Meeks Family Murder (I), The [Laws F28]
DESCRIPTION: The Meeks Family (husband, wife, and three children) are lured from home by the Taylors. The parents and two children are killed, but wounded Nellie escapes to report the crime (the song details Nellie's story, and ends before the villains are captured)
AUTHOR: Arthur Wallace
EARLIEST DATE: 1913
KEYWORDS: homicide family escape
May 11, 1894 - Gus Meeks, his wife, and two children are killed by William and George Taylor (who are suspected of cattle stealing). William Taylor was hanged; George escaped and was not recaptured
FOUND IN: US(So)
REFERENCES (5 citations):
Laws F28, "The Meeks Family Murder I"
Belden, pp. 404-412, "The Meeks Family Murder" (11 texts, 2 tunes, grouped into types A-E; the "A" group of 3 texts and 1 tune is this song; Belden however believes that A1 and A3 are mixtures of F28 and "The Meeks Family Murder (IV)," which is Belden's "B" group. "C" is "The Meeks Family Murder (V)", "D" is too brief to categorize, and "E" is not traditional)
Randolph 152, "The Meeks Murder" (4 texts, 1 tune; with the "B" and "C" texts being this song; the A text is Laws F30, and D is Laws F29)
Burt, pp. 232-234, "(The Meeks Massacre)" (1 text, 1 tune)
DT 719, MEEKMUR1*
cf. "The Meeks Family Murder II" [Laws F29]
cf. "The Meeks Family Murder III" [Laws F30]
cf. "The Meeks Family Murder IV"
cf. "The Meeks Family Murder (V -- Nellie's Lament)"
NOTES: Belden has detailed notes on the history of this piece; it appears that the Taylors were unsavory sorts, perhaps guilty of cattle stealing, and their employee and tenant Gus Meeks -- given a pardon by the governor -- was going to provide evidence of their financial wrongdoing
The Taylors, knowing they were in trouble, offered Meeks a better job, and convinced him to go along with them, then tried to kill the whole family with axes and burn their bodies. The hay used in the fire, however, was wet, and so Nellie Meeks, once she awoke, was able to escape alive and report the crime.
Both brothers were sentenced to be hanged, but George escaped and no reliable evidence of his later career is available. Folklore, however, attended both George Taylor and Nellie Meeks for many years (e.g. Nellie is said to have borne a "dint" from the blow of the axe to her head for the rest of her life).
To tell this piece from the other Meeks ballads, consider this first stanza:
About a mile from Brownington
At the foot of Jenkins's hill,
Took place this awful murder
By the Taylors, George and Bill.
(Other versions of the song use stanzas of eight lines of this sort.)
This song seems to have mixed heavily with "The Meeks Family Murder IV."
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The Ballad Index Copyright 2016 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.