Brave Men Follow Me, The Life of Patriot Samuel Meeker (Part 6 of 10)

VI. The Death of Samuel Meeker

As the location and date of Samuel’s Meeker’s birth are each unknown, so also is the location and date of his death unknown.

The last evidences of Samuel being alive are in 1801. First there is his signature (along with his son’s signature) on a May 19, 1801 petition to Sussex County for a tavern license of Samuel Decker.1 And there is an August 24, 1801 deed of land he sold to his son.2 One might speculate that such a transaction occurred because of the father’s expected imminent demise.

If the end of the use of the meeting house is connected with Samuel’s death, it is interesting that there is a May 4, 1802 deed for the sale of parsonage land; the location of a house the church owned for use of visiting ministers.3 This parsonage land was donated in 1765 and found its way into the ownership of the combined Clove and Westtown churches. Almost certainly it came into that union from the Westtown church. The Clove church had no need of a parsonage; Rev. Elias Van Bunschoten had his own house. And the early date of donation of the land is decades before the Clove Church was even an idea. While the Westtown Meeting House itself probably didn’t exist in 1765, it was earlier than the Clove church, Westtown starting sometime before 1780 and the Clove beginning in 1787. Additionally the parsonage land is closer to the Westtown Meeting House than to the Clove Church and on the same “great road” that led by the Westtown Meeting House.

March 1803 saw meetings of each the future Unionville Church and future Westtown (NY) Church to establish their own houses of worship. This may indicate a time when each group was then aware that the Westtown Meeting House was no longer available. And perhaps the fact that it was no longer available was somehow tied to Samuel Meeker’s death as the former patron of the church. Even though he no longer owned the land, perhaps the church was allowed to continue meeting there as long as he was alive.

While online genealogies often state 1804 as Samuel Meeker’s death, I favor a date of 1802. Vernon Leslie did also. He wrote: “His dates of birth and death are not known to the writer, although he probably lived until a short time after the beginning of the nineteenth century – possibly until about 1802.4

This date also better matches a statement from the Draper manuscripts. There in a letter from William Elston it says of his mother Phebe Meeker Elston “Mother thinks she was a girl some fourteen years old when Major Meeker died.”5 Draper notes that “mother” (Phebe Meeker Elston) was born in September 1788 making 1802 the time of Major Meeker’s death. Granted, there is a second letter that keeps open the possibility of a later date of death when William Elston wrote, ”he [Samuel Meeker] died when mother was a mere girl – some twelve or fourteen years old.”6

The location of Samuel’s grave is said o be in the Christie School House burying ground. The Christie’s owned the farm Samuel Meeker had previously owned, and the site of the burying ground was probably near the location of the old meeting house. The fact that it is called the “School House” burying ground makes me think the old church building may have been used for a time as a school. Back in 1877 the cemetery is said to be neglected. Even if it had been maintained, apparently Meeker’s headstone was not inscribed. [Other known stones from the cemetery however are engraved].

Because the Draper manuscript references are hard to access, it is best if I include the whole relevant quote here:

Letter to L. C. Draper Esq. of July 13, 1877 – “I interviewed Mrs. Elston, a lady 92 years old, and residing with her son Wm Elston, in Wantage Township, Sussex Co. She was a daughter Nathaniel Meeker who was a cousin to Major Saml Meeker. Her mind is still good but she had only a slight recollection of the old Major. She did not know when or where he was born; but said that he died when she was quite a small girl. He lived and died in the Township of Wantage, where he owned a small farm. This farm was opposite what was called ‘Meeker’s Island’ in the great meadows, a short distance from the New York State Line. He was buried near by in what is known as the Christie School House burying ground; an old, neglected and dilapidated spot, with no inscribed head stone to mark the grave in which he was laid. Mrs. Elston says no one could identify it now. Major Meeker had one son and three daughters, the son’s name was Samuel, and he married Sarah Williams of the same township. They had but one child, a daughter named Charity who married Isaac Cook, of Orange Co. New York, by whom she had two sons. One of these sons was named Samuel Meeker Cook and he removed ‘out-west.’ Mrs. Elston did not remember the name of the other son or what became of him. The three daughters of Major Samuel Meeker were Phebe, who married Wm Wickham of Wantage Township, Hannah who married Samuel Miller of Morristonwon, N.J., and Anna who ‘moved out west,’ and that is about all that Mrs. Elston knew about the Major’s family.”

