Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday's Obituary: Thomas James Meredith (c.1815-29 August 1855)

Thomas James Meredith, called James by his family, was the eldest child of Maj. John Meredith of Lancaster county, Virginia. According to the 1850 census James was born in 1815. In December, 1832 he was living and working at a store near Totuskey Bridge in Richmond County, Virginia. He remained there for over a decade, living with first his uncle, Joseph Meredith, then with his aunt, Caroline Meredith Shearman. He assumed responsiblity for his younger half-sister and brothers following the deaths of his father in 1834 and stepmother in 1835. (You can read about his sister Margaret here and here and about his brother William here.) By 1847 he had moved to Baltimore to work directly with his uncle, Thomas Meredith, at the firm Meredith & Spencer. He appeared in the 1850 census with a wife, Elizabeth and two young children. Elizabeth appears alone, widowed in the 1860 census with three children. 

Much of my knowledge of James is drawn from the letters he wrote from Totuskey Bridge to his uncle Thomas Meredith in Baltimore. The letters are part of the Thomas Meredith Papers at the Maryland Historical Society. They are warm and affectionate, painting a picture of a devoted brother and nephew, as well as an active merchant.

From the Library of Congress

A search of Google Books yielded a horrible clue to James' fate. An 1856 New Jersey legislative report included reports from the railroad and canal companies that listed a Thomas I. Meredith of Baltimore as a fatality in an August 29, 1855 railroad accident. Since James was indexed as Thos I Meredith in the 1850 census it seemed probable that he was the Meredith listed in the report. News reports from the Baltimore Sun and New York Times confirmed that he was one of twenty-two killed when a train derailed near Burlington, NJ. Dozens more were injured. The accident was headline news during early September while the coroner's inquest was held. 

The Baltimore Sun published an update on August 31st (p. 4) that read
The papers of yesterday contained the particulars of the terrible railroad accident on the Camden and Amboy road, by which two of our most estimable merchants were suddenly hurried into eternity, viz: Mr. John Dallam, of the firm of Dallam & Miller, and Mr. Thomas J. Meredith. Both of these gentlemen were about forty years of age, and leave families to morn their loss -- Mr Dallam leaving a wife and two children, and Mr. Meredith a wife and three children. Their partners, Messrs. Spencer and Miller, left yesterday morning, in the early train, for the scene of the disaster, for the purpose of bringing __ the remains. They were expected at an early hour this morning, and arrangements were made for the purpose of interring them in Greenmount Cemetery upon their arrival.
Should the funeral not take place until a later hour, we learn that the merchants on Baltimore Street and in the vicinity of the stores of the deceased, will close their establishments during the hours of the internment as a mark of respect.
James' widow Elizabeth remained in their home on Biddle Street until marrying a widower, Alexander Wolf, in 1868. Their children Thomas, (b. 1847), Kate (b. 1848), and Florence (b. 1854) appear with their mother on 1863 I.RS. Tax Assessment lists and with Alexander and Elizabeth Wolf in the 1870 census. Kate and Florence appear on the 1880 census as Kate and Florence Wolf, living with their mother Elizabeth, who was apparently widowed again. Thomas may be the Thomas J. Meredith (b. 1847, Maryland) who appears in Gloucester County, Virginia in the 1900 census.


  1. Great post!
    I don't know if I congratulated you yet on the nomination for the FT40, so CONGRATULATIONS! You deserve it!

  2. Do you have any idea what the maiden name of Thomas's wife was?

    I am trying to connect this TJ Meredith with the Clouchester Co, Va one?

  3. According to his family, he was married to Elizabeth Janvier. There are other records on the blog related to the family (click on Meredith at top right of this page). You may also email me using the envelope photo in the right column. Family letters I found this summer make it clear this Thomas was the father of the TJ Meredith of Gloucester, VA.


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