Genealogical and Family History
STATE OF MAINE
Compiled under the editorial supervision of George Thomas Little, A. M., Litt. D.
LEWIS HISTORICAL PUBLISHING COMPANY
[Please see Index page for full citation.]
[Transcribed by Coralynn Brown]
[Many families included in these genealogical records had their beginnings in Massachusetts.]
The ancestry of one of the most distingushed men Maine ever produced has not been traced far back. The earliest ancestor of Hon. Thomas B. Reed on the paternal side was:
(I) Joseph Reed, who resided on Peak's Island in Portland Harbor, where he died April 1, 1852. He married, Nov. 10, 1796, Mary Brackett, bap. June 9, 1776, died Nov. 13, 1860, daughter of Thomas and Jane (Hall) Brackett.
Children, b. on Peak's Island:
Mary Elizabeth & Thomas B., next mentioned.
(II) Thomas Brackett, youngest child of Joseph and Mary (Brackett) Reed, was born on Peak's Island, Aug. 24, 1803, and died in Portland, 1883. He married, in 1838, Matilda R. Mitchell.
Thomas B., mentioned below.
Harriet E. S., born June, 1846, married Elisha W. Conley, manager of the Standard Oil Works, Portland.
(III) Thomas Brackett (2), only son of Thomas Brackett (1) and Matilda R. (Mitchell) Reed, was born Oct. 13, 1839, in a house on Hancock street, Portland, near the house where the poet Longfellow first saw the light. He attended the public schools where he prepared for college, and in 1856 entered Bowdoin College. In his class were many students who afterward attained distinction. From Portland were Joseph W. Symonds, now one of the foremost lawyers in the state, William W. Thomas, now minister to Sweden, Colonel Albert W. Bradbury, John Marshall Brown, Nicholas E. Boyd and Samuel S. Boyd. Other well known members of the class were Hon. Amos L. Allen, since representative in the national legislature, Horace H. Burbank, of Saco, Albert H. Davis, and John F. Appleton, of Bangor.
While he, in a measure, pursued his studies to suit himself and did not follow closely the college curriculum, he was still at graduation among the very first in his class for the scholarship required. At commencement he delivered an oration, and the subject he chose was the "Fear of Death," and his method of treating it made a profound impression on his hearers. A classmate said of him: "It is safe to say that no young man ever departed from Bowdoin College leaving behind him a stronger impression of intellectual capacity, of power reserved and hitherto unused, of ability to act a high and noble part in public life or a more universal expectation among teachers and classmates of great and brilliant service in the future. His old teachers at Bowdoin if they were still living would look with no surprise upon the achievements of his life, great and splended as they have been."
After leaving college he taught for something more than a year, being a part of that time an assistant in the Portland high school. During this time he was studying law in the office of Howard & Strout in Portland. Later he went to California, where he was admitted to the bar, but he soon returned to Portland. In April, 1864, he was appointed assistant paymaster in the U. S. navy, and attached to the "tinclad" "Sibyl," whose commander subsequently performed the remarkable task of bringing the obelisk "Cleopatra's Needle" from Egypt to New York City. Leaving the navy, he returned to Portland and was admitted to the bar. He rose rapidly in his profession and soon became conspicuous in his profession.
His political career began in 1867, when he was elected to the Maine house of representatives from Portland. He served on the judiciary committee and it was largely due to his efforts that the superior court was established in Cumberland county. After serving two terms in the house he was elected to the senate from Cumberland county. Before his term expired he was chosen attorney general, his competitors being Harris M. Plaisted and Edwin B. Smith, both men of distinction. He was then but thirty years old, the youngest man who had held this office in Maine. Mr. Reed filled this office three years and during that time he tried many important cases. On his recommendation as attorney general the law was so changed that a wife could testify against her husband. At the end of his trem of service as attorney general Mr. Reed became city solicitor of Portland and served four years; many important cases effecting the city's interests arose during this period. At one time Mr. Reed was associated with Manasseh Smith in the practice of law and subsequently for a time with Hon. Clarence Hale, afterwards judge of the U. S. district court. In 1876 Mr. Reed became a candidate for the Republican nomination to congress against Congressman John H. Burleigh, and this marked his entry into national politics. The contest was a memorable one, but Mr. Reed received the nomination by a small margin and was elected by a plurality of about a thousand over his opponent, John M. Goodwin, the Democratic candidate. Until he resigned in 1899, Mr. Reed was nominated by acclamation for every successive congress and elected. Mr. Blaine alone ever had so long a career in the house of representataives from Maine. The house in which Mr. Reed first took his seat was Democratic and he received the treatment usually accorded new members, by being appointed on the committee on territories. He made his first speech in congress April 12, 1878, and its clearness and cogency gave him a high standing in the house. Another opportunity to demonstrate his acumen and effectiveness came when as a member of the Potter committee he took a part in the investigation of the election of 1876, during