THE REAVES COLLECTION

General Family Files
Series I Index

African American
Family Files
Series I Index

Family Files
Series II Index

Subject Files Index

Important: these are INDEXES ONLY - to see the actual file you must visit the Library or order a copy by email or mail.

Bill Reaves
Photo By Jim Pleasants

New Hanover County Public Library
Wilmington, North Carolina
North Carolina Room

The Reaves Collection, compiled by Bill Reaves, of Wilmington, North Carolina, was donated to the North Carolina Room of the New Hanover County Public Library during the 1990s. The collection came about in 1971 when Mr. Reaves was an employee of the Wilmington Star-News and keeper of the "newspaper morgue." When the company decided to have 100+ years of newspapers destroyed, he was, to a large extent, able to personally salvage them. The bound volumes of newspapers found their way to his home and from there began a most unusual collection of Lower Cape Fear historical and genealogical materials, a compilation which consumed the rest of his life.

Reaves spent thirty years clipping the old newspapers, and then dating, cross indexing and filing the clippings. Mr. Reaves generated individual file folders for local history subjects, local buildings, local addresses, local organizations and family (surname) files. These folders have benefited numerous museums, galleries, researchers and historical institutions around the state and country. Mr Reaves also added clippings from the newspapers of the 1970's, 80's and 90's.

It is important to understand that the Wilmington newspapers reported events happening not only in New Hanover County but also in the surrounding counties - Brunswick, Duplin, Pender, Onslow, Columbus, Bladen, Sampson. Clippings often include news from Lafayette, Southport, Elizabethville, Delco, Whiteville, Jacksonville, Burgaw, Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, and other nearby communities. A few significant clippings of national interest also were saved.

About 1990, Mr. Reaves began the unbelievable task of typing up his family files. This required putting the newspaper clippings and other items he had collected for a particular surname in chronological order and then typing the text of the articles. He did not make any attempt to separate families with the same surname, therefore, it is up to the researcher to use the information to the best advantage. In many cases he typed the entire text of the article; in other cases he typed a summary. He added many cross references to other files. He then indexed the entire file. As he typed a file he gave it to the North Carolina Room. Mr. Reaves died in 2000, having completed over 900 individual family files. Hundreds more files are still in the form of clippings sorted by family name - and additional clippings for the files he had previously typed accumulated in many cases as the clipping project continued during and after individual files were typed.

Some clippings date back to the mid and late 1800's…. not every article was necessarily clipped and saved, nor are clippings for every newspaper issue or even every year captured in these files. Some folders contain hundreds of clippings, while others may have only two or three. Mr. Reaves included frequent cross-references - following these will require examining additional FAMILY or SUBJECT files.

All of the Reaves Collection material is located in the North Carolina Room on the second floor of the Main New Hanover County Public Library in downtown Wilmington, North Carolina.

It was the wish of Mr. Reaves, and is the hope of the Library, that this collection will help the genealogist find vital and interesting information that cannot be found elsewhere. In the search of his own family Mr. Reaves said, "I have found both famous and infamous, rich and poor, the educated and illiterate, the Union and Confederate and I cherish every 'skeleton' that I have found in my many closets."


Reaves Family Files: Series I

In 2003, J. Kenneth Davis, Jr., of Wilmington, arranged by surname the voluminous Reaves Collection of family files that Mr. Reaves had chronologically arranged and typed, and the Old New Hanover Genealogical Society paid to have the files copied and bound. The final product, Reaves Family Files: Series I, consists of 81 volumes and thousands of pages of great genealogical value. Some families (the King family for example) have two, three or four files and fill an entire book. Other families have fewer than five pages. Most files fall somewhere in between. Mr. Reaves did not make any attempt to separate families with the same surname, therefore, it is up to the researcher to use the information to the best advantage.

Mr. Davis prepared an excellent index for the 900+ surnames of the collection. It includes the surname, the dates covered in the file, and the number of pages in the file. The number of pages is detailed as to file pages, index pages and miscellaneous pages. The miscellaneous pages could include cross-referenced information, business advertisements and newspaper photos. Note that index posted here is for the Surnames only and does not include the every name index included in many of the individual surname files.

Mr. Reaves had separate files for African-American families because he used these records to help compile his major 1998 work, Strength Through Struggle: The Chronological and Historical Record of the African-American Community in Wilmington, NC, 1865-1950. Shortly before his death he began typing these files, therefore, the A - C names are heavily represented in the Reaves Family Files: Series I African-American books. There are about 90 surname files sorted chronologically, typed and indexed in this series, bound in four volumes.

Be aware that it is not always evident in a clipping that a family or individual named is - or is not - African-American and for completeness sake both parts of Series I should be examined by the researcher.

Series I Sample Pages

Series I Family File Surname Index

Series I African-American Family File Surname Index

To Order a copy of a Reaves Collection Family File, Series I
1- Determine if a file exists using the online Indexes above.
2- Determine the total number of pages, include index and miscellaneous pages.
3- Determine the cost: $.25 per page plus $2.00 for shipping and handling.
4 - Mail your check, payable to the New Hanover County Public Library, to: North Carolina Room, NHCPL, 201 Chestnut St., Wilmington, NC 28401.

The Library staff regrets that limited resources prevent search by the staff of individual indexes for particular names. Visitors to the Library may access these volumes and may make copies of pages of interest at the usual copying charge.


