Reeve, Abner, Rev. (1708 - 1798)

Abner Reeve

Reeve, Abner, Rev.


Father: Thomas Reeves
Mother: Bethiah Horton

Birth: 22 Apr 1708, Southold, Long Island
Birth Source: Southold Town Records

Death: 6 May 1798
Death Source: Headstone

Spouse1: Mary Landon, m. 16 Oct 1732
Spouse2: Deborah Tapping, m. Dec 1743
Spouse3: Phebe Foster, m. 1761
Spouse4: Abigail Bacon, m. 1794


Children of Abner Reeve and Mary:
  1. Son
  2. Son
  3. Son
  4. Daughter

Children of Abner Reeve and Deborah Tapping:
  1. Tapping Reeve, b. 30 Sep 1744
  2. Erastus Reeve

Children of Abner Reeve and Phebe Foster:
  1. John Reeve, d. infant
  2. Phebe Reeve
  3. Obadiah Reeve, b. c30 Apr 1765, d. 2 Oct 1781
  4. Deborah Reeve, m. Nathaniel Blakeslee
  5. Silas Reeve

Biographical excerpt from a discourse delivered in 1876 by a later minister of the church he pastored:
Still another point of interest in the narrative before us, to which we may give further time and space, is the minister himself, whose name is so intimately interwoven with every important event in the Ecclesiastical period now under review — I mean, of course, the Rev. Abner Reeve. I regret exceedingly that our sources of information concerning him are so meager; yet enough we have, to show, as I think, that he was a man of marked natural ability, of liberal culture, devoted, enterprising and energetic, widely known and much esteemed. He is said to have been of Scotch descent. His father, Thomas Reeve, was born Oct. 3, 1678, and died the 9th of Nov., 1735, the very year his son entered on the ministry.

His son, the Rev. Abner Reeve, was born in Southhold (Southwold or Southold, as the name is variously written), Long Island, N.Y., Feb. 21, 1708. He pursued his collegiate studies at Yale, New Haven, and graduated from that Institution in 1731, at the age of 23; and the next year, Oct. 16, 1732, he was married to his first wife, Mary, in his own native place. He entered on the ministry at the age of 27, and commenced pastoral labor, in 1735, in the old church at Nissiquasque or Nesaquake, now Smithtown, L. I. Here he remained something more than six years. During this time there were born to him three sons and one daughter. In 1741 his wife Mary died, and in December, 1743, he was married to Miss Deborah Tapping, of Brookhaven. From this marriage he had two sons, Tapping and Erastus. His second wife died in 1759; and in 1761 he was married to his third, Miss Phebe Foster, of Southhampton, L. I., of whom were born to him five children, John, Phebe, Obadiah, Deborah, and Silas. The three younger of them were born in Blooming Grove, N. Y., where, having left his first parish, Smithtown, and preached for some fifteen years in Southhaven and other places, he was settled, in 1756. Here he remained some four teen years, or till he came to Brattleboro in 1770.

Of his five children by his third wife, the first, a son, died in infancy. His second son, Obadiah, was killed at the age of sixteen, by falling into a well they were digging on the minister's lot, (the Rice place). His grave is in the old burying ground on the hill. His eldest daughter (by his third wife) married Captain James Blakeslee, who lived on the meadow farm, half a mile out from the village, where Mr. Sam’l Sargent now lives. The other daughter, Deborah, married a brother of the Captain, Mr. Nath’l Blakeslee, who lived near where Mr. Harry Miller now lives.

Silas, the youngest of these five, and, indeed, the youngest of all the eleven, inherited his father's farm, the so-called Reeve place, as we have already remarked, and spent his days here in West Brattleboro, being an active, consistent member of the church, an intelligent, enterprising citizen, a good neighbor, "upright, gentle and beloved, and against whose good name I never heard a word." So says one of our oldest, still living, and most candid of citizens, who "knew him well and long." And all who ever knew Mr. Silas Reeve, so far as I have ever heard, speak of him in similar terms. He was born in 1768, was married by his father to Miss Rhoda Blakeslee in 1788, in the twentieth year of his age, and had eight children, two of whom, Mrs. Ithoda Adams, the eldest, and Miss Eliza, next to the youngest, are still living in this village.

