Thaddeus W. Meighan -- 1823 (?) - 1873 (?)

Thaddeus W. Meighan lived in New York from about 1823 to about 1873. He was born in Westchester County and died at his residence, No. 397 South 5th St in Williamsburgh -- which had begun as an independent village in 1664 and become part of Brooklyn in 1855.

During his fifty years Thaddeus was a well-known journalist in New York City and was involved in the 19th Century New York theater as a playwright, theater manager and producer. He published at least one song, "California as it Is," "Written by Thaddeus W. Meighan and Sung to Over Fifty Thousand Persons" and is the probable author of at least two books. From 1861 to 1865 he fought in the Civil War, attaining the rank of Captain.



The 1860 New York Census lists Thaddeus (as "Thadeus Mahan") in the 20th Ward, 6th division of New York City, along with Charlotte Meighan, 26, presumably his wife, Charlotte Brower, 60, presumably his mother-in-law, and four children: Isabella, Frances, Julia and Thaddeus (see Children, below). Thaddeus's age is listed as 36 and his occupation as Editor. There are five other couples or families in the same dwelling, but it is very hard to make out the census-taker's handwriting in order to decipher the surnames. This census entry was made on June 21, 1860.

The 1869 New York City Directory (found on contains the listing "Meighan Thaddeus W. editor, 13 Park row, h 395 Ninth av." This would appear to be his office listing followed by his home listing. (?)

The New York 1870 census lists Thaddeus (as "Thaddeus Meighl" ), both Charlottes, and seven children -- the four above and Charles, Walter and Thomas (see Children, below) -- now moved to  the 13th Ward, Kings County, Williamsburgh (Brooklyn). Charlotte Meighan's age is listed as 36; Charlotte Brower's age is listed as 60, just as it was 10 years earlier (see Marriage, below).  Thaddeus is listed as age 47, occupation Editor. (If the ages in both censuses are accurate then Thaddeus would have been born between June 21 and July 20, 1823).  Thaddeus, both Charlottes, and all of the children are listed as born in New York.  Thaddeus has a "1" in the column labeld "foreign-born father" but not in the "foreign-born mother" column. This census entry was made on July 20, 1870.

The same index also lists seven other Meighans in Brooklyn: Ann, Mary, Michael, Michael, Sarah, Theodore and Thomas, as well as "Thomas Meigan", "Ann Meigh", and, in Huntington in Suffolk County, James and John "Meighlan", from Poland. (All of these are probably Meighans).

Thaddeus should also be somewhere in the 1850, 1840 and 1830 censuses, though he may not be entered by name in the earlier ones since he was 27, 17, and 7 years old, respectively, when these censuses were taken..


I do not yet know anything about Thaddeus's parents or any other ancestors, or when his family arrived in North America. I am trying, however, to find information about his parents and previous generations. The one clue I have is that the 1870 census has a "1" in for Thaddeus in the column labeled "foreign-born father" but not in the "foreign-born mother" column.


Based on the 1860 and 1870 Censuses, it appears that Charlotte Meighan was Thaddeus's  wife. Charlotte Brower, who lived with the family in both 1860 and 1870 and is listed as 60 years old both times, was probably his mother in law. The 1850 New York Census has a Charlotte Brower living in the 16th Ward, District 3 of New York City; her age is listed as 47 (which would have made her 57, not 60, in  1860, and 67, not 60, in 1870). In the same family are Charlotte A, age 18, and Samuel, age 22. These could be Charlotte's children; they are listed with a different last name (not Brower) which I have not been able to decipher -- the name of their father, presumably. There is also a Hester A, age 17, listed in the same family; she has yet another last name which is also indecipherable.

If this Charlotte A. is the girl who later married Thaddeus, she would have been 16 or 17 in September of 1850 (when this census entry was made), not 18, based on the two later census entries.

Since Thaddeus and Charlotte's oldest child, Isabella, was 8 or 9 in 1860, she must have been born in 1851 or 52.  So Thaddeus and Charlotte were most likely married sometime between September 1850, when Charlotte was still living with her mother, and 1851 or 52, when Isabella was born.


According to his obituary, Thaddeus was survived by eight children. Seven are listed in the 1870 census; one more may have  been born between 1870 and Thaddeus's death, which was probably  in 1873. The children in the Census, with their ages as of 20 July, 1870 and their estimated birth years are:

Isabella    18        1852 
Frances     16        1854 
Julia       14        1856 
Thaddeus    11        1859 
Charles      9        1861 
Walter       3        1867 
Thomas    8/12(8 mos) 1869 

(The gap from 1861 - 1867 include the years Thaddeus was  fighting in the Union Army in the Civil War).

