Early VA Meachams -- Mecums


Mecum Origins in Isle of Wight County?

[Oct. 13, 1999]

There is a wide variation in the way surnames pronounced like Meacham (M250 in Soundex) were written down, and often the written form can be seen to undergo sudden radical changes, eg from Meacham to Meekam and Meekum in the North Carolina census of 1790. But beneath the criss-crossing renditions of the spelling, there may be underlying streams representing what should properly be considered as a separate surname. Mechen/Machen is one; Mecom/Mecum is another.

The earliest "Meachams" that I could find in Isle of Wight County in Virginia always seem to have spelled their name so that it was pronounced Mackum or Mecum. From a brief perusal of the early 18th century documents, I found the following in Isle of Wight County:

Perhaps William, John and Thomas were brothers, born in the period 1640-70. Lewis might be third generation. The IGI has the following: Mary, child of Lewis Mecom and Anne Wren, Isle of Wight, Va., born 1710. It is unclear where the IGI data comes from, and it must therefore be treated with caution.

The overall picture presented by this evidence strongly suggests the existence of a Mecum clan in Isle of Wight Co. going back a few decades into the 17th century. There is however no data from that period, and it is impossible to say who the first settler was. A candidate would be John Macom, whose name appears on a large consolidation grant of land to Capt. Lawrence Baker in Surry County in 1667. A previous grant of 500 acres in James City County was made to Baker in 1650. Capt. Baker also had some connection in the 1650's with Isle of Wight County; he is mentioned in a London court document (copied in the Colonial Records database at the Library of Virginia) as having signed the death certificate of a man who died in Isle of Wight County in 1652. The John Macom in the headright claim may be the John Meecum above who died in 1720, or his father.

If anyone has ideas or data on the Isle of Wight County Mecums, and if anyone has traced their ancestry back to the people mentioned above, I would be pleased to hear from them.

Finally, there is a very early obituary, perhaps the first newspaper obituary for a Meacham published in America (or anywhere for that matter), written about one of these Mecums. From the Virginia Gazette, Dec. 2-9, 1737:

"We likewife hear from the Ifle of Wight County, that one Lewis Meekum, a very sober Man, as he was riding to Church upon a young Horfe, about 3 weeks fince, was unfortunately thrown off, and died immediately."

Further Note:

[Dec. 1999]

Just found some evidence to support my hypothesis that the immigrant ancestor was one "John Macom, whose name appears on a large consolidation grant of land to Capt.*** LAWRENCE BAKER *** in Surry County in 1667 ... The John Macom in the headright claim may be the John Meecum who died in 1720, or his father."

Having finally obtained all the Mecom references from wills and marriage records in Isle of Wight Co., I found this:

"Meacum, John: Estate, audited by James Ingles, Lawrence Baker. R. 23 November, 1731. Will Book 3, page 287."

Capt. Lawrence Baker had his first land grant in 1643, and must have been ca. 20 years old then, so Lawrence Baker the appraiser above obviously couldn't be him, but almost certainly his son or grandson. The importee John Macom is first mentioned in the 1667 land grant, and if he was say 20 then he would have been 70 in about 1718 or 1719 when John Meacum died (his estate was inventoried in 1720). If this John Meacum is not the importee John Macom then it is surely his son.

It ain't proof but it's pretty darn close! The possibility of a chance second association of a Lawrence Baker with a John Macom/Meacum in 1731 must be very close to zero.


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