Reeves, Spencer Stuart
SummaryFather: George Reeves, Jr.
Mother: Sarah Stuart
Birth: c1810, Orange County, North Carolina
Birth Source: Census and records from George Reeves, Jr.'s estate
Death Source: Execution pub. in the Hillsboro Recorder
Spouse1: Sarah G. Lightfoot, 1 May 1832, Chatham County, North Carolina
Spouse2: Ann E. Duncan, m. 17 Jul 1839, Orange County, North Carolina
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. This would have meant that if Harriet married, as she was planning to do, her share of the land would pass into her husband's hands, potentially compromising Spencer's access to the property. 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 his sister Harriet whom he later murdered, 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.
His mother Sarah Durham's will written in 1847 mentions that a minimal amount from her estate was to be used for his support and maintenance if he should be acquitted from the charge alleged against him.
A court order recorded in Randolph County NC suggests that Spencer Reeves was held in jail there in 1847: “Court order that militia guards for jail for Spencer S. Reeves, be paid, 1847”, Randolph County.
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.
On the 28th of May, 1848, the Hillsboro Recorder published the following:
Execution - We learn from the "Greensboro Patriot," that the sentence of the law was, on the 5th inst., executed upon Spencer S. Reeves, in presence of an immense multitude of people from that and the adjoining Counties. It is said that he exhibited to the last, calmness and carefulness of conduct astonishing for a human being in his situation. He made no remarks to the people around the gallows, but talked awhile to the sheriff and a negro man who belonged to his family. He stepped off from the cart, before it could be driven from under him - thus of his own will accelerating his exit into eternity.
Thomas Fawcett filed an administrator's bond on the estate of Spencer "Rives" on 4 Mar 1853.
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.
Note: According to local history Spencer Reeves was hanged for the crime and buried outside of the family cemetery.
SourceOrange 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
Randolph County NC Court Orders
Weekly Raleigh Register, Raleigh, NC pub 1847
The North Carolinian, Fayetteville, North Carolina, 30 Oct 1847, pg 2
Execution, 28th of May, 1848, Pub. by the Hillsboro Recorder