Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Late Rev. J. Rees

The following obituaries are for James Rees (1801-1890), a Baptist minister of the gospel. Rees is the father of two notable Sacred Harp singers and songwriters, twins Henry Smith Rees and John Palmer Reese.[i] He was also associated in some of his ministry with Cyrus White, and was moderator of the Chattahoochee United Baptist Association in 1850.[ii]

The Late Rev. J. Rees.
A brief notice of the death of Rev. J. Rees appeared in the Enquirer-Sun a few days ago, but this good and venerable servant of the Lord deserves more than a passing notice.

He was born in Edgefield, South Carolina, July 12, 1801. His father died when he was only three years old and he was left to the care of an uncle, who lived in Putnam county, Ga., where he grew up to manhood, uncultivated and uneducated.

When eighteen years of age he was converted, and joined the Baptist church. Through the kindness of a friend who had become interested in him, he learned to spell and read. In 1824, he married Miss Rebecca Smith, and was licensed to preach the gospel the following year. Three years later he moved to Pike county, Georgia, and settled near Flat shoals on Flint river. In 1830 he was ordained a minister by Macedonia Baptist church. He lived in Russell county, Ala., from 1834 to 1837, and in Harris county, Ga., from 1837 until 1840, when he moved to Muscogee, where he raised eight sons, seven of whom were in the late war, two of the seven losing their lives fighting for the Lost Cause. Five of his sons are yet living, Rev. Henry S. and J. P. Rees, of Coweta county, William Rees, of Harris county, and E. H. and T. C. Rees, of Muscogee.

The subject of this notice preached the gospel for nearly fifty years, until his physical strength failed him and died in peace, loved by all who knew him.

The venerable preacher, Rev. C. C. Willis, conducted the funeral services, taking for his text, “A good name is better than riches.” Appropriate remarks were also made by Rev. S. D. Clements.

The remains were interred with Masonic honors, Judge J. J. W. Biggers being master of the solemn ceremonies. An immense concourse of friends attended the funeral services.
Daily Enquirer-Sun, Columbus, Georgia, Thursday, September 25, 1890, page 7.

The (Newnan, Georgia) Herald & Advertiser, September 26, 1890

Death of a Venerable Citizen.
The death of Rev. James Rees occurred at the home of his son, Judge T. C. Rees, nine miles from Columbus, in Muscogee county, at 5 o’clock Friday afternoon. Rev. Mr. Rees was a Baptist minister, and was licensed to preach the gospel in 1825. He was ninety years old at the time of his death.

Rev. Mr. Rees was, perhaps, the oldest Mason in Georgia, having become a member of the Flint Hill Lodge in 1838.

He was a good man, and all who knew him loved and admired him.

The funeral took place with Masonic honors at 2 o’clock yesterday afternoon, and the remains were interred at Pierce Chapel cemetery.
Daily Enquirer-Sun, Columbus, Georgia, Sunday, September 21, 1890. page 3.

The September 25 obituary mentions that James and Rebecca Rees had eight sons. With the obituary and censuses, I have been able to identify the names of all of them: William,[iii] Henry Smith, John Palmer, Thomas Clopton, Edmon Head, James Monroe, Hardy Nickerson, and Joseph Butler. If this ID is correct, the obituary is in error that two sons died in the Civil War. Joseph Butler Rees died in Virginia in 1861, but James and Hardy[iv] were both living in Texas after the Civil War.

[i] Some of the family used the “Rees” spelling, and some used “Reese.” Examples of songs by H. S. and J. P. are Cuba and Weeping Mary.
[ii] He was a delegate from Antioch in Muscogee County in 1848 and 1850, but he and Sardis Church separated from the Chattahoochee Association circa 1853. Rees apparently finished his ministry with the regular Missionary Baptists.
[iii] I have been unable to identify what became of William. A William C. Rees in the 1900 Harris County, Georgia census was born in Georgia in September 1825, and his father was born in South Carolina and mother in Georgia. This might be him. His wife’s name was Martha.
[iv] Hardy was dead at the time the obituary was written. He was still living when the Federal census was taken in 1880. Perhaps another possibility is the incorrect identification of James Monroe Reese.


Linda McCardle said...

I am the third great granddaughter of Rev. James Rees. Thank you for the article. There were some facts I didn't know.
Linda S. McCardle

R. L. Vaughn said...

Linda, I am glad you found that helpful. Thanks for stopping by and commenting? From which child of James Rees are you descended?