By Myra Lee Adams Goff
After writing the column about the digging of the Comal Canal by William Hunter Meriwether, much personal information has come to light about this man about whom we knew so little, but was so important to the development of New Braunfels. Refresh your memory in the sophienburg.com website for Sept. 6, 2011.
Through the Internet, Joy Alexander, who was responsible for the initial research about William Hunter Meriwether, made several connections with the Meriwether family. They were just as interested in what Meriwether did in NB, as we were in what he did before he came here.
Meriwether, (this is the correct spelling) nicknamed “Billy Fish” descended from families active in the American Revolution. The family hails from Albemarle County, Virginia. It was there that William Douglass Meriwether (father of William Hunter) bought 500 acres on the Rivanna River and constructed a large merchant mill and sawmill. He built a toll bridge and dam across the Rivanna. In 1840 the father and son greatly increased the business of the area by erecting the Charlottesville Factory for carding and weaving cotton and wool, sawing timber and grinding flour. (Source: Rick Britton; “The Charlottesville Woolen Mills, Clothing a Nation”) The elder Meriwether died in 1845 and the business was sold.
Now look at what we know about William Hunter. He came to NB in 1846 and bought the area later known as Landa Park. He had married Frances Poindexter from a prominent family in 1821. Together they had two babies, both of whom either died at birth or as infants. There is no record of when Frances died except “before 1850”. She must have died or they may have divorced before he came to NB. In 1856, he married his cousin “Kate” Witing Meriwether from Virginia. She was 18 and he was 63.
An interesting story from the New York Weekly, Nov. 28, 1857:
A collision between the steamer Opelousas and the steamer Galveston. Opelousas came out of Berwick Bay and the Galveston out of Galveston, Texas. The Galveston struck the Opelousas midship causing her to sink in 20 minutes, losing several lives. The Galveston received little damage and all the passengers were saved. Listed on the ship list of the Opalousas were WH Meriwether and lady who gave his home as San Antonio. The freight was totally lost and had headed for the ports in Galveston and Indianola. From there it was destined to the Texas interior. About 300 barrels of pork, flour, corn, sugar, molasses, and coffee for Meriwether were headed for San Antonio, Victoria, Corpus Christi, Lavaca, Matagorda, and New Braunfels.
Now in 1859 Meriwether sold his holdings here in NB to Joseph Landa, and he and his wife moved to Shelby, Tennessee. In his will written May 15, 1861, he confessed to having much pain and leaving everything to his wife “Kate”. He died May 21, 1861, in Tennessee.
Now here’s an interesting side-story: The family does not know where he was buried, but in the Presbyterian Cemetery in Lynchburg, Va. there is a marble shaft 10 ft. high with the following inscription: “To my husband William Hunter Meriwether; Thou art gone, but not forgotten; At Rest”. To the left and right of the stone are two small stones, one with a dove with “N.D. Meriwether, age 16 months”, and the other “J.M. Meriwether” with a rosebud on it. The mystery is “Who were these children? Perhaps the children that he had with his first wife. Did the second wife move them or him there?
Our William Hunter Meriwether and the famous Meriwether Lewis were first cousins, once removed. In other words, Thomas Meriwether was the grandfather of Meriwether Lewis and the g-grandfather of William Hunter Meriwether. Meriwether Lewis was commander of the Lewis and Clark Exploration of the Missouri and Colorado Rivers from 1804-06. He was appointed by Pres. Thomas Jefferson. A mystery surrounds his death in 1809. He was either killed or committed suicide in Natchez Trace, Tenn. on his way back from Louisiana to Washington.
In my home office I have a sign reading “Circa Trova” meaning “Seek and you will find”. Wow, did we ever!