M. Reeves, William Harrison Reeves and Sidney
In addition, the number of his slaves had also grown to six, four of them
children under the age of fourteen.
was not wealthy, but was a man of some minor substance since, in 1824, he was
one of two people signing as surety on a $2,400 bond posted by Noel Sweeney as
administrator for the estate of his wife, Polly Sweeney.
William and Elizabeth Reeves were involved in a couple of real estate
transactions in the next few years. First,
in 1824, George
bought 666 2/3rds acres of land in northern Warren
along the Big
River. The cost was $430.
George and Elizabeth sold this property eighteen months later to John
Heard for $800, a $370 profit.
The next transaction was seven months later of the same land back from
John Heard to George for the original $430 price.
can only speculate the reason for these back and forth transfers.
They may have been what are known as "straw man" transactions.
Such transfers were common in the 1800s to correct problems in the
ownership of real estate. However,
such transfers usually were done the same day rather than months apart.
possibility is that George really sold the property to John, and financed all or
a part of the transaction but John found himself unable to pay and gave the
property back. However, since there
is no evidence that George and Elizabeth
moved their family and slaves off the land and then back on, that seems
third possibility was that the land was transferred from George and Elizabeth to
John to collateralize a loan from John to them and, once the loan was paid, the
title was transferred back to them.
any of these possibilities is the actual reason we cannot know, but we do have
reason to believe George and Elizabeth were friends of John, and possibly were
related to him for earlier that year their daughter Susan was married to James
October 20, 1826—the day the last deed was signed from John back to George—George had other
legal work done, too. He signed what
would be his last will, a handwritten copy of which is recorded in the Warren
County Clerk’s office. That will
names John Heard as one of George’s executors.
The will is reproduced below with the misspellings in the transcribed
Be it known to all whom it may concern, that I, George Reves,
of Warren County, Kentucky, being in my proper mind and memory, do
hereby constitute and ordain this my last will and testament, to wit:
First of all I direct my executor to sell my negro man
"Lusty," gray mare, still and aparatus, together with all the
stock that my Executor think proper, that may be spared from the family
to pay all my just debts, and, should the above named property not be
sufficient, my Executor may select such property as may seem best to
satisfy my debts.
2nd. I give to my loving wife, Elizabeth Reves, my negro man
Jacob, boy Dudly Isaac, my negro woman Silivia Eliza and girl Agnes,
together with all the land, household and kitchen furniture, and farming
utensils, together with all the stock not otherwise appropriated, to
have and to hold during her natural life or widowhood, but if Elizabeth
Reves should marry, any one of the legatees shall compell her to take
her third of my estate.
3rd. I give my
daughter, Susan Heard, one negro girl named Maria.
4th. I give to my daughter, Polly M. Reeves, one negro girl
by the name of Mary and one bed and furniture.
5th. I give to my daughter, Nancy Reves, one negro girl,
Rachel, and one bed and furniture.
Each of the daughters above named shall receive the above
negroes and bed when married or becomes of lawful age, but if the value
of said negroes and beds be more than their proportionate or equal part,
they shall refund back to the other legatees so as to make them equal.
Be it further understood that all my estate at my wife's
death shall be equally divided between my sons, to wit:
Walter A. Reves, Curtis F. Reves, Jesse B. Reves, Peter M. Reves,
William H. Reves, Sidney Preston Reves and George H. Reves, and be it
further understood that my son Walter A. Reves shall have a young rone
horse, exclusively of his proportion of my estate.
Be it further understood that last of all, I do hereby
constitute and ordain John Heard and John Thompson my sole executors of
this my last will and testament.
In witness whereof, I hereby set my hand and seal this
twentieth day of October in the year of my Lord One Thousand Eight
Hundred and Twenty-Six.
Signed, sealed and delivered in the presence of
George died soon thereafter and his will was
ordered probated by Warren County Court in July 1827.
The two witnesses proved the will by their oaths.
The executors were appointed by the court and they posted a $6,000 bond.
Clement Mobley, Jr., James Otey, Thomas G. Martin, William R. Adams and
Ezra C. Martin were appointed to appraise the personal property.
A year later, the appraisal was reported to the court.
Among other estate assets was an award the court made to the estate of
$71.64 for work George had done in administering "the estate of Saml
was about 47 at the time of his death; his widow would have been the same age,
or perhaps a little younger. Following
George’s death, Elizabeth
remained in Warren
County. She was left to raise five minor
children, the youngest being about three. Fortunately,
she was also left with 666 acres upon which to raise them and three nearby adult
children and, after Lusty was sold, six slaves to help her.
shows Elizabeth Reaves (there we go with the spelling again) as the head of a
household with the following members:
One male between the ages of 5 and 10
One male between the ages of 10 and 15
Two males between the ages of 15 and 20
One female between the ages of 15 and 20
One male between the ages of 20 and 30
Two females between the ages of 40 and 50
Elizabeth’s date of death is not known, but, due to her being mentioned in the 1830
census and in other records, it must have occurred sometime after 1831.