Early VA Meachams -- Pioneer Genealogist

Pioneer Meacham Genealogist

[June 10, 2000]

Recently, a photocopy of an article entitled "The Meacham Genealogy" was sent to me by Gene Cravens of Lexington, Kentucky -- a distant cousin of mine who is also a descendant of Joseph Meacham. This article was written by Charles Mayfield Meacham, a prominent journalist of his era. There is no date and no indication of where the article was published, but it was nicely typeset and probably was published in a journal or newspaper. Charles Mayfield died in 1943, so I assumed it was written in the 1920s or 1930s.

Reading this article left me agog. Not only did it contain excellent research, but there were priceless stories and description that I had never read before about my ancestor Joseph Meacham, Revolutionary soldier. There are other stories and information that also appear in Clarence Mitcham's book Meacham Mitcham Mitchum -- Families of the South published in 1974. Comparing the two versions, I found some passages were practically verbatim, some slightly modified. Not only are the anecdotes and other text repeated, but this article seems to have served as the basic outline for Clarence's book, which also focuses on the descendants of William Meacham (d. 1808) of Chatham County, North Carolina. Since Clarence was profuse in his acknowledgements of everyone who contributed data to his compilation, it is possible that someone supplied him with a manuscript based on this article, or notes taken from it, but without attributing the source.

Born in Gracey, Kentucky on June 14, 1858, Charles Mayfield worked as a journalist and editor in Hopkinsville and rose to prominence. He was once a target of the night riders, and escaped by hiding under the steps of a church. His main contribution to posterity is the book A History of Christian County, Kentucky published by Marshall & Bruce Co. of Nashville in 1930.

The contents of his article on Meacham genealogy reveal that it was written between April and December, 1902. I have still not be able to discover where it was published. It was microfilmed by the LDS (Mormons) in 1939 and has their microfilm number of 0000016. That such an early work of Meacham genealogy went unsung for so many years is a great shame, as is the fact that there was little or no response to the plea he made at the end of the article for cooperation in building a family history.

What is striking to me about the work is firstly the extensive and methodical research that it reflects, coupled with his cautious approach and desire for accuracy, a trait often lacking in recent genealogy. Further, a wonderful legacy was his effort to collect memories that would otherwise have disappeared. The story about Joseph's pride in his Revolutionary Army uniform is priceless, as are the recollections that Charles Mayfield recorded from William Green Meacham about his grandfather William Sr. d.1808, his father Jesse and his uncle James. It now seems likely that these were obtained from direct inquiries made by Charles Mayfield, just a few months before William Green passed away in 1902. Bob Bryan, who worked on the Meachams of North Carolina, especially the William Green Meacham branch, and provided Clarence Mitcham with his material in that area, confirmed to me in a recent conversation that he was not aware that these stories and memories had originally come from William Green. He did not know of any other work or publication prior to 1902 that might have had the information cited by Charles Mayfield.

It is good to know now where the descriptions we have of William Sr. came from -- apparently William Green heard them from his father Jesse and other relatives, since William Sr. died four years before William Green was born. And the description of Joseph Meacham was told to Charles Mayfield by his father, who was Joseph's grandson and remembered him. What a great pity that others did not follow the example of Charles Mayfield and record more of what was extant in the memories of those still living in the early 1900s.

[Charles M.] [William G.]

[Ida M.] Above left -- Charles Mayfield Meacham in about 1890; Above right -- William Green Meacham in about 1870-80 (photo courtesy of Bob Bryan); Left -- Ida Meacham Strobridge in about 1880.

Until now, credit for the early pioneering research on Meacham genealogy in this country has been given quite properly to Idah Meacham Strowbridge. She worked in the early years of the 20th century, died in 1932, and donated her papers to the Connecticut Historical Society. Most of her research was on the northern lineage, descending from Jeremiah, but she did some research as well on the southern lines, and collected quite a lot of information by correspondence with people all over the country. It appears that she also knew of the work of Charles Mayfield Meacham.

This 1902 article, reproduced in its entirety below, shows that she was not the only one engaged in researching Meacham family history at the beginning of the 20th century.

By publishing it here, I am happy to put this marvelous piece of work in the light it deserves, and to place the name of Charles Mayfield Meacham alongside Idah Meacham Strowbridge as a pioneer in Meacham genealogy. He was perhaps the first person to publish detailed genealogical research on Meachams, and probably the first of southern Meacham origin to investigate the history of the family. He deserves our recognition and our gratitude.

NB: My notes in italics between square brackets [ ] are interspersed with his text. The spellings, punctuation and abbreviations of the original are retained.

