Sixty years ago, when I was eighteen years old, I came across a very battered huge atlas of Prince Edward Island that people called “The Old Atlas.” I was thrilled by it, not only for its double folio page spread of the map of the Island, which contained more information than I had ever seen on any other map at that time in my life.
To my amazement I also discovered that it contained large scale maps of every Lot or Township in the Province. Quickly and easily – it was appropriately the first one in the atlas – I turned to Lot 1, my home lot, where I had spent the first fourteen years of my life.
With the greatest excitement and fascination my eyes flew over this map, from the Black Marsh at North Cape, with its fabled haunted Hawbush, down to the village of Tignish with its magnificent church, the small triangular lot of land on which our tiny house had stood at the end of the Western Road, and the Tignish Run where the Myricks had run their fisheries empire, enslaving its many fishermen in its credit ledgers.
I also found with no difficulty the home lots of my maternal great grandfather Isadore Gaudet in Tignish and my grandmother’s Perry (Poirier) farm in Palmer Road. It was one of those epiphanic moments with which my life has been punctuated, where I come across something – an artefact or an insight – that is so powerful that it changes my perception of things forever. Meacham’s Atlas was one of those epiphanies.
Meacham Family Background
The Meacham family had settled in early colonial times in New England, and various sources place them in Massachusetts and Connecticut. The first of the family to bring the name to Canada was Seth Mecham, who was born February 9, 1771, in Hadley, Massachusetts. So far there is no record of how he weathered the events of the American Revolution (1765-83). We next hear of him when he married Elizabeth Simons on March 12, 1807, not in the United States, but in Thurlow, Ontario, a settlement near Belleville. There, over the next eight years they had three children, before his premature death at the age of 44 in 1815. He was buried in Belleville and thus began the Meacham family’s residence in Prince Edward County.
Seth’s first son, James Hubbard, was born on November 6, 1807, in Belleville. The Hubbard part of the name was Seth’s mother’s maiden name. She was Ruth Hubbard and lived from 1732 to 1817. The next child was his daughter Ann who was born in Lennox in 1808. The next child, Simon, was born in Belleville in 1812. Seth Meacham died on October 22, 1815 and was buried in Belville.
It is Seth’s middle child, Simon, who is of interest to us and who was the father of James Hubbard Meacham, our publisher.
Simon married Sarah Matilda Campbell in 1836 and they had seven children in 15 years. Here they are: Sophia Elizabeth 1837-1909; Ann Elizabeth 1838-1911; Walter William 1842-1905; Alexander McNabb 1844-66; Thomas H 1846-65; James Hubbard 1849-1887, and Hattie 1852-1889.
Two of the brothers died at quite young ages, but Simon lived on until he was 78, dying in 1890 in Odessa, Saskatchewan.
We pick up now on the story of James Hubbard, who grew up in the area around Belleville. So far, it has been impossible to find any information on how he began his life as an adult. There is information about his younger brother, Walter William (1844-1905) who was a doctor and represented the county of Lennox in the Ontario Legislative Assembly from 1886-98 as a Conservative Member.
The only other member of the Meacham family who turns up in the records of the time is James Hubbard Meacham (1807-97), Simon’s brother, and uncle of our James Hubbard to whom his name was given. He was postmaster in Belleview and is buried there.
James Hubbard Meacham’s World
Meacham’s world was a small one, divided between Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Michigan, Kansas and Nebraska.
Born in 1849, he would have spent his childhood and teen years with his parents. A census of 1861, when he was only 12, places him in Prince Edward County. For the years of his youth one would not expect to find significant information, for, after all, he was a schoolboy. There is no information available for about six or seven years beyond his school days until suddenly, on May 14, 1873, he appears in Detroit, Michigan as the suitor of the also 23-year-old Margelia Della Burge. They are married on that day.
Margelia Della Burge was born on May 28, 1849, in Wayne, New York to Marie Brooks, aged 32, and John Fowler Burdge, age 31. She seems to have spent most of her youth in Wayne, NY, but in 1870 she is recorded as living in Detroit, Michigan. Only three years later the very young couple is married on May 14. They wasted no time in starting a family and on February 10, 1874, their daughter Harriet J was born.
Meacham’s formative years
We have no information about Meacham’s education. An elder brother became a doctor and so a university education was not out of the question. He would, upon graduation around the age of 20, account for the first formative years of his life. This is wishful thinking because, at the moment, I have no information at all about his early twenties, when he would already have decided what he wanted to do with his life. However, I have questions, and the most important is what was he doing in Detroit in the early 1870s that made it possible to meet his future wife? Had he already considered the trade of publishing as his life’s work?
