Reeves, Harriet A.
SummaryFather: George Reeves, Jr.
Mother: Sarah Stuart
Birth: 1819, Orange County, North Carolina
Birth Source: Census and records from George Reeves, Jr.'s estate
Death: 1847, Orange County, North Carolina
Death Source: Weekly Raleigh Register
NarrativeIn 1847 Spencer Reeves killed his sister, Harriet. Spencer's violent outburst against his sister appeared to have been caused by the fact that they owned a large amount of land as tenants in common. The case is recorded in the Criminal Action Papers for Orange County, located at the NC Department of Archives and History in Raleigh.
In an earlier court case of 1841, Spencer was charged with having stolen the horse of two men named Bynum. In that case, Spencer's mother, Sarah, and Harriet delivered an impassioned petition to the court to forgive Spencer his crime. Their plea worked and the Bynum men agreed to drop charges, leaving Spencer free and unpunished.
From accounts in local newspapers, Harriet Reeves was planning to marry Presley Snipes which would have caused her brother Spencer Reeves to lose control of the land willed to her by their father George Reeves, Jr.'s will. If Harriet had married as she planned, her share of the land would have passed into her husband's hands, potentially compromising Spencer's access to the property. In a drunken rage, Spencer murdered his sister. The following was published in the Hillsboro Recorder on 30 November 1847:
Dreadful Homicide – An awful homicide was committed in this county, about 16 miles south west of this place, on Wednesday the 13th inst, by one Spence Reeves, upon the body of his sister. Reeves said he was going to Mexico, and threatened to take one of the horses with him, and went to the stable for the purpose of getting it. His sister followed, to prevent him from taking the horse; and not returning within a reasonable time, her mother became uneasy, and went to the stable in search of her, where she found her daughter with her head cut nearly off, and a cutting knife lying by her side – the instrument, no doubt, with which the deed was perpetrated; and Spencer, the son had gone off with one of the horses. One of the neighbors was immediately sent for, and after ascertaining the cause of the alarm, he start(ed) in pursuit of Reeves, following him in the direction of Hillsborough. Upon reaching this place, he informed the Sheriff, who started out with two Deputies to search the town for him. He was soon arrested, and next morning was examined before two Justices of the Peace, and committed for trial, - Hillsboro Recorder.
The following was published in the Weekly Raleigh Register on 3 Nov 1847:
At the Fall Term of Guilford Superior Court held last week, Judge Bailey presiding, Spencer S. Reeves was tried and convicted for the murder of his sister, Harriet A. Reeves. The evidence was circumstantial, but carried to the mind inevitable conviction of the prisoner's guilt. Mr. Solicitor Jones and Mr. Waddell appeared for the State, and Messrs. Morehead, Norwood, and Nash for the prisoner.
The full story of the murder of Harriet Reeves and her brother Spencer's trail was published in the Greenboro Patriot newspaper of Guilford County and reprinted as The Orange Murder in The North Carolinian of Fayetteville, Cumberland County, North Carolina.
SourcesOrange County NC Probate Records for Estate of George Reeves, Jr.
Will of Sarah Stuart Reeves Durham, Orange County NC Will Book F, p. 422
Orange County NC Administrator's Bonds online at Family Search
Research of Victoria Bynum, Department of History, Texas State University, San Marcos
Weekly Raleigh Register, Raleigh, NC pub 1847
The North Carolinian, Fayetteville, North Carolina, 30 Oct 1847, pg 2