Biography of William M. Reed
Sagadahoc County, Maine Biographies





William Maxwell Reed was a native of Fhipsburg and third son of Col. Andrew and Beatrice McCobb Reed. He was born at the Reed farm, on the banks of the Kennebec River, about one mile below the Centre Village, on the 14th of March, 1800. His education was derived from the local schools, one of which was conducted for many years by his eldest brother, John, who was a fine type of the school master of that day. William also taught school for a while in his native town. Although young in years, he displayed in his school discipline the same energy and force of character that were such important factors in his subsequent career. The monotony and enforced quiet of the school room was, however, irksome to his naturally active temperament and he soon forsook the desk and became the manager of his father's farm. This was an extensive plantation and required many laborers.

Having faithfully and successfully conducted this business for several years, his father compensated him with the gift of a small farm adjoining the main one. On this land stood the old John Parker timber house, which had begun to decay. Mr. Reed took down this ancient and well known landmark, on the site of which he erected a house for himself in 1824. He was married, November 25, 1825, to Miss Caroline Drummond, the eldest daughter of Capt. Alexander Drummond of Phipsburg Centre. After this event he devoted himself to his own farm, at the same time was interested in operating a lumber mill at the Centre Village Two years after his marriage and occupancy of this house, it was burned by the carelessness of a carpenter who was giving the house some finishing touches. A new house was ready for occupancy in a few months.

In 1835 Mr. Reed sold his farm, purchased and occupied the colonial house of his uncle, Parker McCobb, at Phipsburg Centre, also purchasing, in partnership with James Drummond, the double sawmill owned by the heirs of Thomas McCobb. From this time he was engaged for many years in the lumber business. In connection with two other business men, he inaugurated the building of the lumber mills at Parkers Head, by making Parkers Bay a mill pond and inducing lumbermen to erect the dam and mills.

His first attempt at ship building was the schooner Madawaska, in 1832, which he built in a yard near his first dwelling on the Reed farm. The launching of this vessel was memorable as it took place during a snow storm in the month of June.

Colonel Reed inherited a tendency toward a military career from his ancestors on both the paternal and maternal side, and when only nineteen years of age, was unexpectedly elected from the ranks to lieutenant of a military company, at a time when such promotion was no small honor, rising to captain, major, and lieutenant colonel.

In 1844 Colonel Reed moved to Bath and engaged permanently in ship building, buying a yard in the southern part of the town, where he built ships during the rest of his life, under the firm of William M. Reed & Son. At the organization of the Sagadahoc Bank, he was one of its founders and a director, and in 1861 became its president, a position he filled until his death. When the enterprise of building the Kennebec & Portland Railroad was inaugurated he was among the first to aid the undertaking with money and influence.

Mr. Reed's public career began at twenty eight years of age, when he was elected, by the town of Phipsburg, to the House of Representatives, and was continually reelected until 1840, when he was elected senator, serving two terms; later was a member of the Governor's Council two terms ; when Lincoln was first candidate for President was one of the electors; has served several times in the Common Council and was one of the first aldermen of the city.

Originally an ardent Whig and anti slavery in his political sentiments, he became a Republican upon the formation of this party, and was ever active in its cause, supporting the War of the Rebellion with zeal. In the performance of his public trusts, he gave the same attention to their duties as he gave to his own private business, to the obligations of which he was ever prompt, discreet, and active.

Hon. Isaac Reed, of Waldoboro, was a member of the same Senate as Mr. Reed, and thus publicly wrote of him since his death: "That honest, Christian gentleman was my room mate during two sessions of the Legislature." From his earliest years he was surrounded with Christian influences, inherited genuine religious tenddencies, and early in life he and his wife united with the church. In Bath he attended the Winter Street Church. Mr. Reed developed in his youth those noble traits of character that led to decision, disinterestedness, and unswerving integrity.

For forty one years he and his wife made their house one of open hospitality. The poor found in him a constant friend, and he was always ready to assist any worthy object whose claims were presented to him. He always manifested a particular interest in young men, and one never applied to him in vain. Wm. M. and Franklin Reed built fifteen ships, three barks, one brig, and three schooners.

Colonel Reed died, while in the midst of a useful life, January 12, 1866, in his sixty sixth year. His wife died April 12th of the same year. They were buried in the Maple Grove Cemetery at Bath.

Of a family of eight children, there are now living: Franklin, resident of Bath, and Edwin, Victoria, and Ellen Drummond (wife of Henry Churchill Goodspeed), residents of Massachusetts.

From:
History of Bath and Environs,
Sagadahoc County, Maine.
1607-1894
BY: Parker McCobb Reed
Lakeside Press, Printers
Portland, Maine, 1894


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