Who Will Rebuild Fortesville?

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The world knows that most of the Reeveses in Liberia hail from Fortesville, Grand Bassa County. There were some prominent ones among them, including Chapman Reeves, Member of the House of Representatives, Albert Reeves, Deputy Minister of Justice, another, who served as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia and another, who was a Senator from Grand Bassa.

The Reeves produced many sons and daughters. One of them, Melvin Reeves, became the first Foreign News Editor of the Daily Observer. His younger brother Lemuel is currently Commissioner of Immigration, Republic of Liberia.
A cousin, Z. Moulay B. Reeves, a 1963 Cuttington graduate, along with his wife Ruth Lymas Reeves, was for many years Deputy Minister of Planning and Economic Affairs and a graduate of the Louis Arthur Grimes School of law, though he never practiced law.

One of the best known Reeveses was Rev. Toimu A. Reeves, who in the 1970s and 80s was a great Pastor of Providence Baptist Church, the nation’s oldest, founded in 1822. Rev. Reeves preached many powerful sermons. In one of them in 1975 he predicted to the date the death of Steve Tolbert, Liberia’s first Finance Minister during the administration of his brother, President William R. Tolbert, Jr. Following the April 14 Rice Riots in 1979 Rev. Reeves delivered another powerful sermon entitled “A Strange Sunrise in Eden.”

Providence’s current pastor is another Reeves, Rev. Samuel Reeves, younger cousin of Toimu.

One of his cousins, Dr. Bismark Reeves, is former Dean of the University of Liberia’s College of Agriculture and Forestry. Bismark’s son Varmu is a computer expert with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning.

There are other prominent Bassonians, including the Findleys, one of whose scions was Joseph Patrick Henry Findley. Joe Findley was appointed a Judge at the tender age of 29, the youngest judge in Liberian history. He became a Grand Bassa Senator in the 1970s. His son is former Senator Pro Tempore Gbezhonghar Findley, and one of his sisters is Mrs. Findley-Toe.

The Findleys, who hail from Edina, have a close family connection with the Portes of Crozierville and those of Grand Bassa. Three of the Porte brothers, born in Crozierville following the 1865 immigration from Barbados, the West Indies, settled in Edina and Kingsville, Grand Bassa. Former Ambassador Prince Porte is a product of that Bassa connection. His father Rufus Porte spent his early years in Edina.

Kenneth Y. Best, in his book on Albert Porte, recalled that one of the Portes, Daniel Porte, fought and killed a leopard in Grand Bassa. Mr. Best quoted a story told him about Daniel Porte by Rockefeller Findley, Cocoa Cola Franchise Director for Francophone West Africa and son of former Member of the House of Representatives T.I.B. Findley. Rockefeller said he remembered seeing the scar on Daniel Porte, Rocky’s grand uncle, “inflicted by the claws of the leopard during that fight.” Daniel Porte’s sister Sarah became the grandmother of the Findleys.

The Findleys are also connected to the mother of former National Port Authority Managing Director Matilda Parker and her siblings.

The same question we ask as the theme of this Editorial is one which we could well ask of Edina and so many of the settlements of Grand Bassa and other counties—who will rebuild Fortesville? Who will rebuild all the other settlements—like Lexington in Sinoe County, Bunker Hill in Maryland, Millsburg in Montserrado, and Tala in Grand Cape Mount?

Though Fortesville is situated right along the paved highway to Buchanan, it is now so insignificant a town that it could easily be bypassed unnoticed. How sad for a place that produced so many outstanding sons and daughters!

Rev. Samuel Reeves told this newspaper that one of his brothers is pastor of the Fortesville Baptist Church, the church into which most Reeves were born.

Many of the Reeveses, like so many other Liberian families, now live abroad, mostly in the United States. Reverend Samuel Reeves, his brother, the Fortesville Baptist pastor, their cousins Bismark, Lemuel and so many others here ought to plan an occasion, perhaps an important anniversary of the church, and invite the Reeveses in the Diaspora to return for a nostalgic visit to the old landmark—to touch once again “the green, green grass at home.” Perhaps this may inspire them to join those on the ground in making a bold, determined attempt to rebuild Fortesville and restore her pristine glory. This may well inspire many of them to return and revive the good old Fortesville.

Many, from various other deserted villages around the country, seeing what the Fortesvillians shall have done, may take heart and return to rebuild and revive their own.

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