THE REIDS OF GRIFFIN, GEORGIA
Letters from Jesse Douglas Allen-Taylor to his mother, Maybelle Reid Allen, during his 1978 visit to Griffin, Georgia to explore the Reid family roots
Letters written to and from Muriel Reid Kranson while she was researching the Reid family history in Griffin, Georgia
Records from 1870 and 1880
THE GRIFFIN, GEORGIA ROOTS OF THE REID FAMILY
This is the earlierst known photograph of Thomas Reid Sr., possibly taken at the age of 21. Ivy Reid Lewis, in whose collection the original photograph is located, believes the photograph was taken in Florida while Thomas Reid was working there, and the surrounding individuals were his employers.
Thomas Henry Reid, Sr., was born in Griffin in 1866, two years after General William Sherman's famous March to the Sea from Atlanta to Savannah "made Georgia howl" and began the end of slavery in that state, one year after the defeat of the Confederacy in the Civil War made the end of slavery official. Griffin is located in the middle of the state, some 40 miles south of Atlanta. The birthplace of Doc Holliday of the OK Corral fame, the town is a cotton mill center, and the Spalding County seat.
Thomas Reid's mother, Kitty Reid, was 22 years old at the time of Thomas' birth. There is no known photograph of her. Census records from 1870 and 1880 do not indicate who Thomas' father was. No father is listed in the household over that ten year period. However, Margaret Burden, one of Thomas' nieces, said in a 1967 letter to Muriel Reid Kranson that her grandfather —the father of Thomas Reid's older sister, Lela—was named Thomas Johnson and was white. Given that Thomas Reid Sr. was born two years after Lela, the fact that Kitty Reid gave her first son the same name as the father of her daughter may—and we stress may—be an indication that Thomas Johnson was also the father of Thomas Reid Sr. (In a 1978 telephone conversation, Margaret Burden identified her mother's father's name as Thomas Reid, but she was 90 years old by that time, and her recollection of her grandfather's name 10 years earlier should be taken as the more accurate.)
Kitty Reid was listed in the 1870 census as having four children, all listed as "mulatto," while Kitty herself is listed as "Black Female." In the 1870 census, none of the children are listed with their last names, but by the 1880 census, the three children remaining all are listed with the Reid name (the oldest daughter, Lela, who would have been 16 in 1880, is no longer listed in the household by that year).
There is a long oral tradition among Thomas' children that the family had Native American roots. Some family members indicated that background was Cherokee, but others traced it to the Seminole.
In her 1967 letter to Cousin Muriel, Margaret Burden said that "I know (my mother, Lela Reid Simmons) was part Indian for she looked it and told me many times that her mother's (Kitty Reid) mother was a full blooded Indian. "
The Reid-Native American background is evident in the photograph of Thomas' older sister, Lela (below), that the family had Native American roots.
(This photograph was in the collection of either Alberta Reid Blanding or Ruth Reid Samson, two of Thomas Reid Sr.'s daughters. The collections were mixed after their deaths. Handwritten on the back of this photograph was the notation "Papa's sister Leila.")
Kitty Reid apparently worked several types of jobs in Griffin to support her family. The 1870 census lists her as a seamstress, while the 1880 census identifies her as a washerwoman. And by the 1880 census Thomas, who was 14 by then, was listed as a painter.
There is some discrepancy as to the names of Thomas' two younger brothers. Margaret Burden called them Dick and either Franco or Sancho Panza, and said that Franco died in his teens. The 1870 and 1880 census records name the two younger brothers as Jack and Edward. It is probable, but not confirmed, that these refer to the same two brothers.
(Photograph from the joint collection of Alberta Reid Blanding or Ruth Reid Samson. Given the period of the photograph and the family resemblance, this is possibly a photograph of Dick (Jack), the younger brother of Thomas Reid Sr. who survived into adulthood.)
Thomas Reid Sr. left Griffin in the early 1890's, according to California Reid Family oral history because of reported trouble with white folks in the area. During the late 19th century, Griffin, Spalding County, and the surrounding areas were the scene of several horrific lynchings of African-Americans.
At least one of his brothers remained living in Griffin for several years. While Thomas became a carpenter in California, Dick (Jack in the census) became a brickmason, working on several important buildings in the Griffin area. As of the 1980's, several descendants of either Dick lived in Griffin and Atlanta.
(The man standing in the doorway may be Bob Reid, son of Tom Reid Sr. and Virginia Parker Reid, during his visit to the Reid home in Griffin in the mid 1970's.)