The Meiers
Ransom David Meier was the successful bidder at the Hufford farm auction in the Fall of 1942. The property was deeded to Ransom on
December 1, 1942. Per the terms of the sale, he was given possession the following year and the transfer deed was filed with the Stephenson
County Recorder on June 21, 1943.

Ransom, who was commonly known as Tim, was born in Illinois on February 27, 1903. The son of Frank and Bertha May (Bottorf) Meier, Tim
grew up in the areas of Rock Grove, Illinois and Twin Grove, Wisconsin. His older brother, Dewey Franklin Meier, was born on August 12, 1901.
A younger sister, Beaulah, died in infancy in 1906.

It seems Tim Meier's life got off to a rough start, in a family that may have been filled with abuse and alcoholism. In 1906, shortly after her
6-week-old baby Beaulah died, Bertha Meier filed assault charges against William Frankenberger. On the evening of July 4th, Frankenberger
offered to help Bertha drive a horse and buggy from Davis to her home near Twin Grove, Wisconsin. She obliged, since night had fallen, the
roads home were unfamiliar, and with her was 3-year-old Tim. Along the way, Frankenberger attempted to have his way with Bertha while
shoving young Tim under the seat in the buggy. She apparently fought off his advances until they reached her home, where Frank Meier was
tending to their cows. Frank's presence scared off Frankenberger, and two weeks later Bertha filed assault charges in Stephenson County. The
charges were later dismissed in court, due to insufficient evidence. The Freeport Daily Journal reported that the Stephenson County courtroom
was filled to capacity with locals interested in the case.

Eight days shy of his 6th birthday, Tim's mother died of unknown causes. At some point between 1905 and 1910, possibly after Bertha's
death, the Meier brothers were moved to her parent's residence in Jefferson Township of Green County, Wisconsin.

Over the next several decades, the Freeport Journal-Standard reported many stories of Frank Meier's alcohol-related run-ins with the law. His
second wife, Margaret (Rudy) Meier, was granted a divorce in 1927, on account of drunkenness, although both the 1930 U.S. Census and her
1958 obituary indicated that she and Frank were still married (the 1940 census showed them as divorced, but living together).  Dewey
continued to live with his grandparents into his teenage years, and was shown as living with them in Rock Grove township in the 1920 Census.
We don't know where Tim lived between 1910 and 1930, but suspect he was mostly in the Rock Grove area. In 1921, the Freeport
Journal-Standard society pages for Rock Grove reported that he owned a Ford roadster, and in August of that year Tim won the greased pig
competition at the local farmers picnic.

In September 1922, a young Tim Meier was arrested for stealing from cars parked at a church north of Rock Grove, during Sunday services. He
and a companion became drunk on "hootch and moonshine" and decided to drive to the church and help themselves to what appeared to be
an odd collection of items that would have little value to a pair of teenagers.

Tim married Luella Buethe of Dakota, Illinois in February 1927. Luella was a registered nurse who obtained her nursing degree that same year
from the short-lived Methodist Memorial hospital in Freeport.

In July of 1928, a "Tim Meyers" was sought in connection with a Freeport robbery perpetrated by Miles Lapp and Joe Thompson (charges
against Thomson would later be dropped). Miles Lapp was the
troubled older brother of Grace (Lapp) Mullican, who would later live in our
house. Whether this Tim Meyers was the same person who would own our house is uncertain, but his name was often misspelled in
newspaper reports throughout his life, and we could find no other relevant references to "Tim Meyers" in the Journal-Standard during his
lifetime. All three men were about the same age, and it's possible that Tim Meier and Miles Lapp could have been acquainted through growing
up in the same general area of Stephenson County.

In the 1930 U.S. Census, Tim and Luella were listed as living in Freeport with Frank and his second wife Margaret. The Census listed both men's
occupations as "trucking". That year, Tim advertised the sale of a coon hound pair in
Hunter, Trader, Trapper magazine, using 315 Carpenter
Street in Freeport as his calling address. In the same year, Tim and Luella bought a house on Wayne Street in Freeport. Three years later, the
United States voted to repeal Prohibition, and the Freeport Journal-Standard reported in November 1933 that a federal judge had discharged
Tim's probation related to a previous conviction for a liquor law violation. On the day of Tim's discharge, the judge also discharged probations
for 26 other individuals who had been guilty of Prohibition-era crimes.

