Birth: 1608, Wiltshire, England
Death: late July 1658
From the Introduction to the The Acts of the Witnesses written by the editor, T. L. Underwood:
Reeve (1608-58) was born in Wiltshire. His father, Walter Reeve, was said to have been a clerk to a Lord Deputy of Ireland. When his father’s financial status declined, he was apprenticed to a tailor in London. Reeve’s cousin, Lodowick Muggleton (1609-98), was born in London, the son of a farrier from Northamptonshire. He, too, was apprenticed a tailor. By the early 1650s the two men were in contact with each other and with communities of religious radicals that included the Ranters’ John Robins and Thomas Tany, whom Reeve and Muggleton later denounced following their own reputed divine commission as the two witnesses of Revelation 11:3.
Reeve and Muggleton gained possibly up to several hundred followers over the time they spread their “revelations.” They spent much time fleeing arrest, but left behind an assortment of writings and letters that sheds light on their beliefs and influence. Muggleton wrote an autobiography that covered their lives and teachings. He mentions that when in 1656 Reeve journeyed to Kent, he was so weakened himself in attempting to escape arrest that he spent the last two years of his life in “a sick, wasting condition.” In his first couple letters, Reeve describes his wife’s death, which occurred on 29 March 1656, and his own bad health. Toward the end he moved into the home of three sisters who cared for him until he died in late July 1658. He was buried in Bethlehem Churchyard, which was in the vicinity of the present Liverpool Street Railway Station but has long since disappeared.
Muggleton was later caught and held in Derby jail in 1663 to await trial for blasphemy. He was apparently released but in 1670 some of his books were confiscated. He was eventually caught again and in 1677 was tried in London and found guilty of writing a blasphemous book, The Neck of the Quakers Broken. He was fined and also beaten by mobs, but released on 19 July. A later writer, Thomas Tomkinson describes the prophet’s death on 14 March 1698, “being about 88 Years of Age,” and his interment in Bethlehem Churchyard with 248 persons an attendance.
According to a paper on the origins of the Muggletonians, Walter Reeve had two sons, John and William. They were both apprenticed to a tailor in London. The paper mentions that they both appear to have started theologically in a Puritan direction, but later likely "bitten by the Ranter spirit." John was influenced by the Ranter John Robins, a Universalist. "William, we know, lost himself entirely in this direction, became a mere sot, and lived on the charity of others."
The Origin of the Muggletonians: a Paper Read Before the Liverpool Literary and Philosophical Society April 5th 1869 By Alexander Gordon, M. A.