Who was Uncle Web? I first asked this question when I was a teenager. I found the name Web in one of my father’s books. My father was always my hero – He was a gentle man and friend to everyone.
My father said, “Uncle Web was my mother’s Uncle. He lived with us all my life. He was my friend. I was named after him.” Dad’s middle name was Webster. He told me Uncle Web had kept diaries for much of his life and that Auntie, my grandmother, had them and someday I could read them but not now. He told me many stories about his Uncle Web.
Over the next ten years I thought of Uncle Web many times and asked different relatives, “Who was Uncle Web?” I got as many different answers as there were relatives to answer my question. “He was Aunt Lydia’s husband.” .. “He was Auntie’s uncle who let his own brother go to the poor house instead of helping him.” …. “He was your Dad’s Great Uncle whose house your Dad grew up in. He helped raise your Dad, Bing and Angie.” .. “He was a crazy old man who had to buy every new gadget that any quack came out with.” … “He was an old man who Auntie took care of.” The only thing I could find out about him was that he was very much like my Dad. He was a gentle man, loved books, was quiet, always ready to help, talked little – all qualities I knew and loved about my own father. Web must have been a great influence on my Dad as he grew up.
In the early 70’s Auntie, my grandmother died and my father gave my brother the diary he wanted, he gave my cousin Phyllis one diary and gave me the rest of them because no one else wanted them. These diaries covered many of the years between 1867 and 1917 when he died at age 85.
The next twenty years were spent raising my own family and advancing my career as a teacher. Whenever I could steal a moment I read Web’s diaries. I learned very little as the writing was hard to read, all done in pencil, and much of what he said I could not understand. For example, “We brought in ten stooks” I had no idea what he had done. But never the less I read most of the diaries a little at a time.
In the early 90’s I began copying the diaries so I could study them and understand what he was saying. The diaries were a farm record, major events in the town, and a record of all the money he made and where he spent or lent it. I had to look up many of the terms he used to understand what he was doing at the time. I got a whole new picture of Uncle Web and again began talking with every living relative I could find about Uncle Web. This time I got a very different reaction.
The younger generation had never heard of Uncle Web, my generation had all forgotten Uncle Web, and the last generation were all gone or too old to care. There was not a live soul that had known Uncle Web. Most who did recognize the name said, “ I remember my mother or father speaking of Uncle Web but he wasn’t really a relative was he?” I wanted to cry. Web had been so important to this family and it’s survival and now he was just an old man who wasn’t a relative!
After Web died in 1917 Auntie took in boarders and in the late 30’s she took in Seldon Tuttle. Seldon was old and could no longer care for himself alone so Auntie took him in as a boarder and cared for him. We all called him “Tut”. He lived in a room at Autie’s house, played cards all day in her living room and sat out in front of the house on nice days chewing tobacco. We all laughed because if he had his old clothes on he could spit clear across the road, but if he was dressed up ready for church he couldn’t spit far at all and would dribble it down his chin onto his good coat. My generation had confused Web and Tut. We had never met Web, he died before we were born and when they heard stories of Web, the picture of Tut came to mind. Tut was not a relative. Web had been forgotten!
By this time I was retired and had time to do as I pleased. So I decided to turn Web’s diaries into a book. My brother, Warren had Web’s oldest diary, 1866 and he gave that to me. That was where I would begin. It was a logical starting point as that was when Web and Lydia moved back to New Hampshire and started farming. I took every day’s entry and made the story of what they were doing. It turned into a rather large book and when it was published everyone read it. They enjoyed it but then asked, “Now who was Uncle Web?”
I wrote a second book “Web the Diary of a Farmer 1867” Again when it was published most everyone read all 500+ pages, enjoyed it and gave copies to friends or relatives but still no one could tell you Who Web was. And even I could not make him come to life for the next generation. I needed to answer the question more completely.
This book will finally tell my children, grand children, and great grand children just Who Is Uncle Web and how did he get to be the man he was.
THE ROOTS OF THE MEADER FAMILY TREE
This is the story of Daniel Webster Meader. To find out exactly who he was and why, we must begin when the family first came to America from England. It was these early years that gave him his beliefs and strong will.
John Meader was baptized December 4, 1625 in Fordington, Dorset England. He was the son of John Meader Sr. (1603-1642) and Eleanor Seager.
The England that John was born into was a very troubled England. There were two bones of contention in England. One was political and one religious. The political involved the King of England and the Pope. The Catholics wanted the English Throne to answer to the Pope and the Protestants wanted the King to be the head of the English Church. In this mix we now put the Puritans, the Separatists, the Quakers and a few other independent groups that wish to worship in their own way and not pledge loyalty to any other church or person.
