Brave Men Follow Me, The Life of Patriot Samuel Meeker (Part 1 of 10)

[Each week or so I intend to post a new section of my research on a figure local to me, the Revolutionary War Major Samuel Meeker of the Sussex County, NJ militia. Researching his life has been a fascination of mine for a couple years now. The parts I will post here will, I hope, later be put together for publishing as a single article. Much of this research isn’t new, but it is put together for the first time, as no biography of the man has ever been written. And some of the information will be new even to the most ardent local historians. Enjoy, and comments welcome! – Doug]

 

A (rather poor) scan of the earliest reference to Samuel Meeker in a 1761 land deed.

Brave Men Follow Me

the Life of the Patriot Samuel Meeker

Samuel Meeker was Major in the Sussex County, NJ militia in the American Revolution. Though he played a notable role in the Battle of Minisink, little has been written on him. This article seeks to pull together what information is available on Samuel Meeker and provide a short biography of his life, arguing that he was above all an ardent patriot.

I. Birth

It is unknown when and where Samuel Meeker was born. In The Meeker Family of early New Jersey, a date of circa 1747 is given for his brith1 but he was almost certainly born earlier. An indenture of March 26, 1761 lists “Samuel Meeker of Goshen” as a yeoman farmer who was selling two lots of land. That he was in 1761 legally able to sell land implies he was already age eighteen or older. This moves his birth back to 1743 or earlier.

As for the place of Samuel’s birth, his great-grandson, the Civil War officer Hugh Judson Kilpatrick, wrote in a letter in 1878 that he had learned that Samuel was born on Long Island.2 But this also seems wrong. The most likely the location of Samuel’s birth would naturally be the town of his parent’s residence at the time of his birth. While his father Benjamin Meeker (c. 1699 – 1761+) came from an Elizabethtown, New Jersey family, Benjamin had moved to Goshen, New York by 17343 and seems to have lived out his life there making Goshen the likely location of Samuel’s birth.4 Samuel’s mother’s name is not known, but six siblings are known: Benjamin Jr. (d. 1790), Stephen (c. 1732 – 1795+), Abigail (1734-1814), Phebe (c. 1740), Nathaniel (c.1741- 1804), and Elizabeth (c. 1761 – 1824). Of the these children of Benjamin Meeker, only Samuel and his brother Nathaniel moved out of Orange County and that to the neighboring Sussex County, New Jersey.

1 Leroy Meeker, The Meeker Family of early New Jersey, 1973, p. 34.

2 Letter from Hugh Judson Kilpatrick to Lyman Draper, May 9, 1878, Draper Manuscripts F8, 75.

3 Benjamin Meeker is on the list of “Subscribing Freeholders, Inhabitants of Goshen and Minisink, in the County of Orange” of August 21, 1734., New York Weekly Journal, October 7, 1734.

4 Evidence that Benjamin remained in Goshen (in Orange County, New York) includes the indenture of March 25, 1761 which notes him then living on the farm in the Township of Goshen. Additionally, all three of his daughters—Abigail, Phebe, and Elizabeth—married men in Orange County while his son Benjamin Meeker Jr. is on an Orange County Tax assessment list in 1775 and a Goshen Land and Personal Tax list in 1779. Another son, Stephen Meeker, lost his house near Goshen to a fire in 1795. (The Massachusetts Spy or Worchester Gazette, April 8, 1795) In short, all evidence shows the family was in the Goshen area for several decades.

 

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