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William Ward Reed    

WILLIAM WARD REED, who died in his native city of Erie, January 10, 1904, was one of the leading members of a family which has been most prominent in the primitive establishment of the community and its development, for considerably more than a century, into prosperous and advanced metropolitan life. A Reed was one of the first settlers of Erie; he built the first house on the site of the present city; one of his sons celebrated the first marriage recorded in the local annals, and his grandson by this marriage was the first white child born in Erie. It was Colonel Seth Reed, great-grandfather of William W. who thus established the family name and started it in its broad and honorable career of useful and good works. He was a native of Uxbridge, Massachusetts, born March 6, 1746, and a son of Lieutenant John Reed who received his military title through active service in the French and Indian wars. Colonel Reed himself was commissioned in the Revolutionary war and commanded his troops at the battle of Bunker Hill. At the conclusion of the war he moved from Massachusetts into Ontario county, New York, where by trade with the Indians he became owner of a tract of land eighteen miles in extent. Finally, he sold this property and brought his wife and two sons (James Manning and Charles John) to the present site of Erie, arriving on the 17th of June, 1795. The family came from Buffalo to Erie in a sail boat, reaching the harbor in the evening and camping on the peninsula over night, for fear of the Indians. Soon after his arrival, Colonel Reed erected a log cabin at the mouth of Mill Creek, which was the first permanent building in, Erie. Known as the Presque Isle Hotel, it was used by its builder both as family residence and public house. In the following fall the Colonel’s others sons, Rufus S. and George W., came to Erie by way of Pittsburg, and in the succeeding year the family homestead became the well known farm on Walnut Creek, where the pioneer father died March 19, 1797, less than two years after his arrival on the banks of Mill Creek. His wife (nee Hannah Harwood) died in Erie on December 8, 1821, being the mother of the following children, four sons of whom have already been mentioned: James Manning, Charles John, Sophia, Rufus Seth, Sally Adams, Henry Joseph, George Washington and Mary (Polly).

Charles J. Reed, the grandfather, was also a native of Uxbridge, Massachusetts, born December 23, 1771, and his marriage to Rachael Miller, December 27, 1797, was the first ceremony of the kind solemnized in Erie. His former wife (Esther Wyndham) had died in that place at the birth of their son, William Wyndham Reed, the first white child to claim Erie as its birthplace. The children of Charles John and his second wife (Rachel Miller), all of whom were born on the Walnut creek farm, were Matilda Catherine, Seth II, Emily, Charles John, Jr.,. Cyrus, James Manning, Nancy, Caroline, Mary Annin, Henry Joseph Annin, George Washington, Frances Sarah, Thomas Miller and Hannah.. The father of this family died at Erie, May 10, 1830, his wife also passing away as a resident of the city, October 25, 1851.

William Wyndham Reed, son of Charles J. Reed by his first marriage, was born in Erie, February 20, 1796, and married Elizabeth Ingram Smith, at Ashtabula, Ohio, on the 7th of October, 1821. His wife was born at Clinton, Oneida county, New York, on the 14th of November, 1797, and their children (all born in Ashtabula) were as follows: Charles Manning II, born August 14, 1822, who died at Erie, October 23, 1845; William Ward, special subject of this review; Rufus Seth II., who was born October 21, 1826, and died February 17, 1830; Edmund Wyndham, born November 14, 1828, who died on the 4th of May, same year; Elizabeth Ann, who was born May 27, 1831; Edmund Wyndham II., born September 6, 1833; Robert Irwin, who was born March 11, 1836, and died March 13th of the following year, and Sarah Ann, youngest of the eight children, a sketch of whose elevated and elevating life follows the biography of her talented and honored brother. William W. Reed, the father of the family, remained in Ashtabula, Ohio, as a leading merchant for a number of years. He failed in the panic of 1837, hut did not return to Erie until 1845, when he became secretary and treasurer of the Erie Canal Company, which office he held at the time of his death September 9, 1851. His widow survived him for more than a third of a century, passing away at Erie, on the 15th of May, 1888.

William Ward Reed, the second child of this family, was born in Ashtabula, Ohio, on April 1, 1824, and was nearly eighty years of age at the time of his death in Erie. He received an academic education at Ashtabula and Erie, and after leaving school became a clerk in a warehouse in the former place, subsequently filling various positions on the lakes for some four years. Then leaving the marine service he filled a clerical position for some time in the general store of the Reed’s furnace on Big Sandy creek, Mercer county, Pennsylvania. in 1849, when twenty-five years of age, he commenced his career as a civil engineer on the Erie and Northeast Railroad (now the Lake Shore), and in the following year was promoted to be assistant engineer. In September, 1851, he went to Canada, and for four years was engaged in various engineering works on the Ontario, Simco and Huron Rail-road, between Toronto and Collingwood. During the following year he was busy on the harbor construction at the later place, and was next placed in charge of the building of the railroad from Clifton to Niagara-on-the-Lake; for the succeeding two years was contractor’s engineer on the Sarnac branch of the Great Western Railroad, and following the completion of this work built the canal aqueduct near Girard, Pennsylvania. In 1859 Mr. Reed was elected general superintendent of the Pennsylvania and Erie canal, in which capacity he served until the abandonment of the enterprise. He was chosen president of the Erie Board of Water Commissioners, in 1867, serving thus for twelve years. He was also one of the founders of the Second National Bank of Erie; was for many years a director of that institution and, for a portion of the period, its vice president. Mr. Reed was widely influential and popular and, at times, quite active in Republican politics; but, unfortunately for his advancement to a seat in Congress, he championed equal-county representation in his district (the twenty-seventh), and successively failed of receiving a nomination in 1876, 1878 and 1880. He always took a deep interest in charitable and benevolent institutions, being long a director of the Harnot Hospital and a prominent member of both the Masonic and Odd Fellows fraternities. The correct inference may readily be deduced from such life facts as these that William W. Reed, was a real benefactor to Erie and Pennsylvania in varied and numerous ways.

Sarah A. Reed, youngest child of William W. and Elizabeth Ingram (Smith) Reed, was born in Ashtabula, Ohio, March 16, 1838, hut when a child of seven came with other members of the family to Erie, and has been a continuous resident of the city for about sixty-four years. There she was educated, and almost since girlhood has been a leader along the lines of literature, art, society and charity. For thirty-four years she has been especially active in the work of the Home for the Friendless, and for the past two decades has served as its president. In fact, there is scarcely one of the city’s charities, whose progress has been of a pronounced character, in which Miss Reed has not figured as an active and highly useful factor. In 1880 she also inaugurated the literary study classes of Erie, which have ever since been under her direction; which have become among the recognized establishments of the city, patronized by the leading families of the city. She is a wide reader and a thoughtful student in many fields and her broad travels, both in the United States and Europe, have added to her high authority as a woman of thorough information and to her charms as a conversationalist and a writer.

A twentieth century history of Erie County, Pennsylvania : a narrative account of its historical progress, its people and its principal interests, Chicago: Lewis Pub. Co., 1909, pages 463-465.  More Erie County History Books   Search Hundreds of 1880s-1890s Pennsylvania County History Books for biographies and historical information on your ancestors.  View the book page images on line and print them out for your genealogy file!  Free Access to the old history books - plus birth & death records, census images and ALL other records at

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