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By John Oliver, President, Historical Society

Our articles this month are about local men and women who were written up in The Tennessean newspaper.

The Historical Society has been given, over the years, newspaper clippings that people have saved and stuck away in family Bibles or in dresser drawers. These are often faded and hard to read. But, the common thread to these is that they are “about someone from here-a-bouts !”

That is the case with not one, but two articles we have in our possession – about the Reese brothers.

We are introduced to the brothers, who were twins, in a photo and brief paragraph that appeared in the Oct. 31, 1939 issue of The Tennessean.

Reprinted with permission of The Tennessean
This faded photo was clipped from the Oct. 31, 1939 issue of The Tennessean newspaper and featured twin brothers with Hartsville roots.

The paragraph beneath the picture reads, “F.T. Reese, 314 Hancock Street, and his twin brother, T.J. Reese of 409 Madison Street, Franklin, Ky., celebrate their 87th birthday today. These twins were born in Trousdale County, near Hartsville, Tenn., October 31, 1852. F.T. is a retired insurance man and T.J. a retired farmer. Both are enjoying the best of health. Although they still act, talk, and look alike, T.J. has decided that he likes bow ties.”

The photograph is the one accompanying this article and we can see the family resemblance, even down to the hairline and moustaches!

Twins have always been unique, but the caption above the photo said it all, “A long time to be twins.” At 87, the men were defying convention in still another way – alive and healthy at such a ripe old age.

We learn more about the men when Francis Reese died in 1943 and an article was written about him, again in The Tennessean.

In this article, we learn more about the family and their roots here in Hartsville.

“Francis T. Reese was born some four miles from Hartsville when Hartsville was still in Macon County. (Note: The town of Hartsville would have been in Sumner County in 1852, but that end of the county where the men were born was in Macon County.) He had lived long enough to remember how his father had marched off with the Army of Tennessee in ’61.”

The article continues with how Francis married and spent his adult years.

“He married Miss Sidney Amanda Browning long before the turn of the century. Neither of them had ever been more than a few miles from the Hartsville neighborhood but a man named Greely was talking about ‘going West’ and a good many of the ‘young’uns’ were, so the Reeses packed up and went too.

They lived in Texas five years, and deciding they had had enough of Western ways, Mr. and Mrs. Reese and their three children hitched up a pair of oxen to a Texas covered wagon and started back to Tennessee.

In 1900 the Reese family moved to Nashville. Through with farming and the stock business, Mr. Reese told his family that he was going to become an insurance man. He bore out his contention, for when he was 74 the Interstate Insurance Company asked him to leave his own insurance business and go to work for them. And he did until he retired at the age of 81.”

But we don’t want to neglect his brother. The newspaper says that Frances, “looked forward to his twice-yearly trips to visit his twin brother in Franklin, Ky. Last October 31, tall, slender with a little grayed mustache, Mr. Reese boarded the bus for Franklin and went as usual to see T.J. … alone.”

No story about an aged gentleman concludes without a reference to why they lived so long and the article continues:

“Questioned about his longevity on his birthday, Mr. Reese accounted for it by saying that he had “never touched a drop of liquor, smoked, chewed or cussed. I’m a God-fearing man,” he explained. “I never missed a church service or Sunday school and I never went to a picture show; I vote for the best man, but I’m a Democrat.”

Frances and his wife had another child after their return from Texas, and his obituary lists three daughters and one son as being survivors – and his twin brother in Kentucky!

Thomas Jefferson Reese would outlive his twin by seven years, passing away in 1950 at the ripe old age of 98!