William Reid, Wisconsin pioneer

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William Reid, Wisconsin Pioneer

Birthdate: (73)
Birthplace: East Kilbride, Lanarkshire, Scotland
Death: circa 1865 (65-81)
Fontana, Wisconsin, United States of America
Place of Burial: Walworth, Walworth, Wisconsin, United States of America
Immediate Family:

Son of John Reid of Castlehill and Ann Hamilton
Husband of Mary Elizabeth Drew
Father of Captain John Reid; Elizabeth Fairlie Donaldson; Ann Hamilton Manierre (Reid); Mary Drew Reid; Mary Drew Reid and 6 others
Brother of (1) William Reid; Robert Reid; Agnes Reid; (2) William Reid; (3) William Reid and 2 others

Occupation: Scottish "writer" [lawyer], settler in early Wisconsin
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About William Reid, Wisconsin pioneer

WILLIAM REID (1792 -1855)

William Reid is the grandson, great to the fourth degree, of John Reid of Wester Kittochside (floruit 1574-1619) and his wife, Bessie Lambie (died 1626). He is the son, quite possibly the youngest son, of John Reid of Castlehill (floruit 1751-1838) and his wife, Ann Hamilton.


William Reid married Miss Mary Drew, the daughter of James Drew, surgeon at Pollockshaws in Eastwood parish, Renfrewshire. They were booked for proclamation at Cathcart on 10 June 1820 and were probably married very soon afterwards [Registrar General for Scotland, New Register House, Edinburgh, Marriages Register for Eastwood, reference OPR.562/5]. At the time of his marriage, William Reid was a resident of Glasgow, although he practiced as a writer (lawyer) in the Renfrewshire parish of Cathcart. Mary Drew’s home parish was Eastwood in Renfrewshire. They had ten children whose baptisms were registered at Glasgow during the period 1822-37, which tends to suggest that their usual place of residence was in Glasgow [Ibidem, Baptismal Register for Glasgow, reference OPR.644.1/33].

Wisconsin Pioneer

William and Mary Reid were still in Scotland when their son Robert was born on 8 September 1837. They are both mentioned in the last will and testament (disposition and settlement) of Mary's bachelor uncle, John Drew of Burnbrae and Cleddans, which he signed at Glasgow on 25 May 1832, but they were in America before he added a codicil on 23 June 1841. In this codicil John Drew made provision for his nephew: "James Drew, Writer in Glasgow, for behoof of himself and his sister Mary Drew presently in America" [National Archives of Scotland, Glasgow Sheriff Court Wills, Disposition and Settlement by John Drew of Burnbrae, registered 1 April 1843, reference SC36/51/18].

Walworth, Walworth County, Wisconsin

When the US census was enumerated on 10 August 1850, William Reid and his family were residents of Walworth, in Walwoth County, Wisconsin, in the United States of America. William Reid is listed as a farmer and the value of his real estate was $2500. He gave up his age as 58 years and this suggests that he was probably born in 1791 or 1792. The image available at the FamilySearch website includes a son named Church, who was born in Wisconsin in 1840 or 1841, but this is more than likely his son George [United States Census, 1850, index and images, FamilySearch] https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/M4DP-N24

William Reid, residing in Walworth, Walworth, Wisconsin, born in Scotland, is noticed in the Wisconsin State Census of 1855 [Wisconsin, State Census, 1855, index and images, FamilySearch] https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/MMM5-QF8 and the US census of 1860 [United States Census, 1860, index, FamilySearch] https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/MW9Z-623

His Children's Baptismal Records, 1820-37


10 June 1820. William Reid in this parish & Mary Drew in the parish of Eastwood. 2 days.

Source: Registrar General for Scotland, New Register House, Edinburgh, Marriage Register for Cathcart, reference OPR.560/2, frame 445.


12 June 1820. Mr. William Reid, Writer in the parish of Cathcart, residing in Glasgow, & Miss Mary Drew in this parish registered for procln. 2 days.

Source: Ibidem, Marriage Register for Eastwood, reference OPR.562/5, frame 1128.


22 April 1821. William Reid, Writer, & Mary Drew a law: son John bo: 22d April Wit: The Revd. James Thomson & Dr. John Gibson.

Source: Registrar General for Scotland, New Register House, Edinburgh, Baptismal Register for Glasgow, reference OPR.644.1/33, frame 3621.


25 May 1822. William Reid, Writer, & Mary Drew a law: daur. Elizabeth Fairlie bo: 25 May 1822 Wit: John Gibson & John (Thomson).

Source: Ibidem, reference OPR.644.1/33, frame 3768.