In 1606 King James chartered two companies, the London and the Plymouth companies. The former succeeded in founding Jamestown; the latter, after various sporadic attempts, had in 1620 done nothing. Meantime, John Smith of Virginia fame had explored the coast of northern Virginia, as it was then called. He made a map of the coast and named the country New England. In 1620 the old Plymouth company secured a charter and was then known as the Council for New England. This charter was for the vast territory between the fortieth and forty-eighth degrees of latitude, the name New England being substituted for northern Virginia. This new company made many land grants, one of which was to six men in 1628. John Endicott was one of these six. He came with a following of sixty and settled at a place called Salem, joining a small settlement already there. There was a large number of Puritans ready to join the colony but it was thought to be much better to have a royal charter than a mere land grant. A charter was therefore secured from King Charles I in March of 1629 confirming the land grant of 1628, namely, from three miles south of the Charles River to a point three miles north of the Merrimac, extending westward to the Pacific Ocean which was believed to be much nearer than it is. This new Company of Massachusetts Bay in New England was to have its government placed in the hands of a governor, deputy governor, and eighteen assistants, to be elected annually by the company.
This charter was very similar to the third charter of Virginia of 1612. But there was one big point of difference: it did not provide , as did the Virginia charter, that the seat of government must remain in England. This was the year that King Charles dismissed his Parliament and began his autocratic rule of eleven years without one. The great Puritan exodus was underway. By 1630, as the policy of the King and William Laud, the Archbishop of Canterbury became more intolerable, the tide of new settlers increased in volume. The people came, not singly, nor as families merely, but frequently as congregations, led by their pastor.
Massachusetts grew rapidly, the seat of government was moved to America when Governor Winthrop brought the charter with him and fused the company and the colonists into one body. The colonists or “freemen” were admitted to membership in the company. Now the company was no longer just a private trading company conducted for commercial gain, now it was a self-governing community. The condition of freemanship was made, not property or educational test, but a religious qualification. The company was conservative and the process was slow. When there were 3000 settlers there were but 350 freemen, but the beginning of popular government was at hand.
There were many problems to be faced and overcome, as well as natural hardships — the long, harsh winters, the unfertile soil, the lurking red man, often hostile, and other obstacles common to pioneer life, but the growth of the colony was phenomenal. The great Puritan exodus continued for ten years, and by 1640 more than twenty thousand home seekers had sailed into the harbors of Massachusetts Bay. Such a movement of population had not been know since the Crusades of the Middle Ages. Strong houses soon took the place of the earlier cabins; herds of cattle, goats, and swine covered the countryside, and ships were soon carrying loads of lumber, salt fish, and furs to the mother country.
Back in England John Meader Sr was forced by King Charles to sign the Proclamation Return which read in part “ I do, in the presence of Almighty God, promise, vow and protest to maintain and defined, so far as lawfully I may with my life, power, and estate, the true Reformed Protestant Religion expressed in the Doctrine of the Church of England, against all Poperly and Popish Innovations within this Realm contrary to the same Doctrine and according to the duty of my Allegiance to His Majestry’s Royal Person, honor and estate…” John Sr was a tenant farmer so had no choice but to sign if he wished to stay on his farm. John Jr was apprenticed to another farm. It was the custom at that time to learn your trade from a friend that your father could make a deal with for you board and keep in trade for your services on that farm. This was true for tenant farmers and nobles alike. All knights were trained in other great halls beside the one they would return to when their training was done.
About this same time John Sr ran into difficulties with the authorities for pasturing his heifer in a part of the common grounds that he had no right to use. Whether it was for this minor infraction or for the major infraction (loyalty to the king) makes no difference the results were the same, his father Thomas cut him off without the proverbial shilling. It is not known if Thomas was a supporter of King Charles or if he was a member of the new and fast growing religious sect of Quakers who refuse to bear arms or pledge to do so to any man. Therefore in 1646 when John Jr reached his majority he had a small inheritance of five shillings from his grandfather Thomas but no help from his father, who had none to give. And in 1647 he set sail for America. The cost of the voyage was about five pounds. John Jr either had the money or borrowed it as he was not listed as a servant nor was he listed as a land owner. Some came over as indentured servants to pay their way but John came as a hired worker for a land owner and worked for this family for most of the period from 1647 to 1653. In 1647-48 he cared for the land of Robert Huckin and in 1650 it was recorded he lived with Mr. Valentine Hill, probably taking care of his farm.
In 1653 he married Abigail Tuttle. They probably lived on Valentine Hill’s farm near the mouth of the Oyster River from 1653-1660.
1656 John Meader had a 100-acre grant of land with William Sheffield, and in 1660 he bought more land from Valentine Hill, near the mouth of the Oyster River where he built a garrison house for his family. By this time he must have had all the rights of a citizen.
John served on a jury in 1659-60 and on grand juries in 1661-62, 1665, 1670, 1678, and 1693. According to the Dover Town Records, he was taxed on July 21, 1657 and also in 1661-1667. John Meader’s grant of land was on a beautiful peninsula between the Piscataqua and Oyster Rivers above Portsmouth, NH.
