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Monday, December 13, 2010

Genealogy of Ex-Speaker Reed (1839-1902)


On this date . . . the 13th day of December . . . in the year 1902 . . . in the extended branches of our family tree . . . the following article ran in The New York Times . . . the ex-Speaker Reed mentioned below is my 5th cousin 5 times removed, Thomas Brackett Reed (1839-1902) . . . he had fallen ill and died in Washington, D.C. on the previous 7th day of December . . . shortly after attending the 67th birthday party of his friend (and another of our distant cousins), Mark Twain . . .

Incredulity has been excited in some quarters by the statement that ex-Speaker Reed belonged to the eighth generation of a Portland family. This statement appeared in several obituary articles, and it did seem inconsistent with general impressions as to the antiquity of American families and towns.

Portland, however, was not founded yesterday or the day before, and Mr. Reed took more than usual pains to look up the records of his forbears, making the task the amusement of an active life, of course, instead of the business of an idle one, and thereby avoiding any possible criticism on the subject of his genealogical tastes.

His investigations carried him back to one George Cleeve, who settled in 1632 on what was then called Falmouth Neck, first as the agent of Sir Ferdinando Gorges, who owned all the land thereabout, and remained in a similar capacity for Alexander Rigby, who, exercising authority derived from Cromwell, erected the region into a province named Lygonia, and made Cleeve Governor of it.

Cleeve had no sons, but his only daughter, Elizabeth, married an adventurous Irishman, Michael Mitton, who had drifted to the colony, and one of her daughters, in turn, married the famous Indian fighter, Anthony Brackett, from whom Mr. Reed derived his middle name. The remainder of the line, as Mr. Reed himself once gave it, runs --

  • Anthony Brackett of Portsmouth
  • Thomas Brackett (killed by the Indians in Portland)
  • Joshua Brackett
  • Anthony Brackett
  • Thomas Brackett
  • Mary Brackett (married Joseph Reed)
  • Thomas Brackett Reed, Sr.
  • Thomas Brackett Reed, Jr.

The fancy may be innocently, if not very profitably, exercised in crediting to one or another of these ancestors the various elements in Mr. Reed's character. Many a European nobleman cannot trace his descent so far, or with so much reason for honest pride and personal satisfaction, as the ex-Speaker could. Several times, as now, the house had depended for perpetuation upon an only daughter.

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