N.H. Historical Marker Number: 99.
Date established: 1975 in Fitzwilliam.
Location: Route 119 at the north end of the Fitzwilliam town common.
What the sign says: "This veteran Captain of the French and Indian War, born in Woburn, Mass., settled here about 1765 as an original proprietor of Monadnock No. 4, now Fitzwilliam. After the Battle of Lexington, he recruited several companies to form the Third New Hampshire Regiment which aided General Stark at the Battle of Bunker Hill in the Revolutionary War. He was commissioned a Brigadier-General following the siege of Boston and his engagement at the Battle of Ticonderoga."
The back story: James Reed was born around 1724. In 1742, he married Abigail Hinds, a native of Brookfield, Mass. The couple lived first in Brookfield, then Lunenburg, Mass., which would become Fitchburg in 1764. They built a home there and had six sons and five daughters.
Reed received his military experience during the French and Indian War. By 1755, when he was about 31, he was commander of a company of troops in Col. John Brown's Massachusetts Regiment. From 1756 to 1758, Reed commanded a number of Colonial companies under different commanders. He was at Fort Ticonderoga in both 1758 and when it fell in 1759. He served in the militia until the peace treaty of Paris in 1763.
By 1765, he helped lead a group of settlers from Lunenburg to Monadnock Number Four, which is now Fitzwilliam, thanks to a grant of land from New Hampshire's provincial governor. At age 41, Reed was the only original proprietor to reside in the township.
Reed built the second house in town, about a mile northwest of the village center, which was used by the militia and other travelers. Reed turned the large home into an inn and tavern. His "public house" also served as the first place for religious services and as the first school house in Fitzwilliam.
He promoted the town's settlement, and in 1768, served on a five-person committee to lay out, clear and build bridges on town roads. He also served as moderator of the first town meeting in November 1769, and all the successive meetings until the American Revolution.
In 1770, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel.
After Reed heard about the battles at Lexington and Concord, he raised a company of volunteers and marched them to Medford, Mass. He continued to enlist more volunteers, many from Cheshire County, and soon had four companies under his command. In 1775, he was promoted to the rank of colonel.
He fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill alongside John Stark, colonel of the First New Hampshire Regiment. They twice repelled British advances. Although the British Army prevailed in the third attack, almost half the British forces were killed or wounded by the militia regiments.
When Gen. George Washington reorganized the Continental Army on Jan. 1, 1776, Reed's regiment was ranked second. Reed participated in the siege of British-held Boston until its conclusion in March 1776, when the Britain evacuated its troops.
Reed's next assignment was to accompany the Continental Army to its New York headquarters.
In July 1776, Reed was stationed with his troops at Crown Point when he came down with a severe fever and lost his vision. Reed was appointed brigadier general of the Continental Army in August 1776 upon Washington's recommendation, but Reed had to retire from active military duty.
He returned to Fitzwilliam. His wife died in August 1791 at age 68, and Reed subsequently married Molly Farrar of Fitzwilliam. Around 1800, he moved back to Fitchburg, where he remained until his death at age 83 on Feb. 13, 1807. He was buried with military honors in the old burying ground at Fitchburg.
His portrait hangs in New Hampshire's State House.
Sources: Historic Fitzwilliam Economic Development Association and Historical Society of Cheshire County.