Jackson Mystery

Late one evening around Christmas of 1869 or early 1870, in the area of Valley Mills, TX, horsemen rode up to the home of Reverend Jackson and his wife, Eunice Bishop Jackson (1848-1928).  They were jolted from their sleep by loud pounding at the front door.  The reverend hastily arose, went to the door and was greeted by at least two very loud and unruly men.  The reverend told his wife to remain calm while he went outside to try to deal with these crazy characters.  The stillness of the night was soon shattered by yelling and screaming, so startling young Eunice that she took her baby daughter, Elizabeth Jackson, to hide under a bed.

The blood curdling noises ceased and the riders rode off into the darkness.  Eunice waited for a bit, then emerged, lit a lamp and opened the door slightly.  There wasn’t a sound.  She called her husband’s name, but there was no answer.  She ventured out into the darkness but could not find him.  Returning to the house, she suddenly became aware of something hanging from the limb of a nearby tree.  It was her husband.

The diminutive little lady rushed to the barn, hitched the horses to the wagon and pulled it under the limp form dangling from the tree.  She cut the rope with a butcher knife, allowing the body to fall into the wagon.  To her dismay, the reverend was dead.  He’d been beaten and hung from the tree.

She covered his body with a tarp, ran into the house, wrapped Baby Elizabeth in a blanket, jumped in the wagon and hurried off into the night.  Several hours later, she arrived at the home of her parents, the “Bishops”.  A serious conference led to the conclusion that it wouldn’t be safe for her to return home.  The next morning, Reverend Jackson was buried in a simple ceremony near the Bishops’ home.  Eunice was devastated, of course.

Josephus Dixon Meeks lived in the Valley Mills area.  His wife, Lydia Cordle Meeks, had died three days after giving birth to their son, Josephus Chelsey Meeks, on December 4, 1869.  Upon hearing of the plight of “Widow Jackson,” Josephus Dixon Meeks rode over to the Bishops’ home and offered a proposition: his baby son was in need of a nursing mother, and he promised to provide for Eunice and her baby daughter.  They united, moved over into McLennan County and by 1876 had produced three children (Nathan Volney, James Dixon and Wyles M. Meeks).  Within a year, they moved to Palo Pinto County where their next three children (Susan Lucille, Stella E. and Wallace Lee Meeks) were born.

Eunice was about ready to give birth to their seventh child in February of 1885 when, to her unpleasant surprise, she discovered that her 15-year-old daughter, Elizabeth Jackson, was also pregnant!  Worse still, the culprit was none other than Eunice’s husband (Elizabeth’s stepfather)—Josephus Dixon Meeks! He fled rather than risk being shot.

However, Josephus slipped back into the house several nights later, snatched the pregnant child from her bed and departed into the darkness without being apprehended.  Eunice searched for young Elizabeth and posted notices everywhere, but no trace of her unfortunate daughter, or of Josephus, was found.  Eunice gave birth to Charles L. Meeks on March 13, 1885.  Little Elizabeth gave birth to Amy Adelle Meeks on October 24, 1885, in Palo Pinto County.

Eunice was reported to be a small, petite little lady.  She was, however, an intelligent and resourceful mother and head of household. She and her children prospered through raising and marketing the finest horses in the area.  The children grew up to be honorable and successful and, in 1903, Eunice and most of the grown children and their families moved to the New Mexico Territory where they homesteaded and purchased rangeland properties.  They were reported to be among the largest landholders in Quay County over the next decades.

Eunice divided the family holdings among her children (and grandchildren) as they set out to follow their particular directions in life.  Among them were wealthy landowners, cattle breeders and ranchers.  Two became world champion calf ropers multiple times, and another became world champion bull rider who performed before the King and Queen of England.  Most were philanthropists.

Charles L. “Charlie” Meeks, Eunice’s youngest son, established a business in Logan, NM—the “Road to Ruin”—a bar-restaurant that thrived for half a century and later became a museum.  It still stands today, serving as the I.O.O.F. meeting hall.

