Sonnystone Saga: Meet the Reeds

To celebrate 17 years living at Sonnystone Acres, we are publishing  a series of posts chronicling the first three families who lived here, spanning 111 years… This is the third installment of the series…

John L. Reed was born in England in 1815. Try as I might, I find no record of his parents or when he arrived. Because his life is intricately entwined with the Inwoods, I have reason t believe that upon his arrival he settled in with the British community that had been established in the 1820s around McCutchanville.

William and Hannah Inwood were from Godalming, Surrey, England and were among the earliest settlers here in Southern Indiana.  When they arrived in the USA in 1821, they already had three children: Harriett, b. 1815; John, b. 1817; and Sarah, b. 1820.  They had three more children after their move to Indiana:  Mary, b. 1823; George, b. 1826; and William, Jr. b. 1828.  William and his family settled land between Mechanicsville and McCutchanville along the state road, now Petersburg Road.  Hannah died in 1835, age 47.  William lived another 20 years, dying in 1855.  His children were grown by then and he had already conveyed his land and wealth to them.

In 1841, John Reed married Sarah Inwood, the daughter of William, Sr. and Hannah.  He and Sarah had three children together:  John “Jack”, b. 1842; Thomas, b. 1846; and Mary J., b. 1849.  The 1850 census shows that the family lives in Kratzville, a small community near Stringtown.  John was working for a trucking service as a drayman (driver of a beer truck). He owns real estate valued at $1100.  The kids were ages 7, 4, and 1.

Something very unexpected occurred between 1850 and 1860…John and Sarah Inwood Reed divorced.

Divorced?! you say, Divorced in the 1850’s?!  Unheard of.  I don’t have record of the actual divorce as those are hard to come by, but I discovered — to my amazement — that divorce was not as uncommon as I thought in those years.  In fact, Indiana had such lax divorce laws in the 1850s that coming to the state was a popular quick way to shed your spouse.

From “The Indiana Magazine of History” : [From 1852 ] until 1873, Indiana used to have one of the most liberal divorce laws in the country, and unhappily married individuals flocked to the Hoosier state in order to bring their unions to a quick—and relatively painless—end. According to Garber, in those days judges were inclined to grant a divorce decree “as a matter of course in every case where the defendant did not appear and oppose it.” The applicant had only to provide “proof of residence” and swear under oath that there was “statutory cause” for their petition.

Still, Divorce was considered quite scandalous in polite society… It appears that Sarah Inwood Reed was the first to stray which was even more sordid.   Sarah gave birth in 1856 to a son named William Green and in 1858 had another son, Benjamin Green.  I have no clue who their Daddy was, though I’ve looked everywhere for him.  The only candidate I’ve found would be a married man!  I’ve not ruled it out…

In the meantime, John Reed had moved to Richmond, Indiana and married — get this –his ex-wife Sarah’s younger sister, Mary Inwood Childs!!

Mary had married Stephen Childs in 1842 and they had three children:  Sarah, b. 1843; George, b. 1847; and Mary, b. 1849. I do not see a record of Stephen Childs’ death — or his life, for that matter, other than the record of his marriage to Mary, but let’s just assume that he died because one divorce is all I can handle.

While John and Mary rode out the scandal in Richmond, they had two children together: Minnie, b. 1857; and Ada Belle, b. 1859.  I do not know if John’s sons with Sarah, Thomas and John, jr., went with them, but their daughter Mary disappears during that decade.

So it was that in 1860, John and Mary Inwood Reed returned to Center Township, Vanderburgh County. Post office of McCutchanville, and bought Sonnystone land and home from Jacob Miller.  The family had moved in by the June, 1860 census and it shows that the property is valued at $2700, personal property $120.  They had a full house:  Sarah Childs, 17; George Childs, 13; Thomas Reed, 14; Minnie, 3; and Ada (Belle), 7 months.  John, Jr., 18, is also counted as living with them, working as a farmhand.

John and Mary Reed named their estate Reedmont. They owned their farm and are surrounded by Mary’s family.  Mary’s brother, John Inwood and his family lived on the farm just south of them.  Her brother, George, lived two farms north.  Welcomed back into the fold?  By some, perhaps, but the Inwood family reunions must have been a bit awkward…

1860 census reveals that Sarah Inwood Green and her two sons, ages 5 and 3, are living with her youngest brother, William, a grocer who lived in downtown Evansville.  Guess who else is counted as living there?  John Reed, Jr., heretofore called Jack, is listed as a drayman…

I can’t find a record of Jack serving in the Civil War, though he was just the “right” age for it.  Thomas Reed was only 15 in 1861 when the War started, but he managed to get in at the very end, joining the Indiana 42nd Regiment, Company A in February of 1864.  The 42nd met up with Sherman to fight the Battle of Jonesboro and were part of the March to the Sea and the Siege of Savannah.

The decade of the 1870’s was a bright one for most of the Family of Reedmont/Sonnystone Acres…

Stay Tuned…




2 thoughts on “Sonnystone Saga: Meet the Reeds

  1. Fascinating stories. And Indiana the “divorce state”? Probably not what Indianans wanted to be known for. Jim’s forebears came to the US in the 1750’s and gradually moved west, from Pennsylvania to Indiana and then to Kansas. I’m sure one of the original Coffelt settlers fought in the American Revolution, although on which side? Digging into ancestry is so time-consuming–good on you for taking the time.

    Liked by 1 person

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