Beyond the Tragic Death of William Luff Meredith

Killed in 1901 at Guy’s Drug Store, Seattle

Headlines ran in newspapers telling of the fateful day William Luff Meredith died. Even his memorial at Find A Grave reprints the article from the Morning Oregonian.  The headlines for the June 26th article reads: “Death Ends Feud, Ex-Chief Meredith Shot and Killed by John Considine, Dead Man Fired First Shot,” and included the side by side photo sketches of the “Principals in Tragedy at Seattle.”

Rather than re-hashing Meredith’s death, I wanted to present some ancestral highlights that trace his lineage to Luff Meredith for whom he was named. 

William Luff Meredith drew his first breath in Indiana on the 12th day of October, 1868.  His father, William Morton Meredith, was a Captain in the Civil War, having served under the command of Col. Benjamin Harrison with the 70th Indiana.  At the time he married, in 1867, he was a foreman at the Indiana Journal having learned the printing trade from his father.  His 2nd wife, the mother of William Luff’, was Terressa Adelia Richey, who was more than twelve years his junior but age twenty at the time their son was born. 

During the early years of William Luff’s life, his father worked for the St. Louis Globe, and later the Western Bank Note Company of Chicago.  He was so employed until 1889 when he was appointed by Secretary Windom as Director of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington D.C.  In 1891 he assigned “the first colored lady,” Miss Frances Flood, to press despite the opposition and indignations.  He died on 24 Dec 1917 in Centerville, Wayne Co., Indiana, and was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.

The grandfather of William Luff was Samuel Caldwell Meredith, one of eight known children born to John Wheeler Meredith and Elizabeth (Busby).  Born in Greene Co., Pennsylvania, on 27 Nov 1807, he became a printer, learning the trade in Dayton, Ohio as an apprentice to Robert J. Skinner.  In 1829 he was married to Margaret Ballard in Springfield, Illinois and they became the parents of five children:  John Ballard born in 1830, and Mary J., born in 1832 died in their infancy; William Morton, the father of William Luff, was born 1835 and was married 1st to Emeline Shellenberger, and 2nd to Tereressa Richey, as noted; James H, who was born in 1838 and died at age 7; and Emily Ellen who was born in 1842, and married Capt. Edward W. Nicholson and had two children including Indiana author Meredith Nicholson.

William’s great-grandfather was John Wheeler Meredith who was born in Kent Co., Delaware on 10 Feb 1761.  He was a shoemaker who was on board a merchant vessel en route for Delaware when it was attacked during the hostilities leading up to the Revolution.  He was wounded and held prisoner, and afterwards enlisted at Dover in 1777 and was with General Horatio Gates at Saratoga, and also fought at the Battle of Cowspen.  He built a small flat boat at the mouth of the Little Whiteby Creek and in the spring of 1815 came down the Ohio River landing at Columbia, a few miles above Cincinnati.  After living a couple years on a farm near Lisbon, he settled on a tract of land in Miami County, Ohio which he had received as a bounty land grant from his service during the Revolutionary War.   He remained there several years and then removed to Troy in Concord Township.  He died 8 Aug 1844 and was laid to rest at Rose Hill Cemetery.

According to various histories of Delaware, the great-great grandfather, Luff Meredith, was one of three brothers who migrated from Wales to Bucks County, Pennsylvania in about 1670.  In about 1702 or 1703 they moved to Pencader Hundred.  Devout Baptists, their migration to Delaware coincides closely with the time in which William Penn granted thirty thousand acres of land thereafter known as "The Welsh Tract," to be divided and deeded to settlers from South Wales.

Thus are the direct ancestors of William Luff Meredith briefly outlined.

After his death, his widow and children spent several weeks in Oak Park, Illinois and two weeks in Washington D.C. before returning to Seattle for the trial of John Considine.  His widow, Nellie N. Jennings died the following year on the 4th of August, 1902. The daughter of Frederick A. Jennings and Elisabeth (Galliher), she was born in Council Grove, Kansas and was married to Luff in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1891.  Laid to rest beside Luff at Lake View Cemetery in Seattle, she was survived by their two children, Russell and Dorothy.

Thanks to my Ballard cousin Margaret (Meredith) Arrington I had been able to learn through our correspondences over the last decade much more about the Meredith line and her uncle, William Luff Meredith.  

Additional thanks to my daughter, Lara, who visited Lake View Cemetery and photographed the final resting place of Luff and Nellie, which consequently led to additional information.

Happy Birthday Margaret, this one’s for you.

