Jeremiah Meacham

The Immigrant Ancestor: JEREMIAH MEACHAM is believed to have been born in Somersetshire, England in 1613 or 1614. The seemingly authentic tradition exists that he left England between the years 1630 and 1642 with the great fleet of Governors Wentworth and Dudley, and was among the first settlers who went to Salem (called by the Indians Naumkeag) Massachusetts, with two companions of the Hawkins family. Jeremiah was a weaver by trade throughout his lifetime and may have been the "Weaver" who is listed among the passengers of the fleet, particularly as the said "Weaver" had no subsequent record and is not mentioned in any of the published genealogies of the Weaver families of Massachusetts or New York.

The first official record of the Meacham family in America occurs in 1650 at which time Jeremiah Meacham was living at Southhold, Long Island. In 1653 he settled at East Hampton, Long Island, "to do the town's weaving." Jeremiah Meacham returned to Salem in 1666. His first wife's name was Margaret; to this union were born at least seven children. Margaret died in 1679 at Salem. Jeremiah then married a widow, Alice Douch (Dane). Her father was Osman Douch, and her first husband was Dr. John Dane. She died in May 1704 in Salem, Mass. Jeremiah died November 11, 1696 in Salem.

The will of Jeremiah Meacham I, dated Apr. 12, 1694, reads in part, "I Jeremiah Meacham of the Towne of Salem, Clothier, being very Antient being about Eighty one years of make...this my Last will and Testament."

The children of Jeremiah Meacham I named in his will were:

      3.SARAH (md JOSEPH BOYCE);
      4.HANNAH (md. WILLIAM GILL);
      6.REBECCA (md. JOHN MECARTER); and
      7.RHODA (md. SAMUEL WEST).

The eldest son, Isaac, after reaching manhood, like his father pushed out on his own and moved to Enfield, Hartford County, Connecticut, where he married and had a family of twelve children. It is likely that his father, Jeremiah, had given Isaac a portion of the family estate at the time he went to Enfield because Isaac was there able to establish a weaving business of his own.

The second son, JEREMIAH MEACHAM II (1644-1743) was born in Salem, Massachusetts, and remained there helping his father in the weaving and clothier business, and was later chosen to be the administrator of his father's will. He operated the fulling mill he had received from his father until about 1708, when he moved to Windham, Connecticut. Jeremiah II's children were (by his first wife Mary Margaret Trask, who was the daughter of Mary Southwick -- the Southwick family being historic Quaker martyrs of Salem. Mary had shared in the imprisonment with her parents which was brought on by the religionists of that day).

Children by first wife Mary Margaret Trask:

      2.JOHN (md. MARY CASH);
      3.JAMES (md. ELIZABETH CUE); and
      4.MARY (died young).

His 12 children by second wife Deborah Browne were:

      5.DANIEL (md. 1-LYDIA LILLE and 2-ELIZABETH ---);
      7.SARAH (unmarried);
    **9.SAMUEL (md. BETHIA PEASE);
     10.BENJAMIN (unmarried);
     12.SETH (md. RUTH SIMONS).

To summarize the above, Jeremiah Meacham I (1614-1696) had a son named Jeremiah Meacham II (1644-1743) who married (1) Mary Margaret Trask (1652-1693) and (2) Deborah Browne (1673-1731, daughter of John Browne 1631-1697 and Hester Makepeace 1634-1685). Jeremiah Meacham II moved to Connecticut, and lived to be 99 years old. One of his 16 children was Samuel Meacham I (1712-1754), who was the father of Samuel Meacham II (1739-1811).

There has been some confusion in the genealogy, since there was also a third Jeremiah Meacham (1673-1715), the oldest son of Jeremiah Meacham II and his first wife Mary (Margaret) Trask. This Jeremiah Meacham III has erroneously been placed by some as the father of Samuel Meacham I, and the husband of Deborah Browne (she was actually Jeremiah II's second wife, despite their age difference). Jeremiah Meacham III's one and only wife was actually Freelove Bliss, and his surviving children's names were John, Jemima, and Patience. (Jeremiah Meacham III was NOT the father of our ancestor Samuel Meacham I (1712-1754), and does not belong in our direct family line). Unfortunately, Jeremiah Meacham III apparently went insane and murdered his wife, Freelove Bliss, and also her sister, and was executed for this crime 12 Apr 1715, at Newport, Rhode Island. The Meacham family, understandably, did not include any account of this incident in their family histories.