The 1860 Census, which reached the Meighan household on 21 June 1860,  lists the children born before 1860, with their ages as:

Isabella     9 
Frances      7 
Julia        4 
Thaddeus     1 

One of the ages for Isabella must be off by a year. For more on Thaddeus's children and other possible relations, see Descendents, below.


Thaddeus was involved in the New York theater from at least 1855 up to his death. His obituary says that

He had acquired considerable reputation as a playright [sic], having produced several successful plays, among them were the "Fairy Circle" and the "Waifs of New York," both of which are still played. He was, also, a few years since, associated with Allen & Boniface in the management of the Old Bowery Theatre.
"Waifs of New York" is mentioned in the 1999 book Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898 by Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace.

Thaddeus is mentioned several times in Annals of the New York Stage, by George O'Dell (1st vol. pub 1927); these entries are as follows:


Mrs. Harrison was likewise fading from the theatrical sky. She had, however on December 17, appeared (according to the Herald) as Bertha, in a new piece called Old Ironsides.... Candour forces the admission that the Courier assigns Bertha to Mrs. T. W. Meighan. [V:280]
The meaning of this reference is unclear -- it implies that Thaddeus and his wife were married by 1846, but from the Census entries it seems Charlotte would have been about 12 years old at the time. O' Dell is writing years later, so perhaps he refers to the girl who later became Mrs. T. W. Meighan. Or it is possible that Thaddeus's father, who we as yet know nothng about, was T.W. Meighan as well, and this is a reference to Thaddeus's mother. The item in "The Courier" needs to be located, if possible, and checked for any further information.

1855: "A more unusual enterprise was that of November 27th, at the Academy of Music; Hamlet was given by a company of authors and dramatists and artists. C.T.P. Ware acted Hamlet, with Isaac Clark Pray, Henry L. Walcot, Thaddeus W. Meighan ...." This is the earliest reference I have to Thaddeus; he would have been about 32 at the time. [VI:493]

1856: "For the benefit of T.W. Meighan, on the 20th [of March], Davenport acted Roy Gomez, in Faint Heart Never Won Fair Lady, and Rattling Bob, in The Green Hills of the West;.." [VI:572] [check -- 1855 or 56?]

1857: In 1857 Thaddeus had a few months run managing the New Olympic theater, apparently quite unsuccessfully. As O'Dell tells it, "No sooner had Buckley's Serenaders bid an early good-bye than their hall was taken over by T.W. Meighan as proprietor, and F.S Chanfrau as manager, 're-fitted, improved and ventilated so as to be the coolest house in the city.' It was re-named the New Olympic, and 'the object of the management is to revive, as near as possible, Mitchell's Old Olympic, the motto being Mirth, Music and the Dance.' " [XI:585]

There are another four paragraphs regarding the fate of this enterprise. O'Dell comments regarding their opening shows that "we are moved to wonder as to what managers expected from such hackneyed material." He is a bit more charitable about another show: "It ran well, and we of later ages need not judge it harshly." But: "By August 10th the ship had sunk. A big benefit was given on that night to J. Carrol, the minstrel, and on the 11th, Buckley's Serenaders came back for five night s of mid summer minstrelsy." The theater was then taken over by T.B. Johnson; as O'Dell tells it: "But think'st thou the house remained dark? Little thou wotst of the heart managerial. T. B. Johnston was ready to embark on the voyage that this year had engulfed all previous mariners of small experience."

1872: "Kate Raymond was seen, on January 8th, as Willie, in The Waifs of New York, a piece by Thaddeus W. Meighan. [IX:168] [this appears to have been at the Old Bowery Theatre]. [IX:168]

1874: "A benefit on January 21st, afternoon, for the widow and child of Thaddeus W. Meighan, presented Rowe as Micawber, Chanfrau as Jeremiah Chip, and the Vokeses in Belles of the Kitchen. [IX:401] [It is from this, along with his obituary saying the died at 'about 50', that I believe Thaddeus's death was in 1873].

1882: "On January 30th, Thomas J Cummings opened his new hall, 17 Greenpoint Avenue, with Joe Blanchard, . . . Thad Meighan (specialties) and Roden's orchestra." [XI:642] [This is Thaddeus Jr.].

O'Dell's book mentions several Meehans worth further investigation: Gus Meehan is referred to multiple times in Vol XV, and William Meehan as a playwright, in 1892 [could this be William J. C. Meighan?].Vol. XV also refers to a Thomas Meegan. There are several references to a Sadie Meehan in Vol 10.


