Robert Reap

???? - 1843

Claimant or beneficiary


Captain Robert Reap Snr, mariner of Nevis, free person of colour. He had four ‘natural and reputed children’ with the free woman of colour Mary Canham (c.1779-1829): Rebecca Reap (q.v.), Sarah Reap, Eliza Crosbie Reap and Benjamin Reap, and another son Robert Reap Jnr (q.v.). He was brother of the mariner William Reap and uncle of William Fraser Reap (married to Sarah Maillard and father of Edward Smith Reap). A Charles Reap, merchant of Nevis, was also most likely a relation.He had an as yet unspecified connection to John Frederick Browne (q.v.), through his marriage to Sarah Jane Reap. Robert Reap Snr held almost all shares in a Nevis-built sloop, the Henry, and owned land near the beach in Charlestown.

  1. Robert Reap Snr may have been the same seafarer who in March 1799 brought 50 enslaved people from Martinique to Nevis in the schooner Success. He certainly was the captain of a vessel that the Nevis Legislature paid £33 Nevis Currency in 1824 to track down two men who had conned a runaway slave; they had promised to assist his escape to another island but then dumped him at sea.

  2. He owned three female and ten male slaves, of whom five - an unusually high number - were born in Africa. Most males would have been employed as ‘sailor Negroes’; in fact one African man called Adam ‘run away at Halifax’. Robert Reap was then captain of the Isabella which sailed from Nevis to Halifax in Nova Scotia. Another African, Will, drowned, possibly when the Henry was wrecked off Nevis in 1828. By 1834 Robert Reap had only eight people in his possession: three females and five males. Since 1817 the women had given birth to three children, he had purchased Adam, the African who later jumped ship in Halifax, and he added one girl by special licence. Two more of Captain Reap’s men escaped (Tyrrell and Jim, both Creoles) and, in addition to Will, two more African men died (Cork and McPherson) and one of the infants, Edward. Reap also recorded the sale of three people, two to his daughter Rebecca and one to the planter William McPhail.

  3. Reap's common law wife, Mary Canham died in December 1829 and was buried at St Paul's church. Mary She left her remaining slave, Caroline, to her and Reap’s daughter Eliza Crosby Reap. Baptised in 1826, Eliza was probably younger than Caroline, who was born in about 1821. The girls had in common that both their mothers were dead; Caroline’s had died before she was four years old. Robert Reap Snr sought slave compensation for Caroline as Eliza’s guardian and also claimed for his eight people. Reap’s son Robert Jnr completed his own claim, as did his daughter Rebecca, who married in 1835.

  4. On 16 July 1833, an enslaved woman owned by Reap and recorded as Sally, mulatto, married James Parris in front of their witnesses Fanny Archbald and Angela Smith. Both women, as well as the groom, signed the register. Sally’s name was recorded as Sarah Levy, possibly because Daniel Levy, a free coloured mariner, was the father of her son Daniel. Sarah Levy was also the name recorded in the parish register when she buried her child; the boy died in 1825 at the age of ten months. Neither Daniel’s birth nor his death were documented in the slave registers completed by Robert Reap.

  5. Following the wrecking of the Henry, Robert Reap was fined for not having a manifest of goods, but failed to pay to the charge. On 13 March 1836 the authorities issued a warrant of distress and it is possible that he had to use part of his slave compensation money to pay off this debt. Later in the year, in September 1836, Robert Reape (sic) senior was among the men who signed a letter congratulating the newly appointed Governor ‘on behalf of the coloured inhabitants of the island of Nevis generally’. In 1839 Reap suffered the loss of another vessel when the sloop Ant was wrecked while under the command of a different master, Richard Jones.