Reaves Family Files: Series II

There are 6800+ additional Family Files of clippings accumulated by Mr. Reaves which have not been typed and indexed, including many which supplement the Series I surnames. These clippings are all dated and identify the newspaper in which they appeared. Some files contain as few as one or four clippings; others over 200. Some of the clippings may duplicate typed information found in the Series I collection. Mr. Reaves did not make any attempt to separate families with the same surname, therefore, it is up to the researcher to use the information to the best advantage.

Researchers are urged to consider alternate spelling for uncommon surnames and also to examine the Family files for related surnames. For instance, a single clipping may be filed under the groom's name or under the bride's name or the name of the remarried mother of the bride. Also consider examining files for organizations the individual may have belonged to, places of employment, churches and other SUBJECT files. Remember these are clippings cut from local newspapers: in most cases you are looking at one clipping that may have ended up in the file for any surname mentioned in the clipping..... generally the surname that Mr. Reaves felt was most significant... and cross references may or may not have been placed in other files.

Most of the Series II files are simply in the form of loose clippings. About 2% have been arranged chronologically and mounted on archival paper. We urge interested individuals or families to sort and mount the clippings for families of interest. A free photocopy of the file will be provided you - and it is a great source family history!

A single online Index page allows a researcher access to both the Series II General Surname Files and the Series II African -American Surname Files. Some files have been collated; most have not.

Be aware that it is not always evident in a clipping that a family or individual named is - or is not - African-American and for completeness sake both parts of Series I should be examined by the researcher.

The Library staff regrets that limited resources prevent search by the staff for for particular names within these files. Visitors to the Library may research in these files.

Series II Sample Pages

Series II Family File Surname Index

Reaves Family Files Series II Finding Aid
(.pdf file - requires Adobe Acrobat)

Ordering Copies by Mail


Subject Files

In addition to the Family Files, Bill Reaves collected thousands of clippings he sorted by Subject into hundreds of folders - everything from 'Abattoirs' to 'Zoos.' These clippings are all dated and identify the newspaper in which they appeared. These files deal primarily but by no means exclusively with SE North Carolina subject matter. Many include cross-references to Family Files and other subject files.

To maintain the integrity of the files and the existing cross index entries the same subjects categories as used by Mr. Reaves have been maintained. These might not be the subject titles you would have used, so be creative in your thinking. To assist, many subject cross references have been provided in the Index.

A very few of the Subject files were chronologically arranged and then typed by Mr. Reaves. Other files have been collated (chronologically arranged and the clippings adhered to archival paper). Some files contain other printed material. This material, ready to be photocopied, is indicated with bold face type, with the number of pages given in square brackets [xx pp], in the index.

A few files are very large - 200 - 1000+ clippings - and are being held in BOXED files instead of file folders. These are NOT generally collated and may be (or may not be) sorted by appropriate groups; may be are sorted by decades. We urge those with an interest in a particular organization (church, club, etc) or with a particular interest (photography, golf, Port of Wilmington, river pollution, etc) to come to the NHCPL and participate in organizing files in which they are interested - we guarantee you will find it rewarding!

The Library staff regrets that limited resources prevent search by the staff of individual indexes for particular subjects or names. Visitors to the Library may research in these files.

Subject Files Index

To minimize file download time and to provide efficient search options, the Subject Index is in .pdf format. If you do not yet have the Adobe Reader for opening these pages download it now - FREE!
Get Free Adobe Reader

Ordering Copies by Mail


Ordering File Copies By Mail

Collated files: About 1% of the multi-page files have been collated. Arranging a file consists of putting all the clippings and cross references, etc., in chronological order, and adhering them to paper so they are stabilized and can be photocopied. Collated files are indicated in the Index posted here by bold face print and, if more than one page, the number of pages in brackets: [xx pp]. All of the files in the several Miscellaneous folders have been collated and are shown in the Index list preceded with a hyphen (-) and in bold face; these are only one page, usually 1 to 6 clippings.

Uncollated Files: 99% of the multi-page files are still in the form of dated, unsorted, loose clippings. You can get a copy of an uncollated file for free if you come into the library and collate (arrange) it.

To Order a copy of a Collated Reaves File
1 - Determine if a file exists using the online Index above.
2 - Determine the total number of pages, include index and miscellaneous pages.
3 - Determine the cost: $.25 per page plus $2.00 for shipping and handling.
4 - Mail your check, payable to the New Hanover County Public Library, to: North Carolina Room, NHCPL, 201 Chestnut St., Wilmington, NC 28401.


To Order a copy of an Uncollated Reaves File
1 - Determine if a file exists using the online Indexes.
2 - Understand what is involved here by checking out the Series II Sample page.
3 - Contact the NHCPL (email: North Carolina Room or ONHGS ) for an estimate of cost and preparation time. Due to limited resources, there may be a delay in preparation of the file for copying.
4 - Upon your agreement as to estimated cost, the Staff will arrange for the file to be collated, d
etermine the total number of pages, and advise you of the total cost.
5 - The cost will be $.50 per page plus $2.00 for shipping and handling.
6 - Mail your check, payable to the New Hanover County Public Library, to: North Carolina Room, NHCPL, 201 Chestnut St., Wilmington, NC 28401.

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Page Updated: August 3, 2007

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