March 10, 2015

Seth Eugene Meek - son of Hiram and Mary Meek

Great-Grandfather Samuel Meek's brother, Hiram Meek, of Mark Township, Defiance County, must have really emphasized education in his family, as well as a sense of adventure.  Almost all of his children were either involved with teaching in some way and/or traveled to the West to better themselves or both.

One of the best known of Hiram's children was Seth, who was named after one of Hiram's brothers who died as a youth.  Seth was born near Hicksville, Ohio on 01 April 1850.  Still living with his parents at age 21, as evidenced by the 1880 census, he was a student. He went to Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.

As part of his education, he was sent to Washington DC in 1884.

 He married Ella Tourner on Christmas Day, 1886 and the couple settled first in Illinois.  
The 1900 census found the couple enumerated at 57th Street in the Hyde Park District of Chicago on June 12th.  Seth was 41 and working as a curator in a museum, while Ella, 38, ran the home which included four lodgers, all teachers.
In 1910, Seth's occupation becomes more distinct as the census stated he worked at the Field Museum of Natural History as a naturalist.  He and Ella owned their own home on Lafayette Avenue, Chicago.

Seth was, in fact, a prominent ichthyologist (a scientist who studies fish), and he traveled all over Mexico, Panama, and areas of the United States documenting his finds.  (See Wikipedia.)  Not only was he an author of books and articles on the subject, but he also discovered an previously unknown species of fish and had a fish named after him! Although he lectured all over the country, he didn't forget his Defiance County roots.  An article in the December 12, 1912, Hicksville Tribune announced one of his hometown lectures.

Sadly, Seth died relatively young from heart trouble that developed from a fever that he contracted on a trip to Mexico.  In August 1915, this obituary appeared:

Prof. S. E. Meek, Assistant Curator of Zoology at Field Museum, Chicago, Succumbs.

Prof. Seth Eugene Meek, author, assistant curator of zoology at the Field Museum of Natural History, and a zoologist of renown, died suddenly of heart disease at his home, 6733 Lafayette avenue, last night.  Prof. Meek had been in ill health since his recent trip to Mexico for the Field Museum.  He contracted a fever which affected his heart.

Prof. Meek was born at Hicksville, April 1, 1850.  He graduated from the Indiana university at Bloomington, with a B. S. degree, received an A. M. degree in 1884, and a Ph.D. degree in 1886.  He then attended Cornell university.

In 1886, he married Miss Ella Tourner of Bloomington, Ind. and accepted the chair of natural science at Eureka college, Eureka, Ill.  In 1887, he accepted the chair of natural science at Coe college, Cedar Rapids, Ia., and in 1892, became assistant professor of zoology and geology at the University of Arkansas. In 1896, he was appointed a member of the United States fish commission, and a few months later became associated with the Field Museum in Chicago.

Among many of the important books written by Prof. Meek are 'The Fishes of Mexico North of the Isthmus of Tehauntepec,' and one called 'Fish and Reptiles.'

Prof. Meek leaves a widow.  The burial will take place in Bloomington, and arrangements have been made to hold a short service at the Lafayette avenue home today."
Chicago Tribune 

The couple had no children, but Ella had siblings in Bloomington for support.  By 1920, she had her brother, Henry, 66, living with her.  He owned a jewelry store.
The same situation occurred in 1930 with Ella, now 65,the owner of a home valued at $10,000, as head of household, and her brother, Henry, was living with her. In addition, her sister, Anna B. Tourner, single and 50, a high school teacher, was also there.

Additional obituaries and information appear on www.findagrave here here.

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