Of the Rev. Mr. Reeve's other children, there was one by his second wife, who took his mother's name, Tapping, for a Christian name, concerning whose memory, scholars and Christians will love to talk and hear and think for many generations. He was born Sept. 20, 1744, some say at Southhold, and some at Brookhaven, where, it would seem, his father preached for a time. This son, sometimes called Judge Reeve, and sometimes the Honorable Tapping Reeve, established a Law School in Litchfield, Conn., in 1784, which was, for a long time, the most celebrated Institution of the kind in the United States. Allen's American Biographical Dictionary tells us that "he was not only a profound lawyer, but also an eminent Christian;" that "his charities were extensive;" and that "much of his time was employed in devotion." So far as I can learn and judge of his father, I think we have in this son of his a fit representative, "a worthy son of a worthy sire." It has seemed to me that many of the traits of the make, the mind and character of the father, were happily shadowed forth or reproduced in this son; and that the Rev. Dr. Lyman Beecher, for many years the son's pastor, has left us a beautiful outline of these traits; when, on the occasion of the son's funeral, the Doctor says, in words which I abridge, that "he was blessed with a mind of the first order. His per son was well-proportioned and commanding, his countenance regular and interesting; his eye especially was filled with mild but most animated expression. His voice was full-toned and musical; and his eloquence, when his soul was roused and his heart awake, was powerful, the eloquence of a vigorous mind, a vivid imagination and an expansive heart. His humor was genuine, his sensibilities exquisite, his affections copious and ardent. Few minds are formed to receive or communicate more social enjoyment, or to inspire or feel more ardent affection. The manners of Judge Reeve were equally removed from repulsive haughtiness and unbecoming familiarity, and were strongly marked by a guileless simplicity combined with a real dignity of demeanor."

The Rev. Abner Reeve has been described to me by those who knew him personally, as a fine-looking man, well built, large and portly, dignified yet easy and gracious in his carriage, noble and generous in mind and heart, and much beloved by his people. His voice is said by those who knew it, to have been full, round and clear, so that no one ever had any difficulty in hearing or understanding what he said. If the letter, or manuscript page, which I have before me, (and have shown to you,) was written by himself, as it purports and is said to have been, he was certainly a very good pen man, clear, bold and distinct; and, for a man of his age, being at that time in his 85th year, it is remarkably steady, smooth and even. Some of his grandchildren have told me of their riding behind him horseback, on a pillion, in going with him to meeting. A chair of his, very antique in appearance, and a few books that he once owned and used, such as Cruden's Concordance, a very old edition published in London, and Dedicated to the Queen, and an Exposition of the Bible, or a portion of it, in Latin, are still extant.

In religious and doctrinal views and teaching, the Rev. Mr. Reeve was an Orthodox Congregational minister, such, at least, the Covenanters sought. And when he came among them, they required of him that he bring good, clean papers to this effect from his former charge, or from ministers of his acquaintance in that neighborhood, certifying also to his good moral character. And, judged of by his teachings during his twenty-five years’ labor here, he came to be spoken of in history as "of the order called New England Calvinistic Congregational."

Mr. Reeve took a generous and active part in religious and ministerial labors outside of his own particular parish. We have already spoken of his serving on a council of ministers and churches in Rockingham in 1773. From a MS. History of Marlboro, written by the Rev. E. H. Newton, D. D., we learn that "In 1774 the Rev. Abner Reeve came [went] and preached the first sermon ever delivered in that town by a regular minister, from the text found in Mark 16:15, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.’" Judging from the text and the service he was rendering, I should say he was not lacking in missionary enterprise, even in that early day, and before missionary societies as such had come into being. On the 21st of January, 1778, Mr. G. C. Lyman arrived at the minister's tavern in Brattleboro, the Rev. Mr. Reeve's house, and tarried with him for the night, having dined with the Rev. Mr. Hubbard of Northfield that day. He was on his way to preach as a candidate for the people in Marlboro. And when it is added that he was twelve days in getting from his home in Lebanon, Conn., to the hill town on our west, we get some idea of traveling in the winter in those days. But the journey was not lost. Before the year closed, i.e., Dec. 8, 1778, a council was called to separate Mr. Lyman to the gospel ministry in that town. Present at that council, among others, were Rev. Abner Reeve, who was chosen Moderator, and Dea. Jacob Spaulding, delegate from the church in Brattleboro. Mr. Reeve made the ordaining prayer, performed the separation to office, and gave the charge.

In March, 1793, an Ecclesiastical council was convened in Guilford for the purpose of ordaining Elijah Wallage. Mr. Reeve was chosen Moderator of the council, and gave the charge. Being, as he was at that time, in the 86th year of his age, attending a large council in a neighboring town in the month of March, and called to such service, would seem to indicate the vigor of the man and the honor in which he was held by his brethren at that advanced period of his life.

