The Reeves Family of
Reeves family first came to Warren County,
Kentucky in about 1814 in the person of George Reeves and his family.
Where did they come from? Where did the name come from? Let's
explore a little.
Reeves name is English. It has a
number of variations including Reves, Ryves, Reaves, Rives, Rieves, Reeve and
more. Probably because of
illiteracy, records of individuals with the Reeves name appear to show they used
various spellings over time. There
is even one record of a father and eight sons.
In the graveyard where they are buried, all nine have different spellings
of their surnames.
a practical matter, most people in years past could not read and write, though
some could sign their own names, but nothing else.
Public officials, church officials and other scribes, therefore, had to
make do the best they could. They
spelled names the way they sounded or the way they had known others with similar
sounding names to spell them. As a
result, people with all but the most common names had their names spelled
differently on various documents throughout their lives.
there are concentrations of the Reeves name (or variations thereof) in England, the United States, Canada,
and other countries which were part of the old
many other English names, the Reeves name originated as a job description.
In this way it is similar to Smith, Cooper, Baker, Miller and many other
present-day American names. In old
English life a “reeve” was manager of an estate or a minor public official.
feudal days, almost every British manor of consequence had its "reeve"
whose authority was to levy the lord's rent, to set his servants to work, to
superintend his dominions to the lord’s best profit and to govern the lord’s
tenants during times of peace and, when necessity required, to lead them into
battle. The name has been around for something in excess of a thousand
Chaucer’s (circa 1340—1400) “The Canterbury Tales” includes a chapter
called “The Reeve’s Tale.” Chaucer
noted that the reeve had "often a trade to his hands" and was, by
medieval standards anyway, educated. This
allowed him a house, plus some sort of stipend with such benefits as a horse in
the Lords stables or a special piece of land. He ate at the lord’s house
during harvest festivals. A reeve
sometimes had the power of giving permission to the daughters of the lord’s
vassals to marry outside the manor. In
some places reeves still exercised power as later as the early 1800s.
book describing life in the year 1000 said:
a connected document on the duties of the estate manager, or reeve, the
archbishop examined the mechanics of how a successful farm business worked
listing all the spades, shovels, rakes, hoes, ox-goads, buckets, barrels,
flails, sieves, and other tools that were needed, right down to the last
In England, what we know in the United States
as counties are called “shires.” The
word sheriff comes from a combination of the word “shire” with the word
“reeve.” The authors of the
above book explain:
every shire there was a shire court, which administered the king’s law, and it
was in the reign of Ethelred that the shire reeve, or sheriff, first came into
view as the chief executive officer of local government.
In a law code issued in 997 A.D. Ethelred ordered the shire reeve and the
twelve leading magnates in each locality to swear to accuse no innocent man, nor
conceal any guilty one—the earliest English reference to the sworn jury of
presentment, ancestor of the Grand Jury which existed in England until 1933, and
which still plays a prominent role in the legal processes of the United States
There were other types of reeves as
well. Some were in charge of
King Athelstan [ran a decree of around 930 A.D.] with the advice of my
Archbishop, Wulfhelm, and my other bishops also, inform the reeve in every
borough, and pray you in the name of God and All His saints, and command you
also by my friendship . . . that no one shall buy goods worth more than twenty
pence outside a town; but he shall buy within the town, in the presence of the
market-reeve or some other trustworthy man, or again, in the presence of the
reeve at a public meeting.
Others supervised shipping activities:
port reeve supervised the marketplace as the shire reeve supervised the shire.
1000 A.D. England
all young males were required to take an oath of
the king once
they reached twelve years of age. It
was a reeve
that administered this
In the year 1000, it was the
job of the king’s shire reeve to visit every community at least once a
year and to administer the oath in a ceremony whose religious content
was significant. The
sheriff’s visit frequently took place in October after the harvest had
been gathered in, and one can imagine the boys of the village
apprehensively assembled for their first taste of adult responsibility.
The Reeves family discussed in this
article is thought to be of English descent, but there is no direct evidence of
Reve of Blandford, County
Dorset, was the earliest person to use Reve,
Rives, or Ryves as a last name. He was born about 1490. At his death in 1551, he
was buried in the Church
of Saints Peter
and Paul in Blandford Forum where his
coat of arms was found in the north window.
oldest Reeves of which there is a direct linkage to the Warren County Reeves
family was William Reeves. He was
born in the early part of the 1700s and, in 1742, lived in Brunswick County,
He, in turn, is thought to have been a grandson of a Timothy Ryves who left England
for the colonies in the late 1600s. But
this connection is only conjecture and no existing documentary evidence makes
such a connection certain.
In any event, there were Reeves
families in southern Virginia
and northern North Carolina
in the 1700s.
Some of them left that region, probably through the
Cumberland Gap, in about 1801 and moved to Kentucky, first stopping in Madison
in the center of the state where they put down roots.
Even so, most of the family left about fourteen years later and moved to Warren
in the southern part of the western portion of the state.
Some of them stayed there, but some of the others left Warren County some
years later to move further west in Kentucky and a few even to Missouri.