The enigma deepens when Meacham, now with a wife and family, leaves Detroit and returns to Canada after the birth of Harriet in February of 1874. Lovell’s Kingston Directory 1878-79 places him in that town for those years. He lived there with his family on Brook Street, between Montreal and Clergy Streets. Perhaps the Kingston address was the family home for that period of time mentioned in the Directory and there is evidence for this. In the same Directory Simon Meacham, James Hubbard’s father, was living at the same address and was an insurance salesman. This must have been his home base when he was working on his first atlas, on the Counties of Frontenac, Lennox and Addington, which was published in 1878.
Meacham acquires a partner and a brother-in-law.
Meacham’s wife, Margelia Della Burge, had a younger sister. Her name was Josephine (1851-1937) and we have a later studio portrait of the two sisters taken in 1906.
Something quite wonderful was about to happen. On September 3, 1877, Josephine Burdge married Clement Rewey Allen (1850-1909), who was born on July 27, 1850, in Elmwood, Illinois. His father, Daniel, was 28 and his mother, Martha, was 23. In time they would have two children. He died of typhoid on February 27, 1909, in Ottumwa, Iowa, USA, at the age of 58. Meacham and his wife must have attended her sister’s wedding at that time. Meacham and Allen became brothers-in-law, both in their early 20s, Meacham the elder by one year. Like Meacham, at present we have no information about Allen’s formative years and training as a surveyor.
I wonder if this is the first time they met, or had they become acquainted during the sister’s courtship and decided to go into the county atlas/map-making business together?
Here is a detail from a genealogical chart (Courtesy of Ancestry.ca) that shows this union of a husband and wife, a brother in law as a business partner, and a future open to a brief but amazingly productive publishing career.
Hard upon the union of his wife’s sister, Meacham was in Philadelphia, possibly making business arrangements with the lithographer and printer he would use for the rest of his life. Allen would use the same firms after Meacham’s death. Also in 1877 Meacham made his way back to Canada where in 1878 he was living in Kingston, Ontario, with his family. It is at this time in 1878 that the two men collaborated on the Frontenac atlas. Allen and his family moved to Kingston as well and, with Meacham, lived on Brock Street between Wellington and Church streets.
We now know where Meacham and Allen – and their families? – lived when they produced the Pictou, Nova Scotia Atlas in 1879. It comes as a great surprise to discover that it is Allen, not Meacham, who first draws our attention to Charlottetown because it is there, on August 5, 1878, that his first daughter Clara was born. Had Charlottetown, with its promise of a provincial atlas, become their centre of operation?
A year later, Meacham’s second daughter Helen Irene “Nellie” was born on August 17, 1879, in Charlottetown. The PEI provincial atlas came out in January 1880. A Canadian publishing milestone had been reached.
The publication of those three atlases must have given Meacham and Allen a fine financial reward. Meacham’s work as a publisher of county atlases in Canada coincides exactly with the golden age of those works.
About the County Atlases
The Canadian County Atlas Digital Project was set up by McGill University and in 1999, this site was launched to provide researchers with information about the contents, particularly the people, that appeared in these atlases between 1874 and 1881.
This description of county atlases from the McGill site clearly describes what they were all about and who the chief publishers were in that seven-year period.
Between 1874 and 1881, approximately forty county atlases were published in Canada, covering counties in the Maritimes, Ontario, and Quebec. Thirty-two of these atlases were produced for Ontario by the following five companies: H. Belden & Co. (17); H.R. Page & Co. (8); Walker & Miles (5); J.H. Meacham & Co. (1); H. Parsell (1). Two types of county atlases exist for Ontario, those which covered a single county or multiple adjacent counties, and those which were published as supplements to Dominion of Canada atlases. In total, 40 Ontario counties were covered by these 32 atlases.
Each of the county atlases consisted of a historical text, township and town maps, portraits, views, and patrons’ directory / business cards. But more important, names of residents were marked on the lots of the township maps in these county atlases. Unfortunately, only the names of subscribers were recorded on the township maps for the Dominion of Canada supplements. All these atlases were sold by subscription. Prominent county residents paid an additional sum to have biographical sketches, portraits and views of their residences or businesses included in the atlases
Of the 40 or so atlases produced, Meacham published only one for Ontario, but two others in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.