which proceedings he examined many distinguished witnesses. This made him known throughout the country. Four years later Mr. Reed was chairman of the judiciary committee, a position of honor and influence. The following three congresses were Democratic and Mr. Reed had no conspicuous part except as a debater. Gradually he worked himself up to be the recognized leader of the Republicans on the floor. The distinction came to him simply through merit. He became the leader of the minority, because his party generally recognized that he was the man best fitted for the place. He had plenty of courage, was ready and effective in debate and thoroughly versed in the rules of the house and parliamentary practice in general to which he had given special attention. Mr. Reed's leadership excited no jealousies simply for the reason that all felt he had it by right. He had not thrust himself forward, he resorted to no arts to gain it, he simply demonstrated his capacity to lead and his party did the rest. In the forty-ninth congress his leadership was formally acknowledged by his party by conferring upon him the nomination for speaker. In the fiftieth congress he also received that honor. In 1888 Harrison was elected president and the fifty-first congress was Republican. Reed, McKinley and Cannon were candidates for speaker and Reed was made the candidate of his party on the first ballot, and subsequently chosen speaker of the house. It was as speaker of the house that Mr. Reed did the act that will always be remembered as the most conspicuous one in his career. While the constitution was silent on the point it had been the practice from the foundation of the government not to count members present unless they answered to their names. The result was that frequently while there was a quorum of members actually present in the house business was paralyzed because they would not answer to their names. There is no doubt that Mr. Reed formed a purpose to count a quorum long before the house met, and this purpose he carried out with calmness and deliberation. He first counted a quorum before the house had adopted any rules, acting under the sanction of general parliamentary law. When the house adopted its rules, one empowering the speaker to count a quorum was included and the practice was forever established that a member present is to be recognized as present for quorum purposes just as much as if he had answered to his name when it was called. There was a great clamor, and the speaker was charged with suberting, for partisan advantage, the very foundation of the government. The matter was taken to the supreme court which sustained the legality of Mr. Reed's procedure, and what was prounounced revolutionary and subersive of the rights of the people is now acknowledged by all parties as a correct and sensible rule of procedure. The justice of Mr. Reed's rules became apparent at the very next congress, which was Democratic and adopted them in substance and ever since they have been the rules of the house of representatives. Mr. Reed's act, which now seems but a simple thing, was one that none but a man of iron will and courage that quailed at nothing could have done. The enactment of the McKinley tariff bill was the most important piece of legislation of the fifty-first congress and one of its effects was to temporarily raise the prices of certain articles. This proved exceedingly disastrous to the Republicans and the next congress was overwhelmingly Democratic. In that congress Mr. Reed became the leader of the Republicans on the floor. He contrived to hold this position during the next congress which was also Democratic, and he led the onslaught against the Wilson tariff bill which precipitated one of the most interesting and important tariff debates in the history of congress. One of Mr. Reed's longest and most convincing speeches was made during this debate. In it he defended the principle of the protective tariff and pointed out in a most effective way the danger and folly of abandoning the home market and going in search of questionable foreign markets. The bill was passed and it brought to the Democrats the same kind of disaster the McKinley bill had brought to the Republicans. The congress which was elected following the passage of this bill in the midst of Mr. Cleveland's term was overwhelmingly Republican and Mr. Reed was again elected speaker by acclamation.
In 1896 Mr. Reed was a candidate for the Republican nomination for president and had much strength in the east, but the west was overwhelmingly for McKinley, who was nominated. Mr. Reed's name was presented before the convention by Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, of Massachusetts, and the Hon. Charles E. Littlefield, of Maine, made their seconding speech. It was said at the time that if Mr. Reed had made certain promises concerning his cabinet appointments he might have had a much stronger following, but he absolutely refused to commit himself, prferring to lose the prize rather than to tie himself up with pledges in advance.
Mr. Reed was elected to congress as usual in the fall and became speaker again by acclamation. The election of Mr. McKinley to the presidency made a vacancy in the chairmanship of the ways and means committee and to that vacancy Mr. Reed appointed Mr. Dingley of this state, an appointment which aroused no jealousies because of the conspicuous fitness of Mr. Dingley, though its effect was to give to Maine greater prominence in the house than any other state in the Union enjoyed. The important legislation of this congress was the Digley tariff bill which continues to be the law of the land.
