Reese was a proponent for the name Walla Walla instead of Waiilatpu, and was one of the first Walla Walla property owners in 1859. In the same year, he served as County Auditor. He served as postmaster for fewer than six months, but it is believed he was forced to resign because he was not dispatching mail in a timely manner. As a result, he was charged with dereliction of duty.
By 1862, Reese became a member of the Walla Walla City Council, and in that same year was involved in the charter for a railroad from Walla Walla to Wallula in 1862.
He established a grist mill in 1866, supplying local markets with flour for baked goods, meal for livestock feed, and grist for brewing. His dealings with brewers led to his establishment the same year of Washington Territory’s first commercial distillery. Reese paid a sum of $3,000, a very high price even by today’s standard, to Washington, D.C. for a license to distill whiskey and brandy (this license exists to this day, perhaps awaiting a renaissance of craft distillers to ameliorate the local brewing and winemaking industries).
He was elected to the city council again in 1867 and it is thought that he achieved his winning vote with his new product.
Isham T. Reese is portrayed by noted winemaker, Berle Figgins.