There a settlement, called Oyster River was established with at least fifteen garrison houses grouped in the area before 1694. Ten of the garrison houses formed a line of defense on each side of the river itself below the tidewater, that is, below the falls in the present village of Durham. John’s garrison house was at the mouth of the Oyster River, overlooking the Piscataqua. He was taxed there as early as 1656, and his house was built before September 20, 1660, at which time Valentine Hill conveyed to him a “cornfield and orchard adjacent to his new dwelling house.” Between 1657 and 1673 John and Abigail had three girls and four boys.
In 1669 John with others petitioned the General Court Of Massachusetts to make Oyster River a separate township. In 1685 John was one of a group of petitioners from Exeter, Hampton, Portsmouth and Dover who appointed Nathaniel Weare of Hampton as their agent to go to England to protest to King James II about the arbitrary methods of Governor Cranfield. At a court session on October 19, 1709 to settle the ownership of some land disputed by Nathaniel Hill, a relative of Valentine Hill, and a Stephenson, Joseph Meader and John Meader who gave his age as 80, both testified for Hill. On January 30, 1712 John Meader claimed to be 82 and he testified that Charles Adams had owned land at the mouth of the Oyster River about 1650, further proving he himself had been there at that time.
John Meader had left his home in England and came to America so that he and his family could worship the way they wished and so that he could have a farm of his own instead of being a tenant farmer as his father had always done. He knew it would not be easy but he felt he had a good chance of succeeding in this new world. Over the next forty years many things happened to test his will to succeed. There were the normal hardships of wilderness living but these he and his family took in stride. Being a Quaker coming to a Puritan colony posed a more difficult obstacle..
1656: “ (summer) Massachusetts Bay Colony Puritans whip, imprison, and banish the first Quakers to arrive in the colony.” An other source tell us “Quakers who arrive in Massachusetts Bay are treated horribly and banished which is supported by the New England federation. Later in the year Connecticut and Massachusetts pass laws to allow for the banishment of Quakers. “
1658 “Legislation bars the Quakers from holding their services, called meeting.”
1659: “27 October. Quakers William Robinson and Marmaduke Stephenson are hanged for refusing to leave Massachusetts. Mary Dyer, a follower of Anne Hutchnson and later a Quaker, is scheduled to hand with them but is reprieved at the last-minute.”
1660: 1 June Mary Dyer is hanged after defying an expulsion order by returning to Boston in May 1660.
1661: “Massachusetts continues to punish Quakers by hanging those who refuse to leave the colony. After a royal edict requires the Massachusetts authorities to release imprisoned Quakers and return them to England, the authorities instead allow them to leave for other colonies. By December, corporal punishment for Quakers and other dissenters is suspended in the Massachusetts Bay colony by order of Parliament.”
1662: “ The Massachusetts Bay Colony’s charter was accepted by England as long as they extended the vote to all landowners and allows for freedom of worship for Anglicans.”
1665: “ The King’s Commissioner’s arrive in New England to oversee what is occurring in the colonies. They demand that colonies must comply by swearing allegiance to the King and allowing for the freedom of religion. Plymouth, Connecticut, and Rhode Island comply. Massachusetts does not comply and when representatives are called to London to answer to the King, they refuse to go.”
1668 “Massachusetts annexes Maine.”
In 1675 The King Phillip’s War began with retaliations for the execution of Three Wampanoag Indians. Boston and Plymouth unite to fight against the Indians. Nipmuck Indians unite with the Wampanoags to attack settlement in Massachusetts. The New England Confederation then reacts by officially declaring war on King Phillip and raising an army. The Wampanoags are able to defeat settlers near Deerfield on September 18th, 1675 and Deerfield is abandoned.
Besides five Puritan colonies in New England when John Meader arrived, there were two proprietary colonies, New Hampshire and Maine. New Hampshire had begun as the personal estate of Captain Richard Mason, and it consisted of a few hundred people in Portsmouth, Exeter and other settlements on the tidewater. In 1684 John Meader with others were dispossessed of their lands by suits at law which had been brought by Robert I. Mason, who was the grand son of Captain John Mason, on the ground of Captain Mason’s grant. Executions were levied, but officers could neither retain possession nor find purchasers. The property soon returned to the actual settlers. Mason sold out to the British Crown. That same year, 1685, King James II gave Joseph Dudley, son of an old Puritan governor, a commission to rule Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine, then renamed the Dominion of New England. In 1691 William and Mary created the Royal Province of Massachusetts Bay, with Sir William Phips as Governor. The Dominion included the Bay and Plymouth colonies, together with Maine. Rhode Island and Connecticut were not included. New Hampshire became a separate royal province.
In 1684 The Charter of the Massachusetts Bay Colony was revoked after critical reports reach England. This ended the requirement of church membership for voting.
In 1690 a series of wars known as the French and Indian War began with King William’s War in Schenectady, NY and other areas were burned by French and Native Americans.