POSTSCRIPT: In October 2001, I made contact with Mary Helen Moll, daughter-in-law of Justus R. Moll who did some early work on Meacham genealogy and who allowed the LDS to microfilm his copy of the pamphlet in 1939. She was kind enough to send me the original pamphlet, and images of the covers and first pages are included below.


[First Pages]


Sketch of the Descendants of Joseph Meacham, a Revolutionary Patriot, Who Died in Christian County, Ky., About 1833.

The first ancestor of the Meacham family of whom there is reliable information was William Meacham who lived in Chatham county, N. C., prior to the Revolutionary War. There is a family tradition among the Meachams still in North Carolina that the family is of Irish descent and came first to Virginia. There is another tradition probably based on truth that the original American ancestors were three brothers who came from England together. One settled in New York, another in North Carolina, and the other probably in Virginia, though it is not known definitely. Just how early this was is a matter of doubt, since there has never before been any attempt made to trace the family history back to the old country. It is more than likely that the family originally came from England, as there are still Meachams there and there is a Meacham lake in Canada. The family probably came over at an early date, for William Meacham had no affection for England during the struggle for independence and the family must have been several generations removed from any ties to the mother country.

William Meacham was born probably about 1720 and was an old man when independence was declared. Moreover he was unfitted for military service by reason of the fact that one of his feet was abnormally large. He kept two lasts, one large and one small, from which his shoes were made. It is not likely that he participated in the struggle, but he was an ardent patriot and we know that at least one of his six sons was a soldier.

William G. Meacham of Kilgo N.C., who was living in March, 1902, in the 90th year of his age, probably the oldest member of the family living at that time, knew much about him. [This is William Green Meacham, who died on Aug. 7, 1902. "Kilgo, N.C." no longer exists; then it was a hamlet located on Terrill's Creek in Chatham County, near or perhaps including the very land where William Sr. settled in about 1775.] He was, like most of his descendants, tall and athletic, with sandy hair, light complexion and a bald head, a characteristic that he has handed down to his descendants through five generations. His wife was named Elizabeth, called Betsy, and they reared a large family of children, how many we do not know.

The sons, as far as we know, were Joseph, William, James, John, Jesse and George. Jesse is the only one of these who remained in North Carolina. He has numerous descendants, among them his son, William G. Meacham, referred to above, who was born August 5, 1812. This William Meacham III was twice married and had 15 children. One, a son, John H. Meacham, at Kilgo, N. C., has six sons. His only daughter died in November, 1901. There are some Meachams in Kinston, N.C. and some in South Carolina, who probably belong to the branches of the family of which we have no correct records.

William II, Joseph, George, James and John all went "West" from North Carolina.

Joseph and William married sisters, whose name was West. Where William went we do not know. Joseph and John Meacham about 1792 or soon thereafter, settled in the northern portion of Christian county, Kentucky. Later John moved to Montgomery county in Tennessee, just over the state line. Joseph was about 40 or 45 years old when he settled in Kentucky. His oldest son, Edmund, who came with him, had married Miss Richardson and they had one or two children when they came to Kentucky. Joseph Meacham was probably born about 1750. He was a soldier in the Revolutionary War. He reared a large family in Christian county, Ky., some of whom were born after he settled in the wilderness. Two of these were twins, Wyatt and West, born in 1798. Wyatt was the grandfather of the writer of this sketch.

Of George and James Meacham, who left North Carolina, we know nothing. Their descendants are scattered over many states. There are Meachams in Tennessee, Missouri and California, who are not traced to the known lines. From Kentucky the descendants of Joseph and John scattered over Illinois and other States.

James Meacham, brother of Joseph, was said to be the strongest man in North Carolina. On one occasion he was helping to dig a mill race and a slave named Bill Ludlow, who weighed 200 pounds, kept talking to him about wanting to wrestle with him, whereupon he placed a spade under the negro's feet and threw him out of the deep ditch, on top of the ground.

Jesse Meacham, who remained in North Carolina, besides Wm. G., had a son named John, who married a Lindsay, and migrated to Tennessee in the first half of the 19th century. William G. Meacham's son Jesse also went to Tennessee when he was a boy. He married and had several children, but he and his wife and all but one or two of the children are dead.

In Montgomery county, Tennessee, Spencer Meacham, probably a nephew of Joseph Meacham, raised a family of four sons who scattered to other states. Majors Louis Meacham in 1852 went to Memphis, Tenn., and became a very successful merchant. John, called Jack, went to Illinois. James went to Holly Springs, Miss. Joseph remained at New Providence, Tenn. Spencer Meacham was undoubtedly a son of one of the sons of William I, who came "West," but which one this writer is unable to say.