Setting up an Atlas Publishing Company
County atlases were big business for about 7 years, starting in 1874. Just four years later Meacham and Allen produced their first and only atlas in Ontario covering the counties of Frontenac, Lennox & Addington. Odessa where his influential older brother, Dr. W. W. Meacham had lived since his birth in 1842, was in Lennox and Addington County, and he is listed in the Atlas, along with a drawing of his home.
It does not take a great leap of the imagination to conclude that Dr. Meacham, an influential doctor, and politician in the Ontario legislature, might have had a hand in awarding the contract to his brother’s new business. Since, as far as we know, this was Meacham’s first atlas publishing enterprise, this seems even more likely.
But how do you publish such a very complicated book? You must first acquire a knowledge of the publishing trade and set up connections, in this case, with lithographers, who will take all the sketches and maps produced by artists and surveyors and draw them on stone so that the image can be transferred to paper. This was a complicated and expensive process.
Teams of Surveyors
Clement Allen would have had to assemble a team of surveyors to be sent out into the countryside to map those areas not reliably recorded in the local archives, or to check on the ground, how properties, roads and natural features all interconnected. This view gives you an idea of what their work would have involved. This illustration by the artist S. T. Gill, shows a survey field party in 1865 using the Circumferentor and Gunter’s Chain, vital surveying instruments of the day. It is a lithograph coloured by several inked stones in the National Gallery of Australia.
This wood engraving shows a man pacing off distances with an odometer (Murray, p. 76).
The activities of these men would result in very detailed maps, such as we see in the atlases. All their work would have to be coordinated with local authorities and provincial map archives to ensure accuracy.
Finding Suitable Artists
Having a team of competent topographical artists who had acute skills in capturing a landscape with an accuracy so credible that the client who paid to have it included in the atlas would be pleased – and perhaps flattered – with the result were vital to this kind of project. We have almost no knowledge of how many artists were hired for the Meacham projects and who these people were. They would all possess the necessary skills to assess a town vista, farm or panorama in consultation with the owner, and then producing a very sharp drawing of the scene to be sent to the lithographic artist in Philadelphia. The resulting images were mostly acceptable – and extremely informative in the future study of local topography – but as we shall see in the next post, Meacham encountered a very unhappy customer in Prince Edward Island.
Woodcut from Murray, p. 79.
I don’t know who drew this picture of the assemblage of churches and parochial houses, old and new at Saint Peter’s Bay, but it has all the earmarks of something sharp and crisp that would delight a lithographic artist, far away in another country, as he transferred this to stone.
(Drawing, circa 1880, courtesy of the Parish of Saint Peter’s, PEI)
The odd colour would help define the details for the artist who would copy this image exactly with a grease pencil on a polished block of limestone. This drawing is a mystery to me, and I can only see it as the sort of thing that would be produced to be made into a lithographic image. The date of this picture is right for the PEI ATLAS, and one wonders if the parish priest, or the domineering Bishop, withdrew it at the last minute. Saint Peter’s was the bishop’s home parish. In a later post I will speculate on why only Catholic churches were published in Meacham’s ATLAS.
After the artists had sent to the lithographic printing firm all the drawings and portraits the clients had ordered, the transcribers would set to work to convert it into a lithograph. This drawing, from Roe, page 27, shows, on the left, a man preparing the surface of the stone to receive the grease pencil image by grinding it flat with another stone using an acid solution. Next, with the master drawing propped up in front of him, the very skill copier transfers the image to the block of stone.
In the next room can be seen two men at the presses, the simple one on the right, that prints only a single sheet, and in the background, the new rotary press, driven by steam, that increases the speed of production enormously. Wetting the stone, they would apply lithographic ink to the grease drawing, which would attract it, then press the image on paper, where it would be transferred.
1877 Meacham in Philadelphia
In the short time he had to prepare himself to be a publisher, Meacham, probably drawn by the reputations of highly competent lithographers and printers, went to Philadelphia where he engaged the following men to be his lithographer and printer. Meacham set up arrangements with the engraving firm of Worley & Bracher at 27 South Sixth Street in Philadelphia, and the printing firm of R. Bourquin, 31 South Sixth Street also in Philadelphia. This information is taken directly from the title page of one of his atlases and appears on all four publications, even the one in Kansas. He must have been extremely pleased with their work, as we are pleased with the original atlases when we have an opportunity to examine them closely.
