Mother: Damaris Sayre
Birth Source: Silversmiths of New Jersey
Spouse1: Elizabeth Edgecomb, m. 24 Jul 1760, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Hannah Reeves, b. 23 Nov 1762
- Joseph Reeves, b. 25 Mar 1764
- Elizabeth Reeves, b. 8 Apr 1766
- Sarah Reeves, b. 8 Apr 1766
- Mary Reeves, b. 8 Apr 1767
- Graham Reeves, b. 25 Aug 1768
A biography of Stephen Reeves is contained in the book Silversmiths of New Jersey 1700-1825:
THIS important silversmith has been the subject of considerable confusion. Most of the published lists and books concerning American silversmiths state that Stephen Reeves worked in Burlington. It is true that his places of abode were several and widely separated, however, nothing has been found to associate him with Burlington.
Stephen Reeves was one of eight children of Abraham and Damaris (Sayre ) Reeves, of Lower Hopewell Township, Cumberland County. His parents came from Long Island, and Abraham Reeves (b. 1699) became a prominent figure in the religious and civil life of his community.
The extent of Stephen Reeves’ activity as a silversmith in the Bridgeton neighborhood has not been learned, but was probably of short duration. By 1754, he was serving his apprenticeship in Philadelphia. In Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church, in Philadelphia, on July 24, 1760, Stephen Reeves was married to Elizabeth Edgecombe, daughter of Nathaniel Edgecombe, tobacconist, and his wife, Susannah Skinner.
From 1762 until the Spring of 1774, Reeves worked at the northeast corner of Second Street and Black Horse Alley in Philadelphia. He and his wife purchased this property from Jeremiah Warder on March 2, 1762, and it adjoined a lot occupied by two houses on the north side of Black Horse Alley, the title to which was jointly vested in Reeves by right of his marriage to Elizabeth Edgecombe, sole heir of her father.
Contemporay records shed a little light on the activities at Reeves’ shop in Philadelphia. A member of his household on February 1, 1774, was ENOS REEVES (b. 1753; d. 1807), his nephew and apprentice, the son of his brother Abraham Reeves, Junior. At the close of his service as an officer in the Continental Army, Enos Reeves settled in Charleston, South Carolina, became a prominent silversmith, and was a conspicuous member of the South Carolina Society of the Cincinnati, and the Masonic Lodge. He was master of the Vigilant Fire Company at the time of the great fire in Charleston of 1796.
In 1772, the public records first contain a hint that all was not smooth sailing in Stephen Reeves’ home. Differences between him and his wife, which had been almost part of their daily lives since the early years of their marriage, had come to a point which required a division of their jointly owned real estate. On January 29, 1773, Stephen Reeves deeded his interest in his wife’s patrimony, in Black Horse Alley, to Nicholas Wain and David Bacon, trustees, for the sole benefit of Elizabeth Reeves. The final break in their domestic affairs came before April 15, 1774. On that day, during probate proceedings concerning her mother’s estate, Elizabeth Reeves said — “ Whereas my present husband Stephen Reeves is absent from me and no not where he is.”
Reeves’ whereabouts were no secret to the journalist, Reverend Philip Vickers Fithian, who had been his boyhood friend and neighbor in Cumberland County. While on a visit to his home near Bridgeton, on May 11, 1774, Fithian said— “ There came a report toDay that Mr. Stephen Reeve (s) Silver Smith of Philadelphia is broken up & has left the City ; disagreeable News this to his Relations here.” Shortly afterwards, on May 24th, as he was passing through Georgetown, Kent County, Maryland, Fithian observed that — “ Mr. Stephen Reeve ( s ) is in George Town Working for Money Money to Gamble.”
From Georgetown, Maryland, Stephen Reeves is believed to have worked his way to New York. His advertisement in the New York Gazette, October 7, 1776, indicates that he was already well established in that city.
GOLD and SILVERSMITH,
Living near the corner of Burling’s Slip, in Queen Street. Takes this method to inform his friends and customers, and the public in general, that he now carries on his business as usual, such as making and mending all kinds of gold and silver ware, mounting and mending swords, and making all sorts of jeweler’s work, &c. &c. He returns his sincere thanks for all past favors and he hopes for a continuance of the same, as he flatters himself of giving general satisfaction to all who may be pleased to employ him. N. B. Ready money for old gold and silver.
Reeves was still active in New York on December 4, 1776, when Samuel Stout, later a silversmith in Princeton, wrote to his father— “ I have engaged to stay two or three months with Mr. Reeves the Golde Smith with whom I have to work.”
Nothing further has been found concerning Stephen Reeves. Public records of New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey have been carefully examined, but no will, administration or subsequent land title deed have been located. Elizabeth Reeves continued to live in her Black Horse Alley home as late as April, 1794, and her husband’s nephew, Enos Reeves, recorded in his journal that he visited his “ Aunt Reeves” while in Philadelphia with the Continental Army.
The writer has found no silver by Stephen Reeves which can be definitely ascribed to his early New Jersey period. Examples made by him during his residence in Philadelphia (1754-1774) include the vigorously wrought cream pot, fig. 2, made for “ R W 1766,” and a similar one once owned by Samuel Williams, cabinetmaker in South Fourth Street, which he advertised in the Pennsylvania Gazette on June 12, 1769, as having been lost, and described it as a “ silver cream pot, with feet, maker’s mark S. R.” The only tablespoon found bearing Reeves’ mark, fig. 3, exhibits a surprisingly early use of the Philadelphia bird motif moulded on the back of its bowl. Additional pieces recently located are the matching sugar bowl and cream pot illustrated in figure 4. They are very clearly marked, fig. 5, and could have been made by Stephen Reeves during his early days in New Jersey, or, as far as their style is concerned, at any one of his later locations.
It seems incredible that the large and irregularly formed capitals of Stephen Reeves’ mark have been confused, by at least three authorities on early American silver, with the small and almost mechanically designed letters of the touch used by Samuel Richards, Junior, of Philadelphia. ( Samuel Richards, Senior, was not a silversmith.) Richards was born in 1768, and his working period did not begin until the active career of Stephen Reeves had closed.
Fortunately, before this manuscript reached the printer, the writer was able to claim for Stephen Reeves, one of the finest known examples of his work. It is a coffee pot, with nearly cylindrical sides and engraved with a double or reversed monogram. This pot is said to have been made for Caesar Rodney, a Signer of the Declaration of Independence from Delaware. It is on loan to the Historical Society of Delaware and a descriptive label states that it was made by Samuel Richards, Junior.
The base of this pot is marked twice “ SR” large crude capitals in a rectangle. This is the proven mark of Stephen Reeves, and appears on a tablespoon made for his sister, Sarah Reeves (b. 1730; d. 1775), and her husband, Alexander Moore, of Moore Hall, near Bridgeton.
The Pennsylvania Gazette reported on 29 Jan 1767 that Stephen Reeves, goldsmith, was offering to pay eight dollars reward for a "Negroe man, named Glassgow" who had run away from his master, Alexander Moore.
Stephen was listed in the Chestnut ward of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in tax records.
He was listed on a jury list from 1770 and 1771 for the Oyer and Terminer Court of Philadelphia.
A family Bible from DAR records list the children of Stephen and Elizabeth Reeves.
Enos Reeves needs verification.
Williams, Carl M. Silversmiths of New Jersey 1700-1825, pp. 14-20
Pennsylvania Gazette, 29 Jan 1767
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Tax List, 1769, 1774 (Ancestry)
Pennsylvania, Oyer and Terminer Court Papers, 1757-1787 (Ancestry)
Stephen Reeves Family Bible