Obituary 30 December 1920;
Grand Army Color Sergeant, Horticulturist and Writer Prepared Sketch of His Life.
HIS NOTABLE WAR RECORD
Joseph Meehan, who died last Thursday at his home, 121 Pleasant street, was the oldest of a distinguished family of gardeners and horticulturists.
He was long a writer of authority on horticultural subjects. Furthermore he was also widely known in the Grand Army of the Republic having had a notable record in the Civil War and having served for many years as the color bearer of Ellis Post in parades. Mr. Meehan was 80 years old.
For the past three years he was virtually isolated by reason of the fact that he was deaf and almost blind. He suffered from cataracts of both eyes, and an operation failed to give relief. To enable him to communicate with his family the alphabet was painted on cards in large black letters that he could discern, and with these messages for him were spelled out. His mind was clear to the last.
He appeared for the last time as the bearer of the flag for Ellis Post in a parade in 1916. Before that he rarely missed a parade or the funeral of a comrade, and he was deeply interested in the welfare of the Post.
The following sketch of the life of Mr. Meehan is authoritative by reason of the fact that he himself prepared it for The Independent-Gazette in 1917 for use "when my end comes."
Joseph Meehan was born at Ryde, Isle of Wight, England, November 9, 1840, in the gardener's cottage at St. Clare. St. Clare was the Isle of Wight residence of Colonel and Lady Catharine Vernon Harcourt for whom Joseph's father, Edward Meehan, was gardener for nearly half a century. It may be said here that at the death of his employers the gardener was left a legacy of £1000, considered a very generous sum in those days.
After a few years' schooling, Joseph was placed at work in the gardens of St. Clare, under his father. After a few years he worked here and there in various gardens, including one in South Wales and even had a very short course in the Kenwood Gardens, London. His last place in England was at Northwood Park, West Cowes, Isle of Wight.
While there he received word from his brother Thomas that he had started a nursery at Germantown, Philadelphia, and that if Joseph wished to come out to him be would place him in charge of two or three greenhouses he had just erected. This decided it, being just the thing he wanted, so in April, 1859, he commenced his career as a nurseryman, a career which ended only after a connection of fifty-two years, when he retired altogether from nursery work. In that time the nursery had grown from the original three acres to about seventy acres, all within the city of Philadelphia.
His Work as a Writer
While fairly well known as a nurseryman, it was as a writer on horticultural subjects that his fame chiefly rests. Some quarter of a century ago he saw what a financial help it would be to him in furthering his ambition to secure a competence for himself and family in his older days, and he turned his attention to this line. In this he was quite successful, having at times cut off from his list some of the papers desiring articles.
The first paper to receive his paid contributions was the Germantown Independent, but all of the following received more or less of them: Forney's Weekly Press, Tribune and. Farmer, Practical Farmer, Pittsburgh Sunday Dispatch, Park and Cemetery,. Prairie Farmer, Gardening, Country Gentleman, Florists' Exchange. The last named received his weekly contributions without a hitch for seventeen years, or until failing sight called for a cessation of such work, and to this paper he became greatly attached.
Wounded and Captured in War
The Civil War attracted him in 1862, three years after landing in this country. He enlisted on August 13, in a three-year regiment, the 118th Pennsylvania Volunteers. To show the patriotism of the young fellows of that day, it may be said that the command of a thousand men was recruited in one month, starting at the end of July and ending the close of August. The next day the regiment started for Washington.
Such was the demand for reinforcements that in one week later it was merged with the veterans of the Fifth Corps and started with it on a long march ending with Antietam. It participated in that battle when but seventeen days from Philadelphia.
On September 20 it suffered great loss at Shepherdstown, West Virginia, in following up Lee in his retreat from Antietam. Joseph Meehan was one of some one hundred wounded, a ball entering his left shoulder. This getting behind his shoulder blade was never extracted and caused his discharged in the winter of 1862-1863.
In June, 1863, when Lee again tried invading the North, Joseph Meehan again volunteered, this time in Landis' Battery of Light Artillery, and "emergency" organization.
This command was in two engagements, one near Shiremantown, with Ewell's forces, which had been sent to capture Harrisburg, and another at Carlisle, Pa, when it refused to surrender the town to Stuart's Cavalry. In this action the battery had three wounded and one, Joseph Meehan, taken prisoner.
Marched to Gettysburg he was there paroled on the field and on July 4, 1863, was returned to the Union forces together with several hundred other prisoners. He was the sent to Camp Parole, West Chester, Pa., where he remained until the battery returned to Philadelphia.
His Later Years
As a comrade of Ellis Post, Joseph Meehan was well known as one of the color sergeants of the Post and he had been known to declare that he had in that capacity carried the flag at the funeral of over a hundred colleagues who had gone before him to the cemetery.
Joseph Meehan's wife died in 1905. His surviving family consists of two sons, Charles E. and A. Rothwell Meehan, and a daughter, Mrs. George W. Williams. The latter lived with her father.
Joseph was the last of four brothers who came to this country, Thomas, William, Edward and Joseph. A younger brother, Charles, never left England and still lives, a retired private gardener.
Newspaper article: 16 August 1912:
Just fifty years ago the 118th Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers, known as the Corn Exchange Regiment was recruiting in Camp Union, along Queen lane, between Wissahickon avenue and Fails of Schuylkill. One of the survivors of this regiment is Joseph Meehan, who has long been color bearer of Ellis Post, Grand Army of the Republic, of Germantown. On Wednesday Mr. Meehan revived the memories of a half century ago by visiting the old campground on Queen lane.
As is the case with the men who served in the Civil War, so with the campground, time has wrought many changes. The growth of the city has caused the erection of rows of dwellings and the laying out of streets where once were fields and woods. The Queen lane filtration plant now covers part of the campground. It was upon this same site that Washington's army was encamped for a short time 135 years ago. Nearby is also the spot where the Eighty-eighth Pennsylvania Regiment was recruited in 1862.
The 118th Regiment was called the Corn Exchange Regiment because the Corn Exchange Association, of Philadelphia, bore the expenses of its organization and equipment. It was recruited within thirty days and left for the army on August 31, 1862. Charles M. Prevost was colonel. The first battle in which it participated was Antietam, where, Mr. Meehan was wounded. In all, the regiment was in thirty-two engagements, closing with Appomattox. In the battle of Shepherdstown, Va., the regiment lost 300 men killed and wounded.
Mr. Meehan, who lives on Pleasant street, Mount Airy, has been engaged for many years in horticultural pursuits and has also written much on gardening topics. In his shoulder he still carries a bullet which was embedded there in a fight at Sharpsburg; Va. Only four other members of his company are now alive.
The funeral of Mr. Meehan was held Monday. The services were conducted by the Rev. Stanley B. Wilcox, assistant rector of Gloria Dei (Old Swedes') Church. Grand Army services were also held by Ellis Post. The interment was in Ivy Hill Cemetery.
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