The 1878 Atlas of the Counties of Frontenac, Lennox and Addington
In 1878 Meacham began his very successful career as a publisher of Canadian county atlases. His first work, done when he was only 29 years old, was an Illustrated Historical Atlas of the Counties of Frontenac, Lennox and Addington, in Ontario. The Civil Engineer or surveyor who produced the magnificent maps was Meacham’s brother-in-law, Clement Allen. They were very young and ambitious men, Allen, at 28, a year younger than Meacham.
1878 ILLUSTRATED HISTORICAL/ ATLAS/ OF THE COUNTIES OF/ FRONTENAC, LENNOX/ and/ ADDINGTON ONTARIO/ Dedicated by Special Permission to His Excellency The EARL OF DUFFERIN K.B.K.C.B. Gov. General/ MAPS MADE FROM ACTUAL SURVEYS BY AND UNDER THE SUPERVISION OF/ C. R. ALLEN, CIVIL ENGINEER. / BY J. H. MEACHAM & CO./ TORONTO/ 1878/ Eng. By Worley & Bracher. / 27 So. Sixth St. Phila, Pa./ Printed by R. Bourquin, 31 So. Sixth St, Phila, Pa./ 17” tall by 13” wide so that open a full map can be 17” x 23”, Appended are Historical Description and Patrons Directory, which were printed locally.
You can study this atlas in detail at this download site at the Toronto Public Library. The pdf file is 565 mb and is too large for my blog to upload. With a reasonably fast internet connection this takes about 10 minutes to download. With slow rural PEI internet it can take over an hour!
This atlas is important for researchers trying to locate people in the three adjacent counties of Frontenac, Lennox and Addington. Kingston, in Frontenac County, was once the seat of government in Canada and a place of heavy Loyalist settlement. Here is the map of the area concerned, all geometrical, prepared by C. R. Allen.
An interesting fact which has not been noted is that the Meacham title page is copied almost exactly from other atlases of Ontario that were being published at the same time by a variety of publishers. Take for example, these specimens. Once a format had been settled upon that pleased the clients, it was kept and used in subsequent publications.
The Frontenac, Lennox and Addington atlas is laid out in a pattern that will become familiar as we look at Meacham’s publications. The first part is a historical description of settlement in the area. It does not refer to indigenous populations. There are historical descriptions of townships and biographies of leading citizens. Inserted in this section were two brightly-coloured double page maps of the Dominion of Canada, east and west. This would be typical of the other atlases also.
The second part of the atlas deals with the work of the surveyors with the detailed maps of lot holders and their acreage. Roads, railroads, telegraphs, and public buildings such as churches and schools are also indicated. In Meacham’s first atlas there are 59 maps of various sizes and many topographical illustrations showing individual properties, sometimes in a wider landscape. The final section is the Patron’s Directory. We are reminded that these books were funded by subscription. Postal addresses and place of birth information is provided in this and the subsequent atlases.
The binding of this, and the other atlases, was complicated, time-consuming, and therefore expensive. The folded folio sheets were glued onto a thin strip of folded paper which was then sewn into the binding. This meant that detail was not lost in the valley, like in an ordinary book. As a result, most of the information contained at the fold over was easily visible.
This, as well as the atlases to follow, were all printed as black and white lithographic images. At some point in the production process, teams of watercolourists would add washes to differentiate the various sections of the map.
The Pictou County Atlas
In 1879 Meacham published his second atlas, the Illustrated Historical Atlas of Pictou County, Nova Scotia. Here is the publishing data.
ILLUSTRATED HISTORICAL/ ATLAS/ OF/ PICTOU COUNTY/ NOVA SCOTIA/ Dedicated by Special Permission to His Excellency/ SIR JOHN DOUGLAS SUTHERLAND CAMPBELL/ K. T. K. M. K. G. Gov. General &c./ BY J. H. MEACHAM & CO./ PUBLISHERS/ 1879/ Eng. By Worley & Bracher. / 27 So. Sixth St. Phila, Pa./ Printed by R. Bourquin, 31 So. Sixth St, Phila, Pa./ C. R. ALLEN, CIVIL ENGINEER. 35 x 45 cm. 96 pages.
You can examine the atlas in varied detail at this site, David Rumsey Map Collection at Stanford University Libraries. Here is the link:
This atlas is set up in the same way as the Ontario atlas, and the colouring of the maps and the folio binding are the same. Here is the map of the area covered by the atlas. The map is not attributed to anybody and one wonders if it was drawn by Allen.
