Return J. Meigs, Jr.

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Return J. Meigs, Jr.
File:Return J. Meigs, Jr.jpg
5th United States Postmaster General
In office
March 17, 1814 – June 26, 1823
President James Madison
James Monroe
Preceded by Gideon Granger
Succeeded by John McLean
4th Governor of Ohio
In office
December 8, 1810 – March 24, 1814
Preceded by Samuel H. Huntington
Succeeded by Othniel Looker
United States Senator
from Ohio
In office
December 12, 1808 – December 18, 1810
Preceded by John Smith
Succeeded by Thomas Worthington
Chief Judge of the Ohio Supreme Court
In office
Member of the Northwest Territory House of Representatives
from Washington County
In office
Preceded by New District
Succeeded by Ephraim Cutler
William Rufus Putnam
Personal details
Born (1764-11-17)November 17, 1764
Middletown, Connecticut
Died March 29, 1825(1825-03-29) (aged 60)
Marietta, Ohio
Resting place Mound Cemetery
Political party Democratic-Republican
Spouse(s) Sophia Wright
Alma mater Yale University
Profession Politician, Lawyer, Judge
Military service
Service/branch United States Army
Rank Brevet Colonel

Return Jonathan Meigs, Jr. (/ˈmɛɡz/; November 17, 1764 – March 29, 1825) was a Democratic-Republican politician from Ohio. He served as the fourth Governor of Ohio, fifth United States Postmaster General, and as a United States Senator.

Early life

Meigs was born in Middletown, Connecticut, the son of Return J. Meigs, Sr. and the descendant of early Puritan settlers in Massachusetts. He graduated from Yale College in 1785 and studied law there. In 1788, after being admitted to the bar in Connecticut, he moved to Marietta, Ohio, where his father had been one of the first settlers, arriving earlier that year.[1]


In Marietta, Meigs was a lawyer, storekeeper and farmer, as well as serving in public offices. He was appointed the first court clerk for the court established at Marietta in 1788.[2] When a post office was established in Marietta in 1794, he became its first postmaster. In 1798 he was named to a judgeship on the Northwest Territory's territorial court, and in 1799 he won election to the territorial legislature.[1]

In 1803 he was appointed the first Chief Justice of the Ohio State Supreme Court.[3] He served in that position for a year before serving as a judge in the Louisiana Territory and Michigan Territory. He returned to Ohio in 1807 to run for governor. He won the election, but was declared ineligible for failing to meet the residency requirements. He then was appointed to the U.S. Senate to finish the term of John Smith and was re-elected to his own term a year later. He resigned in late 1810 after winning the governorship.

He served two two-year terms, resigning in April 1814 when appointed Postmaster general by President Madison. His service as Postmaster General was not without controversy. Congress investigated him twice, and he was cleared both times. The size of the Post office doubled during his tenure, which implicated financial difficulties.[4] He served until 1823, when he retired due to ill health and returned to Marietta. Meigs died in Marietta on March 29, 1825, and is buried in Marietta's Mound Cemetery. His grave is marked by a large monument.[1]


Meigs was married in 1788 to Sophia Wright. They had one child, a daughter.[1] Return J. Meigs, Jr. did not have a direct male heir, but two of his younger brothers, John and Timothy, each named a son Return Jonathan Meigs. The first of these - called Return J. Meigs III - passed the bar in Frankfort, Kentucky, commenced law practice in Athens, Tennessee, and became prominent in Tennessee state affairs before the Civil War. He moved to Staten Island, New York, however, at the time of Tennessee's secession from the Union in 1861.[5] Among those men who read law under his tutelage in Tennessee was William Parish Chilton who would become Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.

Timothy's son, Return J. Meigs IV, married Jennie Ross, daughter of principal Cherokee chief John Ross, and emigrated to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears.[6]


Meigs County, Ohio is named in his honor. (Meigs County, Tennessee is named for his father.) Fort Meigs in Perrysburg, Ohio was named in his honor during the War of 1812 by William Henry Harrison.[1][7]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 S. Winifred Smith, Return J. Meigs, Jr., Ohio Historical Society. Accessed January 10, 2011.
  2. "Return J. Meigs, Jr". Ohio Historical Society. Retrieved July 11, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Return J. Meigs, Jr". Ohio History Central. Retrieved July 11, 1012. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Marsh, Allison. "Moving & Sorting Equipment: Mailbag associated with Postmaster general Return J. Meigs, Jr". National Postal Museum, Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved August 16, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Return Jonathan Meigs 3rd, Meigs Family Genealogy and History website
  6. Emmet Starr (1922), History of the Cherokee Indians and their legends and folk lore
  7. Historic Perrysburg, Perrysburg, Ohio website, accessed January 10, 2011


  • Meigs, Return Jonathan Jr. (1764-1825): A Prophecy, Ohio Archæological and Historical Society Publications: Volume 20 [1911], pp. 351–352, poem by Return J. Meigs Jr.

External links