Merrill, 1928, reprint 1983
of Newbury and His Sons - Chapter VII,
Merrill - pp 78-84
is to be regretted that when we inquire into the motives
for John2 Merrill's removal to Hartford, Conn.,
and into the circumstances surrounding his migration,
we are forced to base our conclusions on conjecture.
He made the journey in 1657, or perhaps
a little earlier. Hartford had been settled for about
twenty years. Gregory Wolterton (or Wilterton, sometimes
also written Walterton, Woolterton and Winterton), who
seems to have been a kinsman, had lived in Hartford, of
which town he was one of the original proprietors, since
1637. Wolterton was thrice married, but died without issue.
It is thought that John was received into his household
on his arrival in Hartford. John Merrill is said, indeed,
to have been adopted by Gregory Wolterton,
(*) but no reference to this
fact appears in Gregory Wolterton's will, and I know no
early documentary evidence to support the statement. John
Merrill learned the tanning business from his benefactor,
and lived at the homestead granted to Wolterton on the
south side of what is new Elm Street, close to Little
As a very young man John Merrill was
admitted a freeman (1658), and he filled the humble office
of chimney viewer in 1664 and 1673. He was a townsman,
or selectman, in 1684, 1694 and 1700.
Means of travel were very deficient
in those days, and it is quite likely that no visits were
ever exchanged between John Merrill of Hartford and his
Newbury brothers and their families. But John2
Merrill named his sons after his brothers in Massachusetts
until the list was exhausted, besides remembering in a
similar way his wife, his mother, and his benefactor,
Gregory Wolterton. (See pages 165-6.)
The dates of birth and death of Sarah
Watson, wife of John Merrill, are not known. In 1650 her
father, John Watson, made his will, in which he provided
that his wife should pay to his daughters Sarah and Mary
£5 each when they reached the age of eighteen years.
By this it would appear that Sarah (Watson) Merrill was
born subsequent to 1632. In 1683 Margaret Watson, widow
of John Watson, died, and by a nuncupative will "She
bequeathd to her daughter Sarah Merrells her red cloth
Petticoat. . . . She did desire that her daughters, Sarah
Merrells & Mary Seamor, should have £5 paid
to each of them, that was bequeathed to them by their
John2 Merrill acquired a
large amount of land in West Hartford. In 1673 certain
undivided lands "at the west end of the town"
were allotted to the proprietors. Gregory Wolterton's
allotment of forty-two acres was fourteen rods wide and
a mile and a half long, reaching to the Farmington line.
The lots were laid out in 1674, but, as Gregory Wolterton
had died earlier in the same year, this land came into
the possession of John Merrill.
first purchase with a view to settlement in West Hartford
was made by Thomas Hosmer, for his son Stephen, in 1679,
about half a mile north of the meeting house. John Merrill
began his purchases in the same vicinity in 1683. The
purchase had reference to a mill, immediately erected,
where the present mill stands, at the expense of Mr. Hosmer,
though probably Mr. Merrill was actively engaged in the
work from the first. Mr. Hosmer deeded Mr. Merrill one-third
of the sawmill and sixty acres of land in 1685."
Between this time and 1730 the Hosmers and Merrills purchased
six hundred acres in that section. (***)
2 Merrill's Will
will of John2 Merrill is preserved with the
Colonial records of Connecticut in the State Library at
Hartford. The paper is badly worn at the folds, and the
ink has penetrated through the paper more than in most
contemporary documents. In many of the lines in his signature
the ink has indeed eaten the paper away, so that, when
the document is held up to the light, one can look through
as through the lines of a stencil. With careless handling
the instrument would now quickly go to pieces. Only the
signature is in John Merrill's own handwriting. An inaccurate
copy of this will is given in Manwaring's Digest of the
Early Connecticut Probate Records, I, 486-7.
Merrill made his will 11 April, 1684. He was then in his
prime, a "townsman," and actively engaged in
his business as a tanner. Nathaniel3, the eldest
of his eight sons, was a boy of seventeen at this time,
and Jacob3, the youngest, was yet unborn. But
John2 Merrill lived twenty-eight years after
making his will. In the interval Nathaniel3
had become insane, and in other respects circumstances
The instrument is quite long, and it
begins with something more than the usual solemnity of
the Name & fear of the Eternall God
ffather sonn &
Holy spirit to Him Be Given
all Glory now and
for ever more: Amen.
