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Henderson Lewelling and William Meek Estate history
Posted by: donna gatts (ID *****2841) Date: April 15, 2005 at 14:31:37
  of 18

History
Hayward, Ca.

William Meek, planner and builder of Meek Mansion, was one of the first pioneers of commercial agriculture in Alameda County. From his arrival in 1859 to his death in 1880, Meek worked energetically to develop the fertile agricultural region lying in and around Eden Township.


Born in 1817, Meek grew up in Ohio and Iowa. Following the tragic death of his young wife and two sons in 1847, Meek left home and emigrated to Oregon. He established a nursery in the Williamette River Valley with Henderson Lewelling and began shipping trees and fruit to California. Meek received fabulous prices for his goods from the lucrative San Francisco Bay Area Market. In 1859 Meek decided to sell his holdings in Oregon and relocate to Alameda County.


By 1869, when the Meek Mansion was built, Meek had acquired some 3000 acres, most of which were former grounds of the Lorenzo Spanish land grant held by Soto. Meek's estate included all of the land from what is now Mission Blvd. to Hesparian Blvd. to just past Winton Ave. His former partner, Lewelling, purchased adjoining land to the north. These properties became known as "Cherryland" because of the many cherry trees planted by Meek. The trees had been carried from Iowa by wagon train, and they were the first grafted fruit trees to reach the Pacific Coast. Meek also had extensive apricot, plum and almond orchards.


In addition to his distinction as the "first farmer" of Alameda County, William Meek was known for his participation in all facets of life in early Alameda County. He was elected County Supervisor for four terms, beginning in 1862. Meek organized Hayward's first Agricultural Society, which chose him as its president in 1867. Meek was a member of the first board of trustees of Mills College and was active in many other community services.


After Meek's death in 1880, the estate was left to his sons, Horry and William, who continued to manage the property for many years. Horry Meek was distinguished as the president of the Bank of Hayward, while William Meek headed the firm that built the first electric car line from Oakland to Hayward in 1892.


The Meek Estate remained in the Meek family until 1940, although most of the 3000 acres were sold gradually in small parcels. In 1940 Dr. Milton P. Ream purchased the last 10 acrs and the mansion. In 1964 the mansion was slated to be razed in preparation for a housing development. The Hayward Area Recreation and Park District, with citizen backing, bought the estate. In 1973 Meek Mansion was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. For a number of years the mansion was available to the public for rental for parties and wedding receptions. However, over-use and the need for greater supervision caused H.A.R.D. to discontinue the rental policy.


The Carriage House restoration was completed in 1995. In May 1996, H.A.R.D. approved funds for architectural planning for restoration of the mansion.


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