Meigs (Meiggs) Family History and Genealogy


Henry Meigs

Henry Meigs (#215) was born in New Haven, CT, on October 28, 1782, the first child of Josiah (#98) and Clara (Benjamin) Meigs. He attended the common schools, graduated from Yale College in 1799, studied law and was admitted to the bar in New York City where he began his practice. During the War of 1812, he served with the rank of adjutant.1 "In 1816 when the construction of our canals was resolved upon, Mr. Meigs published, in the New York 'National Advocate,' articles recommending railroads, with locomotive steam engines, as being capable of an average speed of sixteen miles an hour. The idea was ridiculed as absurd by his contemporaries…"2

Meigs was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1818 and later as a Democrat to the Sixteenth congress serving from March 4, 1819, until March 3, 1821. "Elected by the City of New York, and without pledge of any kind to man or party, he resolved -- in spite of the remonstrance's of his friends and clients -- to leave a lucrative and growing business and meet the Missouri question, which was then the uppermost theme of the day. How he met it the public have long ago been told. 'I found,' said he in a manuscript now in the possession of his family, 'that the battle deserved all my courage, for I was immediately and constantly threatened with assassination! I felt compelled, in self-defense, to carry my old war pistols all the time in the Hall of Representatives and elsewhere.

"Nevertheless, he stood firmly by the side of what he believed to be the right. Though tempered with extreme charity toward his opponents, his words were edged with the keenest of conviction. The Missouri Compromise was passed, and he was one of the majority of three that carried it, after he had addressed the House upon the question with great vigor and effect. He also introduced the first resolution ever offered to exchange our public lands for slaves, and to send the latter in families, with Bible and the plow, to Africa as fast as the sale of public lands would allow, declaring to Congress that if the plan was not then adopted the increase of the blacks would soon render it impossible, and a civil war must ensue between the North and south. He lived to see his predictions sadly verified…"3

Meigs was also a strong supporter of Stephen F. Austin4 and his efforts at establishing an independent Texas. The following letter addressed to John Forsyth will give you a good look at the relations between the two men.

New York April 30, 1835

Dear Sir,

I enclose the last letter received from Col. Austin -- dated Mexico March 31, 1835.

I think it worth your perusal. I verily believe Austin to be an honorable man -- and that he is now persecuted by selfish and cunning men.

I pray you to protect him. He will be worthy of it and grateful. I will thank you to return the letter to me and also to use the information it contains so that it may not add to the difficulties he suffers so unjustly in the [blank]! Country.

I am Yours truly,

H. Meigs5

Later when Mexico invaded Texas, Meigs wrote to Austin:

"A sympathy almost universal, exists for your welfare and that of your colony.

"The [government] of the U.S. cannot disobey the public opinion, which will insist upon your safety and well being so long as you exhibit that temperate and just view and conduct which you have always done."

In a later letter, dated September 29, 1835, he said:

"The [United S]tates are looking to your course with deep interest. It is not possible to separate you from them long. Every political, religious and commercial tie exists between them and you."

And again, on November 15th,

"Public sentiment is aroused for your cause. We know that you are Bone of our Bone! And Flesh of our Flesh! That none but a Republican Government can exist over you!…

"Government can hardly do for you what private opinion and zeal is already active in doing…

"The Secretary of State (a few days ago) told me that there was but one result for your affairs -- and that was, a natural and inevitable connection with the policy and interests of your country the United States."6

During 1832 and 1833, Meigs served as president of the board of aldermen of New York City. Later he was a judge of one of the city courts and afterward clerk of the court of general sessions. Meigs was recording secretary of the American Institute in 1845, and retained this position in connection with the secretary of the Farmers' Club until his death.7

Meigs died in New York City on May 20, 1861, and is interned in St. Ann's Churchyard, Perth Amboy, New Jersey. He married in 1806, Julia Austin of Philadelphia, PA.

Meigs # Name



No. 392A

Charles (Twin)

In Infancy

No. 392B

Evelina (Twin)

In Infancy

No. 393

Clara Forsyth



No. 394

Julia Austin



No. 395




No. 396

Theodore Denton



No. 397

Charles Austin




  1. Biographical Directory of the American Congress, 1774-1971," United States Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1971, page 1398.
  2. Obituary notice, New York World, September 13, 1861.
  3. Henry B. Meigs, Record of the Descendants of Vincent Meigs, Privately published, 1901, page 229.
  4. John Forsyth was Henry's brother-in-law. Stephen Austin was a cousin of Henry's wife.
  5. Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 62, Texas State Historical Association, page 235.
  6. Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 13, Texas State Historical Association, page 171.
  7. Biographical Directory of the American Congress, page 1398.


Copyright (c) by Rick Meigs