"J John Merrills of Hartford In New England Being
now through the Graticuss providence of God towards mee
In good Health of Body: And Haveing the Right use of my
understanding & Reason; And J Calling to mind the
Certainty of Death & the uncertainty of the time thereof:
Thought Good to manifest to those whome it may Conserne
what my mind & will is Conserning the Dispose of those
things that God Hath (with subordination to his Holy will
Given mee Liberty to Dispose off
"Jmprimis I Commit my soule into the Hands of my
most Gratiouss god & mercyfull Redemer: my Body after
my Decease J Recommend to Comely & Christian Like
Bury all according to the wise Discression of my Excecutrix
& over seers; Hopeing for & expecting a Gloriouss
Reserection when my soule & Body shall Bee Reunited
and Live Eternally to the Glorifying of God my Redemer
and Conserning Those worldly goods that it Hath pleased
God Jn mercy to Bestow on mee: my will is that my Just
Debts Bee payd out of my Estate; Farther my will is That
my Loveing wife shold Have Half my Dweling House with
Half my Home Lott & the privilidges thereunto BeLonging
so Long as shee shall Remaine a widdow. . . . "
After providing further for the widow,
he stipulated that the residue should be divided into
a number of parts equal to the number of surviving children,
with one additional equal part. He gave a share to each
of the sons on reaching the age of twenty-one years, and
to his daughter Sarah at eighteen years of age. He gave
to Nathaniel3, provided he should "Learn
the Trade off a Taner and is Likely to Improve the sayd
Trade well; that Hee the sd Nathaniell shall Have twoo
parts of my Estate it Being Devided as abovesayd. . .
will then continues:
my will is that my sonn Nathaniell Attending the Conditions
abovesayd so that he Reseaves a Double portion; that Hee
shold Have half my Homestead & half the Tann yard
with all the Apurtinances thereunto Belonging as part
of His portion. . . . Also my will is that iff eaither
of my other sonns will learn my Trade of a taner &
is Likely to Jmprove it well; that that sonn that so Doth
shold Have the other Half of the Tanyard with half the
fats [vats] & houseing and other Conveniences thereunto
BeLonging; as also the other half off my Homestead which
is Left with my wife Dureing hir widdowhood. . . . Also
my will is that None of my Lands nor Tanyards that J shall
Dye possessed off shall Bee Allienated to any other pson
that is not of my possterytie; for ever."
Merrill died 18 July, 1712. The will was filed for probate,
but by an agreement dated 1 Dec. 1712, the heirs waived
its provisions, stipulating that the widow should have
her "thirds" during her life, and the children
should share equally in the residue, except that Nathaniel
should have a double portion, "if he shall Live to
spend it, or Come to the right use of his reason."
The "Inventor of Decon John merills
Late of Hartford Deceased" disclosed real and personal
estate amounting in the aggregate to £505.4s.6d.
Among the items were: "Half the Homstead & Housing,"
£ 50; "Two Acres of upland Abuting upon Isaac
merills his home Lott," £ 17; "half That
Lott that John merills And Abraham Lives upon 25 acres
At 20s pr Acre," £ 25; "The Tanyard with
the Land Adioining & the Building That wear formerly
upon Jt," £ 50; also seven other parcels of
land, aggregating 104 acres, £ 251.
Other items in the inventory were: Two
cows, £ 6; "the half of thre thre year olds,"
£ 3.15s.; "The half of a Two year old,"
16s.; "The half of A yearling," 7s.; a yoke
of oxen, £8.10s.; "Two mare." £
5; "The half a mare Colt," 6s.; "The half
of 5 swine," £ 4.10s.; eighteen sheep, £6.6s.;
"Twenty Bushells of Endian Corn," £ 2;
about forty pounds of "puter" at 3s. a pound,
and four "muskits at 10s 0 pr muskit."
