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William Reed, Abbeville, SC (Barr Plantation), and Senatobia, Ripley, Panola, and Tate, MS
William Reed, Abbeville, SC (Barr Plantation), and Senatobia, Ripley, Panola, and Tate, MS

Throughout his life, William (Bill) Reed of Senatobia, Mississippi would love to sit under his sycamore tree and relay stories to his children and grandchildren about his life as a slave in South Carolina. He told stories of his father being sold away never to be seen again, stories about how his last name went from Barr to Reed, why he and others came to Mississippi right after the Civil War, and stories about other family members he had, including an older sister that took care of him, during his childhood years in South Carolina.

His willingness to talk about his early life and the keeping of those stories by the family elders have enabled many facts about Grandpa Bill's life in South Carolina to be uncovered. It has been found that he was born in 1846 in Abbeville, South Carolina on a Barr plantation that was owned by a Presbyterian minister's widow, Rebecca Reid Barr, and her son, William Barr, Jr.

At a young age, William Barr Jr. sold his father, a slave called Pleasant Barr, to a local named James Giles, who packed up and left Abbeville in 1859, taking Pleasant (Pleas) with him to Ripley, Mississippi. William Barr had also sold Grandpa Bill and several of his siblings to his mother's nephew, Lemuel Reid, who lived there in Abbeville.

Shortly afterwards, William Barr left Abbeville, SC with the remaining Barr slaves and took them with him to Pontotoc, MS in 1859. Those slaves included Bill's grandmother, Fanny Barr, his mother, Isabella Barr, and a host of other family members. Grandpa Bill Reed never saw any of those family members again. It became apparent through his stories and through research that when he, a sister, and a group of other recently freed slaves migrated to Panola County, Mississippi in 1866, he never knew that his father was just 60 miles away in Ripley, and other members of his family were just 90 miles away in Pontotoc, MS.

After the War, Bill started a new life and kept the Reid name, but the spelling was eventually changed to include an additional "e" rather than the "i". He married Sarah Partee in 1871 and they had 11 children: Jimmy, Willie, Lou Anna, Dock, Sarah, Simpson, John Ella, Mary Ella, Robert, Pleasant (Pleas), and Martha. He became a successful farmer, owning several hundred acres of land in Tate County. On that land under his sycamore tree, he wanted his children to know their history as they strive for a better life.

On July 8, 2004, his descendants will be touring the place (Abbeville, SC) that he talked about so much. Grandpa Bill Reed had expressed a desire to return for a visit, but that opportunity never came before he died in 1937 at age 91. However, his descendants will be making the journey for him.

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