When the war with Spain was threatening, Mr. Reed was in the speaker's chair and used all his influence to avert it. But the blowing up of the Maine had so excited the public mind that a collision between Spain and the United States was inevitable, and all his efforts and those of the president and other conservative men of the government were unavailing. The war was fought to a successful conclusion. Mr. Reed had always opposed the acquision of foreign territory. As speaker he had his name called in order to vote against the annexation of the Sandwich Islands. The annexation of the Philippines and Porto Rico was exceedingly distasteful to him and he regarded it as a proceeding fraught with danger to the future welfare of the country. His influence and his vote were always against it.
Mr. Reed's career in congress ended with the expiration of the fifty-fifth congress. In the fifty-first congress the Democrats had refused to vote him the usual resolution of thanks, but when the fifty-fifth congress expired Mr. Bailey, the Democratic leader, presented the following resolution, which was passed amid the greates enthusiasm:
"Resolved, That the thanks of the House are presented to Hom. Thomas B. Reed, Speaker of the House, for the able, impartial and dignified manner in which he has presided over its deliberations and performed the arduous duties of the chairmanship during the present term of Congress."
The feeling engendered by the acrimonious debates of the fifty-first congress had passed away and all united in paying a deserved tribute to the speaker. Mr. Reed was elected to the fifty-sixth congress, but resigned without taking his seat. For many years he had cherished the purpose to retire from congress and practice law in New York, moved thereto largely by family considerations, but there had never come a time when he could do so without seriously embarrassing his party. But the time had now arrived, where his work being done, and being no longer in sympathy with the policy of his party in relation to the foreign possessions, he saw a chance to carry out his long cherished plan of retiring to private life, and accordingly after consultation with his friends, on the twenty-second of August, he addressed to the governor a letter of resignation. The campaign for the nomination of his successor was underway when Mr. Reed left Portland for his new home in New York. Saturday, Sept. 16, before leaving the city, he addressed the following to the Republicans of his district:
"To the Republicans of the First Maine District:
While I am naturally reluctant to obtrude myself again upon public attention even here at home; I am sure no one would expect me to leave the First Maine District after so long a service without some words expressing to you my appreciation of your friendship and my gratitude for your generous treatment. Words alone are quite inadequate and I must appeal to your memories. During three and twenty years of political life, not always peacful, you have never questioned a single public act of mine. Other men have had to look after their districts, my district has looked after me. This is the place where I was born, where you know my shortcomings as well as I do myself, gives me a right to be proud of my relations with you. No honors are ever quite like those which come from home. It would not be just for me to withold my thanks from those Democrats who have so often given me their votes. This friendship I can acknowledge with all propriety even in a letter to the Republicans, for both they and you know that I have never trimmed a sail to catch the passing breeze or even flown a doubtful flag. Office as a 'ribbon to stick in your coat,' is worth nobody's consideration. That opportunity you have given me untrammelled in the fullest and amplest measure and I return you sincere thanks. If I have deserved any priase it belongs of right to you. Whatever may happen I am sure that the First Maine District will always be true to the principles of liberty, self-government and the rights of man.
Thomas B. Reed.
Portland, Sept. 16, 1899."
In New York Mr. Reed became the head of the law firm of Reed, Simpson, Thatcher & Barnum, and he resided in that city engaged in the practice of law until his death, Dec. 7, 1902. Mr. Reed always had a great fondness for literature, and in the midst of his political duties he found time to gratify his tastes in this direction. He was a frequent contributor to several magazines. He was also the author of a work on parliamentary law known as Reed's Rules. He was a popular after-dinner speaker and was much sought for, though he rather avoided taking part in those occasions. As a platform orator his speech was noted for its clearness and adaptability to the common understanding. He rarely shot over the heads of his audience and his humor was very taking. His convictions were strong and held with great tenacity and no one ever questioned his honesty of purpose or his thorough sincerity. He had little familiarity and skill in the arts of the politician, but his successes all came from the strength of his intellect and character. No one ver thought of contesting the nomination in the first district with him, and it is safe to say that he could have remained in congress up to the day of his death had he so desired. Though he had been out of public life for three years he continued to be one of the most conspicuous figures in the country and his words whether spoken or written always commanded the attention of his countrymen. Mr. Reed went to Washington, D.C. to attend to some matters in the United States surpreme court and while there suffered from uraemic poisoning which ended his life at the Arlington Hotel a week later. He was buried in the cemetery in Portland, Maine.
Thomas B. Reed married, Feb. 5, 1870, Susan Prentice, born in New Hampshire, daughter of Rev. Samuel H. and Hannah P. (Prentice) Merrill, of Portland.
Of their three children the only one now (1908) surviving is Katharine, born in Portland, Jan. 23, 1875, married, June 24, 1905, Captain Arthur T. Balantine, of the U. S. army.