Biography of Rev. William Lewis Meinzer

Rev. William Lewis Meinzer was born on December 26, 1868, in Winnebago County, Illinois, to William and Mary Julia Meinzer, immigrants from Baden, Germany. He pursued education at Northwestern College, Iowa State College, and the State Agricultural College, earning a Bachelor of Science in 1894. Meinzer entered the Methodist Episcopal Church ministry, serving in various South Dakota towns. He married Dora Jane Squires on December 31, 1895; she passed away in 1902. Meinzer was also known for his lectures based on his European travels. He remained a devoted Republican and influential community figure until his death.

Rev. William Lewis Meinzer was born on a farm in Winnebago County, Illinois, on the 26th of December, 1868, and is a son of William and Mary Julia Meinzer, both of whom were born near Carlsruhe, Baden, Germany. The former was a lad of nine years when he accompanied his parents on their emigration to America, while his wife was seven years of age when she came to the United States with her parents, both families being numbered among the pioneer settlers in northern Illinois. The father of the subject became a successful farmer and resided for half a century on his homestead farm in Winnebago County, Illinois. He and his wife are now residing in Davis, Illinois, having retired from active life. The ancestry of the subject, in both the paternal and maternal lines, has been identified with the history of southern Germany, and his grandparents were the first of the respective families to locate in the new world. The maternal grandfather was prominent in the revolution of 1848, and this fact led to his emigration from the Fatherland. One of his brothers was for many years burgomaster of the village of Neureuth, Baden.

William L. Meinzer secured his early educational discipline in the district schools of his native county, and as a mere boy began to assist in the work of the home farm, having followed the plow when but ten years of age, while he was able to attend school during the winter terms of about four months. Of alert and receptive mentality, his ambition to secure a broader education was early quickened, and in the fall of 1887 he entered Northwestern College, at Naperville, Illinois, but by reason of illness he was compelled to temporarily abandon his studies there a few months later, and upon resuming collegiate work he interspersed the same with periods of teaching, in order to secure the means with which to further prosecute his studies. In the autumn of 1889, he came to Lincoln County, South Dakota, for the purpose of teaching in the public schools, and in the following spring, he entered the State Agricultural College, at Brookings, where he continued his studies until the spring of 1893. When a quarrel arose between the faculty and a large number of the students, our subject left the institution and was matriculated in the Iowa State College, at Ames, being there graduated as a member of the class of 1894 and receiving the degree of Bachelor of Science. In the same year he took up the study of theology, prosecuting the course designated by the Dakota conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and he continued his ecclesiastical studies after entering upon active pastoral work. He was received on trial into the conference, at Aberdeen, in 1895; was ordained a deacon, at Mitchell, by Bishop Warren, in 1897; and an elder by Bishop Hurst, at Huron, in 1899.

In November, 1894, Mr. Meinzer became pastor of the church at Armour, Douglas County, and in 1896 he was assigned to the pastorate at Howard, where he remained until 1899, when the conference assigned him to the pastoral charge of the church at Redfield, Spink County, where he rendered most effective service until 1902. His wife died in April 1902 during the pastorate at Redfield. In the following June, he resigned his charge and made an extended European tour, returning to South Dakota in October 1902, when the conference appointed him to Clark, South Dakota. Since his return from abroad, in connection with his pastoral duties, Mr. Meinzer has gained high commendation on the lecture platform, having embodied his experiences and observations in Europe into a most interesting and original lecture entitled “Kings, Crowns and Castles.” He is a man of high intellectual attainments and is instinct with enthusiasm and nervous vitality, and his devotion and loyalty have made him a force for good in the pulpit and on the platform, while he stands as a type of the best citizenship. In politics, he has ever given a staunch allegiance to the Republican Party, having cast his first presidential vote for Benjamin Harrison.

On the 31st of December, 1895, Mr. Meinzer was united in marriage to Miss Dora Jane Squires, the ceremony being performed at Armour, this state. Mrs. Meinzer was born and reared near East Fairfield, Vermont, and came to South Dakota in 1890, being for four years a successful and popular teacher in the public schools of Armour. She died in Asbury Hospital, in the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota, on the 15th of April, 1902, as the result of an operation for cancer. No children were born of this union.


Robinson, Doane, History of South Dakota: together with mention of Citizens of South Dakota, [Logansport? IN] : B. F. Bowen, 1904.

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