23 October 1823. William Reid, Writer, & Mary Drew a law: daur. Ann Hamilton bo: 23d Oct: Wit: John Nimmo & John Gibson.

Source: Ibidem, reference OPR.644.1/33, frame 3810.


16 December 1824. William Reid, Writer, and Mary Drew a law: daur. Mary Drew bo: 16th December. Wit: Dr. John Nimmo, and John Gibson.

Source: Ibidem, reference OPR.644.1/33, frame 3904.


11 July 1826. William Reid, Writer, & Mary Drew a law: daur. Mary Drew bo: 11th July. Wit: Dr. John Nimmo & Dr. John Gibson. Source:

Source: Ibidem, reference OPR.644.1/33, frame 4038.


11 July 1829. William Reid, Writer, & Mary Drew a law: son James Drew bo: 11th July. Wit: The Revd. James Thomson & James Drew.

Source: Ibidem, reference OPR.644.1/33, frame 4254.


20 October 1831. William Reid, Writer, & Mary Drew a law: son William bo: 20th Oct: Wit: Revd. Jas. Thomson & James Drew.

Source: Ibidem, reference OPR.644.1/33, frame 4457.


15 June 1834. William Reid, Writer, & Mary Drew a law: daur: Agnes. bo: 15th June. Wit: Dr. William Young & John Gibson.

Source: Ibidem, reference OPR.644.1/33, frame 4712.


7 February 1836. William Reid, Writer, & Mary Drew a law: son William bo: 7th February. Wit: William Young & John Gibson.

Source: Ibidem, reference OPR.644.1/33, frame 4902.


8 September 1837. William Reid, Writer, & Mary Drew a law: son Robert bo: 8th Sept: Wit: John Gibson & Dr. David Gibson.

Source: Ibidem, reference OPR.644.1/33, frame 5082.

Published Accounts


William Reid gave his name to Reid's Landing, a village in Walworth County, Wisconsin, United States. The town was later renamed Fontana-on-Geneva Lake. Its population at the 2000 census was 1,754. William Reid was born in about 1792 to an old land-owning family in Kittochside, near Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland. Jensens (2005) says William Reid's middle initial was H., which may have stood for Hamilton, his mother's maiden name. William became a lawyer. The terms used in Scotland for this profession were writer and barrister." Upon William's father's death at the age of 87 in 1838, William's older brother, Robert, inherited the family's estate of Castlehill. Castlehill remains in the village of Kittochside, near Glasgow, Scotland, though it passed from the family in the 20th century. The family had farmed the property over a period of 400 years from 1567 to 1992. The 10th laird, living in the nearby house known as Wester Kittochside, was childless. In 1992 his widow gave the estate (a farm of 170 acres or 69 hectares) to the Scottish nation so that it could become the National Museum of Rural Life which it is today ([http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Museum_of_Rural_Life]). The museum focuses on the history of agriculture in the region, and presents many elements of that culture which have been handsomely preserved. (See photos of Castlehill in the article about William's father, John Reid.) Some of the buildings have carved ball finials on the gable ends as per the architectural fashion of the 18th century, when it was built. The finial can also function as a lightning rod, and was once believed to act as a deterrent to witches on broomsticks attempting to land on one's roof. On making her final landing approach to a roof, the witch, spotting the obstructing finial, was forced to sheer off and land elsewhere. [There is no basis to the rumor that a witch who avoided this hazard mated with a Reid, some of whose descendants are a wee peculiar.]

George Manierre II wrote (1917) that William Reid “came to Chicago in 1840. …[He] inherited wealth which he, as a barrister [lawyer] increased, so that at about middle life he made up his mind to retire. Unfortunately for his family his investments proved unsuccessful, and after the loss of the greater part of his fortune he came to America and started anew. When he came to Chicago he had a relatively large sum of money, which, if invested in Chicago, might eventually have increased to great wealth; but he was stricken by the Lake Geneva fever and went there with his family, locating at the head of the lake. He invested largely in land by the lake and on Big Foot Prairie, buying [about 900 acres] on the higher ground and about seventy acres along the lake.” The area to the west of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin was then known as Big Foot Prairie, and later became the village of Fontana, also called “Fontana-on-Geneva Lake.”

Fontana and Geneva Lake are located about 60 miles southeast of Madison, about 60 miles southwest of Milwaukee, and about 80 miles northwest of Chicago. The lake covers an area of approximately 8.14 square miles (21.17 square kilometers), has a maximum length of 7.5 miles (12 km), mean depth of 62.7 feet (19.1 m) and a maximum depth of 144 feet (44m). The town of Fontana is at the lake’s western end. The larger town of Lake Geneva is at its eastern end. A photograph posted to Geni was taken on the lake (Geneva Lake West Chamber of Commerce. Visitor Information Center, Fontana Village Hall, 175 Valley View Drive, Fontana, Wisconsin 53125, 262-275-5102 or 877-275-5102, http://www.genevalakewest.com/).

