William Bishop Rea
Written and Submitted by Gary Rea

William Bishop REA, b. September 14, 1847, Newburg, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania to John Allen Rea and Elizabeth Bishop. Married Carrie A. French in Fond du Lac, Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin June 19, 1879. Children: Carrie A. Rea, b. February 7, 1884 in Fond du Lac; Edith Elizabeth Rea, born February 6, 1882 in Ashland, Ashland County, Wisconsin, married _______ Cook June 19, 1903 in Ashland, died July 20, 1952 in Alameda, California; Leslie A. Rea, born June 3, 1893 in Ashland, died August 1894 in Ashland.

William's boyhood years were spent in Newburg, Pennsylvania, where he received his elementary education. He was living there during the Battle of Gettysburg, which was raging only thirty miles away. The roar of the cannon could be clearly heard and the smoke was visible in the distance.

At the age of twenty, he accepted a clerical position in a general store in Newburg where he remained until 1871[this, according to a biographical sketch written in the early twentieth century. However, the 1870 census of Winnebago County shows William was already in Oshkosh, working for his uncle at the Empire House in June of 1870. It is more likely that William went to Oshkosh about 1867, which is when he was 20], when he went west to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, where he worked, first, in a crockery store, then as a desk clerk for his uncle James A. Rea at the Empire House Hotel, at 107 Main Street.

William left the Empire House and went to Appleton, Wisconsin, then to Fond du Lac, and, in 1886, to Ashland, where he worked as a grocery merchant for a time [it must have been a short time, because he was a partner in Twiggs and Rea Real Estate just two years later]. He then turned his attention to real estate, in which he dealt largely in city property, as well as timber and farm land. In 1901 he was appointed as City Assessor for two years.

In 1879, William married Carrie A. French, daughter of the Rev. Charles French, a Presbyterian Clergyman who died in Ashland in 1902 at age eighty-three. Carrie was born in Melbourne, near Montreal, Quebec, Canada. She came to America with her parents as a child.

William and Carrie were members of the Presbyterian Church and were prominent in social circles. William was the scretary of Ashland Lodge No. 558, B.P.O.E. and had a wide circle of friends and acquaintances.

William may have had a younger brother named James Alzona Rea, who died at fifteen on July 25, 1869. This James was buried in Newburg Church of God Graveyard, Newhope Township, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania and was listed as the son of "J.A. & E.M. Rea."

In 1888, William was listed in the Ashland city directory as a partner of Twiggs & Rea Real Estate. He and his partner, John W. Twiggs had their offices at 109 W. Second St., just down the street about one block from where William's cousin, Pearl E. Rea was boarding. Pearl was in Ashland working as a carpenter.

In 1890, it appears, from the Ashland city directory, that William and his partner, John Twiggs had either moved and opened a second location, or had opened two additional locations. They now had offices at 223 Third Avenue East and at 309 W. 2nd St., as well. By 1891, they had expanded their services to include an employment agency, with locations at 309 W. 2nd St. and 501 W. Front St.

In 1893, the directory suggests that William had left his partnership with Mr. Twiggs and started his own office, as the name of the business changed to Rea & Patrick Real Estate, located at 309 W. 2nd St. His new partner was Robert Patrick.

I believe it's possible William and his parents may be the three unknown Reas buried with James Azel Rea in the Rea plot at Riverside Cemetery, Oshkosh, Wisconsin.


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