Tim's first business venture of record came in 1933, when he and Luella opened the Shan-T-Town Ballroom near Dakota. This roadside
nightclub on Illinois Route 75 advertised its grand opening in the Freeport Journal-Standard in March of that year. Apparently the nightclub
was less than successful, as Tim placed it for sale in a classified ad in the Journal-Standard in January 1934. The ads stated that he would
"sacrifice for a quick sale." It appears the Meier's rented the nightclub to Charles Higley, a Freeport native who had some experience running
similar clubs in that town (and had his own criminal record for Prohibition-related offenses). The lease arrangement may not have worked out
well, as Luella Meier filed suit against Higley and won a verdict on September 5, 1934. Inferring from how the case was described in the
Journal-Standard, the Meier's may have evicted Higley and changed the door locks, and Higley then forcibly entered the property. The next
month, Tim was charged with stealing a cash register from what was described in the Journal-Standard as a roadhouse near Dakota. Did he do
this as a way of collecting back rent? Maybe.

In August 1934, the Journal-Standard reported that Tim and Luella were moving to Dakota. Two years later, they bought a house on the
northeast corner of Main and Division Streets, which they owned for about 10 years. In September 1942, the Freeport Journal-Standard
reported that a home owned by Luella Meier in Dakota was slated for forfeiture because of delinquent real estate taxes over a four-year period.

The events of the next years of Tim's life have created the most questions about how he was able to acquire the 74-acre farm from the
Huffords, as well as other farm real estate, without much evidence that he had the means to afford such purchases. We know that in August
1936, he bought a 95-acre farm at the southeast corner of Eggert Road and McConnell Road in Rock Run Township. Just two years later, he
sold this land to Audrey Shelton, a fellow Rock Grove native. In October 1939, Tim advertised a public auction for a closing out sale at a farm 5
miles south of Davis. Other real estate transactions show that he owned an 83-acre farm on Farm School Road, about a mile west of our home.
He also owned land along the Pecatonica River, near Farwell Bridge Road.

It's possible Tim decided to be a farmer after disposing of Shan-T-Town, and acquired land to make that happen. But one thing stands out in
the Meier family research: they seemed to do little in their lives that would have created the kind of wealth which could afford farm purchases.
Shant-T-Town did not appear to make Tim a wealthy man, and the farm economy of the 1930s wouldn't have added a significant amount of
cash to Tim's bank account. Neither side of Tim's family showed evidence of significant assets that he could have inherited. The only
connection we could find to family land ownership was about 300 acres owned by Tim's great grandfather, David Bradley, along the Wisconsin
border north of Rock Grove. About 160 acres of this would later be owned by his son Joseph Bradley, who was a brother of Tim's maternal
grandmother, Rebecca Ellen (Bradley) Bottorf. A 1913 plat map of Rock Grove Township shows just 10 of the Bradley acres owned by Rebecca.
So it seems unlikely that enough of the Bradley land would have passed to Tim, that he could have leveraged this into the land he owned in
Rock Run Township.

We suspect Tim was a bootlegger during the 1920s, and his illicit earnings were transferred to farms and bars after Prohibition ended. We
know he was directly connected to two men with liquor law violations: Charles Higley, via Shan-T-Town, and a man named George
Poffenberger of Savannah, Illinois. In the 1940 U.S. Census, Tim and Luella were enumerated while staying at the Poffenberger home. In
January 1929, the Poffenbergers had operated a "soft drink parlor" which was issued a temporary injunction to cease violations of Illinois
prohibition laws. Apparently the Poffenberger's definition of "soft" was slightly different than the law (their business was closed shortly
thereafter). While it's possible the Meier's could have been acquainted with the Poffenbergers through other connections, it seems odd that
Tim's name is so often associated with those on the wrong side of liquor laws.

After selling his 95-acre farm in 1938, Tim bought a bar on Stephenson Street in Freeport. He operated the Alamo Tavern for most of the
1940s. Between 1941 and 1943, Tim was arrested four times; three for assault and once for disturbing the peace and resisting arrest. Two
assault charges came in 1941, the most serious resulting from a beating he gave Alamo Tavern patron Earl R. McKibben with a beer bottle.
McKibben's injuries required a hospital stay. The other two arrests occurred over a 3-day period in August of 1943. During his bar-brawling
days, he purchased the Hufford farm and hosted a couple of sizeable livestock public auctions there. However, life was unraveling for Tim. His
wife was granted a divorce in May of 1944, after 17 years of marriage (she had initially filed for divorce in February 1939).

In December 1945, the Journal-Standard reported that Tim applied for a marriage license to wed Ethel Mae "Tootie" Laman, a Freeport woman
half his age. The couple put off their nuptials until November 9, 1949, when they married in Cook County, Illinois. Tim and Luella may have
continued to have some sort of relationship after their divorce, as the Journal-Standard ran separate stories about the pair in 1948, and
reported the same address on Sherman Avenue in Freeport for both.

