The MERRILLs of Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts

by Deane Whitney MERRILL (1938-)

12 November 1999 (version 3)
revised 1/12/2008

An earlier version was published in The Merrill Newsletter, Vol. 5, No.4, July 1999.

The Shelburne, Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, in 1926.   Built in 1852 as the Shelburne Falls House for Joseph MERRILL 1804-1854.   Joseph ran the hotel with his brother, Moses Whitney MERRILL 1817-1859.  The building was constructed by Ira MERRILL 1803-1866 and his sons, stonemasons.  It serves today as a grocery store and is still the largest building in the Village of Shelburne Falls.


The previous issue of the MERRILL newsletter (Vol.5, No.3, April 1998, http://merrill.olm.net/TMN) contained my article about the MERRILLs of Franklin County, Massachusetts. Since writing that article, I retired from California to Shelburne Falls in Franklin county, a small village where MERRILLs were prominent during the 19th century. My previous knowledge was based entirely on family records, plus census and vital statistics records. Since moving to Shelburne Falls I have discovered local cemeteries, county records, the Shelburne Historical Society and Museum, and local history books and newspapers. My earlier article contained many unanswered questions and a few errors, which have been corrected by MERRILL descendants who provided valuable new information. Details and source information, under continual revision, are at http://www.bearhaven.com/family/data/dwmerrill12.html. I encourage readers of the MERRILL newsletter to contact me to exchange information.

Among the earliest MERRILLs in Shelburne Falls were Joseph6 MERRILL 1773-1844 (my g-g-g-grandfather) and Thaddeus7 MERRILL 1778-1855. Their respective wives were first cousins Lucinda WHITNEY 1776-1857 and Achsah SEVERANCE 1785-1872. All four, and many of their descendants, are buried in Arms Cemetery in Shelburne Falls. The genealogies of the WHITNEY and SEVERANCE families have been thoroughly studied, but the origins of Joseph and Thaddeus MERRILL are less certain. Based on the known evidence, I believe the most likely lineage is:

John4 MERRILL  (Nathaniel3,2,1) 1706/7-1741 m. Lydia GAGE b.abt.1695
Daniel5 MERRILL b.1729 m. Eunice FELLOWS
Joseph6 MERRILL 1773-1844 m. Lucinda WHITNEY 1776-1857

John4 MERRILL 1706/7-1741 m. Lydia GAGE b.abt.1695
Nathaniel5 MERRILL b.1731/2 m. Anna BALDWIN
Thaddeus6 MERRILL b.1758 m. Chloe SMEAD 1759-1827
Thaddeus7 MERRILL 1778-1855 m. Achsah SEVERANCE 1785-1872

Joseph6, like several of his descendants, was an innkeeper. My wife and I are continuing the tradition, having opened a Bed and Breakfast in the 1852 home built by Joseph's son Moses7 W. MERRILL 1817-1859. See http://www.bearhaven.com.

Thaddeus7 fathered eleven sons and two daughters in Shelburne Falls. His wife Achsah SEVERANCE Merrill 1785-1872 was the granddaughter of the Indian fighter Martin SEVERANCE 1718-1810, who built the first cabin in Shelburne Falls. The house where Achsah was born is the oldest residence still standing in the Village. A newspaper article relates that in her seventies she won the female equestrian competition at the county fair, and that her hair had not a trace of gray.

Thaddeus'  son Ira8 MERRILL 1803-1866 followed in his father's footsteps and became a prominent stone mason in Shelburne Falls. Ira patented innovative techniques for the quarrying and finishing of stone. Two other sons, Solomon8 Fellows MERRILL 1820-1898 and Martin8 Severance MERRILL 1818-1887, along with Jonathan NIMS b.1817, formed the Shelburne Falls Military Band in 1835, which has continued uninterrupted until this day. Other early MERRILL band members were Moses7 Whitney MERRILL 1817-1859 and Cordeanio8 Harley MERRILL 1840-1908, the son and grandson of Joseph6 MERRILL 1773-1844.

Appropriately for a master stone worker, Ira's grave site in Arms Cemetery, Shelburne Falls, is an imposing pink granite monument, surrounded by smaller markers for many of his family members. Ira and his sons built dozens of major stone structures in western Massachusetts between 1850 and 1900, including banks, hotels, churches, libraries, and bridges as far away as Williamstown and Northampton. Most prominent of Ira's sons was George9 Gilson MERRILL 1836-1912, whose name appears on the 1890 iron bridge which crosses the Deerfield River at Shelburne Falls. The most substantial building in Shelburne Falls today is the former Shelburne Falls House, constructed in 1852 by Ira8 MERRILL for Joseph7 MERRILL Jr. 1804-1854. Joseph Jr. ran the hotel with his brother Moses7 Whitney MERRILL 1817-1859. In the late 19th century, the Shelburne Falls House was renowned for its unique dance floor, which was supported on springs! Another local attraction is a stone fire observation tower on the summit of nearby Mt. Massaemet, which was constructed in 1909 by George9 Gilson MERRILL's son Roy10 Stanley MERRILL, who was graduated from Dartmouth College in 1902.