The Table of Contents displays the standard set up for the county atlases of the time. Only in areas that were largely unsettled were local histories left out.
The Prince Edward Island Atlas
Meacham’s third atlas was the one, not of a county, but of an entire province that consisted of three counties. It was by far the most ambitious work that Meacham ever embarked upon. He was just 31 years old! His arrival in Charlottetown as a map publisher was overshadowed for a time by the quite elegant, comprehensive and accurate bird’s eye view of the city published by Albert Ruger in 1878.
It would have been the talk of the town and Meacham must have been galled by its appearance because such an illustration would have been a great asset to his PEI atlas. Ruger had even done a bird’s eye view of Summerside! He would use such a panorama in Sabetha, Kansas, the location of his next – and last – atlas.
ILLUSTRATED HISTORICAL/ ATLAS/ OF THE PROVINCE OF/ PRINCE EDWARD/ ISLAND/ From Surveys made under the direction of/ C. R. ALLEN, C.E./ Dedicated by Special Permission to His Excellency/ SIR JOHN DOUGLAS SUTHERLAND CAMPBELL/ K. T. K. M. K. G. Gov. General &c./ J. H. MEACHAM & CO./ PUBLISHERS/ 1880/ Eng. By Worley & Bracher. / 27 So. Sixth St. Phila. Pa./ Printed by R. Bourquin. / 31 So. Sixth St. Phila. Pa.
The photograph of the original cover of the atlas was kindly provided by Harry Holman.)
In 1879 Meacham moved to Charlottetown with his pregnant wife and six-year-old daughter. They joined Clement Allen with his wife and daughter who had been there since the previous year. On 17 August 1879 Meachams second child, Helen Irene was born. What excitement there must have been for the family and the Charlottetown residents who would have followed these happenings with their usual enthusiasm. Since Meacham came from a Wesleyan Methodist family their new child was probably baptised in the new brick Wesleyan chapel on Prince Street.
The Meachams brought their family dog as well, because there is newspaper evidence that Gip went missing in February of 1880 and several newspaper ads offering a generous reward appeared in the Examiner. He is the one for February 10.
The loss of a beloved pet must have been very stressful for the whole family.
We know that Meacham must have been extremely busy coordinating activities on the Island. He must have given away many business cards, such as this one still in the possession of his grandson in 1983, when I photographed it.
A detailed description of the production and reception of the Atlas will be described in my next post, with all the newspaper clippings of the time that I have been able to gather to date.
The Kansas Atlas
The question that now arises in the difficult Meacham chronology is, where did Meacham go next? On 19 January 1881 in Detroit, Michigan, a third daughter, Grace S. Meacham was born, and just 9 months later, on October 8, she was dead. What a blow to the young family! But two years later in 1883 they had another daughter, Agnes, bringing the family up once again to three children.
The county atlas market that boomed for two decades in the 1870s and’80s called Meacham to the United States. So far, I have not been able to trace Meacham’s publishing career after 1880 until he turns up in Kansas five years later when public records on March 1, 1885, find him living in Sabetha, Kansas, in the northeast corner of the state, the heart of the American continent where he got a contract to produce an atlas for the counties of Brown and Nemaha. Sabetha seems like a pleasant country town, complete with fairground, as we can see in this bird’s eye view included in the atlas Meacham would produce. It seems to me that Meacham might have been inspired to include this spectacular image after having come in contact with Ruger’s 1878 view of Charlottetown, which was the talk of the town when Meacham arrived there to do his Prince Edward Island atlas. The view of Sabetha is found on page 62 of the atlas.
Life was good, he had a beautiful family, maybe the dog from Charlottetown had survived, and Meacham set up a publishing company in Sabetha when he began work on the county atlas. Life was not all hard work and there were hunting expeditions and the time to bring relaxation to a heavy and complicated work schedule.
The Kansas atlas was published with the same attention to detail as the previous three Canadian atlases we know about. In territory that was in the process of opening up to settlers, it was a guide to what was available as far as land and neighbours went. There was a lot of empty space, defined by an unrelenting grid of squares. The topography was illustrated with fine lithographic views printed by Meacham’s old business associates in Philadelphia, but there were no local histories because there was no history to write about that was relevant to the people at that time. The very important list of subscribers – a veritable who’s who of the region – is also present.