The following was printed in the New York Genealogical and Biographical Record under the title, The Correct Ancestry of Jemima Meacham, by Mary Lovering Holman:

"Jeremiah Meacham (III), born in Salem, Mass. 21 Dec 1673, was executed in Newport, R.I. 12 Apr 1715. He married about 1698, Freelove Bliss, born there (in Newport) 17 Nov 1672, killed by her husband about 1715, daughter of Major John and Damaris (Arnold) Bliss. (Damaris Arnold was daughter of Gov. Benedict and Damaris Westcott Arnold, and granddaughter of William Arnold and of Stukeley Westcott). Little is known of the life of Jeremiah Meacham (III), but he apparently left Salem and went to Newport, whether before he met Freelove Bliss or on account of his meeting her, there is nothing to show. Newport records are so poor that there is little chance of anything being learned of him before he evidently became insane. At this period, insanity was looked upon as being inspired by the Devil. Today this unfortunate man's sanity would be tested -- but then they hanged him. An interleaved Almanac kept by Rev. William Cooper of the Brattle Street Church in Boston, MA tells of this tragedy:
1715, 23 Mar. "A melancholy relation of a barbarous murder committed at Rhoad Island, by one Jeremiah Meacham, a man of abt 40 years of age, born at Salem Village, but had liv'd in that colony (Rhode Island) abt twenty years: who one evening kill'd his wife with whom he had liv'd well and had children; and also his wife's sister; both without any known reason or provocation, but by a diabolical impulse. He first cut them with his hatchet, and then his wife's throat with a penknife. A man coming to (help) them he also dangerously wounded; and then set fire to his house, and cut his own throat; but the fire being extinguished, and his wound not mortal, he was apprehended and committed." (New England Historical and Genealogical Register, 30:435).
He was executed 12 Apr 1715 in Newport, and the Rev. Nathaniel Clap preached a sermon to him and was present at his execution. Another document reads: "Whereas, sundry accounts of charges (that happened by the late unhappy action of Jeremiah Meecum) hath been presented to this Assembly, by which accounts considerable is due from Said Meecum's estate... Therefore it is enacted...that Mr. Nicholas Land, the present venue master of Newport, do expose the estate of the said Meecum to sale at Public venue, and with the sales thereof to pay the said accounts...and if any overplus remain, the same to render to Major Bliss, for the support of the said Meecum's children." 5 July 1715 (Rhode Island Colonial Records, 4:196).

Major Bliss only survived Jeremiah Meacham by two years; in his will dated 1717, he said,

"I give to my well-beloved Grand Child Jemima Mecham five pounds in Lawfull money of the Colony of Rhoad Island at the age of Eighteen Years to be paid by my Executor... I give to my beloved Grand Child John Mecham five pounds in Lawfull money of the Colony of Rhoad Island at the age of Twenty one Years to be paid by my Executor..."

It is probable that the children remained with their bereaved grandparents until after Major Bliss died, and then returned to Massachusetts and made their home with their uncle James Meacham in Beverly. The other daughter, Patience, had died before her grandfather made his will, and at that time, Jemima was about seventeen and John about seven (there were probably other children in the family who had died young).

In 1726, the following record was filed in Essex County Court:

"To the Honorable John Appleton Esq, Judge of the Probate of Wills &c in the County of Essex. These may Certifie your Hon., that I John Meacham a minor of About Sixteen years of Age, Son of Jeremiah Meacham late of ye Govermt. of Road Island Do make Choice of Benargs. Rayment of Beverly in ye County of Essex to be my lawful Guardian to do and act for me in all things according to Law as Witness my Hand this 4th Day July 1726. John meeacham" Witness Daniel Appleton, Regr. (Essex Co Probate, File #18156)

"The guardianship of John Meacham a minor about sixteen, son of (Jeremiah) Meacham, late of Rhode Island, deceased, was granted to Benerges Raymond of Beverly, Essex Co., Mass., 5 July 1726; Jonathan Raymond and James Meacham of Beverly were sureties on the bond." (Essex Co., Probate Records, 314:821)

(This material can be found in the book The Wightman Ancestry, pp. 1000-1003, in addition to the original sources cited above).

Information Compiled
by Karen Bray Keeley

INTERNET Adaptation
by Sandra S. Bray