As of a year ago I did not know any of Thaddeus7 MERRILL's living descendants. That situation has changed.


In 1998 I received a surprise visit from Edward12 Emory HARADON III (1939-) (edmory@webtv.net), who descends from Thaddeus as follows:
Thaddeus7 MERRILL 1778-1855 m. Achsah SEVERANCE 1785-1872
Caroline8 Hannah MERRILL 1822-1853 m. John Schuyler HARADON 1815-1875
Emory9 Schuyler HARADON 1848-1928 m. Susan A. PERRY 1852-1927
Edward10 Emory HARADON 1885-1970 m. Bessie Blanche HARRIS 1888-1979
Edward11 Emory HARADON 1914- m. Ella Ellen FELLOWS 1920-1982
Edward12 Emory HARADON 1939-

Edward gave me a copy of a manuscript by John Schuyler HARADON 1815-1875 entitled: "Fitchburg Mass. Aug. 28 1856. I design this Book for A Register of the Families of our Kindred. By John S. Haradon son of John Haradon and Experience Dunham his wife." This book contains birth, death and marriage information for several hundred individuals, including many of Thaddeus7 MERRILL's descendants. Edward and I together visited Arms Cemetery and Shelburne Historical Museum, and Edward joined the Shelburne Historical Society.

A few weeks later Edward12 III visited again, this time with his father Edward11 II (1914-). They brought with them the original of another manuscript, "Memoranda and Accounts of John S. Haradon 1815-1875." Edward III had rescued this unique document from a trash bin where it would have been lost forever. I made a photocopy, and Edward III donated the original document to the Shelburne Historical Society. Many friends and relatives in Shelburne Falls are mentioned. John HARADON was a school teacher, and the volume lists most of his many pupils beginning in 1833. For many months at a time he lived apart from his wife and children while teaching school. He was deeply religious and an advocate of temperance. One page contains locks of hair from himself and this wife and his three children. He was deeply affected by the loss of his wife, when she was 31. Her fatal struggle with consumption is recorded with great poignancy.


Another living descendant of Thaddeus7 MERRILL is Thomas12 Merrill MEADE (tomnet@gte.net), who descends from Thaddeus as follows:
Thaddeus7 MERRILL 1778-1855 m. Achsah SEVERANCE 1785-1872
David8 MERRILL 1812-1906 m. Agnes FONDA
Charles9 Durkee MERRILL b.abt.1843? m. Lucy GINGELL?
Edward10 Strong MERRILL b.abt.1873? m. Mary LANNON
Lannon11 MERRILL b.abt.1903? m. --- MEADE
Thomas12 Merrill MEADE b.abt.1933?

Thomas writes as follows about his grandfather Edward10 Strong MERRILL (b.abt.1873): "This noteworthy Merrill was born in San Leandro, California and reared on the Merrill farm. His father Charles9 Durkee MERRILL (b.abt.1843) and at least one uncle had farms in Beloit, Wisconsin. Part of their property was donated to Beloit College. Edward was a legendary multisport athlete. Some sportswriters rated Edward superior to Thorpe due to his speed, intelligence and all-round ability. He won the Big Ten medal for excellence in baseball, football and track, declined a contract with the Chicago Cubs in order to attend Boston Psychopathic and later the California School of Osteopathy, and founded a landmark psychiatric practice and sanitarium in Los Angeles. He also taught Latin and Greek at Occidental College, and coached the track team. There is much information available about him. His image and sports stories are in the Beloit Athletic Hall of Fame. He was attracted to Los Angeles originally due to an interest in auto racing. There is a 1960-era news clipping reminding us of him in his Stanley Steamer on the streets of Los Angeles. Most people referred to him as "Big Ed."

"Ed's father Charles9 Durkee Merrill (b.abt.1843) and his mother Lucy GINGELL? Merrill were quite peripatetic and sailed round the Horn to California on more than one occasion. There was some Mormon element in the equation and they may have been active in a Mormon settlement east of Los Angeles before the turn of the century. They traveled in Europe."

