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Michael Reed Papers

Identifier: MSS-0047

Scope and Contents

This collection features records of Michael Reed’s business endeavors in the Robertson Colony, including promissory notes, receipts, records of payments and bills, and correspondence concerning requests for Reed’s corn and other goods. Included are many bills of sale for slaves as well as Michael Reed’s ledger of the daily activities of his slaves. Other documents include court documents, affidavits, ledgers, petitions, currency, and newspapers.

The materials cover Reed’s life and business from 1818-1859, the settlement of his estate after his death in 1859, and the continuation of his family’s legal and business dealings until 1874. From after this date, the collection includes a booklet describing expenses for a trip from Las Cruces, New Mexico to Seattle, Washington circa 1932 (presumably by one of Michael Reed’s descendants), genealogical records confirming eligibility for the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Daughters of the Republic of Texas from 1962, and a CoinSite Article entitled “Infamous #8894 Bank of the United States $1000 Bill” alongside one of the counterfeit bills and its negatives.

Notes: folder titles and descriptions use the alternative spelling “affadavit.” In the documents, the surname “Reed” is frequently spelled as the variant “Read.” Content is arranged chronologically according to the processor’s best knowledge.


  • Majority of material found in 1818-1874, 1932, 1962, 1991

Biographical / Historical

Michael Reed (1777–1859), an early settler of Robertson’s Colony, was born in Pennsylvania to James Reed, Jr. (1735–1808, son of an Irish immigrant) and Sarah (b. 1745, last name unknown). In 1800 he married Martha Burnett (1780–1855), and they had seven children: Sarah (b. 1807), John Burnett (b. 1809), Wilson “Wiltz” (b. 1811), William Whitaker (b. 1816), Jefferson (b. 1818), Harriet (b. 1820), and James (b. unknown, died at an early age). Michael Reed moved from Pennsylvania to North Carolina and on to Tennessee, where several of his children were born in Bedford County. According to family lore, Reed’s family was so poor that they walked on foot with their belongings seventy-five miles from Tennessee to Mississippi, where Reed perfected his method of growing corn in the American Indian style.

On January 14, 1834, Michael Reed applied to S. C. Robertson to become a member of what was then the Nashville Colony (to be renamed after Robertson later that year) in central Texas. Reed and his immediate family were the first settlers to receive land grants under Robertson and the first American settlers of present-day Bell County in Texas. Michael Reed’s land was located near the properties of his sons and sons-in-law on the northeast side of the Little River between the present-day Texas towns of Holland and Rogers. Before the outbreak of the Texas Revolution, Reed was a prominent member of the colony and also made land transactions with at least nine other Americans that allowed them to become his fellow colonists.

During the Runaway Scrape of 1836, members of Michael’s family buried many of their household goods before fleeing, and tragedy struck when daughter Sarah Reed Sparks died in childbirth during the flight from the Mexican Army. During the Texas Revolution, Michael Reed’s sons William and Jefferson and his son-in-law Wiley Carter were members of L. H. Mabbitt’s Texas Army company of volunteers, who were notable for burying the dead after the Goliad Massacre. After the victory of the battle of San Jacinto, the Reed family and other white settlers attempted to return to their original holdings, but Native American raids prevented them from staying long. Michael and his family did not permanently return to the Little River area until about 1845, and in the meantime, they raised livestock and farmed in Wheelock, Texas.

In his later life, Michael Reed became prosperous. Upon his death, his heirs inherited about 23 slaves, 43 horses, 126 cattle, and $1,758.50 in cash. He lived in a home constructed by slave labor and made with local wood. On his farm, his primary crop was corn, which he fed to his livestock; he also grew wheat and cotton. He owned a mill for grinding corn and wheat, and in 1851 he built the first cotton gin in the area. Reed, his friends, and his family were prominent members of the community who established the first roads, farms, schools, and churches. In the early days of Robertson’s colony, Primitive Baptist services were held in Reed’s home. His family also boarded local children so that they could attend the first schoolhouse in Bell County. On March 26, 1859, Michael Reed passed away in his Little River community.

Adapted from Handbook of Texas Online, Emily Grover, “Reed, Michael,” accessed March 07, 2017, Uploaded on May 5, 2016. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.


1.5 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Michael Reed Papers
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the SU Special Collections & Archives Repository

1001 East University Avenue
Georgetown TX 78626 United States