Things quieted down at the Meader Garrison, a normal life resumed for the family but this was only the calm before the storm. There were the raids every now and then from a small band of Indians as the garrisons at Oyster Bay were an easy target for the Indians because the settlers were Quakers and did not fight back. The normal family problems continued but for the most part life was good. However, elsewhere trouble was brewing that would eventually spill over into Oyster River.
In 1687 in New York, the Iroquois, instigated by the English, attacked French allies among the western Indians, disrupting the valuable fur trade in that region. In response, Canadian Governor, the Marquis de Denonville, led an expedition against the Seneca of western New York. The invaders ravaged four Seneca towns, destroying a vast quantity of grain. This put the Indians in the middle of a fight between the French and English. The English increased their material aid to the Iroquois and formally adopted them as English subjects so further hostilities against them, by the French, were forbidden. In 1689, the Iroquois sacked the town of La Chine, a mere six or seven miles outside Montreal, killing some two hundred inhabitants and carrying off 120 more. For the French, the west would remain the main theater of operations throughout what became know as King William’s War.
In western Maine, the years of 1687 and 1688 brought more trouble between the Abenaki and their English neighbors. Increased settlement near the mouth of the Saco River triggered a series of conflicts over fishing rights, livestock, and land ownership. The English placed nets across the Saco River, blocking migrating fish, a major Abenaki food source in the spring. English cattle continually damaged the local tribe’s unfenced corn fields. The Saco Indians complained but these complaints fell on deaf ears. The English had violated a 1685 treaty so in 1688, frustrated in their attempts at diplomacy, the Saco Indians killed the offending cattle. In August, a dispute between settlers and Indians at North Yarmouth ended violently with casualties on both sides. Prompted by this Indian uprising, Benjamin Blackman, justice of the peace at Saco, ordered the seizure of twenty Indians that he suspected of causing the unrest. The Abenaki responded in kind, capturing several settlers during a raid on New Dartmouth in September 1688.
During the next three years the English maneuvered themselves into a favorable position by building a stone fort, Fort William Henry and stationing a large ship H.M.S. Rose in the harbor at the mouth of the Penobscot River. The French organized themselves and helped organize the Indians. Several different tribes of Indians organized themselves to act against the English settlers who were taking over more and more of their lands and hunting grounds, leaving them without the means to sustain their people through the long winters.
After 1690, the war settled down into a pattern of retaliation and counter retaliation which inflicted much suffering on frontier communities but contributed little toward a meaningful victory for either side.
Then in 1694 the French and the Indians joined forces to settle the English problem once and for all. The French wanted to take out Boston and the surrounding area but the Indians wanted to push back the English in Oyster River.
In their march to the coast Oyster River presented a favorable target first and the Indians took over the lead. Nowhere was the fighting greater than at Oyster River. The pre-dawn attack started att 2 A.M. and caught the settlers of the plantation unprepared. The Quakers had decided they must defend themselves and so had taken up arms to do so but only in self-defence. Just two days earlier, Captain John Woodman had assembled the people of the settlement, notifying them of the Treaty of Pemaquid. This treaty with one of the Indian tribes had granted the settlement more land to settle on. This very treaty was used as a reason for the Indian Nations to join in this war against the English. As a result, the people had returned to their homes and disbanded the night watch. By the time the attackers withdrew, forty-five people lay dead with another forty-nine taken captive. Half of the dwellings lay in charred ruins. The attackers butchered most of the livestock and burned many crops. Many of the wounded were evacuated to Portsmouth. Several of the survivors removed to Massachusetts.
The south side of the River was nearly wiped out. The north side fared a little better than the settlers on the south bank for they had some warning of what was to come. On a neck of land on the shore of Little Bay, directly opposite Fox Point, stood the garrison house of John Meader. The Meader family could see the flames from the burning houses steadily advancing in their direction. Taking stock of the situation, they found that they did not possess enough powder or shot to mount a successful defense. Locking the house up as best they could, the Meader family boarded a boat and crossed over to Fox Point. Many accounts tell of them stepping out of the boat and turning around to see their home go up in flames. This is doubtful because soldiers impressed at Hampton were quartered in Meader’s garrison in the days following the attack. So if their house was burnt they immediately rebuilt it. All of the Meader children were af age by this time and all went with their father to Fox Point so survived the attack. It is recorded that the youngest son, Nicholas was killed in this raid. It does not tell how, did he not go with the family but stay behind to help others or did he come back at the hight of the battle it is not known. The war-party withdrew at the end of the day to a nearby hill where they could safely sleep until the next day. The following morning they returned to Pennacook, leaving a ruined settlement in their wake. The people of the Oyster River Plantation were left to mourn their losses and bury their dead. If you wish to read more about this attack go to www.nedoba.org
The Meader family returned to their Oyster River Garrison home and life went on much the same as it had before the attack. At this point in my story I will follow Nathaniel Meader.
Nathaniel Meader, son of John Meader and Abigail Tuttle, was born at Oyster River June 14,1871. He married Eleanor Hall, probably in 1695, the year after the great Oyster River Massacre. They lived at Oyster River. Things were quiet for a few years and the settlers were able to rebuild and go on with their lives. November 16, 1696 Deacon John and Hannah Hall, cousins of Eleanor Hall, deeded land to Nathaniel Meader. Ralph Hall, Eleanor’s brother was a witness. About the same time Nicholas Follett and his wife Mary sold Nathaniel Meader all the lands of Follett’s father in Oyster River. Between the years of 1696 and 1704 Nathaniel and Eleanor bore and raised five children, two boys and three girls.
Robert Whitehouse wrote a history of Dover in 1987 in which he tells us the Indian raids began again in 1703. They were not the organized attacks as in 1694 but many were killed or taken capture. In 1704 he reports: “May 14 at Spruce Creek they (Indians) killed one lad and carried others away. They then went to Oyster River where they shot Jeremiah Cromett and burned a saw mill at Dover. Ensign Tuttle was killed and a son of Lieutenant Heard wounded while standing guard. John Bickwell was shot at Spruce Creek as he was locking his door, his wife wounded and his child knocked on the head and scalped. The two children of John Waldron were seized outside of Heard’s Garrison and their head cut off, as the Indians did not have time to scalp them. This time there were no men in the fort, and Ester Jones deceived the Indians by calling out “come on, come on, here they are”, which had the effect desired and the Indians withdrew. On October 25, 1704, the Indians appeared at Oyster River again. And on that same day in Berwick, two men were shot going home from church. The Indians, being vigorously attacked, dropped their packs and in them were found three scalps.” It was in such an attack on April 25, 1794 that Nathaniel Meader was killed by Indians.
Charles Sinnett tells us of Nathaniel Meader: “He was a very enterprising farmer. Because of the many things which he did to foil the Indians in their efforts to kill the pioneer settlers and to drive them from their lands, the savages had a fierce hatred against him. It is said that great rewards were offered for anyone who took the life of this leader. It was only when he was overwhelmed by a band of enemies that his life was sacrificed. But he had inspired his neighbors with such bravery that the Indians were enraged to find them clinging more closely to their homes, when they had thought that the fall of Nathaniel Meader would help to scatter them in fear far and wide.”
At his death his brother Joseph administered his estate. At this point we follow Nathaniel’s son Daniel.
Daniel Meader, son of Nathaniel Meader and Eleanor Hall was born at Oyster River on November 3, 1698. According to Charles Sennett: “Though but a lad when his father was murdered by the Indians, he manfully helped his mother in the great tasks which were left for her to complete. He was known as on of the most trustworthy and energetic men of his time. Like many other of the best settlers of that section, he was indignant at the cruelties which were used in driving from Dover Neck the missionaries of the Friends’ Church. The true Christian spirit in which these devoted men and women met all the harsh words hurled against them, and in which they bore the wounds they had received …appealed so strongly to Daniel Meader that he was a leader in helping form the Friends’ Church, whose services are still sustained in the city of Dover, NH.”
According to History of Durham he may first have married Elizabeth (Kirk) Libby, widow of Daniel Libby. The Indians again attacked Dover in and took captives. This was the last foray into Dover, NH, as three months later a treaty was signed at Boston, and in the spring was ratified at Falmouth, 1726. After peace was declared, the Indians often visited the very home they had despoiled, and were always friendly.
On June 22, 1727 Daniel Meader married Elizabeth Allen. the couple settled in Nantucket. His uncle Joseph gave him the Oyster River farm in 1730, apparently attested in a statement: “for the future quiet of Daniel Meader of Durham, Joseph Meader of Nantucket and Nicholas Meader of Durham, they agreed upon a fair division of land lying upon the Piscataqua River.”
Daniel and Elizabeth Meader bore and raised 7 boys and one girl between the years of 1730 and 1751. Some of these children were born in Dover, 2 in Durham (Oyster River), one in Newbury, MA, one in Amesbury, MA, and one in Rochester, NH. Daniel Meader died on September 25, 1751 in Dover, NH
Joseph Meader son of Daniel Meader and Elizabeth Allen was probably born in Durham about 1730. He seems to have been in Madbury, NH in 1753. He married Lydia Hoag about 1753 and they had one son Paul Meader, born in 1765. Joseph was a Selectman in Lee,NH from 1765 to 1769, and he signed a petition in Lee in 1765. He was apparently still in Lee in 1775, when he is recorded as having refused to sign the Loyalty Test there which registered opposition to the British forces, on the grounds that he was a Friend. Carthlands, Jenkinses and Bunkers also refused to sign.
ON June 21,1767 he married Abigail Varney Frye at Kittery, Maine. They had three girls and two boys. Joseph Meader died on December 15,1784.
Paul Meader, only child of Joseph Meader and Lydia Hoag, was born in Lee, NH in 1765. He was the grandfather of Daniel Webster Meader. On November 2, 1787 he married Deborah Knight, daughter of George Knight and Mary Penhallow of Kittery, Maine. She was granddaughter of Justice Samuel Penhallow of Portsmouth, NH. The couple settled in Barnstead for twelve years and then moved for a short time to Rumney. Later they removed to Warren in the northwestern part of the town, near a pond which still bears his name. They bore and raised four boys and five girls. Among these nine children were Elisha, Web’s father and Moses Avery, Web’s uncle in California.
In his later years Paul Meader told his children of the poverty around them during the Revolutionary War. The poorer classes would come to his father Joseph Meader’s house and beg for corn cobs to grind into meal to keep them from starving. (The corn cobs were usually fed to the pigs.) Joseph would give them two quarts of corn and a bushel of cobs, which was considered a prize. Eventually the rebels (probably the Continental Army) came up the river, and his family with others fled to the woods, taking their silver spoons, clothing and valuables with them.
When Paul and Deborah Meader were married and moved to Warren, they were entertained on the way at Deacon Joseph Smith’s home in Meredith, now Winona, NH. (This is not the Mormon leader.) Their son, Joseph Smith Meader, was born there. The death of Paul Meader was sudden. He and his son Elisha were moving logs that had been piled at the roll way. When the oxen were attached to one of the logs, it suddenly started and he was crushed under it. Paul Meader was small in stature and Elisha was unable to give assistance. Aid came only after two hours, when Paul Meader was dead.
Elisha Meader, eldest son of Paul Meader and Lydia Hoag, was born at the home of Deacon Joseph Smith, in Meredith, NH on February 23, 1788. Elisha served on Lake Champlain during the War of 1812.
Daniel Webster once said:
“Men hang out their signs indicative of their respective trades; shoemakers hang out a gigantic shoe; jewelers a monster watch, and the dentist hangs out a gold tooth; but in the mountains of New Hampshire, God Almighty has hung out a sign to show that there He makes men.”
The Old Man of the Mountain is no longer, he fell in 2003 but the examples of the men that New Hampshire produced still remain and there is no better example than Elisha Meader. In the History of Haverhill, NH it is written, “Politically he was a Jeffersonian Democrat. His live was that of a pioneer, one of strenuous toil and hardship in his early days. He came of sturdy stock and justified in his life his ancestry.” He embodied all the qualities of a New Hampshire man, namely loyalty, trustworthiness, tenderness when needed, strength when needed, knowledge to know, self-reliance, quiet, slow to anger, and the common sence to know when to let each trait rule his heart and mind. New Hampshire men are not a talkative lot but when they do speak, people listen because what he has to say is worth their time. Many people misunderstand this trait. There is an old story I use to explain the New Hampshire people to my southern friends: ” John came to New Hampshire to visit his old college friend, Luke. They were out in the woods for a walk and conversation had ended, they just walked and enjoyed the quiet of the woods. As they walked they met a man coming in the opposite direction, the man passed by without a word or sign of recognition. John stopped and turned to Luke and said, “Wasn’t that Peter, your old friend?” Luke replied, “Yep!” John’s mouth fell open in wonder, “Why didn’t you speak to him?” Luke kept right on walking and in an even tone said, “Didn’t need to, spoke to him yesterday.”
New Hampshire people don’t take to outsiders very easily. You can live in a town for years and still be an outsider until you need some help from someone, then everyone in the town will come to your aid and from then on you are one of them. Never move to a New Hampshire town and try to tell them how to do things better, they will listen quietly and politely and then do it exactly as they have done it for years. So you ask, who is an outsider? If you are from the mountains of Georgia, an outsider is any flatlands, if you are from Florida it is any Dam Yankee. A Yankee is any one that comes from the north, a Dam Yankee is a person from the north who moves to Florida. Each area has its own idea of what an outsider is but in New Hampshire any person who was not born and raised in that town is an outsider. Here are two stories to illustrate this unique notion.
This first one is one my father told me over 50 years ago about our town of Harrisiville. Harrisville is a small, small town but it is made up of two centers, one being Harrisville and the other Chesham each one had about 200 people. ” A man moved from Chesham to Harrisville once long ago and this caused quite a commotion among the people of the town. Would he fit in? The men decided there was only one way to be sure he conformed to their standards so a group got together and had a talk with this new comer to town. This is what they told him: ‘In Harrisville we treat our women right, we take care of them. We don’t care how you did it in Chesham but while you live in Harrisville you WILL hold the lantern for your wife while she chops the wood!”
This second story happened to me in 1963. I grew up in Harrisville, my husband was a Peterborough man. Now Peterborough was about 12 mile away from Harrisville, you would think that was close enough to save me the tag as an outsider in Peterborough, right? We had been married 12 years when we built a house in Peterborough. My husband knew most of the Peterborough people, to them he was “the old fighter”, they didn’t know me. When our daughter was in the hospital we could only see her during visiting hours which were one hour each afternoon and one hour in the evening. We each took turns going to see her and we would take a rose to her as she loved roses. There was a florist shop on the way to the hospital so we would stop there to purchase one. If I went to get it the rose would cost me 50 cents. If my husband stopped for it he cost him 35 cents. Later I went shopping for a new freezer. There had been a rush on freezers so you had to put you name on the list and as soon as they got more you would get one. I gave the clerk my name, Carol Petts. The name went on the bottom of a long list, then I remembered the rose and said, “You had better put my husband’s name because that is who you will call when it is our turn. I am Mrs Norman Petts.” “Oh, the old fighter.” Came the surprised response and the name Carol Petts was erased from the bottom of the list and the name Norman Petts was added to the top of the list. We had our freezer in less than a week.
Back to Elisha Meader – He was raised in Barnstead, NH for the first 11 years, then the family moved to Rumney and later to Warren. Elisha married Susan Smith, daughter of Deacon Smith and Betsey Marston some time before 1816. For a short time after the wedding the couple lived in Haverhill on Ladd Street. On August 9, 1816 Samuel Knight Meader was born in Haverhill. Shortly after this they moved back to Warren where he worked with his father. He remained in Warren until his father died in the logging accident.
Samuel moved to CT as soon as he could in order to work for the railroad. He had done some apprentist work in NH but went to CT for more oppertunities. While there he met and married Eliza Griswold, daughter of Daniel B. Griswold of Wetherfield, CT. They had three sons.
On March 7, 1818 Joseph Smith Meader was born to Elisha and Susan Meader. He married Hannah Brigham Critchett. They lived in East Boston, where he was engaged in the trucking business with his wife’s brother Asa. Later he went to California, where he accumulated real estate in the Sacramento Valley. A destructive freshet (flood) washed out the valley, carrying his property with it. He never returned east. His wife joined him in California, but his children remained in the east with relatives. They had one boy and one girl.
On June 18, 1820 Betsey Smith Meader was born in Warren,NH. She died in 1839 and little else in known of her.
On July 9, 1822 Mahala French Meader was born in Warren, NH. She married David Kezer on April 4, 1844. They had six children, the first child, born on March 25, 1845. was a son who lived only two months and was never given a name. Francis Kezer was born February 5, 1848 at Center Haverhill, NH. He married Sarah Bisbee of Center Haverhill. They had four children. Francis Stewart Kezer was born October 15,1850. Lucene and Racene, twin daughters were born on November 24, 1852. Racene died at age three on June 25, 1855. Lucene went to California in 1870 and was missing in the Klondike. Their last child was an unnamed daughter born at Center Haverhill in 1855 and died June 25, 1855.
Paul Nason Meader was born June 27, 1824 and died March 2, 1899. Paul, Web, and threir younger brother Moses grew up as true brothers in Haverhill, NH and their lives are an intricate part of Web’s story.
In 1828 Deborah Meader was born, she died at age 20. Elisha was born in 1830 and died at age 4 or 5. In 1831 Susan Smith died, leaving her husband with seven children to raise.
I do not know what was the cause of Susan’s death but there were several diseases common at the time all of which affected women during child birthing years when they were most worn down. They were long illnesses and another women very often brought in to help with the children as the husband could not just stay home and care for the children, if he did the family would starve. The following is what I believe happened.
Susan had seven children between 1816 and 1830. When Elisha was born in 1830, Susan was at her lowest point and her body just gave in to which ever deases she had contracted. She was slower to recover from the birth so a woman was hired to come in and help with the children and take care of Susan. This woman was a Mrs Abigail Foss Webster. She took care of Susan and her children for about a year during which time her husband died. On Sept 28, 1831 Susan died. Elisha was faced with a problem. He needed someone to care for his children and Abigail could no longer do this. It was not concidered proper for a single woman to live in a house with a man if they were not married and Abigail was no a single woman. Abigail was the only mother young Elisha had known. His own mother was ill and so as a baby he bonded more with Abigail than with Susan. Abigail did not want to leave the children she had been caring for the last year and Elisha needed a mother for his children so the best solution was for him to marry Abigail. This is just what happened. It is not recorded when they were married but on June 13, 1832 Daniel Webster Meader was born in Warren, NH. Abigail lived as Elisha’s loving wife until her death in 1867.
EARLY YEARS OF DANIEL WEBSTER MEADER
At this point in my story of Web we shift to the early years of Web. These years are not well documented but can be surmised from the events that occurred that effected him directly.
Web was born into a large extended family. He was born on June 13, 1832 in the family home near Meader Pond in Warren, NH. The joy over his birth was some what dampened by the death of his father’s sister, Mary, who was just 28 years old. She had married Joseph Ally and they settled in Piemont, NH not far from the family home. They had two children, both of whom died in infancy. Elisha was one of nine children many of whom had regesettled in the area. Lydia had married an Elliott and moved to Ellsworth, Maine. They had seven children but later the whole family moved west and settled in Illinois. Next was Eunice who married Dyer Moses. They settled in Campton, NH very close to the family home. They had five children. George was next , he married Sarah Smith Morrell who was a cousin of his sister-in-law. They settled in Campton, NH at first, then moved to Moultonborough, NH. Later he moved to Haverhill, NH and then lived for a while with his brother Elisha on Pond Road in Haverhill, NH. They had three children Abel who died as a young man in Bradford, VT, Sarah who died when two years old and George who lived in RI and where his father evenually settled and died. Abby Meader never married and remained at the family home. Joseph also was unmarried. Moses Avery was the most colorful of the nine and had one of the largest effects on Web.
Moses Avery Meader was born in Rumney, NH on December 18, 1802 and died in Santa Cruz, CA October 13, 1890 in his 88th year. About 1830 he married Sarah Blood. They lived in the Clough house on Pond Road, Center Haverhill, NH and later moved to Lisbon, NH. In 1846 they sailed for California via Cape Horn with the intention of Joining a colony of Mormons there, but the discovery of gold, soon after their arrival changed their plans, and they settle in Santa Cruz. He was reported to be immensely wealthy and a heavy contributor to the Mormon Church. She died in 1872. They had two daughter both born in California but only one lived to grow up, Sarah died in her third year. When Moses Avery died the Santa Cruz Standard wrote this obituary:
“Moses Avery Meader died at his residence, corner of Lincoln and Washington Streets. He had been in feeble health for several months. His parents were farmer of English descent, and he followed the same business. At the age of 27 he married Sarah Blood. At about this time he read Hastings’ Hey of California and became interested. Learning that a vessel was about to sail from New York to California, he and his wife took passage January 1,1846, and arrived at Yerba Burena Island on August 1, 1846. Soon after his arrival Captain Isaac Graham engaged him to come to Santa Cruz to help him repair a sawmill on Layante Creek. He arrived at Santa Cruz in February, 1847 and began to work. He sent to San Francisco for his wife and child to join hm. They lived in the lumber region a year or two, and when the mill was finished he engaged to buld another in San Lorenzo [Alameda, California] area.
“Just at this time gold was discovered, and nearly everyone started for the mines. Graham rented the San Lorenzo mill to him on favorable terms. Otis Ashley of Felton[Santa Cruz] went into business with him. They made lumber, which in those days was worth considerable money. He sold lumber for $300 per thousand feet. He sold the quartermaster at Monterey 50,000 fett at $150 per thousand. Having lumber always ready to sell at the right time, he realized a handsome frofit.
“After some specuations he moved to Santa Cruz, occupying a house near the Courthouse. Dr. Stephenson, who owned the property, became County Recorder.
“When California became a state and J.L. Major Treasurer, Major having no place for the county money turned it over to Dr. Stephenson, who gave it to Meader. He put it in a chest under his bed until the county officials could make better arrangements.
“His first wife dying in 1872, he married a second and lived with her many years in the residence where he died. he was a member of the Reoganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, but he was not a believer of the doctrine of Brigham Young. he believed that Joseph smith was a profhet, and that the Book of Mormon was a true history. He did not believed in a pluality of wives, but he strictly believed the commands of the Book of Mormon.
He gave liberally to all denominations of Christians. his contributions to his own church for many years were from $200 to $500 annually.”
He lived in or near Haverhill, NH until Web was 11 years old. He was an important person in the early years of Web’s life and a favorite uncle of Web’s. After he moved to California he wrote often and kept in touch with Web all his life. You will hear more of Moses Avery as our story goes on.
Mary was the next aunt but one Web never knew as she died the year he as born. And the youngest in that family was Abigail born in 1806. She married Captain Joseph Merrill and they settled in Warren for 35 years. About 1861 the entire family went to California, they had seven children.
When Web was three years old the family moved from Warren to the Culver place in Bath, NH, an ajoining town. Times were hard for the family. About this same time young Elisha Jr died. There is no record of what happened or why but no matter the reason it is always hard on the whole family to lose a child. He was only two years older than Web and would have been a constant playmate of Web’s.
This first move to Bath took Web away from the extended family he had to leave behind in Warren. Samuel was no longer at home as he had gone with Moses Avery to help run the farm on Pond Road. Moses A had married Sarah Bood in 1830 and needed help to run the farm. He took on Samuel to teach him about farming from the start of a new farm. Samuel then went to CT to learn to be a railroad contractor. Five of Web’s siblings moved with them but the many aunts, uncles, and cousins that lived in and around Warren were still there and no longer running in and out of his home when they visited the family farm.