Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Religious Odyssey of Sirenious Reed

 Sirenious Reed was born on Nov 9, 1839 in the town of Lone Elm, in Henderson County, Tennessee. He was the grandson of the first settler of Henderson County Joseph Reed. Even today, the name of Joseph Reed is remembered and respected in Henderson County.

With the outbreak of the Civil War, Sirenious enlisted in the 7th Tennessee Cavalry. He was given the rank of Corporal and assigned to Company A. His enlistment began on 28 August 1862 and ended on 9 August 1865.
After the war ended he married Sarah Ann Wallace on 11 January 1866 and the two would eventually have twelve children together.

Professionally Sirenious practiced law and eventually became a judge, a title he carried for the rest of his life.

Then in 1878, he met and became a follower of Robert Edge. The details of Robert Edge’s ministry are beyond the scope of this post, but I have written about it elsewhere. After Robert Edge’s departure, Sirenious was one of the leaders of the followers Edge left behind. It was in Sirenious Reed’s large bible that Mr. Edge made drawings and annotations.

Sirenious and Sarah named their seventh child, a daughter, Patra Olena Edge Reed. Born in 1879, their naming choice obviously influenced by the 1878 ministry of Robert Edge. In 1880, it was Sirenious, who along with his cousin, James Henderson Scott who sought out the LDS missionaries. He was one of the first two to get baptized (April 21, 1880) and when the Haley’s Creek branch was organized in June 1880, the same two were ordained and set apart as presiding Elders.

Late in 1880 they moved to Colorado. It was after the Census in June where they were listed as living in Henderson County. But before the birth of their next child: Franklin Erastus Reed. The name Franklin may have come from one of the LDS missionaries who taught them: Franklin Spencer. This son was born in December 1880 in Colorado and tragically died a week later. The emigrant companies organized by the Southern States Mission usually travelled in the late fall, after the last harvest.

Two years later the Reeds are still in Colorado for the birth of their daughter Esther Naomi Reed in 1882. But by 1884 when Ocie Ola Reed was born they had moved back to Henderson County Tennessee.

The photo on the left would have been taken between 1887 and 1889. Top L-R Patra, Zinnie, Mary Frances Middle L-R Sirenious, Arthur, Sarah (Sallie) Bottom L-R Elvin, Esther, Ocie.

In 1889 their oldest son – James Sherman Reed - married Rittie Ann Levina Scott, the daughter of James Henderson Scott, showing that he still had close contact with them. Mr. Scott appears to have developed an interest in the reorganized LDS Church and and Sirenious may have shared his interest.

In 1890 he appeared on a registry for Civil War veterans, and is living in Henderson County. Sometime between 1890 and 1894 they re-settled in Newburn, Dyer County, Tennessee. Dyer County is on the west end of Tennessee, along the Mississippi River across from the Missouri, Arkansas border. Many of the Reed children settled down in Dyer county. Several are buried there or in nearby Memphis.

In 1898 Sarah died. From there, I cannot seem to find Sirenious or his family in the 1900 census. He may have already joined a commune then in Augustine Ohio. This religious sect, called the Israelite House of David, did not believe hair should be cut or shaven, similar to the Nazarenes of the old testament. But they also practiced celibacy and were vegetarians.

In 1903 the religious group moved to Benton Harbor, Michigan. Sirenious shows up in this undated newspaper clipping where he was named as Judge Serenais Reed. His hair is not yet long so I must assume he had only recently joined the commune. He appears in another post card with longer hair. And a longer beard. He is also holding a pennant that read Eden Springs, the name of the commune.

The commune made its money by building an amusement park with miniature train rides and the like. But their biggest success was a barnstorming baseball team which played exhibition games. The big draws were the long hair of the players and the tricks they would do with the baseballs.

Sirenious was not the only follower of Robert Edge to end up here. Ephraim Reuben Reed, a brother of Sirenious, died and is buried in Benton Harbor too, leading to speculation that he too was drawn to this religious commune.

But Sirenious eventually left the commune. The leader, Ben Purnell, was accused of inappropriate relations with minor girls on several occasions in 1910, 1914, 1922 and 1923. So whether it was just while visiting his family or because he was disillusioned with the House of David, Sirenious is back in Dyer County when he passes away, in 1924, at age 86.


Christopher said...

Bruce, this is a great look at a fascinating life. Keep up the good work.

Ardis E. Parshall said...

Holy cow. What a seeker and what a life. Congratulations for putting this all together.

Amy said...

I fear if I say "amazing" too many times you'll start tuning me out : ), but I am so very glad you are doing this research.

BruceCrow said...

Thank you all of you. This was a fun post to do. Not just because of his connection to fascinating events in Tennessee Mormon history, but also because I was able to find out more than just how many children he had and where he died. It took me outside of my normal experience, which is why I do this in the first place.

The Tanners said...

Sirenious Reed is my great great grandfather. Thank you for all the work you have done on this. I have most of this information and even more concerning both he and James Henderson Scott, Scott is also my great great grandfather on the other side. Sirenious Reed's son married the daughter of James Henderson Scott and that couple, James Sherman Reed and Rettie Ann Levina Scott are my great grandparents. I knew Rettie, she lived until after I married. She visited us in California in 1951. I have a picture of her with my youngest sister who was born in 1951. I also have several other pictures of her as well as some of James Henderson Scott and his wife.

BruceCrow said...

Thanks for coming by. It is really good to hear from you. there are so many questions I have, if you are willing to answer them. Like, Did James and Rettie stay in Colorado when their parents left for Tennessee and Michigan? Feel free to contact me directly

Anonymous said...

I only recently came across your article and I am quite impressed with the research you have done. I, too, am a decendant of Rittie Ann Scott and James Sherman Reed. They are my great grandparents. My grandmother was Gladys Reed Dunahoo with whom Rittie lived until her death in 1963. I would be interested in hearing from other decendants of James and Rittie, especially the Tanners, who have specific knowledge of the family. I can be contacted at the following address:

Ronald Walker
Thomasville, NC