By the time Tim decided he was ready to marry a much younger woman, his health had deteriorated. In 1946 the Journal-Standard reported
that he had been admitted to St. Francis hospital and had a "major operation" on July 22nd. Around the time of his failing health, Tim arranged
for the sale of the 74 acres where we live now. A public auction was scheduled for October 21, 1946 to sell this property, as well as the 83-acre
property a mile to the west. Although the other property also had a farmstead, we believe Tim probably lived in our house because the farm
equipment, livestock and crops were auctioned on our property. The other property had a slightly larger 8-room farm house, so it might be
possible that Tim and Luella lived there. But most farmers like to keep their equipment where they live, and there would have been no good
reason for Tim to move all of his from the 83-acre property to our property, just for the sale. The auction announcement in the
Journal-Standard mentioned that Tim's health issues were the reason for the sales.
Albert Kraul was the successful bidder for the 74-acre
property. Ernest R. Walters won the bid for the 83-acre property.

In 1947, Tim sold yet another farm property, this one a 300 acre tract along the flood-prone bottom lands of the Pecatonica River near Farwell
Bridge Road. That year he also transferred ownership of a house on Sherman Street in Freeport to his ex-wife Luella, and sold the Alamo Tavern
around that time. In November 1948, he auctioned a house he owned at 714 E. Stephenson Street in Freeport.

While Tim was showing clear signs of simplifying his life, he just couldn't stay away from bar ownership. In February 1949, Tim was granted a
new liquor license for an establishment at 298 E. Stephenson Street. This property had been a Nash automobile dealership in the 1920s and
was owned by Robert Kaiser, himself an owner of a nearby tavern. Tim's liquor license application was submitted immediately following
Kaiser's death. But just 12 days after the application was approved, the mayor of Freeport revoked the license due to falsified information on
the  application.

Sometime around 1950, Tim and his second wife Ethel moved to Pontiac, Michigan. By this time his health was in serious decline. In August
2016 I spoke with his niece, Geraldine Meier Gilliland, who was very young while Tim was alive. She remembers he and Dewey Meier tending
bar at an establishment in Freeport, but by the time he and Ethel moved to Pontiac, he could not work or lift anything heavier than a coffee
cup. Ethel was the breadwinner, running a halfway house for individuals released from mental institutions. Tim lived out the last of his years in
Pontiac, passing on August 12, 1953 at the age of 50. He had no children. Geraldine Gilliland believes he died from cirrhosis of the liver.

Just months after Tim died, Ethel married the Meier's friend and neighbor in Pontiac, Walter Ike Vancil.  A few years later, after Walter retired
from Fisher Body in Pontiac, the Vancil's moved closer to his family near Murphysboro, Illinois. Ethel died on February 18, 2016.

Over the years in which we pieced together Tim's life, it was obvious he loved hound dogs. He may have been introduced to these dogs by his
father, who in 1943 posted a classified ad in the Freeport Journal-Standard to try to locate a lost hound. Tim also posted several times in the
Lost & Found section of the Journal-Standard, attempting to retrieve dogs who had strayed. Tim's coon hounds competed in field trials, and
some became regional and national champions. His most prized hound appeared to be Lucky Strike, who won the national trials in 1947 and
placed in the top 10 in 1948. A newspaper article stated that Tim had turned down a $3,000 offer for Lucky Strike in 1948.
Right: Tim Meier loved his coon
hounds. When one of his dogs went
missing in 1946, his $25 reward
offer would have been almost $300
in 2014 dollars. The story on the
right was reported by the Journal-
Standard on April 13, 1948.

Left: Tim's health was listed as the
reason for selling two farms near
Rock City. This advertisement
appeared in the October 19, 1946
edition of the Freeport
Journal-Standard. Our property was
advertised as "an ideal stock farm",
which seems to have been its
primary use into the early 1970s.
The 16 acres of standing corn that
came with the farm would have
been about all the acres that were
tillable. Based on the description of
some of the equipment, Tim's
health issues must have come
without much warning. A typical
farm sale usually happens after the
crops are harvested.

Below: Tim bought the Alamo in the
late 1930s or early 1940s. In the
1940 U.S. Census, his occupation
was listed as Tavern Owner. This
advertisement, in the December 29,
1940 edition of the Freeport
Journal-Standard, was one of the
earliest that showed Tim Meier as
owner. Ads for the tavern appeared
in the 1930s, but under different
ownership. After Tim sold the bar,
the "New Alamo Tavern" reopened
around 1947 under new ownership
and continued operating into the
1950s.
Above Right: Tim Meier's obituary appeared in the August 13, 1953 edition
of the  Journal-Standard. His name was misspelled frequently over the years.

