Brave Men Follow Me, The Life of Patriot Samuel Meeker (Part 5 of 10)

V. The Later Life of Samuel Meeker

Samuel Meeker’s later life is perhaps best described as tragic. All of his efforts for the Patriot cause in the Revolution left him injured and in debt. Long after the injury healed, his debt remained. It would trail him the rest of his life.

His debt, according to his great-grandson Kilpatrick, was due to Meeker’s financing the revolution. He wrote,

Major Meeker – afterwards or during the Revolution known as Gen. Meeker commanded a partisan corps of some 300 men – equiped + kept in the field at his own expense. – he sold one farm after another to do this – till the war closed – when he had but one farm of 350 acres left – heavily encumbered – his farms + out building had been burned – when or by whom I don’t know- they were fill with stores for the continental army + were burned – The independence of his country found him a poor man – he was arrested for debt thrown into Goshen jail but remained but one day – his old soldiers rallied tore down the jail + let the old man out he retired to his home near Unionville was never after molested + there died. A claim was made or placed before congress to reimburse him for all he had lost – but he died + it was never pressed by his heirs – My mother remembered to have seen a large tin box full of continental bonds in the old man’s possession worthless. – Hugh Judson Kilpatrick, Draper Manuscripts, F8, 75 (6 through 8).

In 1782 he did get some financial compensation for being wounded in the war.1 Two years later an attempt was make for further support at the General Assembly of New Jersey when a bill was brought forward entitled “An Act for the Relief of Samuel Meeker.”2 The full text of the Act was recorded in the minutes of December 15, 1784:

Whereas Samuel Meeker, late a Commissioner for the Sale of forfeited Estates, in the County of Sussex, hath, by his Memorial, set forth, that in the Execution of his Duty as Commissioner as aforesaid, he hath unavoidably subject himself to an Action, at the Suit of James Sprowls, on which Damages have been recovered and Execution issued against his Goods and Chattels, and prayed that the Judgment and Execution aforesaid may be satisfied out of the Publick Treasury: AND WHEREAS, from an Examination of the Bill of Costs and other Documents exhibited to the Legislature, it appears that the Costs charged and demanded on said Action are illegal and unjust, and ought not to be allowed; therefore,

Sect 1. BE IT ENACTED by the Council and General Assembly of this State, and it is hereby enacted by the Authority of the same, That the Treasurer of this State shall be, and he hereby is ordered and directed to pay unto the said Samuel Meeker the sum of Forty-six Pounds Four Shillings and Seven-pence, whose receipt therefor shall be sufficient Voucher to the said Treasurer in the Settlement of his Accounts.

2. And be it further Enacted, That, upon the Payment of the aforesaid Sum of Forty-six Pounds Four Shillings and Seven-pence, by the said Samuel Meeker unto Mark Thompson, Esquire, High-Sheriff of the County of Sussex, the said Samuel Meeker shall be, and he hereby is declared to be forever after acquitted, exonerated and discharged of and from the aforesaid Judgments and Execution of said James Sprowls, and of and from all Damages, Costs, and Charges whatsoever, on Account of the Action aforesaid; and the said Sum of Forty-six Pounds Four Shillings and Seven-pence, when paid as aforesaid, unto the said Mark Thompson, Esquire, shall be deemed and taken as full Payment and Satisfaction of the aforesaid Execution in his Hands against the said Samuel Meeker, and may be so plead in Bar of any Action or further Demands against him, his Heirs, Executors or Administrators; and the Goods and Chattels of the said Samuel Meeker, taken in Execution on the Judgment aforesaid, shall thereupon be immediately released by the Sheriff, and all further Proceedings thereon finally stated.

The Act was read for a second time on November 23, 1785, and brought to a vote on November 26, 1785. Though there were eighteen yeas and only twelve nays, the bill was declared “lost.”3Even though the Act for Relief failed, Samuel Meeker did recoup other losses accrued in service of the country:

Monday November 14, 1785. The house met. A petition from Samuel Meeker, of the county of Sussex, was read, accompanied with sundry accounts and a bill of costs taxed at 23 16 3, and praying, for reasons therein contained, that the legislature would provide for the discharge of the said bill of costs and accounts.” – The New Jersey Gazette, December 26, 1785.

And,

A Petition from Samuel Meeker, late Commissioner of forfeited Estates, in the County of Sussex, praying an Indemnification for certain Losses by him sustained in the due Administration of his Office, was read; and the House judging the same to be reasonable and just, therefore, Resolved, That the Treasurer be, and he hereby is directed to pay unto the said Samuel Meeker the Sum of Thirty-six Pounds Fifteen Shilling and Eight-pence, to indemnify him for the Damage and Cost sustained in an Action brought by James Sprowl against Noadiah Wade, for which the said Meeker, as a Commissioner of forfeited Estates, is accountable to the said Wade, Ordered, That Mr. Arnold do carry the said Resolution to Council for Concurrence. The Council having taken the foregoing Resolution into Consideration, Resolved, That the House do concur therein.” – 1786, March 15, Petition from Samuel Meeker read in New Jersey House Assembly.

Even so, Samuel Meeker’s debts brought him to jail at one point.

A petition of Samuel Meeker, of New-Jersey, an insolvent debtor, confined in Goshen gaol, praying to be released from confinement, was read, and order to lie on the table.” (1789, Jan 13, Samuel Meeker mentioned in “Proceeding of the Legislature. House of Assembly, New York) – Daily Advertiser, Jan 27, 1789.

Kilpatrick’s statement that Meeker was in jail for only one day before his former soldiers “rallied [and] tore down the jail” seems incredible. 

1 1782, Dec 26, “To Major Samuel Meeker, for Nursing, Subsistence and Loss of Time, when wounded in the Year One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy-Seven, Fourteen Pounds.” – General Assembly of New Jersey, October 22, 1782.

2 1784, December 13, “Mr Elmer, with Leave of the House, brought a Bill, entitled, ‘An Act for the Relief of Samuel Meeker.’” – Minutes of the General Assembly of State of New Jersey, Monday, December, 13, 1784.

3 “The engrossed bill, intitled, ‘an act for the relief of Samuel Meeker, late a commissioner of forfeited estates in the county of Sussex,’ was read and compared; on the question, whether the same do pass? It was carried as follows: Yeas. Messrs. Blauvelt, Nicoll, Marsh, Combs, Bonney, Bunn, Blaire, Kelly, Lambert, Houghton, Cook, Arnold, Burgin, Bowin, Hankinson, Beardless, Longstreet. Nays. Messrs. Garritse, Schuurman, R. S. Smith, Biddle, J. Smith, Cooper, Sinnickson, Hall, Baker, Swain, Starke, Sheppard. As so the bill was lost.” – The New Jersey Gazette, January 23, 1786.