Now, as to the location where Samuel was living when he died, there is not an easy solution. After he sold the main farm he lived for some time “opposite Meeker’s Island” which I think could be the George Baxter stone house on 284 and Dunnvale rd.

But there is also a tradition that he lived in Brookfield, today’s Slate Hill, NY.

Major Meeker moved to Brookfield in Minisink as I told you in my other letter and died there and was brought and buryed in the Christie Burying ground it being only about nine miles this burying ground is directly in his old neighborhood and in sight of his old home and in possession of mother’s father and the rest of his relatives living close by this burying ground is in wantage but near the Minisink line say ¼ of a mile.” – Letter of William Elston to Lyman Draper of March 25, 1878, Draper Manuscripts, F8, p. 78(3))

I suspect this could be the result of confusing Samuel Sr. with Samuel Jr. who did have property in Brookfield and died in 1805.

What is known is that Samuel Meeker must have died before May 23, 1804 when we find his administration:

1804 May 23, Administration of Samuel Meeker. Jedidah Sayre administrator of Samuel Meeker. State of New Jersey County of Sussex. I Daniel Stuart Surrogate of the County of Sussex, do certify that on the twenty third day of May administration of the goods, chattels, rights and credits, which were of Samuel Meeker late of the County of Sussex deceased, who died intestate, was granted by me to Jedediah Sayre of the County of Sussex who is duly authorized to administer the same agreeably to Law. Witness my hand and seal of office, the twenty-third day of May in the year of our Lord on thousand eight hundred and four. D. Stuart.

Possibly this administration indicates that he did survive till 1804, or it could simply be that it took a while after his death to have the administration written.

Samuel’s brother Nathaniel however, did died in 1804. His will dates February 15, 1804 and his date of death is inscribed on his gravestone as “Died May 2, 1804, 63 Years of Age.”

So in a short few years we find the deaths of Samuel Sr., Nathaniel, and Samuel Jr. who we’ll turn to in the next section.

1 1801, May 19, Petition for Tavern License for Samuel Decker, Signed by subscribers Sam(uel) Meeker, Samuel Meeker Jr., Jeptha Meeker, Peter Bartholf, George Backster, Samuel Van Fleet.

2 1801, Aug 24, Land sale from Samuel Meeker to Samuel Meeker Jr., K 383 – 385. Containing 25.69, 9.55 acres and 11.46 acres.” [Total of 46.7 acres] Part of a lot or tract of one hundred and seventy three acres which was conveyed by Joseph Barton to Samuel Meeker.”

3 “The Ministers Elders + Deacons of the Clove Wantage township Sussex County state of New Jersey + Westtown in the township of Minisink County of Orange and State of New York of the two United Dutch Reformed Congregations of the first part and Abraham Walling of Wantage township + County of Sussex and state also of the second part … $787 … tract of land in Wantage Township … granted by the General Proprietors of East New Jersey to John Stephens and Walter Rutherford in trust to be by them conveyed Glebe or Parsonage to the parties of the first part of which Trustees: said Walter Rutherford is surveyor, said Tract, is situated in a Bog Meadow on the west side of the Road that leads from Peter Deckers to the outlet called Stokam’s Meadow Beginning … containing 105 acres. … 14th Sep 1765 in Book WS 21 and said survey is Recorded in Book S5 page 364. Elias V Bunschoten, John Neely, Levi Ayers, Jacob Cole, Solomon Meddagh, John Middaugh, Peter Beamer, William Titsworth, Cornelius VanSickle, Jacob Ayer. … Brought to the office the 29th day of Jun 1802 and Recorded the same day.

4 The Battle of Minisink, Vernon Leslie, 2nd Edition, 1976, p. 75.

5 Letter of William Elston to Lyman Draper of March 13, 1878, Draper Manuscripts, F8, p. 77(1)

6 Letter William Elston to Lyman Draper of March 25, 1878, Draper Manuscripts, F8, p. 78.