Select Sources:
  • 1900 U.S. Census King Co., WA ED ED 88 Precinct 3 Seattle city Ward 2; image 21 of 32; citing NARA microfilm publication T623
  • Bible Records of John W. Meredith - Margaret (Meredith) Arrington papers
  • British Columbia, Canada, British Columbia Archives film number B11372, Division of Vital Statistics, Victoria; FHL microfilm 198352
  • Family history of Patsy Skeels
  • History of the Sate of Delaware from the Earliest Settlements to the Year 1907 by Henry C. Conrad, Wilmington, Delaware, 1907
  • Indiana and Indianans, a History of Aboriginal and Territorial Indiana and the Century of Statehood by Jacob Piatt Dunn, Vol III, The American Historical Society, Chicago and New York, 1919
  • John Wheeler Meredith to son Samuel C. Meredith. Letter dated 13 October 1826; Margaret (Meredith) Arrington papers
  • Lake View Cemetery – William Luff Meredith 2014 headstone photo by Lara L. Peters
  • Old Familiar Faces by Meredith Nicholson
  • Skid Road, an Informal Portrait of Seattle by Murray Morgan, Viking Press, 1951
  • The Washington Post August 7, 1903 (Obituary of Terressa A. Meredith)
  • Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans. Vol. I-X. Boston, MA, USA: The Biographical Society, 1904
  • Welsh Tract Baptist Meeting (New Castle County, Del.) by Winny Jones, The Historical Society of Delaware
Additional Links on Death and Trial:



by Patricia Davidson-Peters

Martin Short (1864)
Martin Short was born in about 1823, but despite his many descendants his ancestry and first twenty years of his life remain somewhat of a mystery.

Family stories handed down through the generations suggest he had come from St. Denis, Quebec.  This seems likely given the fact he and Matilda Norman were married in Bakersfield, Vermont, which is approximately one hundred miles due south and half that distance from Montreal where Matilda had been living in a convent.

The exact year of their marriage was not documented by Justice of the Peace John Morse who had apparently married them and many other couples, but had failed to record all but two records during a two year period. Evidently Justice Morse did not seem to find the time or consider these vital matters of much importance.  Using various records, many of which are conflicting, it seems they were married in either 1844 or 1846.

At the time their eldest known child, Mary Marie, was born in 1849 they were living in New York, but by time the next surviving child, Elizabeth Jane, was born in 1853, the family was again living in Vermont.  From there they moved westward to Illinois, and in 1859 their third child, Eunice Matilda, was born in Macoupin County where the family was enumerated the following year.

The brighter future they had hoped for in the Prairie State was not to be. They were stricken with fever and chills, and the wheat fields Martin had sowed fared no better.  No doubt the opening of the Minnesota territory in 1849 and the rapid development of the Upper Mississippi River Valley had given him renewed hope for he arrived by steamboat at Winona in about 1861.  From the great wheat producing and shipping port of Winona, Martin walked another thirty miles more or less to the village of Saratoga where he found farm work.  He then sent for his family, and the following year rented a farm of his own which is where they were living during the early conflicts of the Civil War and at the time their son George McClellan was born in 1862.

This northern man and family man I proudly call my 3rd great grandfather had not been anxious to join the conflict. He had "no taste for war" and had been able to avoid it until the opening of 1864 at which time he had either been  persuaded by his neighbors, or enticed by the sum of the bounty.  He enlisted at Saratoga on the 22nd day of January under the command of Colonel Wilkin and Captain Wellman of the Ninth Minnesota Infantry.  He was by no means a youngster. He was aged forty-one and described as having black eyes, brown hair, a dark complexion and standing 5’ 7½ inches tall,  and he most probably could not read or write for his enlistment papers were signed with an “x.”

Gravely concerned about "the defenseless and penniless condition of his family should he be killed in battle," Martin and thirty-four new recruits were trained at Rolla for two months of drilling.  Afterwards, on May 26th, they assembled near St. Louis at Camp Gamble which had been formerly known as Camp Jackson prior to its capture by the Federals three years earlier.   On the 29th, the regiment embarked on the steamer, B.M. Runyon and reached Memphis on the 31st. The following morning Colonel Wilkin received orders from General Sturgis to proceed to Corinth, Mississippi by way of Salem and Ruckerville with the intent to destroy the Mobile and Ohio Railroad before advancing as far as possible toward Macon and Columbus. Carrying three days rations in their haversacks, Martin and his regiment disembarked on the morning of June 1st and marched to the Memphis and Charleston depot. The officers and men were said to have been in "fine spirits" at this point and marched the six miles into La Fayette where they spent the next day in camp.