And here, too, it is worthy of record that the first Ministerial Association ever formed in the State of Vermont, was organized here in Brattleboro at the house of the Rev. Abner Reeve, Oct. 17, 1775, more than a century since. By what preliminary movement the brethren were called together, does not appear; but the Preamble to the Articles of the "Association Covenant," is worth quoting: "We, the subscribers, Ministers of the Gospel in the County of Cumberland and State of New York, being desirous of promoting the interest of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the spiritual good of the church and people, as far as we have charge, opportunity and influence; and having a divine direction to do all things decently and in order, which respect God’s house and worship; and being instructed by the sacred oracles to be modest, humble and self-diffident, and that in the multitude of council there is safety; and finding. (Acts 15) that even inspired men took council one of another; think it expedient and our duty to associate and unite in an ecclesiastical body, for the more effectual service of Christ in his church, and for our own mutual assistance in matters of weight and difficulty respecting our ministerial office—do now engage to be one body, and to abide by the following Articles, till our associated body shall find good reason to alter or exchange any of them or add thereto." Among the Articles adopted by them, there was one forbidding that any but ministers sound in the faith should be admitted as members. Another is: "We will hold ministerial and Christian communion with neighboring ministers and churches, and invite them occasionally to our assistance."

I know not if Mr. Reeve himself drew up this paper of Preamble and Articles; but in the absence of evidence on the subject, in the circumstances, it is only natural and fair to suppose that he did. But be that as it may, inasmuch as the meeting was held at his house, doubtless in his study, and composed of only four ministerial brethren, though others joined them soon, there can be no doubt that we here get a good idea of Mr. Reeve's religious views and feelings, life and character, of his high regard for the Word of God as the Great Rule of all action, of his supreme devotion to Christ and his cause, of his interest in the church and the souls of men, of his firm and watchful regard for soundness in the faith, of his desire for self-culture and mutual study and improvement, of his love for the brethren, and of his readiness to co-operate with them in every practicable way and place for the upbuilding of the Redeemer's Kingdom, at home or abroad, in his own parish, or elsewhere. In a word, we have here the picture of an earnest, devoted, faithful, cultured, modest and loving Christian minister. Such was the early, aged, pastoral father of this church and society, truly, for the times and circumstances in which he lived, a great and a good man.

We do well to revere his name, to call to mind, as at this day, the many, faithful and long-continued services he rendered us in the persons and families, the church and society of our fathers. And let us thank God for giving the town such a man, a man of mind and heart, of culture and experience, of decision and enterprise, of courage and of piety—a man for the place and for the times, those early days of con fusion and of excitement, not in the nation only, but pre-eminently so in all this region; those unsettled, troublous and formative days, when there was need of a man that was a man, a noble, Christian man, to stand for the right and the good, remand all to the law and to the testimony, and lay so deep and broad the foundations of the church and society . that they should be found equal to all subsequent shocks, able to stand and live before God. And, withal, let us cherish an innocent pride, a living, loving gratitude, that "his sepulchre is with us unto this day."

Having resigned his charge and retired from official service, he passed two or three years of comparative quiet with his son Silas, at his new home on the so-called Reeve farm, of which I have already spoken. In the spring of 1798, his son being for many weeks very sick, he was invited to go and stop for a time with his daughter Phebe, the wife of Capt. Blakes. lee, where he soon departed this life, and went home to the "rest that remaineth." This mortal part was interred in the graveyard, just in rear, or to the east, of the site of the old Meeting-House, on the hill, where he so often stood, for many years, to minister unto the Lord and his people.
At the head of his grave stands a slate-stone slab, some three or four feet high, on which are engraved these words:

Farewell, dear friends; We part in pain,
But hope to live And meet again."

Close by the side of this grave are two others with appropriate head-stones, one in memory of his son Obadiah, who died in 1781; and one in memory of Phebe his wife, who died May 26, 1790, sixty-six years old.

The Biographical Register of Yale College, his Alma Mater, speaks of the Rev. Mr. Reeve as having served here (in Brattleboro) in the pastoral office about 26 years. Other authorities make it the same. I make it less by a year or more. So far as I can learn and judge, from all the dates and facts at hand, I think he gave up preaching in the 87th year of his age, in the 60th of his ministerial life, and in the 25th of his labors here, or about four years before his death.

The salmon records state that Abner Reeve was ordained 6 Nov 1755.

Study of the Reeve Family states "His 4th wife was widow Abigail Bacon whom he married in 1794, per church records of Guilford, Vermont."

Research Notes


Birth:          The New York genealogical and biographical record, vol. 38, p250
Marriage1:  The Salmon records; a private register of marriages and deaths of the residents of the town of Southold, Suffolk County, N.Y.
Death:        Headstone, Meeting House Hill Cemetery, Brattleboro, Windham County, Vermont

1790 Census:  Brattleboro, Windham, Vermont

In the Times of Old: A Discourse on the EARLY HISTORY CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH west Brattleboro, Vt. - DELIVERED DECEMBER 31, 1876. BY THE REV LEWIS GROUT, pp. 20-25
Study of the Reeve Family (Baker, 1970), p421