Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Friday, July 30, 2010

Reece Family in Union County, GA (part 4): Poet Byron Herbert Reece's Ancestors

The aim of the Byron Herbert Reece Society is to perpetuate and make known the poetry and prose of Union County’s accomplished poet and novelist, Byron Herbert Reece (1917-1958). He descended from a long line of Reeces in America, selected ones of whom are the subjects of this series on the Reece Family in Union and surrounding counties.

Byron Herbert Reece and his siblings were of the seventh generation of the known lineage of what we might call “the Reece clan.” Let’s take a look backward to see how the poet fits into this genealogical picture.

The first known ancestor of Poet Reece to come to America was William Reece, born about 1790 in Wales. He lived to the ripe age of ninety-nine, dying about 1898 in Iredell County, North Carolina. His wife was named Mary, maiden name unknown. William Reece of Wales had a brother who was an ordained minister, a preacher in the Presbyterian Church. His name was Rev. David Reece. This Rev. David Reece was pastor of the church at Cardigen, Wales.

A son of this Rev. David Reece, also named David, came to America and eventually settled at Sugar Creek near Charlottesville, North Carolina. This David, nephew of William Reece, poet Byron Herbert Reece’s ancestor, signed the Declaration of Independence when it was presented in Charlottesville for approval by the colonists there. David Reece and five of his sons served in the American Revolution. Surely William Reece must have felt pride in his nephew and the nephew’s sons for their patriotism during America’s War for Independence.

But now back to William Reece and his wife, Mary, first generation of Poet Reece’s direct line in America. William and Mary had a son named Valentine. They may have had other children, but Valentine is the one through whom we trace the poet’s lineage.

Valentine Reece was born in 1750 in North Carolina. Certainly we can remember his unusual name, since February 14 is our famous St. Valentine’s Day. For some reason, Valentine Reece had the nickname “Fella.” Maybe “Fella” was easier to say than Valentine. Records indicate that Christina Harmon and Valentine Reece were married in Pennsylvania in 1769. They settled in Watauga County, North Carolina. There they were members of the Tree Forks Baptist Church, and from that church’s record information was found about Christine and Valentine Reece’s nine children, listed as follows: John (1770), Jacob (1772-1851), Valentine (1774), Hannah (1776), Mary (1778), Elizabeth (1786), Isaac (1788), Anthony (1790), and Daniel (1792). Valentine and Christina moved to Trade, Tennessee at Roan Creek, Carter County. It is said that they had extensive properties there and “an abundance of the luxuries of life.” In Valentine’s will, he appointed sons John and Jacob as executors, and stated that his wife Christine and son Daniel (youngest) were to have fifty acres of land at Cove Creek and one “sugar camp.” The rest of Valentine’s property was to be divided equally among the remainder of his children. Valentine’s generosity to his children gave them a good start with property.

Through Valentine and Christina Harmon Reece’s second child, Jacob (1772-1851), we trace the lineage of poet Byron Herbert Reece. Jacob Reece married Susannah (called Hannah) Silvers about 1791, either in North Carolina or Tennessee. Hannah Silvers was born in 1788 in Carter County, New York. In 1807 this couple lived in Pendleton District, South Carolina. Their six children were Permilla (1809) a daughter; John (1809), Josiah (1815), Quiller Rose (1817), William M. “Billy” (1818-1905) and James Marion, Sr. (1820-1871). Hanna Silvers Reece died in 1825 at age 47. Jacob Reece settled in Gilmer County, Georgia, buying 120 acres of land there in 1836. On February 14, 1849, Jacob Reece sold this same acreage to his daughter, Permilla Reece Sandall. In the 1850 census of Gilmer County, Jacob was 81 and in the household with him were his daughter Permilla Sandall and two grandchildren, William Sandall, age 13, and Martha Sandall, age 12. Jacob Reece died in Gilmer County, Georgia in 1851 at age 79.

Know that in those days, Union County, Georgia and Gilmer County, Georgia were adjacent, before other counties were formed from portions of these two counties. So Jacob and his family did not live far from Union, although listed in the census as dwelling within Gilmer.

Jacob and Hannah’s second child, John Reece, born in 1809, married Mary Anderson, born in 1813. This John Reece was the fourth generation of William Reece’s family in America. John and Mary Anderson Reece had ten children: Jefferson (1831), Martha (1834), Elizabeth (1836), John (1838), Elisha Carroll (1842), Johnson Willborn (1844), James (1845), Burton (1847), Simpson (1815-1914) and Margaret A. (1853).

John and Mary Anderson Reece’s ninth child, Simpson (1815-1914), was in the fifth generation from William Reece. Their ninth child, Simpson, was the grandfather of poet Byron Herbert Reece. Simpson Reece married Emmaline (called Emily) Sampson on March 27, 1879 in Union County, Georgia. Mr. A. B. Queen, Justice of the Peace, performed their marriage ceremony. Emmaline was born in 1852 and died in 1936 at age 84. Emmaline Sampson Reece’s lineage will, of necessity, have to be a pursuit of a later time. Simpson was born in 1850 and died in 1914 at age 64. Both Simpson and his beloved wife were interred at the Duncan Cemetery, Union County, Georgia.

Records show that Simpson and Emmaline Reece had only one child, Juan Reece (first name pronounced Jew-Ann). Juan Reece, who married Emma Lance, was the father of poet Byron Herbert Reece. Here’s the summary of the poet’s ancestry by numbered generations from the first one of his Reece line in America:

(1) William Reece (wife Mary)
(2) Valentine (“Fella”) Reece, wife Christina Harmon Reece
(3) Jacob Reece, wife Susannah (“Hannah”) Silvers Reece
(4) John Reece, wife Mary Anderson Reece
(5) Simpson Reece, wife Emmaline Sampson Reece
(6) Juan Reece, wife Emma Lance Reece
(7) Byron Herbert Reece (1917-1954), poet and novelist, did not marry, no offspring.
Next week, we will look more closely at the home into which poet Reece was born, that of sixth generation Juan Reece and Emma Lance Reece.

c 2010 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Feb. 4, 2010 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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