On the morning of June 10th, at seven o'clock, the regiment reached the First Brigade and fell in rear of the Ninety-third Indiana. The day was extremely hot and sultry, the country was largely woodland, the roads extremely muddy, and the rapid march under a scorching sun soon had a very exhausting effect upon them.  By two o'clock many of the men had begun to fain and fall out of the ranks.  At least one was known to have died from sun-stroke. Posted near the large two-story home of William Brice, the "Battle of Brice's Crossroad" raged until dark with the Ninth Minnesota desperately struggling to hold their position.  Forced to retreat, they drug themselves along through the swampy bottom sinking to their knees in mud.  Bone-weary and weak with only a couple hours of rest, they were roused during the night and moved with such exhaustion that many of them fell into the enemy's hands who had lit fires which the men had thought to be their own. When they were forced into retreat and rejoined their regiment at Memphis, only sixty-seven percent of Martin's company were present - the remaining were missing, including Martin Short.

The disastrous defeat suffered by the Union forces at Brice's Crossroads cost the Ninth considerably. Colonel Marsh's report dated June 15, 1864, claimed the loss as: two officers killed and 6 captured; 7 enlisted men killed, 20 wounded and left on the field; 13 wounded and brought away; and two hundred and thirty-three enlisted taken prisoner.  The privates of Co. K, 9th Minnesota who were captured with Martin on the 10th of June, 1864 were:  Octavo Barker, a native of Maine; Jacob Baden; Hiram Burroughs or Burrows of New York; Alois Burzell, a native of Germany; Moses Chamberlain; Charles Dietrich, a native of Germany; Robert H. Durham; George Fraham, a native of Germany; John G. Frederck; John Gordon, a native of Ireland; George O. Jenkins; Michael W. Lawton; John Morrison, a native of Scotland; Charles Newton of New York; Charles Pratchett of England; and Pierre Rodier of Canada.

Two days after the battle, the Rebels set up Dr. John C. Dixon, Assistant surgeon of the 9th Minnesota, in a makeshift hospital on the first floor of the scorched Ripley courthouse which had been burned by the Union Army. It’s possible Martin might have had contact or seen Dr. Dixon who had attended the birth of his son, George. If there had been an exchange, it was most likely very brief since shortly after Martin’s arrival he and another 649 prisoners (including four others from Company K) were boarded onto a train toward a destination none could ever imagine.

 Issuing rations. Andersonville Prison, Ga., August 17, 1864.
Photographed by A. J. Riddle. 165-A-445
By the time May had come and gone and Martin had arrived, seventeen thousand Union soldiers had entered the prison in Andersonville, Georgia.  An additional thousand were dying, and about fifteen hundred had already perished.

Unlike the scorching hot temperatures they had endured in May, June had opened with a drenching rain which continued steadily until the 19th.  Over forty thousand prisoners had now entered the stockade, the majority of which had been reduced to ragged remnants of the soldiers they had been.  It was this canvas of stench, disease, starvation and death which Martin would have weakly gaped upon as he mustered forth for enrollment.

It is not known whether he had been able to have a fellow soldier write a letter home on his behalf or not.  But of those who were fortunate enough to do so, they often requested of their family to send food and clothing and if they were able to so oblige, it would have probably arrived months later only to be stolen.  Deemed as "fresh fish," the new arrivals were preyed upon by a group of "Raiders" which numbered somewhere between 150 and 500 strong. These men would terrorize, steal, unmercifully beat and in some instances, kill those who tried to resist them. Eventually another group of prisoners formed a police force known as "The Regulators" to combat the terrorism and called upon the Camp Commander, Capt. Henry Wirz, who had them arrested.  When they were found guilty by their fellow prisoners and sentenced to hang in July of 1864, Martin Short would have been present, but barely so.

He entered the hospital prison on August 5th and is noted to have been the first soldier from the Ninth Minnesota Volunteers to have died from scurvy. The official date of his death from his military records reads August 17, 1864.  How or when Matilda learned of his death is not known.  She had filed for the bounty due her husband on the 25th of February the following year, and his name also appeared on the 1865 Minnesota State Census above hers and three of their four children.

Martin's headstone at Andersonville
Photographed by Ken on his 2004 visit.
Martin's fear of leaving his family “defenseless and penniless” had found its truth.  In the years which followed it is said his widow worked day and night and was never known to be idle.  She lived successively in Minnesota at Whalen, Rushford and eventually Brownsdale where she had arrived in May of 1891. Known as a tenderly devoted mother, a thrifty housewife, a kindly neighbor and friend, Matilda passed away on the 6th of January in 1902, and was laid to rest at Greenwood Cemetery. She had been survived by all four children: Mary Marie, wife of Nathan Osmer of Charles City, Iowa; Elizabeth "Jane", wife of Charles Johnston, of Portage Mills, Wisconsin; Eunice Matilda, wife of Albro B. Danforth of Hope, North Dakota; and George McClellan of Brownsdale, Minnesota.