John Meacham, who settled in the same county in Tennessee, had four sons and three daughters. Ellis lived in Christian county and had five children -- Fidelio S., Peyton, Jesse F., and two daughters.

Allan has descendants in Todd county, Ky., one of them John M. Meacham. Merritt moved away and we know nothing of his family.

Jesse has two sons, Fountain M., and Walter M., living in Christian county. [The Cravens copy of this article has Walter M. underlined, and a handwritten note underneath: "Lived with grandfather for a long time." If the note was written by Cravens' mother Virginia Meacham then "grandfather" would have been Marion Delain Meacham 1834-1925 who lived near Hopkinsville.]

Of the daughters, Harriet married Wood; Nancy married Dupree then Payne; Susie married Vaughan. Fidelio S. Meacham lives in Hopkinsville, Ky. He has but one child, Ada, wife of Geo. D. Dalton. Peyton went to Illinois. A son, Charles Byron Meacham, lives near Hopkinsville. He married Lelia Elliott and they have one daughter. Jesse F. lives near Hopkinsville and has a large family.

The other Meachams living in Kentucky, so far as we know, are descendants of Joseph Meacham, the Revolutionary soldier, and I will now turn to his family line.


Joseph Meacham, married Molly West. He was a man of prominence in his day, accumulated property and was a leader in his neighborhood. He operated a grist mill, which was the only one in all his section of the county. He died about 1833, when about 83 years of age.

In Perrin's History of Christian county he is referred to as one of the patriots of the Revolution who came early to Kentucky. He settled in the wooded section near Antioch church, and his grandchildren were often shown the military uniform with its knee-buckles that he wore during the Revolution and kept as long as he lived. The following certificate shows that his name was carried upon the colonial records of North Carolina:

This certifies that there appears upon the Revolution records of this state the name of Joseph Meacham. Said name appears in Book A,' No. 11, Voucher 3437, army accounts, Volume 12, Page 42. Said name also appears on Page 100, Army Accounts, Volume 6, Book 24, Voucher 3482.
[seal] B.F. DIXON, Auditor

My father, his grandson, who was born in 1818, remembers him well. He was a large man with light hair, a fair complexion and a bald head.

Joseph Meacham and his wife, Molly West Meacham, were the parents of eight sons and one daughter, viz: Edmund, Willis, Jeremiah, Andrew, Joseph Jr., West and Wyatt (twins), Jonathan and Sinah.


Edmund married a Richardson in North Carolina and by her had a son named Isaac and a daughter named Patsy, who married Issac Smith. His second wife was a Calvin and by her his children were Edmund Jr., Calvin, Joseph III, James, Willis, Linnie and Susan.

Edmund, Sr.[probably a typo for Jr.], has many descendants in Christian county, Ky.

Calvin was a Baptist preacher who died in 1899. Two of his sons live at Fulton, Ky.

Joseph III, born in 1814, is still living near Hopkinsville. [Joseph III died in 1904]

Of James and Willis this writer is not informed.

Linnie married a Spurlin and Susan married Jesse Meacham.


Andrew was a Baptist preacher. He married a West and reared a large family. He was a large and fleshy man, with a jovial red face and a very bald head. About 1830, with his brothers, Willis and Joseph, he moved to Sangamon Co., Ill., near Springfield. Soon afterwards he moved to Warren Co., Ill., and his descendants still live there, near Monmouth.


Willis was also a Baptist preacher and reared a family of seven children -- Edom, Cinia, Kirk, __is [first part illegible], Adeline, Emeline, and W.L.T. ("Tandy"). Five are now dead. W.L.T. is still living in Waverly, Ill.; had three children. Una, married to Dr. Vadakin, lives at Bethany, Ill. A son, W.L.T. Jr. lives in Waverly, Ill., and a grand-daughter, Anis, married to Alfred Hamilton, lawyer, lives in Waverly. Annis married Sims, is quite old, lives in Jacksonville, Ill. Edom, eldest son of Willis, married Nancy Cavanaugh, of Kentucky., reared a family of three children: one son, C.F., lives in Waverly, Ill. Another son, Willis E., died about 1890, was Captain 101st Ill. Inft. A daughter married Wellington Huffaker, whose descendants live at Jacksonville, Ill. A son by a second marriage, H.C., is an attorney at Candon, N. Dakota. Another daughter married Major Massie; her children live at Waverly. Adeline, a daughter of Willis, married Nicholas Lacy, a Baptist preacher, and moved back to Hopkinsville and lived there until the end of the Civil War. Both are dead, and their descendants live at Madisonville, Ky. A son, W.W. Lacy, is a commercial traveler. A daughter married Dr. J.W. Prewitt and one of her daughters is an actress.