Above Left: Remember the Alamo? Most people probably don't, but this is
the building in which it was located (211 E. Stephenson Street in Freeport).

Right: Tim had an unfortunate experience with a hay fork when he was 18
years old. This was one of the many spelling variations of his last name. The
story was printed in the Rock Grove society pages of the Freeport
Journal-Standard on July 13, 1921.
Left: Tim Meier didn't lose many fights.
This one ended up costing him a $3.00
fine, plus $20 in court costs. Of all the
owners of our house, Tim's name (and all
of its variations) appeared most frequently
in the Freeport Journal-Standard. The
Edward Herman beating came in June of
1941 and was followed by the Edward
McKibben beating in that same month.
McKibben was later a no-show in court,
and the charges against Tim were
dismissed.

Other examples of Tim Meier's
malfeasance included an 80 mph drive on
Illinois Route 75 from Freeport to Dakota
and serving a 16-year-old girl alcohol at
the Alamo Tavern.
Above: The last property Tim Meier sold before moving
to Michigan. In July 1948, he paid a $5.50 fine for having
a barking dog here. Four months later, he sold the
house at auction and moved to Michigan shortly after.
Above: Tim's first wife, Luella, apparently enjoyed the company of bad boys.
After divorcing Tim, she married Ralph Thorpe in 1945. Thorpe had a criminal
record going back to 1928, and had spent time in prison. The Freeport
Journal-Standard reported 3 separate divorce filings by Luella between 1946
and 1948. In 1952, Thorpe met an unfortunate end in Chicago. At a West
Side bar, he was murdered by an off-duty Chicago police officer. John J.
Nolan was later sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Above: Tim Meier bought these two properties on Sherman Avenue in
Freeport in the 1940s. As best we can tell, the house on the right is the only
property he didn't sell before moving with his second wife to Pontiac,
Michigan. Tim's father and step-mother, Frank and Margaret Meier, lived
directly across the street from these two houses. The home on the left was
used as Tim's address on the liquor license he applied for in 1949, which was
granted in February and then revoked 12 days later by Freeport's mayor. Tim
deeded this property to ex-wife Luella in 1947, and she listed it as her
residence after a drunk and disorderly arrest in August 1948. It's possible she
had moved to the home while trying to get divorced from her second husband,
Ralph Thorpe.

The two houses were eventually owned by Ethel Meier following Tim's death in
1953. After marrying Walter Vancil, Ethel sold the house on the right in 1956
to Sidney Bruce, whose family still owned the home as of this writing in 2014.

Ethel sold the house on the left in 1967. Its most recent use has been as a
rental property. The next house up the street, partially visible in the far left of
this photo, was a notorious house of prostitution in the 1960s. Vernon and
Ruby Stine were arrested in 1963 and again in 1964 for running the house.
During their September 1963 arrest, the Stines exacted a measure of revenge
against the Freeport police department by exposing Karl Stroh, the city's
Assistant Chief of Police, for his unnamed activities related to the house.
Stroh was suspended from the force for knowing of and failing to report a
house of prostitution, and later resigned. He had been promoted to Assistant
Chief just one month earlier.
Above: This advertisement appeared in the October 14, 1933 edition of the
Freeport Journal-Standard. The ad would probably fit right in at a place like
this. As of this writing in August 2016, I have been unable to find the exact
location of the Shan-T-Town.

Right: The Meier residence in Dakota, Illinois. This home is located on the
northeast corner of Main and Divison Streets. As of this writing in 2014, it was
a rental property.
Above: The farm Tim Meier auctioned the same day as the 74-acre property
(1955 photo). This view shows the farmstead looking east.

Right: The farm as it is today. Three of the buildings from the 1955 photo are
still standing. The house has been replaced, but still sits in the same general
spot as the original. Would Tim Meier ever have believed his farm would look
like this 70 years later?
Left: The farm Tim Meier sold to Audrey Shelton in 1939 (1955 photo).

Above: The farm as was in about 2013. The barn burned down after this
satellite image was taken.
Above: Ethel "Tootie" Meier Vancil in 1987.
The
Southern Illinoisan newspaper showed
Tootie and her second husband Walter as
active in the Murphysboro, Illinois community.
In the "Personals" section, they often wished
each other happy birthday or anniversary.