William Henry Harrison Reed
Company A, 39th Illinois Volunteer Infantry
See biography below.
[Reed family genealogy on line]
Submitted by Wayne Reed
William H. H., that’s how my father [also William] always referred to him. My dad didn’t know his grandfather who died when dad had just turned 2 years old. The rest of the family simply called him William. He was born in 1840, the year Harrison was elected president. I suppose that would have been enough reason for the name in many families, but the truth is that William’s grand father, Charles Reed served in the 2nd Revolutionary War [1812-1814] with General Harrison and that seems a more likely reason for the name.
William’s father was Edward T. Reed. Edward was born in 1817 in Butler County, Ohio, just north of Cincinnati. When Edward was about seven, the family moved to Parke County, Indiana. Edward must have met the Robison family in nearby Tippecanoe County during this time. The future Mrs. Reed was only ten when, in the spring of 1831, when Edward was thirteen, his father gathered the extended family, including two sons-in-law, Charles Koons and Eli Shoemaker, as well as Joseph Shoemaker (brother of Eli). That trip required six wagons and the story was detailed to a newspaper reporter years later by sibling, George, who turned seven on the day they arrived in Will County, Illinois near present day Elwood and called the settlement Reed’s Grove.
We don’t know the details, but when Edward was 20 and Eliza was 16, they were married in Tippecanoe County, Indiana by Thomas Smiley, J. P. Eliza Robison’s parents, William Robison and Sarah Lane Robison are buried at Mintonye Cemetery in southern Tippecanoe County. Edward took up farming in Will County, Illinois. William was the second of eight children.
William’s grandfather was named Charles Reed. He was born in the back country of western Virginia. He referred to it as ‘Virginia, West of the mountains’. That changed to West Virginia, but in the year Charles died, 1863. Charles was a pioneer. He moved west early in life and settled in first Ohio, then Indiana and finally in Illinois. There is a bio. of Charles Reed at
William was born in Reed’s Grove, Will County, Illinois. The history writers say that Reed’s Grove, where Charles settled his extended family after a tough journey from Indiana, was located at the intersection of four townships [Channahon, Jackson, Wilmington and Florence]. That puts the town about 1 ½ miles south west of Elwood, IL. There are still foundations of the homes and businesses that thrived there from 1831 to about 1900. There is also a small cemetery with the graves of 11 Reeds and one other. It must have been comforting to grow up with so much extended family living close by. William was the second of eight children. By the time William was born, the hostile Indians had been moved west of the Mississippi River. The last threat to the settlement was the Black Hawk War of 1831, when Charles and his extended family left the settlement and returned to live with friends in Indiana until the Federal troops removed the Indians.
William was 21 when the Civil War broke out. He joined friends and family and joined a infantry unit, the 39th Illinois, known as Yates’ Phalanx, named after sitting governor Yates.
A letter Wm. [age 22] wrote home to his sister:
The consensus of writers who have studied Andersonville and other Civil War prisons is that the profile of the typical survivor was a man who was thin, independent and strong willed. Many others simply gave up trying to live. It was the westerner, the outdoorsman and pioneer that survived. William fits that profile exactly. As a farmer he was used to being his own boss and making his own decisions. He was thin and hard from the field work. Statistics show that the fat and soft city boys from the east succumbed quickly in prison. Twenty nine percent of those who went to Andersonville died there.
When William returned home after the war, his health was broken and he needed rest. Prior to the war, John Shoemaker, Lorena Eversoll and William Reed were best friends. Actually, Willam Reed and John Shoemaker were cousins by marriage, John’s uncle Eli having married William’s aunt Olive. Lorena had decided on John as her beau and 6 November 1857, they were married. John enlisted in the war and 14 February 1863 he died of measles in Nashville, Tenn. John and Lorena had 3 boys, Delavan Dayton, Francis Sylvester and John Fletcher.
As William recuperated, he started spending time with the widow Shoemaker. Soon they were married and the three boys went to live with William and Lorena.
William and Lorena had four children: Lester, who died young, Eva, who never married [but thankfully collected the family photographs], Viola, who married Warren Corbin and they had two daughters who never married and George Elbert Reed, the author’s grandfather who married Hattie Whitmore and they had three children, two boys and a girl.
William, like his father, was a farmer all his life.
A biography of William H. Reed is found in:
Past and Present of Will county, Illinois - W. W. Stevens, The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, Chicago, 1907 Pp. 653-654
This story from William’s daughter, Viola recalling when she was a young girl:
Many years ago, my mother, father [Wm. H.] and little brother George [Wayne Reed's grandfather George Elbert Reed], with my aunt [prob. Mary Olive Smillie] and her youngest daughter [Florence], took a trip in a covered wagon, going from Reed's Grove to Oklahoma. They were anxious to see this western Indian Country and to visit a relative who was a trader in the new, undeveloped region.
My sister Eva and I were left in the care of an older neighbor girl, while the family was away. She was very ready to have a good time with us, and many a happy day we spent riding our white horse, sometimes all three of us perched on her back at once.
When the family returned we listened to their tales of adventure in the Red Man's country, but doubted whether they had a better time, than we three had in our freedom, from parental authority.
- Mrs. Viola Corbin
This story appeared in a centennial publication of Elwood, Will County, Illinois:
Out of the Past Elwood, A History of the Village from the Earliest Records to the Present Time 1854-1974]
Late in his life, about the turn of the century, William contracted with the local undertaker [in Elwood] for his funeral. He made all the arrangements and apparently signed a contract containing the details. William lived on until 1916. When he died, the undertaker retrieved the contract and discovered that it specifically stated that the agreement was for a horse drawn hearse. The funeral home had been using a gasoline powered rig for some time. To be faithful to the contract, the mortician retrieved the old hearse from a barn and provided William with what is reportedly the last horse drawn funeral in town.
A letter from my first cousin, once removed, Helen Corbin, Elwood,
Illinois, February 21, 1975
Love to all,
William is buried at Maple Hill Cemetery, Elwood, Will Co., IL
William’s stone reads:
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