If you thought that Issac Van Norman Davis was an enigma and a half, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
The Clint Reeds descend from Josiah Cunningham* Reed, who was born in Kentucky in 1802 (based on census data) and died sometime after 1870 in Wayne County, Illinois. It’s said that he was born in Bowling Green, Kentucky – as likely a place as anywhere in Kentucky, given the preponderance of Reeds (and Reids and Reads) who lived there at that time. Sadly, however, there is as yet no official record of his birth proving this definitively.
What we can document is this:
Josiah arrived in Wayne County, Illinois sometime before 1821, when he married Mary Cox (daughter of Thomas Cox, but little more known than that).
Yes, it says “Joseph,” not “Josiah.” But given the lack of Joseph C. Reeds in any of the censuses of the time, as well as the general similarities of the handwritten “Joseph” and “Josiah,” I’m prepared to go with this.
We know that, at some point, young Josiah was a landowner in Illinois (the map is dated 1817, but it also seems like it might have had additions over the years, and since Josiah would have been 15 at this time, it seems unlikely – not necessarily impossible – that his land was acquired in 1817):
He is listed on federal censuses for Wayne County in 1830-70, and we know he married Ann M. Lane following the death of Mary, presumably after 1839.
What we don’t know is this: who the hell were his parents???
One question that might (but might not) help with answering that one is: why “Cunningham”? This seems like an unusually idiosyncratic middle name and, as such, it seems like it has to have come from somewhere specific.
This is where we have to get all detective-y. I’ll say upfront that I am making all this up; that is, this is where my research has taken me so far, but it’s by no means proven or even close to proven, especially given the many holes in the documentation available.
So, on this website there’s an extensive (and openly incomplete) history of the Read family of Prince Edward County, Virginia. It gives John Reid (b. abt. 1690, poss. Scotland)/d. 1778, Prince Edward, Virginia) as emigrating to the colonies with his son, James (b. abt. 1715, Scotland/d. 1778, Prince Edward, Virginia), who had five documented sons: John, Samuel, Robert, Joseph, and Moses.
This page goes on to discuss the Moses Read family, in which we find two names of note: Cunningham Read/Reid and Nancy Cunningham Read, daughter of Cunningham’s brother, Nathaniel. This group is documented well enough that I think it’s safe to say none of them are immediately related to Josiah, but the fact that these Reads ended up in Butler and Logan Counties in Kentucky, both of which border Bowling Green, lends strong circumstantial credibility to the idea that they might be related in some other way.
There is at least one documented interaction between the Cunningham family of Prince Edward, VA, and the Read family:
If we can assume (and dates suggest we can) that this is the same James Reed (spelled alternately “Read” later in this article) as mentioned above, it might be indicative of a close relationship between the families that might have prompted James’s son, Moses, naming one of his sons after the Cunninghams, as well as Moses’s son giving his own daughter the same middle name.
So what if James had another son, also James? The website notes of Moses’s son, James,
James Read was born about 1785 in Prince Edward County, Virginia. and died before 11 January 1834 in probably Butler County, Kentucky. (J. L. Lamken says, “A James Read died in Logan County, Kentucky in 1803 and there is an order for the division of the estate in October 1805 and January 1806. There was also a James Read listed in the 1810 Butler County census.) He married on 13 October 1800 in Prince Edward County, Elizabeth “Betsy” Shepperson. She was born about 1780 in probably Prince Edward County, Virginia and died after19 March 1830 in Butler County, Kentucky. James Read’s will was probated on 11 January 1811 at McCulley, Logan County, Kentucky, but his spouse remarried in 1805, so his death was before that event. Francis Porter was appointed guardian for his son, Degrafton Read. But note that there is some doubt about the death date. James Read was buried in the Caney Fork Cemetery- Read Cemetery near Berry, South Lick, Butler County, Kentucky. . . Was one an uncle (brother of Moses) and which one was the husband of Betsy Shepperson?” J. L. Lamken says, “I believe she [Elizabeth (Shepperson) Read] might have been married to Moses A. Read’s brother, James Read. There is the issue of the oft cited death date for James Read (the son) and the probate of his will. I also wonder why Degrafton Read had a guardian if his mother was still alive?”
If there was an undocumented James Read, brother of Moses, who died in 1803 (a year after Josiah was born), it might be possible that the same hypothesized family connection between the Reads and the Cunninghams that prompted Moses to give his son the name Cunningham might also have prompted this James to give his own son the same middle name. Further, there is a James Reed listed on the 1800 Kentucky state tax list, living in Warren County (where Bowling Green is located).
Of course, the hypothesis that Josiah might have been a son of this James supposes a LOT of stuff that cannot yet be proven, chief among which is the actual existence of 2G James. But it’s food for thought.
*this is given as “Clark” by a number of people online, but there’s evidence that it was, in fact, Cunningham in this 1838 land purchase certificate:
- Clinton REED (1990-1975)
- Thomas Jefferson REED (1877-1955)
- Josiah Cunningham REED (1802-1871)