This month marks one hundred fifty years since Martin's sad and tragic death, and although we descendants have not yet been able to document the details of Martin and Matilda’s earliest years, their strife and struggles have not, nor will they be forgotten.

Thanks to Francis Johnston for contributing the photo of Martin in uniform to me so many years ago and for donating its likeness to the Andersonville National Historic Site to keep on file for others.  Also, special thanks to Ken Randall for sharing his photos and visit to Andersonville, and to Fran Anderson for her generosity and kindness over the years, and to Jeff McEwen and all other Short descendants who corresponded and shared their family information. -pdp

Notes: Photo of Andersonville Prison (above) was taken the same day as Martin Short's official date of death.  His burial is listed in the Roll of Honor recorded by the U.S. Quartermaster's Department. He was buried in grave #5941 (above) and was included in the recent publication of John B. Lundstrom's One Drop in a Sea of Blue: The Liberators of the Ninth Minnesota, published by Minnesota Historical Society, 2012.  The website of author and blogger, P. Davidson-Peters, aka Sunnyann was cited in Lundstrom's book on page 431 in reference to Martin Short.


  1. Adjutant General, Reports, 1863
  2. Andersonville Map and Guide Brochure - National Park Service
  3. Andersonville National Cemetery at Find A Grave
  4. Atwater, Dorence, A List of the Union Soldiers Buried at Andersonville, copied from the official record in the surgeon's office at Andersonville, The Tribune Association, New York, 1866 on openlibrary.org
  5. Babcock, Willoughy B. M., Minnesota's Frontier, A Neglected Sector of the Civil War, Minnesota History Magazine, Minnesota Historical Society 
  6. Brownsdale, Mower County Transcript, January 15,1902 - Obituary of Matilda Shortt
  7. The Civil War: St. Louis Union Arsenal and Camp Jackson - video presented by HEC TV
  8. Documents of the Assembly of the State of New York, Volume 13, New York State Legislature. Assembly, James B. Lyon, State Printer, Albany, New York, 1894 (Google eBook)
  9. Geographical Map of the Battle of Brice's Crossroads Preservation Lines and Troop Movements - Mississippi's Final Stands, the Last Battlegrounds
  10. Letter of Colonel J.F. Marsh to Oscar Malmros, Adjutant General, dated 21 Nov 1864 from Benton Barracks, Missouri - Headquarters of the 9th Minnesota Volunteers
  11. Lundstrom, John B., One Drop in a Sea of Blue: The Liberators of the Ninth Minnesota, Minnesota Historical Society Press, St. Paul, Minn, 2012
  12. Marvel, William, Andersonville, the Last Depot, The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill and London, 1994.
  13. Minnesota in the Civil and Indian Wars 1861-1865, Board of Commissioners, printed for the state of Minnesota by the Pioneer Press Co., St. Paul, 1891 on openlibrary.org
  14. Sinking of the Steamer B.M. Runyon, Fifty Lives Lost, New York Times July 27, 1864
  15. National Archives Military Records
  16. U.S. Federal and State Census records: 1860, 1865, 1870, 1875, 1880, 1885, 1890, 1895 and 1900
  17. U.S. Company K, 9th Reg't Minnesota Infantry Muster Roll (Martin Short)
  18. U.S. Volunteer Enlistment of Martin Short at Saratoga, Winona Co., Minnesota; PDP collection
  19. U.S. Quartermaster’s Dept. Roll of Honor I-VI p.175 Andersonville Cemetery; Widow’s Pension Records; Martin Short from the collection of P. Davidson-Peters


Erma Joy - Our Centenarian

Erma Joy (Danforth) Brown
Celebrating her 100th Birthday
This Thankful Thursday I'd like to pay tribute and celebrate from afar, the 100th birthday of cousin, Erma Joy.

The daughter of Robert C. Danforth and Avis A. (Sherburne), granddaughter Albro Danforth and Eunice Matilda (Short), great-granddaughter of  William H. Danforth and Marianne (Morse),   Erma was  born in Purple Springs, Alberta, Canada on the 17th of July, 1914.

Today and Saturday our centenarian will be joined by family and friends at her home to celebrate this kind and caring mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-great-grandmother.

Happy, happy birthday, Erma!

Special thanks to Erma and Laurie for sharing this special day with me via email.

For more on Erma and who and what she attributes to her long and happy life, you can view the Okotoks Western Wheel article, "Senior citizen reaches rare milestone.  Black Diamond: Erma Brown celebrated her centennial birthday on July 17 " by Tammy Rollie.