Doris M. Reinke, an officer of the Walworth County Historical Society (located in the Webster House Museum and the Doris M. Reinke Resource Center, 9 East Rockwell Street, PO Box 273, Elkhorn, WI 53121, 262-723-4248, www.walcohistory.org/‎) wrote (letter to MRD) in 2008, “According to [local historian Arthur B.] Jensen, William H. Reid came to Fontana in 1841 and bought a small lot which was on the corner of Lake Street. He built a small cabin and after buying more land in 1845 built a larger house. It was there until the 1960s. After William’s death the property went to his son George M. Reid. There was a good deal of land transference between family members.”

“William Reid and his wife Mary Elizabeth Drew Reid had nine children, five boys and four girls, some of whom were born in the log house at the head of the lake. (George Manierre II, 1917, p 143)” “This house stood about two hundred feet from the shore at the bottom of a rise of ground known as the Potowatomi Indian burial ground.… The house was neatly built of logs and had two large wings: in the center of one room was a fireplace suitable for burning large logs” (ibid).

William and Mary Reid's daughter, Ann Hamilton Reid married Judge George Manierre. A large and handsomely painted, though unsigned oil portrait of William Reid has passed down through their descendants — through William Reid Manierre I, George Manierre III, George Manierre IV, to Nora Manierre (Scherzinger) of Corrales, NM (as of 2012). The family story in the mid-20th century was that William Reid brought this portrait with him when he immigrated to the United States of America. Since the portrait presents a man older than the 52 years William was in 1840, it is more likely to have been painted in the US.

George Manierre II wrote in 1917: “The country at the head of the lake was filled with large butternut, walnut, hickory, basswood, ash, sugar maple, white-, black-, and burr-oak trees. The sugar bush, through which a clear, cold brook ran murmuring to its outlet in the lake, was notable for its many butternut trees and was one of the most beautiful spots that could be seen anywhere about the lake. I remember well the large oak tree near my grandfather’s house in which a canoe had been placed holding the remains of a relative of Big Foot, an Indian chief after whom Big Foot Prairie was named."

There is a watercolor painting of the Reid House, residence of William Reid and his family at the head of Big Foot Lake (Geneva Lake) in the collection of the Wisconsin Historical Society (“Image ID” is 7027, wisconsinhistory.org). Two children and a woman are in the foreground. Mrs. James Drew painted this picture in 1842. James Drew was a wealthy barrister from London, England, and a brother of William Reid’s wife, Mary Elizabeth Drew.

Julie Manierre Mann noted that an oil painting of Castlehill, William Reid’s ancestral house near Glasgow, Scotland, was “painted by William Reid.” She may or may not have had a factual basis for making the claim that he was the painter. The Castlehill painting was in the possession of Mary Jane Manierre Foote in the early 2000s.

William Reid built a second house in 1860, the same year that his son-in-law George Manierre I purchased 100 acres of land in Walworth County. A photograph of the house, taken a few years later, has been posted to Geni.

William Reid died before 1868. George Manierre II (1917) wrote that William and his wife were buried in the “Brick Church” cemetery. This site is about three miles due west of Geneva Lake’s shore. Latitude: 42.54517637926317, Longitude: -88.63911151885986, and marked on the map below. [See if a death date is recorded.] Dewey Avenue becomes Brick Church Road west of South Main Street. Visiting the cemetery in early January 2009, Stephen Delahunt and Katharine Copps (Delahunt) found it difficult to identify a gravestone. Perhaps the marker’s lettering was too worn, or snow covered a shallow or broken marker, or it has disappeared altogether.

In the late 19th century, the name for the village that grew on what had been William Reid’s settlement became known as Reid’s Landing. Eventually it was renamed as the town of Fontana. [When was it renamed?]

Several generations of William Reid’s descendants have lived in Fontana, Wisconsin. Descendants of at least one of William Reid’s nine children continued to live in the family homestead and on the family’s land after William Reid’s death. One of the five sons, George and his wife Dorliska lived in the patriarch’s house. In 1891, Dorliska Reid opened an ice cream parlor on the corner of the original Reid lot. One of George and Dorliska’s children, Edna Reid and her husband Henry Kemmett Sr. lived in William Reid’s house (he was of Geo Manierre III’s generation; did they know each other?) after Edna’s parents’ death. Edna and Henry’s son Donald Kemmett was the last Reid descendant to do so. Nevertheless, Donald’s son, Henry Kemmett Jr. (Waubun Drive), and a nephew, Jon Kemmett (844 Featherstone Drive), each live in Fontana to this day (2008, and each is of MRD’s generation). Perhaps other Reid descendants also live in the region.

