Merrills of Franklin County, MA

 

Deane Whitney Merrill (1938-)
merrill@crocker.com

May 1998

This article was published in The Merrill Newsletter. Vol.5, No.3, May 1998.
editor: Lillian Follett-Hall, lilhall@geocities.com

Note: All persons named in this article are Merrills by birth or marriage.  A number following the first name indicates the generation. All locations are in Massachusetts except as indicated. "Franklin County" refers to present-day boundaries; Franklin County was part of Hampshire County until 1820.

Franklin County, Massachusetts lies about 100 miles west of Boston. The county seat, Greenfield (pop. 14,000) is at the junction of the Connecticut River, which flows southward; and the Deerfield River, which flows eastward into the Connecticut. The earliest colonial settlement in Franklin County (1669) was at Deerfield, which was then the western frontier of the Massachusetts colony. The Indians, aided by the French, were a constant threat; in 1704 they burned Deerfield, killing half the townspeople and marching the others off to captivity in Canada. The survivors returned to rebuild, and thanks to the fertile Deerfield River valley, the town prospered. By 1750, the wealthy Deerfield farmers were living in comfortable homes, importing fine silk dresses and expensive musical instruments from Europe.

In 1768 the northwest portion of Deerfield was sectioned off to become the new town of Shelburne; Buckland followed in 1779. Shelburne Falls (pop. 2,000) includes parts of Shelburne and Buckland on opposite sides of the Deerfield River. The first Merrills in Franklin County settled in Deerfield and Shelburne in the early 1770's. Up until that time most of the Merrills in America, all descended from Nathaniel1 (1601-1654/5), lived in and around Newbury, Haverhill and Salisbury, in Essex County northeast of Boston. The following six Merrill families, all living in Franklin County around 1800, were undoubtedly related to each other and quite likely all came from eastern Massachusetts:

1. Daniel5 (John4, Nathaniel3, Nathaniel2, Nathaniel1), was b. 1729 in Haverhill, m. Abigail Carleton in 1749 in Bradford, m. (2) Eunice Fellows in 1766, was in Deerfield 1773, d. 1817 in Deerfield.  Daniel fathered eight children including Joseph6, who was b. 1773 in Deerfield, m. Lucinda Whitney in Shelburne in 1794, and d. 1844 in Shelburne. Joseph was the postmaster of Shelburne Falls; like several of his children and grandchildren, he was a hotel keeper.

2. Lt. Nathaniel5, the brother of Daniel5, was b. 1733/4 in Haverhill. This is probably the Nathaniel who m. Anna Baldwin 1754 in Pelham NH, and who was in Deerfield 1772-3, in Shelburne 1774, and in Deerfield again in 1792-3. This is probably the same Nathaniel who served in the Revolution in 1775-77, in Capt. Agrippa Wells' company. This same Nathaniel probably fathered seven children including Thaddeus6, who was b. abt. 1777. It is possible, but not proven, that Thaddeus6 is the Capt. Thaddeus who married Achsah Severance in 1801 and who fathered eleven sons and two daughters in Shelburne Falls. This Thaddeus and most of his sons were stone masons.  The wives of Joseph6 1773-1844 (above) and Thaddeus abt.1777-1855 were first cousins Lucinda Whitney 1776-1857 and Achsah Severance 1784-1872.  This increases our confidence that Thaddeus the husband of Achsah was indeed Thaddeus6, the son of Daniel5 and therefore the first cousin of Joseph6.

3. John (ancestry unknown), b. 1764 in Westminster, m. Sally _____, m. (2) Lydia Hastings. John fathered seven children by Sally and two by Lydia, all in Shelburne.

In the 1800's dozens of Merrills lived in Shelburne Falls, all probably descended from the three families above. Other Merrills resided elsewhere in Franklin County:

4. Samuel (ancestry unknown), b. abt. 1774, m. Fanny Harvey 1797 in Deerfield, d. bef. 1830 in Deerfield. Samuel, who was a tanner and shoemaker, fathered six children in Deerfield.

5. Jesse (ancestry unknown), b. prob. abt. 1758, m. Martha Sawyer 1778 in Ashfield, m. (2) Rhoda Smith 1790 in Ashfield, fathered two children by Rhoda, both in Ashfield.

6. Thaddeus (ancestry unknown), b. abt. 1759, of Rowe, m. Chloe Smead 1780 in Greenfield.  How this Thaddeus is related to the Thaddeus who married Achsah Severance in 1801 (see #2 above) is unknown.

