During a break from the oppressive heat of mid-June, more than 100 members of the Meyer family gathered under the shade of a shelter at Boonville’s City Lake Park. As heaping helpings of homemade food were ladled onto plates, relatives hugged, laughed, and reminisced. And at the center of the group was an 86-year-old woman in a pale yellow dress, beaming with pride at photos of ancestors looking over new generations of Meyers.
Barbara Brown Meyer was a writer by trade, working for regional newspapers and publishing four books of her own. Long retired, she has poured her energy into chronicling the Meyer family’s roots from Germany to Indiana, gifting her loved ones a touching biography of their past.
The family traces its lineage to Karl Ludwig Meyer, descendant of the House of Hohenzollern, a German dynastic family whose ancestral seat is the stunning 18th century castle of the same name. Meyer met his blue-blooded match in Catharina Bernasco, a countess of Spanish origin from Trier, a city near Germany’s southwestern border with Luxembourg. Catharina and Karl Ludwig had two sons; Ludwig later remarried and had four more sons, who moved in the mid-1800s to the U.S. and opened a butcher shop and market in Boonville.
Granddaughter Agnes Meyer was born in Warrick County in 1889 and married Albert C. Derr in 1910. The Derrs, of course, began bottling soft drinks in the late 1880s, making Agnes the member of a second prominent family. A brother, Carl “Buddy” Meyer, ran the X-Market in Boonville’s Meyer Center. Barbara’s late first husband, Carl Otto “Dutch” Meyer, was Buddy’s son.
Barbara has organized the Meyer family reunions for years. After a pause due to the pandemic, she and her children orchestrated the 2022 gathering. Although a joyful event, she concedes it takes a lot of time, money, and energy to bring it all together. The family’s lineage alone took up 30 posters, which Barbara created herself.
“It’s hard to remember all the names and dates. Everyone who I can ask is gone,” she says.
This year’s reunion was Barbara’s last to organize, a bittersweet cap on a life of dutiful work.
“I feel like God gave me a calling and a talent, and I’ve tried to use it,” Barbara says. “I want to leave something significant behind, and I’ve done that.”