Joseph Meacham, Jr., was born in Christian county, Ky., 1794, moved to Illinois in 1830 and died near Loami, Sangamon county, Ill., 1845. His wife was Thankful Finley, born in Christian county, Ky., 1795, died 1844. They reared a family of seven children, all of whom are dead.

Alcey married Archer, then Duff; children live near Springfield, Ill. Mary H. married Harmon. Elizabeth E. married Jones. Minerva L. married Hudson, and has one child living, Mrs. Dan Staley, near Loami, Ill. Abner W. and Americus J. both died young. John W. was born in Christian county, Ky., 1816, and died in Waverly, Ill., 1881, was an attorney. He married Ann Young in Springfield, Ill., 1839. She was born in Trigg county, Ky., in 1812. Eight children, all of whom died young except Robert P., who died in Waverly, Ill., 1883. He was married, had two children. A son, John J., now lives 3622 Smart avenue, Kansas City, Mo., traveling salesman for Barton Bros. A daughter, Anna, is married and lives in Saline, Kans. Joseph W. was born in 1844, and died in 1871. He married Clara J. Turner. Dr. George T. Meacham, Taylorsville, Ill., is his only living child. Joseph W. was a physician, and served in the Civil war.


Jeremiah was married three times and had 13 children. His first wife was Thenie Stroude and his children by her were John, William and Sinah. His second wife was Judy Henderson and the children by her were Andrew J., James, John, Emily, and Polly. His third wife was a Bales and by her he had five children. One of the sons, Andrew J., lives at Gracey, Ky. He has had four wives. One son, Andrew J. Jr., lives at Crossville, Ill. Of Jeremiah's other children information is not at hand. James and John went to California in 1849.


West died in childhood.


Jonathan lived to be a young man and married, but died without issue.

[SINAH (also a child of Joseph)]

Sinah, the daughter, married Spurlin, but died without issue.


Wyatt, youngest son of Joseph, who left issue, was, with his twin brother West, born in 1798. In 1817 he married Ellen Robinson, a daughter of Abner Robinson. Abner Robinson's father, James Robinson, was a Revolutionary soldier and his brother James Robinson, Jr., was a colonel under Jackson at New Orleans in the war of 1812. To Wyatt and Ellen Meacham were born three children, two sons and a daughter. Wyatt died in 1876 and his wife in 1878. Their descendants all live in Christian county.

Rev. Abner Winchester Meacham, the oldest son, was born Feb. 13, 1818, and ordained as a Baptist minister in 1838. He retired from active work in 1898 after 60 years in the ministry. He married Mariam Lander in 1855 and settled at Gracey, Ky., where he still lives. [This statement, along with that of the next paragraph, date the article fairly accurately. Rev. Abner died at his home in Gracey on Dec. 11, 1902.] They reared six children. The oldest, Robert T., was born in 1856 and died in 1883. The others are Charles Mayfield, Mollie H. (married T.E. Bartley), James Parrish, Victoria (married T.J. Baynham), and Lander.

Charles M. Meacham married Lizzie E. Tandy in 1883 and they have three sons, Rodman Y., Charles M., Jr., and Ralph Tandy Meacham. James Parrish Meacham married Lucy Nance in 1886 and they have two daughters. Lander Meacham married Lillie Watson in April 1902. [This is the latest date mentioned in the article]

Jane Meacham, only daughter of Wyatt Meacham, was born 1820 and married John Pyle. Of a large family of children three survive, Abner Winchester, James F. and Josephine Pyle. A.W. Pyle, who is a furniture dealer in Hopkinsville, is married and has two grown daughters. J.F. Pyle is married and has one son, Ed C. Pyle. Mrs. Pyle and her descendants all live in Hopkinsville.

Joseph Addison Meacham, youngest son of Wyatt Meacham, married in early life and died about 1881, leaving three sons and three daughters. Abner Wesley, James Henry and Colonel Murray, the sons, are all married and live near Carl, Ky. Two of the daughters are also married and reside in the same vicinity, as does the unmarried daughter, Lou.

The undersigned is the oldest grandson of Wyatt and Ellen Meacham bearing the family name. He is engaged in journalism in Hopkinsville and has gathered this data, imperfect in some of the lines, in order that the family history may be collected in convenient form.

I would be glad to hear from members of the Meacham family and invite the co-operation of all bearing the family name in the work of compiling material for a future family history.

Hopkinsville, Ky.

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