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 what was described as a "lingering illness" by
the Rockford Register newspaper. 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.

In December 1931, Tim was mentioned in the Rockford Register-Republic as part of a federal raid on
Freeport-area establishments suspected of selling alcohol. The feds raided a roadhouse 4 miles east
of Freeport, where
Tim was there but no liquor was found. This roadhouse may have been what
would later be called 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 1933. Prior to
this, Tim's connection to the roadhouse is unclear. However, in May 1932 he was sentenced to 6
months in jail and fined $100 for an undisclosed prohibition law violation. The Rockford Register-
Republic reported that Tim initially pleaded not guilty, but then changed his plea to guilty, at which
time the presiding judge suspended the jail term. Tim was given 2 years of probation.

W
hen the United States voted to repeal Prohibition, the Freeport Journal-Standard reported in
November 1933 that a federal judge had discharged Tim's probation related to
his 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.

The Shan-T-Town nightclub was apparently less than successful, as Tim placed it for sale in a
classified ad in the Journal-Standard in January 1934.
With scores of new competitors now selling
alcohol legally, the rural roadhouses like Shan-T-Town may have suffered.  Tim's advertisement

stated that he would "sacrifice for a quick sale." It appears the Meier's
were not initially successful in
selling the roadhouse, and began renting the place
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.
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.
Above: 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 Left: The farm Tim Meier auctioned the same day as the 74-acre property (1955 photo). This view shows
the farmstead looking east.

Above 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?
Above Left: The farm Tim Meier sold to Audrey Shelton in 1939 (1955 photo).

Above Right: 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.
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.