Merrill family history and genealogy to the benefit of all.


VII. Nathaniel1 and His Sons
      The Will of Nathaniel1

First Generation
A Merrill Memorial

    Samuel Merrill, 1928, reprint 1983

Nathaniel1 of Newbury and His Sons - Chapter VII, pp66-101

   It is not known in what ship John and Nathaniel Merrill came to New England. There are, indeed, few ships’ lists for that period in existence. Rev. Samuel-H. Merrill wrote, in 1858, that they came, with about one hundred others, in the ship Hector in 1633, but evidence that they did so is lacking. The statement is doubtless based on an interpolation, by an unknown hand, in an entry in the Newbury records under the date of 1752, Coffin, in his History of Newbury (pages 9 and 10), gives reasons for disregarding this tradition.

   The Merrill brothers made a brief stay in Ipswich before taking up their residence in Newbury. John received a grant of a house lot in Ipswich as early as 1636, but surrendered it on removing from the town. John, and probably Nathaniel, was a freeholder, or proprietor, in Newbury as early as 1638.

   The exact spot in Newbury where Nathaniel1 Merrill lived is unknown (*) —but the same may be said of the homesteads of most of the first settlers. Nathaniel and his brother John were granted homestead lots adjoining each other on the Neck, on the south bank of the Parker River. It is probable that they built houses and lived there several years, but when the exodus was made to the “newe Town,” they removed northward with most of the others. Those living on the Neck resisted the proposed transfer of the settlement to the shore of the Merrimack, but in December, 1643, it was recorded that “the necke men have consented to yeld to the remoueing of the towne, and accordingly have received satisfaction at the new towne in land, for their land on the necke, and therefore have yelded up their land in the necke to the Towne.” (Currier, History of Newbury, p. 92.)

   William7 Merrill (Henry6,5,4, John3, Abraham2), who was born in 1817, was much interested in questions relating to the family history. He was very familiar with Newbury and West Newbury places, having passed his life in the territory comprised within the boundaries of Old Newbury. It was his belief that Nathaniel1 Merrill spent the last years of his life on part of the farm which his son Abraham2 occupied, just below the mouth of Artichoke River. Mr. Merrill wrote me, when he was long past 80 years of age, that he had eaten pears from two trees which grew on the farm, the trees, according to tradition, having been standing in the time of Nathaniel the emigrant. The house of Nathaniel1 is supposed to have stood a quarter of a mile from the road, toward the river. But the belief that Nathaniel1 Merrill lived on this farm is based only on tradition, unsupported, so far as the present writer is aware, by any more tangible evidence.

   The inventory of Nathaniel1 Merrill’s estate, made shortly after his death, mentions “ten akers of vpland and thre akers of marsh with the preuiledge of afrehold or Comonage,” but it includes no other real estate. The value placed on this land and right of commonage was only £20. Following the inventory is the entry, “his debts for Rent due to mr Cutting - - 5-0-0,” and in the absence of any definite mention of buildings in the will or in the inventory we may surmise that Nathaniel1 Merrill at his death occupied under a lease a house belonging to another.

   John Cutting, shipmaster, made many voyages between England and America. He was in Watertown in 1636, and later in Charlestown, and as early as 1642 was in Newbury, where he died 20 Nov. 1659. Prior to 1645 he was granted a farm of two hundred acres on the north bank of the Falls River, in what was later the Byfield Parish. About the same time he was granted “an house lot at the new town joyning Hill Street.” (**) John Cutting owned land also on the shore of the Merrimack, near the old Salisbury ferry landing, and just below Ram Island. This land was bounded by the present High Street on the west, by Woodland Street on the north, and by the river on the east.

   If Nathaniel1 Merrill held his dwelling house under a lease from John Cutting, it is not likely that the house stood on the farm on the Falls River which had been granted to Cutting, for the inhabitants of the Colony were discouraged, so far as possible, by legal enactment and otherwise, from living at any considerable distance from the meeting house, the civic center of each community. This policy was dictated less by a wish to encourage promptness and regularity in attendance at divine worship, than by a desire to insure mutual protection.

   It seems probable that Captain Cutting himself lived on the homestead lot granted him on Hill Street, and we may surmise that Nathaniel Merrill owed the £ 5 for rent of a house on the Woodland Street land near the river. This section is now a very respectable residential neighborhood. (***)

   It would be interesting to know something of the personality of Nathaniel Merrill, and the circumstances of his daily life. He was no doubt much like the other farmers of his time, and met the hardships of a pioneer without a murmur in an age when newspapers were unknown, letter writing infrequent, and when no thought was given to the preservation of materials for such a history as this, for the benefit of a generation of descendants who would not come into the world until two centuries or more had elapsed. After all it is not strange that so little has survived the succeeding ages of indifference to family history.

   The “freeholders” or “proprietors” of Newbury were those who were entitled to share in the common and undivided lands. John1 Merrill was a freeholder in 1642. At what time Nathaniel1 acquired freehold rights we cannot tell. He had, however, acquired such rights by purchase prior to 1 March, 1651. (Currier, History of Newbury, pages 84, 93.)

* See p.57; see also pp.159-161

** Hill Street retains the same name in modern Newburyport. See Currier, History of Newbury, pages 64, 89, 90, note.

*** The foot of Woodland Street is a quarter of a mile below the site of the shipyard occupied by Jonathan, Nathan and Orlando-Bagley Merrill. (****) (See Currier, “Ould Newbury,” p. 281.) This shipyard was opposite Ram Island. It is now grass-grown. The few rotting wharf-timbers which remain furnish scant material to enable a layman to construct a mental picture of the old-time flourishing industry. The industry in Newburyport was too dead to be revived, even when war necessities recently called for rapid construction of fighting and freighting vessels.
    Parallel with Woodland Street, a quarter of a mile southeast, is Merrill Street. This, as Merrill’s Lane, was opened about 1750. It was accepted by the town in 1774, and was then given the name Merrill Street. The original lane included what later was known as Russia Street, and it ran southwest from Merrimack Street. On Merrill Street lived Moses and Thomas-P. Merrill, as well as a number of shipmasters who were aotive in the thriving foreign commerce of early Newburyport. A gambrel-roofed house on this street was occupied for many years by Dr. David-Jackman Merrill (1806-1891). (*****) Another Merrill’s Lane, in what is now West Newbury, ran northwesterly from Indian Hill to Indian River. (“Ould Newbury,” p. 348.) On this road stood the house of Nathaniel3 Merrill (Abel2)

**** See pages 592, 594

***** See page 504


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     © - Updated 10 July, 2002