THE REA FAMILY
Rev. Dr. John Rea, son of Joseph and Isabella (Rea) Rea (his parents were first cousins), was born in County Donegal, Ireland, October 31, 1771. His ancestors were originally from Scotland, and were of the Presbyterian faith. As a youth he was sent to several schools where he received thorough instruction in both English and Latin. In 1791, when he was nineteen years old, a Mr. Beatty came to the Rea home with the news that James Rea, Rea's oldest brother, was residing in western Pennsylvania, that he held the rank of Captain (having served in the Revolution), was wealthy, and was childless. Joseph Rea was persuaded to send his son John to America to find this "rich uncle". So it was that in June, 1792, young John Rea boarded the ship Minerva at Brockless for the long voyage to Philadelphia. Upon his arrival at that city, he almost immediately set out on foot for the wilderness of western Pennsylvania, and eventually reached the frontier cabin of his uncle, Captain James Rea. He did not find his uncle's rough way of life to his liking, however, and soon left him. He was immediately employed as a teacher in the area schools, and while working in this capacity, met-and in 1793, married Elizabeth Christy, daughter of Captain John Christy and Elizabeth (Kerr) Christy, of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. Captain Christy had served in the Colonial Army as a Captain in the Third Battalion of Pennsylvania Militia under Colonel James Smith. In the period of Indian Wars following the Revolution, one of his sons was killed by the Indians and another taken prisoner and held until ransomed at Detroit.
After his marriage, John Rea continued his studies, entering the newly opened Jefferson College at Cannonsburg, Pennsylvania (now Washington and Jefferson College, at Washingon, Pennsylvania), and graduating with the first class of 1802. His diploma is now on display in the college library. Returning from time to time to Philadelphia, he continued his education until he received the degree of Doctor of Divinity. In June, 1803, he was licensed to preach by the Ohio Presbytery in the newly admitted State of Ohio. After some three months iterancy in the wilderness of central and northern Ohio among the Indian villages and a few white settlements, he was appointed to the newly organized churches of Beech Spring and Crabapple, in what is now Harrison County. Beech Spring soon became his sole responsibility, and he continued to serve this congregation until his retirement in 1851, after a pastorale of more than forty-seven years. At one time the Beech Spring congregation was the largest Presbyterian congregation in the State of Ohio.
Dr. Rea died February 12, 1855, and is buried at Beech Spring; his wife had preceded him in death on August 16, 1854. They were the parents of nine children, as follows: Thompson Rea, born March 31, 1794, married Mary Hannah; Joseph Rea, born September 20, 1796, married Jane McConnell; Samuel Rea, born May 14, 1798, married Ruth Anna Robinson; John Rea born March 17, 1800, married Sarah Daniels; Isabella Rea, born March 22, 1802, married William D. Pennell; Andrew Rea, born June 1, 1803, married first, Violinda Cochran and secondly, Nancy (Prather) Moore; Sarah Rea, born April 7, 1806, married David Thompson, and their son, David Thompson, Jr., was a noted Presbyterian missionary to Japan; Francis Rea, MD., born April 19, 1808, a graduate of Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, married Mary H. England, and William Purdy Rea, born June 3, 1810. Both Joseph Rea and Dr. Francis Rea were elected to and served in the Ohio State Legislature.
Samuel Rea, born May 14, 1798, son of Rev. Dr. John Rea, married Ruth Anna Robinson, January 2, 1823. She was born September 27, 1803, the daughter of Adam and Elizabeth Robinson. He studied law, and after being admitted to the bar, settled in Coshocton, Ohio, where he began the practice of his profession. In 1831, he was elected Treasurer of Coshocton County. He was widely recognized as a musician—a fine violinist. On February 28,1834, he was drowned in attempting to ford the Walhonding River at Fry's Fors, near Warsaw, Coshocton County. He left his widow and four children: John M. Rea, born December 10, 1823, married Harriet Thompson; Joseph Rea, born in 1825, married first, Matilda Russell, and secondly, Mary McCrory; Elizabeth Rea born February 4, 1827, married Robert Hill; and James Samuel Rea, born July 26, 1832, married Elizabeth Burchfield. Ruth A. (Robinson) Rea, widow of Samuel Rea, remarried on April 4, 1843. Her second husband was the Rev. John G. Norris, a Methodist minister. She died February 19, 1881, and is buried at Jerome, Union Couney, Ohio.
Joseph Rea, born in 1825, son of Samuel and Ruth Anna (Robinson) Rea, was, at the time of his father's tragic death, taken into the home of his grandfather, Rev. John Rea, and obtained a good education. On March 30, 1848 he married Matilda Russell, daughter of John and Elizabeth (Miller) Russell. She was born August 18, 1825. Her grandfather, James Russell, was a soldier of the Revolution and is buried in the Moorefield Cemetery, Harrison County, Ohio. After his marriage, Joseph Rea taught school for a number of years, and from 1859 to 1868 was Recorder of Harrison County. In the fall of 1870, he removed from Moorefield, Harrison County, to West Union, Adams County, where he purchased the farm where the Adams County Fairgrounds are now located. In the spring of 1874, he sold this property and purchased the Central Hotel in Winchester, which he operated for about two years. On September 1, 1876, his wife died, and on October 20, 1879, he married Mary McCrory, of Union County, Ohio. After her death about four years later, he lived for a time in Winchester with his daughter, Mary Ellen (Rea) Handrehan, but in or about 1890, went west to live with his eldest daughter, Flora E. (Rea) Green, in Salem, Oregon. Here he died April 23, 1898, and was buried in the Pioneer Cemetery (then called the Rural Cemetery) in Salem.
Joseph and Matilda (Russell) Rea had six children: Flora Elizabeth Rea, born December 25, 1848 married Obed Green; Ruth Anna Rea, born October 18, 1850, married first, Oiiver A. Eylar, son of John and Ann A. (Wilkins) Eylar of West Union. Secondly, she married Josiah Purdom. Mary Ellen Rea, born September 1, 1854, married Philip Handrehan, of Winchester; James Samuel Rea, born October l, 1860, married Ethel Marsh, of Eugene, Oregon; William Purdy Rea, born April 19, 1863, died in infancy; and Charles Walton Rea, born November 8, 1868, who disappeared from a ranch in Montana about the time of the Klondike gold rush, and was never again heard from. By his second w~fe, Mary (McCrory) Rea, Joseph Rea had one child, Ernest Rea, born about 1880.
Mary Ellen Rea (called "Ella"), daughter of Joseph and Matilda (Russell) Rea, was born at Moorefield, Harrison County, Ohio, September 1, 1854, and was educated in the Cadiz, Ohio, schools. She was particularly gifted in music, and gave piano lessons for many years. After the family moved to Winchester, she married, September 1, 1874, Philip Handrehan, a wagon and buggy maker, then studying law.