On a cold, windy, January morning in 2002, Eunice’s grave was found in a serene cemetery sitting amongst native junipers atop a bluff bounded in the distance by a large horseshoe bend of the Canadian River snaking along the bottom of a box canyon several hundred feet below.  Among the 400 or so graves lay a simple granite stone on which is inscribed “Elizabeth Eunicey Meeks, 1846-1928.” That would be the end of the story except that a fresh, long-stem, yellow rose lay across the gravestone that morning.  No other graves in the cemetery were decorated on that frigid day with anything other than a few faded artificial flowers.  Perhaps some of her descendants still live in the area.

Eunice Meeks is Gone But Not Forgotten.  Someone, somewhere, had come to honor this little hundred-pound dynamo who’d brought up seven children by herself, setting each on the road to success.  Her ex-husband, Josephus Dixon Meeks, was buried at Hagerman, NM in 1933, and his wife, Elizabeth Jackson Meeks, was buried beside him in 1952.  There are no grave markers, so the exact site is uncertain.

Ironically, after Eunice and her family moved to the New Mexico Territory in 1903, she and her “lost” daughter, Elizabeth Jackson Meeks, reunited and remained in contact until Eunice’s death.  However, the children of Elizabeth Jackson Meeks never acknowledged their half-siblings Eunice had with Josephus Dixon Meeks, choosing rather to carry this knowledge to their graves.  This history remained relatively unknown to the descendants of Elizabeth Jackson Meeks until uncovered by researcher Pam Moser, a Meeks descendant who lives in Oklahoma.

Nothing is known about “Reverend Jackson”, not even his given name.  Little is known about Eunice Bishop, including her parents or birthplace, other than the fact that she had at least one sister.

Many questions remain, however.

  1. “Who murdered Reverend Jackson?”  It’s doubtful he would have had any enemies, certainly none who would go to the extreme of murdering him.
  2. “What was the motive behind Reverend Jackson’s murder?”  No robbery, rape or other collateral crime or activity was committed.
  3. “Who would have had motive?”  The killers weren’t there just to hurt the reverend or teach him a lesson.  They were there to eliminate him.

Perhaps someone holds the key to this mystery . . ?

The following background information is an accumulation of historical and genealogical data gleaned from many sources:

  • Reverend Jackson (b ?, d 1869/70) and Eunice Bishop (b 1848, d 1928) were my great-great grandparents.  This information was withheld from our side of the Meeks family by my paternal grandmother, Amy Adelle Meeks Cooper, until uncovered a few years ago by Pam Moser, a Meeks descendant and genealogical researcher.
  • Reverend Jackson’s birth date is unknown; he may have been near the age of his wife, Eunice, or he could have been considerably older.
  • Josephus Dixon Meeks and Lydia C. Cordle were married in McLennan County, TX on February 22, 1869.  Lydia died on or about December 7, 1869 after giving birth to Josephus Chelsey Meeks three days earlier.
  • Josephus Chelsey Meeks was born December 4, 1869, died April 1, 1946.
  • Josephus Dixon Meeks appears on the 1860 U. S. Census, living in Bell County, TX, 10 years of age, born in MS, with two brothers (Nathan T., age 12, born in MS: and Volney, age 2, born in TX).
  • Josephus Dixon Meeks was first my step great-great grandfather; when he fathered a child with his stepdaughter, he then became my biological great grandfather.
  • At the age of 3 (1933), I recall visiting at the home of Josephus Dixon Meeks in Melrose, NM on several occasions.  Sometimes he was propped up in bed; at other times he sat in a rocking chair.  He always requested a song, so I often stood on an apple crate and belted out hymns and choruses I’d learned at Sunday School.  He died on Dec 6, 1933.
  • I visited my great grandmother, Elizabeth Jackson Meeks, frequently up to the time of her death when I was 22 years of age.  Like her mother, Eunice, Elizabeth was small and petite, stood about 5 ft tall and weighed about 100 pounds.  She was quite dark and appeared to be of Native American descent.  Several of her grandchildren, including my father, were also quite dark complexioned.
  • Amy Adelle Meeks (b 1885, d 1979) was my grandmother.  She was about 5 ft tall.  She married Jobe Elisha Cooper (b 1875, d 1952); he was born in Johnson County, TX.
  • The “1846” birth date on Eunice’s gravestone is probably in error; we believe she was born December 7, 1848.

Leon Cooper
2300 Markham Rd, S.W.
Albuquerque, NM 87105