Image of Reed, James F.

Reed, James F.

b. November 14, 1800, in Armagh, Ireland, United Kingdom; d. July 24, 1874, in San Jose, California. Reed’s parents came from Ireland to America and settled in Virginia. Reed remained there until he was twenty, when he left for the lead mines of Illinois. In 1831, Reed arrived in Springfield, Illinois. Reed went into the mercantile business, at which he was successful enough to buy a farm near Springfield. He began to manufacture cabinet furniture at a point on the Sangamon River seven miles east of Springfield. Reed employed a large number of men, and a village grew up there, which was called Jamestown in his honor. The name has since changed, first to Howlett and then to Riverton, Illinois. In 1834, he married Margaret Backenstoe in Sangamon County, Illinois. In April 1846, Reed and his family were part of the Donner party, which started overland for California. Along the way, the party became stranded in a pass in the Sierra Nevada Mountains where forty members of their party died of starvation. Those who survived resorted to cannibalism in order to stay alive. Reed’s family was one of only two in the party to survive intact, and it claimed to be the only family that did not resort to eating human flesh. Reed went on to settle at San Jose Mission, California, where he made a fortune buying and selling real estate.
Illinois Times (Springfield), 25 January 1996, 10-11; Doug Pokorski, State Journal-Register (Springfield, Illinois), 14 April 1996, 5; John Power, History of the Early Settlers of Sangamon County, Illinois (Springfield: E. A. Wilson and Company, 1876), 600-1. Illustration courtesy of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Springfield, IL.