  6. On 25 January 1843 Robert Reap made his will. He distributed cash bequests of close to £200 (all in Nevis currency; worth around £20,000 Sterling in today’s money). He left £7:4:0 to his servant Nancy Jones and £22:10:0 to her daughter Susannah; £45:8:0 to his son Robert and Robert’s four children; £14:8:0 and her funeral expenses to his sister Nancy Drummond and £50 each to Henry Pemberton Dasent and Edward Smith Reap. Both were under age, and while Henry would have been his grandson (Rebecca’s son), Edward was probably a great-nephew. Robert Reap, who was illiterate, stated that the money was intended ‘particularly for their education’. For his maintenance Edward Smith Reap was to get additional money accrued from Reap’s ten shares in the West India Bank. The lot of land Reap occupied with all its buildings and outbuildings and also the remainder of his property and possessions he left to his and Mary Canham’s ‘natural and reputed children’ - the widowed Rebecca Dasent, Sarah Reap, Eliza Crosbie Reap and Benjamin Reap – and to Edward Smith Reap. Reap also stated that his son Robert was to have no further claim on the estate which may suggest a strained relationship between father and son. One item of particular importance to Reap, his iron chest, he left to John Alexander Iles, one of his executors, who had also acted as witness at the wedding of John Frederick Browne and Sarah Jane Reap. As the other executor he appointed Hastings Charles Huggins and as witnesses to the will Charles Abbott, WA Browne and Samuel M Iles.


Nevis Historical and Conservation Society (NHCS), St Paul’s Baptisms 1824-1835 (21 March 1826); Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court Registry, Nevis (ECSCRN), Book of Wills 1837-1864 ff.203-05; UK National Archives (UKNA), BT 107/484 Ports: Antigua – Nevis 1824; ECSCRN, CR 1829-1830 vol 2 ff.162-70; see also CR 1835-1838 f.6

  1. Papers Presented to the House of Commons 7 May 1804 respecting the Slave Trade (London, 1804), p. 101; Christine Eickelmann conversation with V.K. Hubbard, 15 March 2006, quoting from research notes taken at the Beinicke Collection, Hamilton College Library, Clinton NY, p. 304.

  2. UKNA, T 71/364 and T 71/366 Slave Registers Nevis 1817 f.238 and 1825 f.167; Bristol University Library Special Collections (BULSC), Pinney Papers (PP), LB 61 Hodges & Johnson, Brokers, to PA & Co 23 Aug 1826; UKNA, BT 107/484 Ports: Antigua – Nevis 1824; UKNA, T 71/365, T 71/367-9 Slave Registers Nevis 1822 f.203, 1828 f.156, 1831 f.199 and 1834 f.193

  3. NHCS, St Paul’s Burials 1825-1837; NHCS, St Paul’s Baptisms 1824-1835 (21 March 1826)

  4. NHCS, St Paul’s Marriages 1826-1842; ECSCRN, CR 1814-1817 ff.7-10; NHCS, St Paul’s Burials 1825-1837 (19 February 1825).

  5. ECSCRN, Nevis Court Records 1836-1843 f.49; UKNA, CO 28/134 Despatches from Evan Murray John McGregor, Governor of Barbados 1 April 1840 to 31 August 1840 ff.237-39 14, 2/9/1836; UKNA, BT 107/524 Registry of Shipping and Seamen, Antigua and Nevis 1839

  6. ECSCRN, Book of Wills 1837-1864 ff.203-05; The West India Bank collapsed in 1847 and Robert Reap’s shares would have become worthless, see William A. Green, A British Slave Emancipation: The Sugar Colonies and the Great Experiment, 1830-1865 (Oxford, 1991) p. 235.

We are extremely grateful to Christine Eickelmann for sharing with us her detailed archival research and on which this entry is based.jU

Further Information

1. ???? 2. Mary Canham (not married)
1. Robert Reap Jnr; 2. Rebecca Reap, Sarah Reap, Eliza Crosbie Reap and Benjamin Reap
A will but no further details

Associated Claims (1)

£163 10s 11d

Relationships (3)

Other relatives
Father → Daughter
Father → Natural Son