MEACHAM’S/ ILLUSTRATED ATLAS/ OF/ BROWN AND NEMAHA/ COUNTIES, / KANSAS/ COMPILED BY J. R. DUNHAM, ENGINEER & SURVEYOR. / PUBLISHED BY/ J. H. MEACHAM, SABETHA, KANSAS./ 1887. / / Eng. By Worley & Bracher. / 27 So. Sixth St. Phila. Pa./ Printed by R. Bourquin. / 31 So. Sixth St. Phila. Pa.
The Library of Congress has a complete and easy to use digitised version of the atlas. Pages can be downloaded easily in a variety of formats and sizes.
Meacham had surrounded himself with all the necessary surveyors and artists who were vital to the production of the atlas, and we know the names of two of them – A N Baker and Ham Fulton, both of Sabetha – who are mentioned in the local newspaper which, starved for news, would chronicle the departure from town of a person gone away for the weekend. We have no idea what Fulton and Baker did for Meacham. Since the newspapers frequently list them as being out of town, one may suppose that they were surveyors or artists. J. R. Dunham was the chief surveyor for the project. Now this is unusual because, in his three previous atlases, Meacham collaborated with the Civil Engineer, Clement Allen. Where had Allen gone? Well, Allen had also gone to Kansas where he was extremely busy producing county maps. Allen is elusive from this time on but there is one site that lists his major works in the years he flourished – 1878 – 1908 – and where, and in what quantities they can be found in various libraries. Here is the link to that site.
It may be that after his work in Charlottetown, Allen was drawn by the promise of very extensive work in the state of Kansas which was, at that time, opening up to settlement, and where the landscape had to be sorted out into suitable divisions for farming, towns amd industry. Here is a list, taken from the site above, that shows you just how busy Allen was in the late 1880s, after a mysterious lacuna of 7 years after the completion of the Charlottetown atlas. What was he doing? What was Meacham doing? There is much more to tell in this story.
Illustrated historical atlas of the counties of Frontenac, Lennox and Addington, Ontario by J.H. Meacham & Company, 1878
Illustrated historical atlas/of Pictou County Nova Scotia, C. R. Allen, Civil Engineer by J. H. Meacham & Co. publishers 1879
Illustrated historical atlas of the province of Prince Edward Island by J.H. Meacham & Company, 1880
Atchison and vicinity, Kansas by C. R Allen, 1887
Brown Co., Kansas by C. R Allen,1887
Barton Co., Kansas by C. R Allen, 1887
Collyer, Sec. 5, T. 12 S., R. 25 W., Trego Co. ; Ogallah, S 1/2, Sec. 23, T. 12 S., R. 22 W., Trego Co, Kansas by C. R Allen, 1887
Doniphan Co., Kansas by C. R Allen. 1887
Douglas Co., Kansas by C. R Allen, 1887
Ellis Co., Kansas by C. R Allen 1887
Great Bend, Barton Co. by C. R Allen, 1887
Johnson Co., Kansas by C. R Allen, 1887
Kingman Co., Kansas by C. R Allen, 1886-87
Harper County by C. R Allen, 1887
Nemaha Co., Kansas by C. R Allen, 1887
Trego Co., Kansas by C. R Allen, 1887
Ness Co., Kansas by C. R Allen, 1887
Sumner Co., Kansas by C. R Allen, 1887
An obvious question arises: was it Allen who got Meacham the atlas job in Kansas, perhaps because he was smothered by contracts for similar projects in the state? Did he persuade his old friend to come and find boundless employment so far away from Charlottetown and the triumph of his PEI Atlas? Allen was too busy to be the surveyor on the job, but maybe he is the one who recommended a competent colleague – J. R. Dunham – to fill in for him.
The atlas was 128 pages long and the table of contents tells us what it contained. There were over 160 very fine illustrations of farms, the usual civic architecture, and many portraits, in this cow-town region, of horses and cows.
Here is a dramatic portrait of a very special stud horse.
As in his other atlases, Meacham included country and regional maps available from other map publishers. Like the Allen map in the PEI atlas, one would have expected Meacham to produce his own map of Kansas, but he does not. He buys rights to his map from, another publisher.
