Thursday, February 26, 2009

William Meeker (1622- 1690) , progenitor of all Meekers in the USA

The Meekers: Courageous rebels & active Patriots in the Revolutionary War

William Meeker and sons Joseph and Benjamin were among the first eighty founders (known as Associates) of Elizabethtown, the first English settlement in New Jersey. During the Revolution, a large number of Continental officers came from Elizabethtown and the vicinity. Numerous members of the Meeker family (males of course) were known far and wide for their dedicated participation in this struggle for independence, and were also famed for their “physical strength and moral courage.” The Pictorial Field Book of The Revolution by Benson J. Lossing Vol. 1 chap. 14 p 325 Their significant contribution to the war effort was also well known to Gen. George Washington, as Captain Samuel Meeker (father of the sitter Samuel Meeker) as well as Major Samuel Meeker (first cousin of Captain Samuel Meeker) are mentioned in letters during this time period. [Note the number of “Samuels” –this would pose one of the biggest complexities in my search for the precise identity of the sitter, but more on that later.]

Long before the “Boston Tea Party”, the stage was set for the early Meeker settlers to be defiant of British authority, stemming from a lengthy and bitter contest over town rights. In 1664 a group of 80 hardy colonists (including William Meeker) asked for, and were given permission by the newly installed British deputy governor, to buy a tract of land from the native Indians west of Staten Island. “From a receipt, endorsed on the Deed from the Indians, it appears that the final payment of “four hundred fathom of white wampom” was acknowledged…” History of Elizabeth, New Jersey by E.F Hatfield, (1868) p 37 For many years afterwards, ownership of this land was the source of controversy and dispute between the Associates who based their ownership rights on this purchase from the local native Indians, and the British ‘Proprietors’ who claimed this purchase from the Indians to be invalid. By 1670 the young ‘upstart’ Royal Governor P. Carteret was disregarding the claims of the Associates and even allotted land as a reward to his servant Richard Michel. The townspeople regarded his actions as unwarranted acts of usurpation. William Meeker, Hur Tomson, Samuel Marsh, Sr., Joseph Meeker (son of William), Jeffrey Jones, Nicholas Carter, John Ogden Jr., and Luke Watson tore down Michel's fence, pulled clapboards from his house, and pigs went into Michel's property and destroyed his garden ‘full of necessary garden herbs.’ ” It was a day to be remembered in the annals of Elizabeth; a day for the inauguration of an open and determined resistance to all usurpation, and a manly defense of their vested rights. (History of Elizabeth, New Jersey ) These Americans were viewed as “insurgents” by the British. After this William Meeker, well-known now as the chief actor in this drama, was chosen Constable of the town. Other son Benjamin Meeker became Constable in 1711. “Joseph kept a country store, Benjamin was a carpenter: while both were planters.” (ibid.) Benjamin was the gt grandfather of Captain Samuel Meeker, father of THE SITTER SAMUEL MEEKER AND HIS TWIN SISTER PHEBE.

Phebe (Meeker) Brookfield is my gt gt gt gt grandmother.
~Captain Samuel Meeker is my
gt x 5 grandfather.
~William Meeker is my gt x 9 grandfather.

1 comment:

Katie said...

How very interesting! I'm also related to William Meeker and I think I'm the only one in my family that is aware of his influence in the United State's struggle for independence!

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