From Thaddeus's obituary:

He had been nearly all of his life connected with the press, having commenced his career as editor and publisher of a boys' journal called the Gothamite. He was subsequently connected with the Sunday Times with Mr. Frank Bonar, and remained on the paper after its sale and consolidation with Noah's Messenger, as editorial writer and dramatic editor of the Ledger after its purchase by Mr Bonar, and did much to ensure the success of what seemed then a bold experiment. He was for several years connected with the editorial department of the Express, and subsequently with the Evening Press, a paper which had a short existence as the organ of certain politicians, but which he made exceedingly lively while it lasted. He had at different times been connected in some way with nearly all the papers in the city, often contributing to several of them at the same time. He had, within a month past, taken a position on the Express, from which post he was removed by the sudden access of the malady consumption, which carried him off.

In addition to his plays and journalist work, Thaddeus published at least one song , and there are two books published under the pseudonym "Asmodeus" that appear to be by him.

"California As It Is" was a "Comic Song, Written by Thaddeus W. Meighan and sung to over Fifty Thousand Persona at the American Museum and elsewhere by Pete Morris, The Inimitable Comic Vocalist." This is from the cover page of the sheet music, published in 1849 by Wm. Hall & Son, 239 Broadway, New York, and labeled "Second Edition." The University of Colorado music library has a copy of this sheet music on file.

The first verse of the song is:

I've been to California, and I hav'nt got a dime 

I've lost my health, my strength, my hope and I have lost my time 

I've only got a spade and pick and if I felt quite brave 

I'd use the two of them 'ere things to scoop me out a grave 

This digging hard for gold may be politic and bold 

But you could not make me think so; but you may if you are told 

Oh! I've been to California and I'm minus all the gold 

For instead of riches plenty I have only got a cold 

And I think in going mining I was regularly sold.

Two books published in 1850 appear to be by Thaddeus Meighan: The Jenny Lind Mania in Boston; or, A Sequel to Barnum's Parnassus, by "Asmodeus," and Sharps and Flats: or, The Perils of City Life. Being the Adventures of One Who Lived by His Wits, by the same author.

Both of these books are listed in American Fiction 1774-1850: A Contribution Toward a Bibliography by Lyle H. Wright, who notes "Cushing attributes to 'Thaddeus W. Meighan?' " (This is a reference to the book Initials and Pseudonyms: A Dictionary of Literary Disguises, 1886, by William Cushing, which does indeed list "Thaddeus W Meighan(?)" under the pseudonym "Asmodeus." ) Both The Jenny Line Mania in Boston and Sharps and Flats are available on microfilm, on the "Wright American Fiction: Volume 1: 1774-1850" microfilm published by Research Publications, Inc. The microfilmed copy of The Jenny Lind Mania has "Thaddeus W. Meighan" hand-written on the cover.

There are two other writers in late 19th Century New York who Cushing lists as using the pseudonym 'Asmodeus' as well: Thomas Nichols (?) and Charles Sotheran, who apparently used "Asmodeus Secundus" in 1876.

Possibly there are other publications such as self-published pamphlets, etc. that may yet be discovered.

The book A Gazetteer of the State of New York, by J. H. French, 1860, is listed as published by "Grattan & Meighan" on ; this may be Thaddeus or a relative.


Thaddeus enlisted in I Co. 6th Infantry Regiment, NY 22 May 1861

He was discharged with a disability at Fort Pickens, FL on 15 July 1861

He re-enlisted four months later in G Co. 4th Cavalry Regiment NY on 09 November 1861

He mustered out at Baltimore MD on 20 June 1865

The muster rolls (national archives, found on list him in the 9th NY Calvary as well as 4th NY Cavalry and 6th NY Infantry.

(this information is from's civil war database).

Thaddeus's age is listed as 38 at the time of his first enlistment, and 39 at his second, which suggests that he was born between May and November, 1922. This squares with his death 'at about 50' in 1873 but differs by a year from the estimate we get from the census ages; (he could not have been 36 in June of 1860 and 38 in May of 1861). Both enlistments show his rank as Private.

Thaddeus's obituary says that he "served with credit during the late war, attaining the rank of Captain, which he held at the close of the war." The 6th Infantry Regiment had several battles in Florida in 1861; presumably Thaddeus was mildly injured in one of these -- badly enough to win a discharge, but not badly enough to keep him from re-enlisting four months later.

The 4th Calvary Regiment fought in more than 125 battles between 1861 and 1865, all in Virginia. Published accounts of many of these battles exist.

Other Meighans that joined the Union army in New York, conceivably relatives, include:

- Hugh F. Meighan, who enlisted 29 May 1862 in New York City, age 25 rank Corporal. He server the New York 8th Infantry Regiment and mustered out at New York City on 10 September 1862

- James H. Meighan, who enlisted 04 September 1862 in New York City, age 24, rank Private. He served the C Co. Marine LA Regiment NY.

