William Reece

Co C, 98th Illinois Infantry


A Biographical Sketch

by his Gr-Gr-Grandson, H. Harvey Barfield, III

I am very proud to be able to write and to share with my fellow Clay County, Illinois historians and genealogists this brief biographical sketch of my great-great-grandfather, William Reece, who served honorably in Company C of the 98th Illinois Infantry during the Civil War.

William Reece was born 02 May 1838 in Clay County, Indiana. He was the seventh child of Elijah and Sarah (Pipes) Reece who had migrated to Clay County, Indiana from Clermont County, Ohio in the early 1830s. After Elijah Reece died on 18 April 1848, his widow, Sarah, migrated to Clay County, Illinois with her children - including her son, William.

According to the marriage records of the Clay County courthouse, William Reece (age 18) married Sarah A. Singer (age 15) on 14 December 1856. Sarah had been born in Louisville, Kentucky on 27 November 1841. She was the daughter of Willis and Sarah (Blake) Singer. Like most people of that time in Clay County, William and Sarah (Singer) Reece were farmers. They were recorded as such in the 1860 federal census. Listed with them is their first child, a daughter named Nancy Jane, who was born in 1859. Some of William's and Sarah's neighbors at this included the William Meares family, the Andrew Fender family, the Isaac Edwards family, and the John Landreth family.

When the Civil War erupted in April 1861, William Reece must have spent many a long hour discussing the ramifications of this life-changing conflict with his family and friends - particularly, his older brother, Isaac Reece. Of particular interest to these two struggling farmers with growing families was the $100 bounty that the government promised to each recruit (with $25 being paid immediately upon mustering in). Eventually, Williamd and Isaac Reece decided to enlist in the Union army. The two brothers were mustered together into Company C of the 98th Illinois Infantry on 03 September 1862 in Centralia, Illinois. Both William and Isaac Reece served honorably during their three-year tours of duty.

William, in particular, was present for most of the company muster rolls from 04 September 1862 to 27 June 1865 (some 17 in all). The only Company Muster Rolls he missed were the one in "Nov & Dec, 1864" when he was "detached with wagon train, Nashville, Tennessee," and the one in "March & Apr, 1865" when he was "Detached with wagon train, Eastport, Miss., 13/65."

After being mustered out of the army at Nashville, Tennessee on 27 June 1865, William Reece returned home to his wife and two daughters. (A second daughter, Ann Sue, had been born in 1864 - so, presumably, William Reece must have received some leave home from the army during the three years he was in service!) Upon returning home to Clay County, William Reece settled down once again to the life of a farmer. He and Sarah gave birth to a third child, a son, on 23 April 1870. They named him Stephen Willis.

Whatever happiness William and Sarah (Singer) Reece experienced in raising their three growing children in the bucolic setting of Larkinsburg Township during the decade of the 1870's came to an abrupt end on Tuesday, 04 March 1879. That was the day that William Reece died tragically young (in his fortieth year) of pneumonia. If that were not enough of a tragedy for his young children to suffer, they had to also endure the death (again, from pneumonia) of their dear mother just three days later (according to probate papers on file at the Clay County courthouse).

Sarah (Singer) Reece was buried beside her husband in the Andy Fender Cemetery of Larkinsburg Township in Clay County. Though Sarah does not have a grave marker, your author was assured by his grandmother, Edna [Reece] McArtor, a granddaughter of William and Sarah) that Sarah was, indeed, buried next to William.

William Reece, on the other hand, does have a grave marker as he was entitled to one free of charge from the government since he was a veteran of the Civil War. This plain, but dignified, marker can still be found and read (barely!) in the Andy Fender Cemetery today. It states simply:

"William Reese, Pvt. 98 Ill. Inf."

Paying homage for the first time at this grave marker was one of your author's greatest thrills as a family historian and Civil War enthusiast. That happy occasion took place in October 1985 when your author visited the gravesite of William Reece for the first time with his aged and nearly crippled grandmother, Edna (Reece) McArtor, who valiantly made the long, difficult trek from Chicago to the Andy Fender Cemetery in order to help your author locate William's grave.

That William Reece served honorably in the Civil War was always a source of pride to his children and grandchildren and continues, to this day, to be a source of pride to his many descendants.

Submitted by Pansy Limes, cousin of the author, H. Harvey Barfield, III

Return to our Civil War Photo Album      Return to The Illinois Civil War Project