The information above is mostly from secondary sources.  It represents incomplete work in progress, and is published here to elicit more information.  Deane Merrill's genealogy Web page is at http://www.bearhaven.com/family2.   To browse the information above, look for "searchable databases in GENDEX" and then select database dwmerrill12.  Or go to GENDEX directly at http://www.gendex.com/gendex.   Database dwmerrill12 is intended to include all Merrills who ever resided in Franklin County; it consists of several disconnected family trees. Some of the links are conjectural and are so indicated; for example, it is not known whether Thaddeus the husband of Achsah Severance is the same person as Thaddeus6 the son of Nathaniel5

In Shelburne Falls, the house at #22 Mechanic Street was built around 1850 by my great-great-grandfather Moses7 Whitney (1817-1859) (Joseph6, Daniel5, John4, Nathaniel3, Nathaniel2, Nathaniel1). It was extensively remodeled by my great-grandfather Cordeanio8 Harley (1840-1908) in 1897-98. For a few years prior to his death, Cordeanio also owned the adjacent houses on both sides of #22. My grandfather Charles9 Arthur (1875-1968) moved to New Jersey.   My father Deane10 Whitney (1908-1987), like myself, was born and raised in New Jersey. #22 Mechanic Street was sold after the death in 1940 of Cordeanio's second wife.

Through a lucky chance and the alertness of my brother Jonathan11 Alden (1945-), we were fortunate enough to repurchase #22 Mechanic Street in 1997. In the first year my wife Chris and I (with a lot of help) installed six bathrooms, replaced the front porch and electrical wiring and all 66 (!) windows, repaired the roof, restored the beautiful wood floors, and (with regrets) removed a 100-plus year old tree.  Next we will apply an authentic Victorian "Painted Lady" exterior.

In summer or fall 1998 we plan to open a 3-room Bed and Breakfast. The B&B will be called "Bear Haven" in honor of Chris's many Teddy Bears who share the premises with us. There are no other B&Bs near "downtown" Shelburne Falls, so we expect plenty of business! Tourists come to Shelburne Falls to see the magnificent fall foliage, the unique Bridge of Flowers, and the famous Glacial Potholes. Genealogists with Franklin County ancestors come to visit Arms Cemetery and Arms Library. Nearby is historic Deerfield with 14 Museum Houses open to the public. 

Check out our Web site at http://www.bearhaven.com.  The page with pictures and additional information provides links to other Shelburne Falls pages, including the Shelburne Falls Area Business Association, and a delightful "walking tour" by Tom Eisenman.   For more information about Bear Haven, please e-mail info@bearhaven.com or call Chris at 413-625-9281. We hope to welcome you at Bear Haven soon!

Bear Haven photo

Bear Haven, 22 Mechanic Street, Shelburne Falls, MA 01370
Moses W. Merrill Homestead, 1850
A Rest Home for Teddy Bears
Bed and Breakfast, opening planned in 1998

Genealogy summary:
(the link between Nathaniel5 and Thaddeus6 is uncertain)

Nathaniel1 Merrill (1601-1654/5) m. Susanna

Nathaniel2 Merrill (1633/4-1682/3) m.1661 Joanna Ninian

Nathaniel3 Merrill (1664/5-1738) m.1691 Sarah Woodman (b.1665)

John4 Merrill (1706/7-1741) m. Lydia Gage

Daniel5 Merrill (b.1729) m.1766 Eunice Fellows

Lt. Nathaniel5 Merrill (b.1731/2) m. Anna Baldwin (b.abt.1735)

Joseph6 Merrill (1773-1844) m.1794 Lucinda Whitney (1776-1857)

Capt. Thaddeus6 Merrill (abt.1777-1855) m.1801 Achsah Severance (1784-1872)

Moses7 Whitney Merrill (1817-1859) m.1839 Abigail E. Coleman (1818-1892)

11 sons and 2 daughters, all born in Shelburne Falls
Cordeanio8 Harley Merrill (1840-1908) m.1859 Helen Maude Howard (1840-1893) 23 known grandchildren
Charles9 Arthur Merrill (1875-1968) m.1905 Eleanore Edwards Goucher (1877-1950) Thaddeus' great-grandchildren are unknown.  Any information will be appreciated.
Deane10 Whitney Merrill (1908-1987) m.1931 Harriet Mary Ray (1909-1978)
Deane11 Whitney Merrill (1938-) m.(3)1995 Anna Christine Morben (1949-)

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Deane Merrill, merrill@crocker.com