A terrible end to a most productive life
In choosing friends, Meacham made a tragic mistake in August of 1887 when he allowed into his life a travelling salesman called Nathan William Flaisig (1843 – 1928). Thanks to a fellow researcher on Ancestry, I was able to find out a great deal about this long-lived man. He claimed that for over 60 years, he was the sales representative of an English firm that made sewing needles and which, because of his efforts, came close to having a monopoly on the US market. He was not a nice man, despite his four marriages. He was a publicity hound who exploited, for most of his life, provincial newspapers in search of a dramatic story. Flaisig provided them all and it is easy to find the articles in newspaper searches. He was a fantasist and a blatant self-glorifying liar. He claimed to have fought in the Civil War with the rank of Colonel, and that he captured in battle his brother who was also a Colonel and a Confederate soldier. Searches on the internet indicate that his rank was that of corporal. Here is one of those articles which appeared late in his life which display the quintessence of fantasy and bragging.
1920, January 29 – Chico newspaper, Chico, Butte County, California.
Sixty-Two Years On Road, Record of Aged Salesman
Seventy years in the employ of the same firm during which time he has spent 63 years on the road covering two million miles of territory, is the record of N. W. Flaisig, dean of traveling salesmen, who was in Chico yesterday calling on the trade.
Flaisig, who earned for himself the title of Colonel during the civil war, has been around the world seven times, has made over 100 trips to England where his firm is located, and is now 82 years old, the oldest of traveling salesmen.
Flaisig entered the employ of William Crowley & Sons, London needle manufacturers, in 1850, when he; was ten years old. He was placed on the road in 1858 when he was eighteen years old, and he has been sleeping in hotels and Pullman cars ever since.
During the war Col. Flaisig journeyed from England to America on a ship which destroyed a submarine. Asked yesterday. if it was not time to retire from active business, he said: “I can’t. I’m too old.”
Flaisig is commonly known by the public as the Millionaire Needle Man, being the only millionaire drummer in the world. The biggest portion of his wealth has been accumulated during the past twenty years. He has lots in Jacksonville, Florida, a plantation in Texas, farm lands in Missouri, and a vine-covered bungalow home in Alhambra, California, as well as an orange grove in which he delights,
Flaisig fought on the Federal side for four years in the Civil war, and took his brother, who was also a Colonel under the Confederate forces, a prisoner. He has seen life from all angles. At ono time he was shipwrecked on the west coast of Algiers, and his companions were all eaten by the cannibals. He has lived through many narrow calls, and at the age of 80 years he is now head sales manager for the whole $40,000,000 concern. He personally travels the west end southern portions of the United States, going from Los Angeles up through Oregon and Washington, diagonally across the country to Florida, and back through the south to his home.
Such is the glorified life of a scoundrel who was about to enter Meacham’s life only to destroy it. We have no idea how they met.
I do not know yet if the Atlas of Brown and Nemaha Counties had appeared in August of 1887 or if Meacham lived to launch his last publication, because on August 30, Meacham, Baker and Flaisig went on a short hunting expedition in the Ord Valley area in Nebraska, a short distance away. There, he was involved in a hunting accident, and died at the age of 37. This is how the accident was described in the local newspaper.
1887, 8 September, The Sabetha Herald, Page 1.
The Meacham Accident
Through the kindness of D. A. Force, we have the following particulars connected with the death of J. H. Meacham. It appears that Mr. Meacham and A. N. Baker had gone on a hunting expedition to Ord, a place some twenty miles north of Grand Island. Staying over night at Ord they hired a two seated rig, and in the morning started for the country.
A traveling man, named Flaisig accompanied them. They were out about a mile, where they shot some birds, and A. N. Baker alighted to pick them up. When about thirty feet from the wagon he noticed other birds on a stack close by, and without turning called to Meacham to shoot them. The latter sprang to his feet – he was sitting on the front seat of the vehicle – and was raising his gun, when the gun of Mr. Flaisig, who was sitting on the back seat, was discharged, how is still a mystery, and will always remain so. The contents passed over Meacham’s shoulder, cutting the coat from it, but not touching it, and entered his neck and head, penetrating the brain, and lodging within the skull on the opposite side. The jugular vein was severed, and the unfortunate man fell to the ground and expired without a groan, being dead when Mr. Baker reached his side. No more sudden death can be imagined nor can one more unlooked for. The family are almost heartbroken with grief. The body was taken to Detroit, Mich., for internment, accompanied by the family and a sister of Mrs. Meacham, who resides at Council Bluffs.
And what became of Meacham’s family?
A few years after the tragedy we see in the City Directory that Margelia, with Helen and Harriet, had moved to Battle Creek, Michigan in 1889. Margelia would survive John Hubbard Meacham by many years, dying on December 9, 1938, in Bedford, Michigan at the age of 89.