Gregory Wolterton was made "townsman"
at the first election held in Hartford, and later on several
occasions was chosen to the same office. Under the name
"Goodm Winterton" he appears to have been a
member of a jury which convicted Nathaniel Greensmith
of witchcraft, 30 Dec. 1662, for which offsnce Greensmith
was executed 25 Jan. 1663. The psychology of these witchcraft
trials will always be a mystery to those of us who are
mentally normal. Rebecca Greensmith, wife of the unfortunate
wizard of Hartford, was convicted at the same time as
her husband, having confessed her guilt. (****)
The will of Gregory Wolterton was dated
17 July, 1674, and it was filed in the Probate Court less
than six weeks later--26 Aug. 1674. (*****)
It is entirely in the handwriting of the testator, and
is less easily read than many of the writings of that
period. With few preliminaries, and generally without
waste of words, he made such provision as a business man,
realizing that death was near, might make of his estate.
The instrument begine thus:
"I Gregory wolterton of hartford
upon the Riuer of Conictiticote doe make this my last
will and testimement wherein I giue unto my wife Jane
wolterton the some of twenty pound to be payd in mouebel
goods as is prised prouided that it be in such as she
desire I doe also giue unto Jane my wife her dweling and
liberty and use of the nue roome which was last bilt which
is next to the garden but not for to let it away to any
but for to use it for her owne use during the time of
her life and for to use some part of the seller and the
quene for her Conuenienty and liberty for to set her fire
wood in the yard I doe also giue unto her six pound to
be payd to her euery yeare by my excecktor during the
time of her life I doe also giue unto James wolterton
the son of mathew wolterton that liue in Ipsage in sufolke
in owld Ingland ten pound if he be liuing if not to his
Childeren eaquelly deuided . . . "
follow gifts to more than twenty-five individuals, mostly
in sums of money ranging from 20s. to £10, besides
two parcels of land, of four and six acres respectively,
the latter for the benefit of the church. The concluding
provisions are as follows:
I giue unto John mirels and his Ayers for euer booth my
howsing & tanyard & all that I haue and all my
land that Is undesposed whome I ordayne and apoint sole
excetor to this my last will will & testement"
It is inferred that Gregory Wolterton
was related to John Merrill, his residuary legatee. (See
page 30) Perhaps he was a brother of Susanna Merrill
of Newbury, and therefore was John Merrill's uncle, but
no mention of relationship appears in the will. Failure
to refer to relationship proves nothing, however. Gregory
Wolterton in his will gave four acres of land to "John
shepeard sener the son of Edward shepard," without
mentioning relationship of any sort to himself, but the
following receipt shows that John Shepherd was his nephew:
Receaved by me, John Shepherd, of my
loving Unkel, Gregory Winterton, thirty-four pounds wch
he receaved of my Brother Thomas Greenhill for Lands I
sold him, for wch I made my Unkel a letter of Attorney.
I say receaved by me. August 4th, 1654.
The amount of Gregory Wolterton's estate,
including real and personal, according to the inventory
was £ 585. 16s. This included "the house Barne
& Home lott," £ 90; "the Tanyard with
what belongs to it," £ 50; five other parcels
of land aggregating thirty-eight acres; "Seuerall
hides in the Tanyard," £ 10; "debts many
of them being uncertain valued at £ 100."
of the signature of John2 Merrill. From his
See Memorial History of Hartford County (1886), I, 274;
Savage, Genealogical Dictionary of New England (1862),
On this lot lived, in 1902, Sarah-Butler Johnson (b. 1821),
daughter of Gen. Nathan and Sarah-Butler6 (Merrill)
Johnson. Her brother, Charles-William Johnson (b. 1831),
lived in an adjoining house. Sarah-Butler6
Merrill was a daughter of Hezekiah5 Merrill
(Hezekiah4, Daniel3, John2).
She married Gen. Johnson in 1818. --(Letter from Joseph-Warren
Merrill, Collinsville, Conn., 12 March, 1902.)
"Historical Notices of Connecticut," June, 1842.
Manwaring, Digest of the Early Connecticut Probate Records,
The original of this will is preserved, with contemporary
papers, in the vaults of the State Library at Hartford.
An ancient copy, differing in many unimportant details
of spelling, etc., is preserved in the office of the Secretary
of State, in the Connecticut Colonial Probate Records,
vol. 3, p. 127. An imperfect copy is given in Manwaring's
Digest, vol. 1, pp. 259-260, and a much better copy, with
photo-engraved facsimile, is given in Manwaring, vol.
3, following p. xx.
Manwaring's Digest, I, 121.
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