James Meadows was born in Norfolk, England, in 1817. He sailed on the whaling ship Indian in March 1835, and deserted in Monterey in 1837. He worked as a vaquero (cowboy) at several ranches including Rancho El Sur. He was a member of Isaac Graham's company of riflemen exiled to San Blas in 1840-1841.
In 1842 he married Loreta (or Loretta) Onesimo de Peralta, widow of Domingo Peralta, and a descendant of local Mission Indians. (Loreta was the sister of Anselma Onesimo who married William B. Post.)
They had five children:
- Isabella Meadows (1846-1935). Isabella was one of anthropologist John Peabody Harrington's informants, and provided him with a wealth of information on local Indians. The archaeological site known as Isabella Meadows Cave (CA-MNT-250) is named for her.
- Eduardo Meadows
- Frank Meadows
- James Meadows Jr.
- Thomas Meadows
- Clark, Donald T., Monterey County Place Names (Kestrel Press, Carmel Valley, 1991).