Category Archives: Days Gone By

Were Jacob Reed and Johnson Ashworth Brothers? Part 1

by Bruce Whitaker

The relationship between Jacob Reed and Johnson Ashworth was long and troubling. They got along well at times and their families where enemies at times.

Jacob Reed was born in Fairview, Buncombe County on February 15, 1802. He was the youngest of three illegitimate children born to Hannah Reed. Hannah Reed was born in Rowan (now Davidson) County, NC on Jan. 8, 1777. She was the daughter of Eldad Reed Sr. (1737-1806) and his wife Jane Whitaker (1745-1811). The Reed family moved to Fairview in late 1800 or early 1801. Their son John lived here several years then moved to Tennessee. Eldad Reed Jr. raised a family and became a prominent member of the community. Jane, William, Peter and Hannah Reed lived with their parents until they died. After Eldad Sr. and wife Jane died, William, Hannah, Jane, Peter lived together in their parent’s home until they all died. Hannah apparently married a William Jones for a few years but then he left. Hannah went by the last name Reed until she died. Peter, William and Jane appear to have never married.

Hannah Reed had two children when she arrived in Fairview. The oldest, Susanna Reed, was born in Rowan (now Davidson) County on January 12, 1797. She married John Reed and lived on Ballard Creek, just off Old Fort Road, until her death around 1837. James Reed was born in Rowan (now Davidson) on April 15, 1799. He married Nancy Grant around 1819. James Reed lived with or next door to his mother Hannah, Aunt Jane and Uncles William and Peter until they died. He appears to have been the sole heir of all four.

Hannah Reed became pregnant with her third child, Jacob Reed, shortly after her family arrived in Fairview. He was born in Fairview in February 1802. Jacob Reed lived with his mother, brother and sister and uncles and aunt until 1820. Jacob Reed bought 50 acres of land on Brindle’s Creek (now called Reed Creek), which empties into nearby Ashworth’s Creek. The land was located on what is now called Hollywood Road. This raises a few questions. First, how did an 18-year-old bastard child get the money to buy the land? Second, his mother and the rest of his family lived on Gap Creek. That may seem a short distance away today but back then you had to walk or ride a horse or a wagon to get there. It would have taken hours. The land bordered or at least was very close to the Ashworth’s farm. The same year as he bought the land, Jacob Reed married Fanny Williams. She was the daughter George Williams. George Williams lived in what was then Rutherford County. It is now the Broad River section of Buncombe County. This would be a short distance by car today, but it would be a very long walk or ride on a horse in 1820.

George Williams was the brother of John Williams (1775-1848), who married Mary Ashworth (1773-1865). Mary Ashworth was the daughter of John Ashworth Sr. and Nancy Ann Wood. George and John Williams were the sons of Edward Williams Jr. and Liddy Wood, a sister to Nancy Ann Wood Ashworth. The Buncombe County Court of Pleas and Quarter Session Minutes show that John Ashworth was arrested and had to pay a fine for fathering a bastard child in 1802 which is the year Jacob was born.

Until the 1880s, a mother who was unmarried and expecting a child or already had an illegitimate child would be arrested. The mother would be asked the father of the said child. She had two choices: name the father, who would then be arrested and forced to put up bond to see that his child was cared for and thus would not have to be supported by the tax payers; or her parents or other relatives would have to put up bond to ensure the county did not have to pay for the child’s upbringing. What fool did away with that law?

The John Ashworth who had to pay the bastardy bond was most certainly John Ashworth Jr., who was born in 1775. He would have been 27 at the time. His father, John Ashworth Sr., was born in 1735. He would have been 67 years old at the time of Jacob’s birth. That was considered a very old age at that time. The average life expectancy was around 42. John Sr. died three years later in 1805 at age 70. I assume John Sr. had already hung up his hat at that age.

Jacob Reed and his wife Fanny Williams had two sons: Ramie Roderick W. Reed born around 1821; and Abner F. Reed born around 1823. Jacob Reed’s first wife Fanny Williams died not long after Abner Reed was born. Jacob Reed’s two sons appear to have lived with him and their Williams grandparents. After he married, Jacob Reed appears to have very little to do with the Reeds, including his mother. I went to see Ramie Reed’s granddaughter Nina Painter Camp when she was in her mid-nineties. She said that Abner and Ramie were staying with their grandmother when she ran out of sugar. She was making cakes for some sort of party they were going to have, and she sent Abner and Ramie to borrow some sugar from a neighbor down the road. On their way home to their grandmothers, Abner wet his finger and stuck it in to the sugar. He then put his finger in his mouth and licked off the sugar. When they got home to their grandmother, Ramie told her what Abner did. Their grandmother went into to a fit of rage. She got so furious that she had to lay down on the bed. She died a couple of minutes later. Ramie’s granddaughter Nina laughed and said she died over a finger of sugar. This would have had to be their grandma Williams because their grandma Hannah Reed was still alive over 30 years later.

Jacob Reed remarried in the early 1830s to Mary ”Polly” (1804-1898). I believe she was a sister of Jacob’s first wife and thus was a Williams. Nelia Morgan Merrill said Polly Reed and Henry Casey’s wife were relatives. When George Williams died in 1846, Jacob Reed and Henry Casey oversaw his estate. George Williams had only daughters, so his sons-in-law would handle his affairs.

Part 2 will be in next month’s Crier.

Local historian Bruce Whitaker documents genealogy in the Fairview area. He can be reached at 628-1089 or