Meacham Family Origins

THE MEACHAM /MECHAM FAMILY: Origin and Spelling of the Surname

Lillie Dunford Mecham, a researcher of the MECHAM family, wrote, "It is suggested by one historian that the progenitor of the English family which came to be known as MEACHAM came to England with William the Conqueror from French Normandy in 1066, and that the name was then MEACHAMPE. I have not yet been able to verify this story, but it is reasonable, and the name in the original spelling still persists among descendants of early immigrants to America, both from France and England, who settled in our southern states. (The New Dictionary of American Family Names, however, says that the name MECHAM or MEACHAM means "one who came from Measham, a homestead on the Mease river, in Leicestershire, England." Any name ending with -ham indicates a homestead or walled farm). Another surname dictionary says that the name may have come from Machin, meaning "a stonemason." Another anecdote, in jest, says that the name was bestowed by a neighbor and friend of the first man who took the surname Meacham, who called him "me chum" (my friend). The truth is that the origin of the name is uncertain.

The descendants of the immigrant Jeremiah Meacham all spell the name MEACHAM, with the exception of those who joined the LDS Church in the 1830's, who changed it to MECHAM. It is not clearly known just when or why these three brothers, Joshua, Elam, and Joseph Mecham, dropped the letter "a" in the spelling of their surname, but on the records of the Mormon church it was spelled that way. The pronunciation of the name was changed also, from MEACH-UM (rhyming with peach) to ME-KUM (me-come). There are also two other branches of the family who are apparently distantly related. The Quaker branch who came to America in 1702, all spell their surname MECHEM. Later immigrants spell the surname MEACHEM. Because of the lack of standardized spelling in early times, it may also be spelled Mitchum, Measham, Meachin, and many other ways."

Lillie Dunford Mecham wrote, "It has been found that the Meacham and Mecham family have been very prominent in all walks and talks of life. History records many of them as public-spirited men and women possessing breadth of vision, spiritual fortitude, and a dynamic propensity for work. On the whole the record reveals them to be of a sturdy, fearless, strong-minded and capable race, strongly imbued with the pioneer spirit and possessed of the ability to lead and direct others. There have been great explorers, hunters, farmers, lawyers, judges, postmasters, professors, educators, state attorneys, legislators, mayors, governors, U.S. senators, representatives, clergymen, mission presidents, bishops, stake presidents, high councilmen, patriarchs, doctors, dentists, musicians, scientists, and men in the diplomatic groups of our country. Space here would not begin to let us mention a small portion of these men of note."

(GLENN MECHAM, a lawyer who became the mayor of Ogden, Utah in 1992, is the son of Lillie Dunford and Everett H. Mecham).


Information Compiled
by Karen Bray Keeley

INTERNET Adaptation
by Sandra S. Bray