David P. Reeves

Page 54
In the fall of 1874, the county (Grand Forks) was re-organized by the territorial governor, John A. Burbank, who appointed a new board of county commissioners, to wit, David P. Reeves, Alexander Griggs and George A. Wheeler.  Messrs. Wheeler and Reeves met at the residence of the latter commissioner (Griggs being absent) and completed the organization of the county March 2, 1875.  The first officers of the county were:  …Thos. Walsh and D. P. Reeves, justices of the peace.

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As stated, Howard R. Vaughn, who seems to have been Griggs’ right hand man for business enterprises, had general charge of matters, particularly after Griggs left for Henderson, but the actual construction of the boat (Selkirk) was carried on under the supervision of David P. Reeves, a practical boat builder.

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The Selkirk was usually laid up each winter at Grand Forks.  This initiated a boat yard here.  It was established by (Norman W.) Kittson, who was then connected with the transportation business of the Hudson Bay company.  About this time the few boats on the river passed under his control and so he came to be called Commodore Kittson.  D. P. Reeves was placed in charge of the boat

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yard.  (
History of Grand Forks County with Special Reference to the First Ten Years of Grand Forks City, H. V. Arnold, Larimore Pioneer, Larimore, 1900)


Mr. D. P. Reeves, who left here the fore part of May in charge of a party of mechanics employed to work on Hudson Bay Company’s boats navigating Lake Winnipeg and the Saskatchewan river, has favored us with a letter in which he reports the good health of himself and party.  He expects to cross the Lake and go up as far as Grand Rapids some time this week, and will probably be absent until the latter part of August.  The country is in the vicinity of the Lower Stone Fort is nearly inundated and great distress is experienced among the settlers.  Many have been unable to put their seed in as yet, and have given up the idea of raising anything this year.  (Grand Forks Herald, Thursday, June 17, 1880, Volume I, Number 52, Page 1)


Commodore N. W. Kittson, of the Hudson Bay Company, established a boat yard here in 1872 under the management of D. P. Reeves, and soon after the steamers Dakota, Manitoba, Minnesota and Alpha were built and added to the line of boats navigating the Red river.  The building of these boats brought quite an addition to the population of the hamlet.  (Grand Forks and North Dakota Manual for 1885, William L. Dudley, Plaindealer Book and Job Rooms, Grand Forks, 1885, Page 30)


David P. Reeves

David Porter Reeves, who was born in England in 1826, was the man for whom Reeves Drive in Grand Forks was named.

David Reeves’ father had been anxious for him to become a shipwright and had sent him to the navy years at Glasgow, Scotland, when he was 14.  Reeves later saw many ports of the world, traveling around it three times.

Eventually, he captained a boat that came up the Mississippi and the Ohio rivers, where he met and married Elizabeth Wilkins at Belle Vernon, Pa.  Reeves tried to settle down, but his urge to travel was strong and he finally left his family with relatives and boarded a boat to Panama, walked across the isthmus and caught another boat to San Francisco.  There, he joined the Gold Rush of 1849, but never found more than a few souvenirs.

Stories of Red River steamboating reached him there and, with his wife and six children this time, moved to Fisher in 1879.  He got a job there repairing and building boats for R.S. Griggs.

Later, Reeves filed a homestead and that quarter of land became the site of Grand Forks.  The main street then was Reeves Avenue, now Reeves Drive.

He built a home there.  In 1882, after James J. Hill arrived, Reeves bought a section of land seven miles north of East Grand Forks, paying $9 an acre for it.  His wife remained in town where she boarded shipbuilders, cooking for as high as 60 men, while Reeves farmed.

The family moved to the farm in 1886 and Reeves died shortly afterward.

A son, William, moved to the northwest quarter of that section when he married Jesse Nichols of Winnipeg.  That’s where Miss Reeves and her sister were born.  Dorothy’s writings include their fear of the wolves that howled through cold nights there.

David and Elizabeth had six children that survived.  Robert was born November 19, 1856 in New Brownsville, Pennsylvania (died December 10, 1949 in Wenatchee, Washington); William L. was born February 12, 1859 in Wheeling, West Virginia (died September 16,  1941 in Grand Forks, North Dakota); Emma Jane (dates unknown) married Abe Potter; Sarah (Nancy) was born March 20, 1862 in Virginia (died December 1, 1936 in Grand Forks, North Dakota); Rachel (dates unknown) married Bill Huggins and died in a house fire reportedly started by her husband, in North Dakota; Elizabeth was born September 26, 1869 in Princeton, Minnesota (died January 25, 1961 in Seattle, Washington).  D. P. Reeves built stern-wheeler boats that sailed on the Red River.  His two sons Robert and William were also ship wrights.

Grand Forks Historical Society



Another Old Settler Joins the Majority.

Early this morning Mr. D. P. Reeves ceased from his earthly labors – died.  Mr. Reeves has been afflicted with dropsy and this disease ultimately carried him off.  In ’71, just eighteen years ago, Mr. Reeves first set foot in the Red River valley and engaged in the construction of vessels.  In this business he was very successful but of late years he had followed agricultural pursuits.  A wife and six children are left to mourn his departure.  Mr. Reeves was a prominent Odd Fellow, Mason and Knight Templar.  The funeral will be conducted under the auspices of the local lodge of Knight Templars.

The funeral will take place from the Methodist church at two o’clock p. m., tomorrow.  The service will be conducted by Rev. F. W. Iddings.

Grand Forks Daily Herald
Wednesday Evening, June 19, 1889
Volume XV, Number 194, Page 4


Mrs. David Reeves Funeral Services To Be Held Today

Announcement was made last night that funeral services for Mrs. David Reeves who died Sunday evening at her farm home near here, will be held from the Sacred Heart church at 10 o’clock this morning, Rev. Father W. Klinkhammer officiating.

Mrs. Reeves who had been ill for several months, was a native of Pennsylvania, where she was born 84 years ago; in 1869 she and her husband, with their five children, came to this section of the northwest.  Mr. Reeves, whose death took place several years ago, was one of the early Red River steamboat captains and boat builders, constructing both the Selkirk and the International.

Mrs. Reeves is survived by two sons and three daughters:  William of this city; Robert of Wenatchee, Wash.; Mrs. M. Levi of Grand Forks; Mrs. Francis Swanson, who lives at the family farm home, and Mrs. Emma Trotter of Freeport, Ill.

Grand Forks Herald
Wednesday, February 15, 1922
Volume XLI, Number 92, Page 5


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