JOSEPH L. MEADS. The old axiom which tells us that kind words and gentle deeds live forever is one which not only inspires the mind with its sublimity, but its truth is so often brought home to us, and so forcibly, that it affords a solace that we do not always feel. A noble life invariably begets its full measure of love and veneration, and even though myriads of kindnesses done and self-sacrificing efforts are lost to earth, there is always the satisfied sense in the mind of the donor of a duty well done. All men who have been so graciously endowed with that most precious of all human attributes, love for their fellow men, have been amply repaid for their self-obligation, generosity and charity, and this truism has been exemplified in the life of Joseph L. Meads, than whom there is no better-known or more beloved evangelistic worker in the United States. Mr. Meads, who is now a resident of Benton, Illinois, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, February 25, 1868, and is a son of George W and Harriet (Hatfield) Meads.
The Meads family originated in England, where the name was spelled Meadows. Little is known of the family other than that George W. Meads was born in Pennsylvania, moved in his youth to St. Louis, Missouri, and eventually settled in Jackson county, Illinois, where he followed carpentry until his death, and that he was a soldier during the Mexican war. The Hatfield family was founded in America by Mr. Meads' great-grandfather, who came from Ireland as a young man and settled in Illinois, where Mr. Meads' grandfather, Andrew J. Hatfield, was born. He moved to Jackson county in young manhood, engaged in farming and stockraising and became a well known citizen. He died in 1870.
Joseph L. Meads received a common school education and began preaching when he was twenty-one years of age. He soon became prominent as an organizer of churches, establishing the congregations at Murphysboro, Marion, Chester, Creal Springs, Johnsonville, Illinois, and Pierceton, Indiana, and others of the Free Baptist denomination. He was pastor for a time at Murphysboro and Chester, but gave up his charges to engage in work as a Union Evangelist, and he has since become one of the best known and most successful evangelistic workers in the country, to every part of which he has traveled. He has just closed a very successful meeting in Iowa. Possessed of the gift of oratory, with an excellent voice and a pleasant appearance, Mr. Meads has been an able and successful lecturer. He resides in a beautiful home in Benton, where he stands in the highest esteem of his fellow citizens. In 1902 he published a book, "Ethen's Overcomings," which received very favorable notices from the press and critics.
On May 10, 1893, Mr. Meads was united in marriage with Mary Estella Waldo, daughter of Richard and Rebecca (Spence) Waldo. Richard Waldo, who was a relative of Ralph Waldo Emerson, was born in Virginia, and as a young man came to Illinois. He enlisted in the Civil war as a member of the Union army, and on its close located in business in Marion county, where his death occurred. Rebecca Spence,
his wife, was a daughter of Daniel Spence, a noted Southern Illinois abolitionist, who was also a farmer and well known local Methodist Episcopal preacher. Mr. and Mrs. Meads have had six children: Mary Eileen, who is in her third year in high school; Joseph L., Richard, Nina, and Giles, all of whom are attending school; and Virginia, the baby. The family is connected with the Free Will Baptist church. Mr. Meads has identified himself with Oddfellowship, and in his political views has supported the principles of the Prohibition party in the great work it has accomplished in Southern Illinois during the last few years. Mr. Meads' busy and fruitful life has made its impress upon the country, and his gentle though manly disposition has made him hosts of friends in every section that he has visited.