"Another item dated 1905 came from a librarian in Rockford, Illinois, mentioning David8 MERRILL 1812-1906, Edward's grandfather, as "one of the old singing masters who taught singing school here in 1841 . . . . . now ninety-three years old and still living in the neighboring town of Cherry Valley." The MERRILL Memorial, published 1917-1928 by Samuel MERRILL, states that David8 MERRILL was a real estate developer in Beloit.  "Merrill's Addition" is a suburb which bears his name.

"Edward's sister Agnes10 MERRILL married and taught school in Lancaster, CA. His uncles were Presbyterian ministers who founded churches and were pastors in Eagle Rock, between Pasadena and Los Angeles. Pictures and stories of his brothers are in the library at Beloit College - they were robust, excellent athletes and handsome."


From Howard and Jean MERRILL (hjmerril@eatel.net) I received a copy of a 1992 letter from Peggy Dillon LEWIS, whose MERRILL line is as follows:
Thaddeus7 MERRILL 1778-1855 m. Achsah SEVERANCE 1785-1872
Thaddeus8 MERRILL 1816-1893 m.(2) Experience Christiana HARADON 1829-1915
Alice9 Experience MERRILL 1854-1941 m. Francis Marion DILLON d.1909

The MERRILL line of Thaddeus8 ends here; the only son of Thaddeus8 was George9 Arthur MERRILL 1853-1894, who had no children. Note that Experience Christiana HARADON 1829-1915 and John Schuyler HARADON 1815-1875 were siblings, who married the siblings Thaddeus8 MERRILL Jr. 1816-1893 and Caroline8 Hannah MERRILL 1822-1853. Peggy Dillon LEWIS' letter also contains information about Thaddeus7 MERRILL's grandfather and father, Nathaniel5 MERRILL b.1731/2 and Thaddeus6 MERRILL b.1758.

Peggy's letter states that the husband of Lucinda WHITNEY 1776-1857 was Joseph6 MERRILL b.1769 the son of Nathaniel5 MERRILL b.1731/2.  I believe instead that her husband was Joseph6 MERRILL 1773-1844 the son of Daniel5 MERRILL b.1729. From Joseph and Lucinda's gravestone and from Shelburne death records, Lucinda's husband Joseph MERRILL who died in 1844 was born March 25, 1773. From Shelburne birth records, a Joseph MERRILL was born in Deerfield on March 27, 1773. From the Deerfield birth records,   Joseph Merril, son of Daniel and ___, was baptised on Oct. 10, 1773. The two-day discrepancy in the birth dates, and the six-month delay before baptism, are plausible. Daniel's presence in Deerfield in 1773 is confirmed by tax records. See http://www.bearhaven.com/family/merrill/jos_father.html.


Also from Howard and Jean MERRILL (hjmerril@eatel.net) I received a copy of a 1990 letter "The Children and Grandchildren of Nathaniel5 MERRILL (b.1731/2) and his son Benjamin6 MERRILL (1767-1854)", prepared for Ted D. MERRILL, Chaparral, New Mexico by professional genealogist Roger D. Joslyn.  Joslyn lists six children born in Rowe, Massachusetts to Thaddeus6 MERRILL b.1758 who in 1780 married Chloe SMEAD 1759-1827; but these do not include Thaddeus7 MERRILL 1778-1855 who married Achsah SEVERANCE 1785-1872.  Joslyn, like Peggy DILLON Lewis, states that the husband of Lucinda WHITNEY 1776-1857 is Joseph6 MERRILL b.1769 the son of Nathaniel5 MERRILL b.1731/2, rather than Joseph5 MERRILL 1773-1844 the son of Daniel5 MERRILL b.1729. Joslyn's reasoning rests on a June 1795 deed, which states that Joseph and Lucinda MERRILL sold land in Rowe conveyed five months earlier to Joseph by Thaddeus6 [Hampshire/Franklin county Deeds, 7:674 and 7:697]. Although the land records are persuasive, I find this evidence somewhat less convincing than Joseph's birth and death records cited above.


Genealogy information on the Internet is growing at the phenomenal rate of 5 percent per month.  See http://www.bearhaven.com/family/growth.html. If this trend continues, it will not be long before other MERRILL descendants respond to the MERRILL newsletter, and/or publish new information of their own. I wish to publicly exchange information about the descendants and ancestors of the MERRILLs of Shelburne Falls, especially Joseph6 1773-1844 and Thaddeus7 1778-1855, and I will donate my time and Web resources for this purpose.

Deane11 Whitney MERRILL (Deane10,Charles9,Cordeanio8,Moses7,Joseph6) (1938-)
[2008 address] 96 Beverly Road, Asheville NC 28805
email: dwmerrill@charter.net   web: http://merrill.olm.net


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