Shaw-nee-aw-kee is the Potawatomi Indian word for "friend" and was a salutation given the John Kinzie party at the first visit of any white person to the village of Chief Big Foot — the site of Fontana — a few years before William Reid’s arrival.

A park and a street in Fontana are named Reid, each either beside or part of the land first settled by William Reid. In the park is a bronze statue of Potowatomi Chief Big Foot (a.k.a. "Maumksuck" in his native tongue or "Gros Pied" to the French), who was said to have stood on the spot and gazed across Geneva Lake before being forced to leave his home along the banks of the lake in 1836. Fontana artist and resident Jay Brost (1936-) produced the statue, which he titled “One Last Chance.” It was dedicated in 1996. The statue (photo posted to Geni) is life size, at about six feet tall. There is also a 14 inch tall version in an edition of 40 that Brost produced at the same time. (edsahagianallsopp.com)

What brought about Chief Big Foot’s departure from his home? Between 1800 and 1830 the U.S. government made (or imposed) several treaties in which some Indian leaders agreed to cede millions of acres of land in Illinois and Wisconsin. Nine years before William Reid came to Wisconsin, Indians in an area a few miles to the southwest, across the Illinois border, and to the west and northwest within Wisconsin, responded to the government’s attempts to enforce the treaties by fighting the Black Hawk War in 1832. Half of all the federal troops of the U. S. Army were eventually involved in this conflict. Several hundred people were killed on both sides. Following the Indians’ defeat, representatives of several tribes signed the Treaty of Chicago negotiated by General Winfield Scott in 1833. This agreement stipulated that the Indians would vacate all lands east of the Mississippi River by 1836. Consequently, the U. S. government relocated Chief Big Foot’s band of the Potowatomi tribe in 1836, five years before William Reid settled on land where the tribe had lived for generations.

In 1836 Wisconsin became part of the Michigan Territory. This included some of upper Michigan, all of Minnesota, Iowa, and part of the Dakotas. Wisconsin retained territorial status until it became the 30th state in the U.S. in 1848.


George Manierre II. “Early Recollections of Lake Geneva (Big Foot Lake), Wisconsin,” Wisconsin Magazine of History, December 1917, volume 1 number 2, pp 142-148.

Arthur B. Jensens, Shawneeawkee: Friendly Fontana, 2005, published in Wisconsin.


Here is an account that places William Reid's arrival in the USA and in Wisconsin to an earlier time than previously reported. It comes from an article written by Cyrus Church in The Observer, a newspaper published in the town of Walworth, which is a mile or two from Fontana, in 1898. The following is a transcription of the article, found reprinted in 1948.

In the month of September 1839 I saw a notice posted in a tree, stating that there would be a meeting at the house of William Reid, for the purpose of organizing township government for town 1 north and range 15 east; also town 1 north and 16 east, situated in the County of Walworth, Wisconsin Territory. [Walworth County had just been organized and named.] The meeting was to convene, I think, on the 25th of September at 7 o'clock in the evening.

The citizens met pursuant to call. It was in a little log house at the head of the lake near where Mary Reid's house now stands (1898). Amos Bailey, James A. Maxwell, Christopher Douglass, William Bell, Matthias Mohr, William Reid and C. [Cyrus] Church were present. I think that was all who were there.

James A. Maxwell called the meeting to order; Christopher Douglass was made chairman and William Bell secretary. After the preliminaries were over, the question was what name to call the new town. Several names were suggested by different ones and considerable time was spent discussing the matter. Finally Matthias Mohr suggested the name of Fontana, a French name (he could speak French), signifying a place of springs. It seemed to be a very appropriate name and was readily accepted.

Source: The article cited above, found in the collection of the Walworth County Historical Society, as photocopied by Doris Reinke, June 8, 2013, at the society's offices, Elkhorn, WI.

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William Reid, Wisconsin pioneer's Timeline

Lanarkshire, Scotland
April 22, 1821
Age 29
Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland
May 25, 1822
Age 30
Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland
October 23, 1823
Age 31
Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland
December 16, 1824
Age 32
July 11, 1826
Age 34
Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland
July 11, 1829
Age 37
Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland
October 20, 1831
Age 39
Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland
June 15, 1834
Age 42
Glasgow, Glasgow City, United Kingdom
February 7, 1836
Age 44
Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland