Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Meerweis DeKraker

Meerweis DeKraker, also known as “John M. Dekraker,” and “Munnis DeKraker”, was born 1839 in the Zeeland, the Netherlands.

Meerweis immigrated to the United States sometime before 1861 and eventually settled in western Michigan. (In 1860 there was one Isaac R. DeKraker, born around 1802 in the Netherlands living with his wife and family in Holland, Ottawa County.)

Meerweis stood 6’0” and had blue eyes, brown hair and a light complexion, and was a 22-year-old farmer possibly living in Grand Rapids when he enlisted in Company A on June 10, 1861. (Curiously, Meerweis did not enlist in either the German-dominated Company C or in Company I, the Ottawa County-dominated company which was made up of a significant number of Netherlanders.) He was reported missing in action during a charge of the enemy’s position before Richmond on June 30, 1862, and he returned to the Regiment on August 12 at Harrison’s Landing, Virginia. (He may have been held briefly as a prisoner or perhaps he had been hospitalized.)

Meerweis reenlisted on December 24, 1863, at Brandy Station, Virginia, crediting Grand Rapids, was presumably home on veterans’ furlough in January of 1864, possibly in Michigan and he probably returned to the Regiment on or about the first of February. He was reported absent sick in June of 1864, and was supposedly still absent sick when he was transferred to Company A, Fifth Michigan infantry upon consolidation of the Third and Fifth Michigan Regiments on June 10, 1864.

In any case, he was serving with the Fifth Michigan at Petersburg when he was wounded in the right arm and shoulder on June 18; the arm, which had been fractured at the shoulder, was amputated at the shoulder joint on the field the same day and he was admitted to the II corps hospital at City Point, Virginia on June 23, furloughed on June 26, and admitted to Campbell general hospital in Washington on June 28.

In July he was reported as a corporal as absent wounded. He was furloughed again on October 24, re-admitted on November 14 and remained hospitalized until he was discharged on March 21, 1865, at Campbell hospital in Washington, DC on account of “resection of head of humerus of right arm from wound received in action. . . .”

Meerweis gave his mailing address as Grand Rapids on his discharge paper, but by 1874 he was living in Plainwell, Allegan County.

He was probably living in Allegan County when he married Michigan native Mrs. Helen H. Plantz (1844-1922) on October 5, 1875, in Martin, Allegan County, and they had at least one child: Thomas Edgar (b. 1877). (Helen was a widow whose husband George Plantz died in 1874.)

By 1880 Meerweis, known as “John M.” was working as a farmer and living with his wife and son in Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo County; also living with them were two stepchildren: Carrie (b. 1868) and Burt (b. 1871). Meerweis was living in Orcutt (?), Kalamazoo County in 1883 drawing $18.00 for wounded right shoulder (pension no. 42,274), and drawing $30 per month by 1885.

He was probably a member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association, and a member of Grand Army of the Republic Orcutt Post No. 79 in Kalamazoo County.

Meerweis died of lung disease on February 1, 1886.

His widow was living in Michigan when she applied for and received a pension (no. 224462). She was living on 1546 Sherman Street in Grand Rapids, Kent County, when she died in 1922.

1 comment:

Stan Smith said...

Meerweis was my GGrandfather, whose Son Thomas Edgar DeKraaker rode South with a herd of horses from Michigan to settle in Boulder, Colorado. Thomas married Ethel Harmon and they operated a toll road going into the Rockies as the early pioneers of that area, near "Gold Hill" as I recall, seeing the trail. That's all I knew about Meerweis (or Thomas), to add to the great post by Steve Soper, above. Thanks much for the info, and I look forward to reading all about the Famous Old Third Infantry!
Stan Smith, templarstansmith@hotmail.com