WI BIO - Dane Co - MEYERS, Jesse

Jesse M. MEYERS, Superintendent of the Dane County Asylum and Overseer of the Dane County Poor Farm, is the subject of this sketch. It was said by the State Board of Charities that the U. S. provides the best care for her unfortunate poor and insane than probably any other nation in the world. The same Board claims for Wisconsin the best system for the care of her chronically insane of any State in the Union, and that the Dane County Poor House and Asylum are among the models of their kind in the State.

The farm is located on section 15, Verona Township, and for the beautiful and appropriate buildings, and the careful attention which has made the place noted, much credit is due the subject of this sketch. He took charge of the farm 25 March 1879, and at that date the buildings were old, dilapidated and inadequate, and lacking in and out of doors, needed facilities for providing proper care for the inmates. These unfortunate persons were kept in miserable outbuildings, as if their added misfortune was one for which they should be punished; in fact the whole place presented the appearance of a neglected old locality to be shunned.

Immediately upon taking charge, Mr. and Mrs. MEYERS set to work clearing up both house and buildings, and before long all was remodeled and enlarged. In 1882 an asylum for the chronically insane was built, and on 24 March 1883, this large, handsome and conveniently arranged structure, costing $35,000, was ready to receive inmates. Here 100 persons can be well cared for. For several years this place was well filled by unfortunates from other Wisconsin counties* which had no suitable place in which to care for them, but at present there are 108 inmates, 105 of whom belong to Dane County. [* One WI county history records an early solution some counties used to solve the problem of caring for and supporting unfortunates: giving them a ride to the next county.]

The poor house has an average of sixty inmates, and all are comfortably cared for. Mr. MEYERS is one of those men who are built on a broad gauge, his sympathy and kindness of heart being tempered with firmness and good judgment. He has introduced many reforms in the institution, one of these being the opening of the doors of the asylum during all hours of the day, so that the inmates can in and out at will. Many thought that this would not be feasible, but he has long ago proven to doubters the great benefit derived from such liberties, and it is now done in many institutions of the kind. Mr. MEYERS is a thorough business man, his books are carefully kept, and he has always received the highest encomiums from the county [p 143] officers and the State Board of Charities. The poor farm contains 331 acres of land with 120 more of timber land. The poor house is heated by hot water and the asylum by hot air.

Jesse S Meyers was born in Northampton County, Pennsylvania, 06 Feb 1843, a son of John Meyers and Deborah (Flick) Meyers, also natives of that county. The family came to Wisconsin in 1847, and settled in the township of Verona [Dane County], where the father entered 200 acres of land. Here he [John MEYERS] pursued farming until a few years prior to his death, when he removed to Verona village, where he lived a retired life until his death, 30 June 1865, at the age of fifty-eight . The mother is still living in Verona village.They [John and Deborah (FLICK) MEYERS] had eleven children, eight of whom attained maturity: Aaron J Meyers, Reuben J Meyers, Caroline Longstreet, Jesse S. (our subject), and Barbara E Myers Gordon, all of whom live in Verona [Dane County, WI]; Lydia Meyers Pitman, now Mrs. George W Pitman, who lives in Madison [Dane County, WI]; Hanetta, now Mrs. George PEHLE, who lives in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, and Johnson Meyers, now deceased. [The three children who did not attain maturity are not named.]

Jesse S Meyers was only four years of age when the family came to Wisconsin. He passed his early life on the home farm, and the first school that he attended stood on the present site of the poor farm. He attended a district school and spent a short time at the State University, but discontinued his studies on account of ill health. He enlisted in the late war on 14 August 1862, and was mustered into service in Company I, 23rd Wisconsin Volunteers, with the rank of Sergeant. From Camp Randall [in Madison, Dane County, WI] he went South, and participated in the first attack on Vicksburg, after which followed the battles at Arkansas Post, Port Gibson, Champion Hills, and Black River bridge, the siege of Vicksburg, and the engagements at Jackson, MS, and Jackson, LA, and Carrion Corow bayou, interspersed with numerous marches and skirmishes. At the last fight he was taken prisoner, and was held two months at Alexandria, when in May 1864 he was exchanged. He then rejoined his command, with which he continued until the last fight at Spanish Fort and Fort Blakely, AL.

After the war Mr. MEYERS returned to his home in Verona [Dane County, WI], after a three years' faithful army service, and found that the father whom he had left mourning the departure of a son three years before, had died and been buried two weeks prior to his arrival from the war. He at once stepped into the place made vacant by his father, until business and other matters, late in progress, were straightened up. He then engaged in farming, carpenter work, and teaching, attempting by his efforts to gain for himself a university education, in which he failed on account of ill health.

He [Jesse S. MEYERS] was married 30 June 1873 to Adelaide M. SHULTS, daughter of Daniel and Louisa (SANFORD) SHULTS. His wife was born near Terre Haute [Vigo County], Indiana, 03 Sep 1850. On 25 Mar 1879 he received his appointment as Overseer of the Dane County Poor House and Farm, and in the spring of 1883 was also appointed Superintendent of the Dane County Asylum. During the time of service in these institutions, Jesse S. and Adelaide M. (SHULTS) MEYERS had born to them two children: Jessie Josephine Meyers, who died when ten months old; and Idella May, now nine years of age.

Jesse S. MEYERS has a farm of 240 acres, well improved, on which he expects to raise horses. Politically he is a Prohibitionist, and has always been independent. Socially he is a member of Sylvester Wheeler Post No. 75, G. A. R. In religion he is a Baptist, and [p 144] has always been interested in church and Sunday school work, of which latter he has been Superintendent for many years. In all the various walks of life Mr. MEYERS has always been characterized by integrity, fidelity, and capability, and justly enjoys the favorable regard of his fellow men.

Biographical Review of Dane County, WI. 
Chicago: Biographical Review Pub. Co.  1893, Vol I, pp 142-144