- John Meighan, who enlisted 31 May 1862 at Albany New York, age 21, rank Private. He served the New York A Co. 25th Infantry Regiment and mustered out at Albany on 08 September 1862.

- John Meighan, who enlisted 02 October 1861 in New York City, age 24, rank Corporal. He was promoted to full Sergeant on 01 July 1862 and to Full 1st Sergeant on 01 March 1863. He served the New York H Co.l 88th Infantry Regiment and mustered out at Morrisville, Virginia on 12 June 1863.

Meighans listed in the muster rolls for New York, aside from Thaddeus include: Francis Meighan, Company E 98th Infantry; Hugh F. Meighan, Company F 8th State Militia; James H. Meighan, Company C 1st Marine Artillery; Jesse Meighan, Company R 25th State Militia; John Meighan, Company A 25th National Guard; John Meighan Company H 88th Infantry; Michael Meighan, Company B175th Infantry; Patrick Meighan, Company K 64th Infantry.


Thaddeus's son Thaddeus Jr. was mentioned in O'Dell (see above).

Thaddeus's son Charles Warsaw Meighan (1860? - 1911) was my great-grandfather. Charles grew up in New York and spent the last 21 years of his life in Ogden, Utah, where he was a journalist, "did considerable writing along political lines," and served as postmaster. Charles had three children -- Charles Woodward Meighan (1889 - 1960), Frank E. Meighan and Florence Meighan. Both Charles and Frank were born in Atlantic, Iowa. I have no idea what Charles Sr. was doing in Iowa but as there are quite a few Meighans in Iowa to this day it would be interesting to find out.

Charles Woodward Meighan, Thaddeus's grandson, had three sons -- Clement, Thomas and Donald; Donald was my father.

It is possible that William J C Meighan was a nephew of Thaddeus; he is about the right age and, like Thaddeus, was a well-known journalist in New York. William was born about 1850 and died on March 29, 1929, at the age of 79. His New York Times obituary says that he started working for the New York Herald in 1867, was for many years on the editorial staff and at one time the city editor. He is mentioned in passing as a Herald reporter in the book The James Gordon Bennets: Father and Son, by Don Seitz. (James Gordon Bennet Sr. was the founder of the Herald, and his son took it over from him when he retired).

William  published a fascinating article in Lippincott's Magazine in May, 1892, titled "The Travelling Correspondent." In the article William describes working for Herald Editor James Gordon Bennett Jr., and tells about covering such stories as the Chicago Fire, the Tilden-Tweed conflict at the 1871 NY state convention in Albany, an 1868 investigative article on the Ku Klux Klan, and a race between two U.S. Navy gunboats, the Algonquin and the Winooski, in Long Island Sound. This article was reprinted in the 1893 book The Making of a Newspaper, by Melville Philips; I have been fortunate enough to get a copy of this book. The article begins:

The way of the travelling newspaper correspondent, like the way of the transgressor, is hard; but there are times when it is made by its results very agreeable, even when danger to life and limb besets him at every step. If there is one thing more than another that infuses spirit and enthusiasm into the correspondent, it is his determination to succeed in accomplishing what he is instructed to accomplish. Above all things, if he learns that he is on the same special mission as some go-ahead rival, he has but one grand object in view from the moment he leaves the office with his grip-sack. That object is, to "beat" the life out of the other fellow, cost what it may, legitimately, no matter what the trials and tribulations he himself may have to encounter.
William had a daughter, Josephine Meighan, who was an associate editor of  Good Houskeeping magazine when she died on July 20, 1915, 14 years before her father's death. She was 39 years old and was buried in New York.

Another famous Meighan is Thomas Bell Meighan, 1879 - 1936, born in Pittsburgh to John A. Meighan and Mary Bell. Thomas Meighan was one of the top silent film stars in the United States in the teens and twenties, after a career as a stage actor in New York prior to moving to Hollywood. He last four films were talkies. I have been told he was my grandfather's cousin and am researching his genealogy as well. Thomas's father John died Nov. 5, 1923 at his home in Pittsburgh, survived by five sons and two daughters. In the 1850 PA Census there are a Peter and Mary Meighan in Pittsburgh, both from Ireland, who have a 2-month old son named John; this may be John A. Meighan but I have not confirmed it.


Thaddeus's obituary closes with

Mr. Meighan was noted for his admirable industry and faithfulness, no amount of work seeming to appal him, and none of it being slighted. He was a firm friend and genial companion, and will be missed and mourned by a large circle of friends. He leaves a widow and eight children.
May he rest in peace.