William J. Reese was a prominent factor in the history of Lancaster for many years. Here he practiced law, was connected with merchandising and journalistic interests, and contributed largely to the general welfare by his co-operation in many movements for the general good. He promoted public progress along many lines and his efforts in behalf of the city made his history an important chapter in the annals of this section of the state.


William J. Reese was born on the 3rd of August, 1804, in the city of Philadelphia, and there be acquired a liberal education. Wishing to make the practice of law his  life work, he studied and was eventually admitted to the bar. The year 1827 witnessed his arrival in Lancaster. At that time a year's residence was demanded before one could enter upon active practice here and when the requisite period had elapsed. Mr. Reese opened an office and began practice. Hie was a cultured, refined and brilliant young attorney, with a mind alert and active, quick in perception, logical in thought and sound in reasoning. He had soon demonstrated his ability to handle the intricate problems of jurisprudence and successfully cope with the older and more experieticed members of the bar, and in a short time he had a large and growing clientage, but his efforts were not confined to one department of business activity. In 1829 he joined Samuel F. Maccracken in establishing a dry goods store in Newark. This store was placed in charge of Daniel Duncan, who had been one of Mr. Maccracken's clerks, and to him, in 1832, Mr. Reese sold bis interest in the business. In the same year he purchased an interest in the Lancaster Gazette, in partnership with Charles Borland, but when a year had passed he decided that he did not care for journalistic work and disposed of his share in the paper to Colonel P. Van Trump. Merchandising was to him more congenial and in 1832 he purchased the interest of Henry Matthews and Joe Battles in the dry goods store of Henry .Matthews & Company, of which firm Thomas Reed was a member, and the business was then continued under the firm name of Thomas Reed & Company until March, 1838, when General Reese removed to Philadelphia, where, in connection with  John Heylin, he opened a jobbing house, but after a few years it was found that the enterprise was unprofitable. His health also failed him and he returned to Lancaster, where he lived in retirement until his death.


Mr. Reese was united in marriage to the eldest daughter of Judge Charles R. Sherman and in the days of his prosperity he erected one of the finest and most commodious homes in Lancaster. He was also a prominent and influential citizen here and his efforts in behalf of the public good were widely recognized as most beneficial and acceptable. He was the captain of a fine military company at one time and was serving as brigadier general of the Ohio State Militia at the time be remioved to Philadelphia. For several years he was secretary of the board of fund commission for the state of Ohio and his official service was characterized by the utmost fidelity. He was an enthusiastic Mason and the author of the present ritual. He succeeded Judge Sherman as master of the Masonic lodge in Lancaster and his prominence in Masonic ciicles is indicated by the fact that for eight years he was the grand master of the grand lodge of Ohio. A charter member of St. John's Episcopal church, he was zealous and enthusiastic in its behalf and his influence in that direction was of no restricted order. He aided in laying broad and deep the foundation for the present social, moral, intellectual and material benefit of Lancaster and well does he deserve to be numbered among its honored pioneer settlers.

 

From A Biographical Record of Fairfield County, Ohio, S. J. Clarke Publishing, New York and Chicago, 1902