|Meakers from all over the world|
(England, USA, Australia, Africa)
Mr. and Mrs. Julius Meaker, Sr.
Joseph Meaker, resident of High Ham, Somersetshire, England, emigrated to the New World in 1875 and a new home near Monica, Illinois, where relatives had preceded him. Two years later his wife, their five children, a sister-in- law and a niece joined the head of their family. Among the newcomers was Orlando, second son, fourth child, age eleven when the family left England.
Two more children were born to the new family in Illinois but Joseph's wife was not to enjoy for long her family. On January 10, 1884, Mrs. Meaker, mother seven, died. There remains a eulogy written by Annie, sixteen year old daughter, on the death of her mother eighty-seven years ago:
Our mother dear has gone to rest,
No mortal care now fills her breast;
Faithful and true while on earth below,
She has gone, the peace of Heaven to know,
Rest in peace, dear Mother
Life's trials are o'er;
Thou hast crossed the dark cold river,
Thou hast reached the shining shore.
The widowed father of seven remarried two years later. By then his son, Orlando was sixteen and wholly self-supporting. His first employment was with a neighbor-farmer who taught the boy simple arithmetic, to read and write. So fond did the employer become of the willing young worker that he wished to adopt the boy, but Joseph Meaker refused. Later, Orlando Meaker found work as water-boy with a railroad construction crew, employment that included board and room. Subsequent experience included a term as streetcar conductor in Peoria, Illinois. After several years of intermittent and diverse employment, Orlando returned to aid his father on a rented farm southwest of Chatsworth, Illinois.Forseveralyearsheservedasassistanttoa veterinarian, an experience that proved invaluable on Texas plains. The year the Meaker family left England, Julia Dubein, a blond three year old of Basel Switzerland came with her parents to live in Illinois. Fifteen years later Julia, on December 31, 1892, married Orlando, then a partner with his father.
For twenty-one years the Meakers were successful farmers in Illinois. Unfortunately, the acres they cultivated were rented land, sold in 1908. In that era there were vast areas of empty, unimproved prairie in the Texas Panhandle, owned by British and American capital. It was a practice in that time (and it continues to this) for owners of large holdings to advertise among Illinois farmers, land for sale in Texas, and intermittently, to organize free trips by train for prospective purchasers of Texas acreage. In 1908 Orlando Meaker and two neighbors, William Dittberner and Frank Curyea, joined a group of potential purchasers of grassed prairie, and at the expense of the land company journeyed to Panhandle, Texas. Land-agents then, and now, were high-pressure salesmen and they took care to isolate the excursionists from the few settlers in the new land. Meaker and Dittberner each were sold adjoining half-sections at $18.00 an acre, some ten miles east of Panhandle. To Frank Curyea was sold a section, at the same price, about eleven miles west of the town. The men later learned that equally good land was available from the White Deer Land and Cattle Company, at $9.00 an acre. Dittberner and Curyea settled on their purchases that year. Meaker returned to Illinois to prepare for the move two years later.
To his family in Illinois, Meaker described the new land as "Prairie, prairie and more prairie", a sea of tall grass fattening range cattle, the endless expanse uninterrupted by very few dugouts, fewer houses and windmills, and no trees save along widely spaced creeks. He thought it truly ' 'wide, open country". He was to see it change slowly, imperceptibly, over a span of sixty years and always he was proud to be a member of the community that effected chang