Meacham’s daughter Helen married Claude Antoine Eckman on July 22, 1906, in Detroit, Michigan, USA. They had one child during their marriage, David Meacham Eckman, who born on July 10, 1910, in Battle Creek, Michigan. He died on August 27, 1992, in his hometown at the age of 82. Nine years before his death he remembered his mother’s Island connection and visited in 1983 to satisfy his curiosity and to forge links. Miraculously, in such a tangled chronology, I met him when he came to the Heritage Foundation to meet the publication Director, Linda Steele, who sold, to an insatiable public, the first-class full-size reproduction of the atlas the Foundation had produced. He gave the foundation copies of photographs of his grandparents, and they are now in the Public Archives, as is the business card his father gave out when he was living in Charlottetown. As a person keen on history, it was the greatest pleasure to shake the hand of a hero’s grandson and to hold, for a moment, a card that may once have been in the hand of its owner.
And what of Clement Allen and his family?
Allen would live on, working into the 20th Century until he died on February 27, 1909, in Ottumwa, Iowa, USA, at the age of 58, and was buried there. His obituary (Nonpareil, Council Bluffs, Iowa, February 28, 1909) tells us that he lived in Council Bluffs from 1883 to 1890 and gained considerable recognition by his publication of maps. He published his last map of this city in 1898, during the Transmississippi Exposition. In his last years he lived in Ottumwa, Iowa where he served as city engineer and was an officer in the state organization of engineers. He left behind a son, who was also a civil engineer, a daughter and three brothers. His wife, Josephine Burdge died on May 20, 1937, in Ottumwa, Iowa, at the age of 86, and was buried there.
It is a relief to have come this far with both men. They are no longer just names but brothers-in-law of the same very early age starting families and inventing a substantial business that had a future. Even if I don’t manage to progress any further in this work, the PEI atlas is now the work of two young men with families, not just a featureless publisher and surveyor.
Thus, passed into history the precious achievements of a wildly talented young man who gave Prince Edward Island the most intimate portrait of the human and natural artefact that it has ever had.
Some genealogies to guide future research
For those of you who have subscriptions to Ancestry.ca you can have access to the preliminary genealogical table I did of Meacham, his ancestors and descendants. I believe my work to be accurate, with each choice dictated by a document that overlapped with another, however, here and there, I have fears that I took a wrong track. Like everything else, its a beginning, and hopefully others will improve on my work.
Here are the beginnings of a family tree for Flaisig, Meacham’s killer, and his colleague Baker, who was present when the accident happened.
Genealogy courtesy of Ancestry.ca
Here is the starting page for a genealogy of Clement Rewey Allen, again courtesy of Ancestry.ca. It may be that some of my readers will use it as a starting point for further research on this talented civil engineer.
My thanks go out to the following individuals who all provided me with vital information about the production of Meacham’s ATLAS and about various individuals associated with him in one way or another. Their contributions, linked together, gave substance and credibility to what I have written in these posts.
Harry Holman, that tireless and very skilled researcher, found leads in newspapers and the Kingston Directory that place Meacham geographically and in time, and an American obituary notice that helps flesh out the surveyor C. R. Allen.
Mary Hyll (norway 1911 on Ancestry) directed me to the details of the story of how Meacham met his end, and many newspaper references to the man who hilled him, Nate Flaisig.
Carolyn McKillop of Summerside shared with me some family papers that concerned the Meacham family, thus providing me with a copy of his business card, promotional material, an Atlas receipt and photographs of Meacham and his wife.
[Beck, Boyde], “Meacham’s 1880 Atlas – A Brief History,” The Island Magazine, Number 74, Fall/Winter 2013, PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation, 2013.
Holman, H. T. “Panorama for Sale: The Bird’s Eye Views of Prince Edward Island”, The Island Magazine, No. 21 Fall/Winter 1988
Meacham, J. H., Illustrated Historical Atlas of the Province of Prince Edward Island, J. H. Meacham & Co., Philadelphia, 1880
Murray, Jeffrey S., “The County Map Hustlers”, Canadian Geographic, December 1990/January 1991
Reps, John W., Views and Viewmakers of Urban America. University of Missouri Press, Columbia, 1984
Ruell, David, “The Bird’s Eye Views of New Hampshire 1875-1899”. New Hampshire Historical Society, 1983
University of Prince Edward Island: