Merrill family history and genealogy to the benefit of all.


VII. Nathaniel1 and His Sons
      The Will of Nathaniel1

2nd Generation - Abraham
A Merrill Memorial

    Samuel Merrill, 1928, reprint 1983

Nathaniel1 of Newbury and His Sons - Chapter VII, pp 66-101

Abraham2 Merrill - pp 85-90

   Abraham2 Merrill was admitted a freeman 30 Sept. 1662. (*) Throughout his long life he was active in many ways in the town's affairs. He held the office of selectman in 1684 and subsequently; he served in 1686 on a committee to lay out certain pastures to be held and used by the townspeople in common; in 1695 he was a member of a committee to divide the town into two parishes, and the same year he served on a committee to determine the place for a ferry over the Merrimack.

   In 1677 the General Court ordered that a tithing-man be appointed for every ten families. They were a sort of Sunday police. It was their duty to apprehend Sabbath-breakers and those absent from church, and other such lawless characters, and in 1679 Deacon Abraham was chosen by the selectmen as one of fifteen tithing-men for the town. Under his jurisdiction were three Bartlett families, two Chase families and four other households. Several times in later years he filled the same office. Like most of the early settlers he added a trade to his work as a farmer, and as a weaver contributed toward supplying the material needs of the community. But his farm was productive and well stocked, the tax list of Newbury in 1688 showing that he owned two houses, that he had twelve acres of land under tillage, besides four acres of meadow, and he had two horses, a yoke of oxen, five cows, two two-year-olds, twenty sheep and four swine. (New England Historical and Genealogical Register, xxxii, 161.)

His Homestead (See pages 167, 189)

   Abraham2 Merrill lived near the mouth of Artichoke River, on the road leading toward the east, in what is now Newburyport. He bought land there as early as 1661, and before his death his farm extended nearly a mile along the bank of the Merrimack. This farm remained in the hands of the family for several generations, being owned and occupied successively by Abraham2, John3, Henry4, Henry5 and Samuel6. After the death of Samuel6 in 1882 it came into the possession of his daughter, (**) Martha-Ann7 Merrill, who married Joshua P. Chase, and her children sold it to Fred S. Moseley, a Boston broker. The new owner removed all trace of the original buildings, in the late 90s of the last century, erecting a fine summer residence, and laying out the grounds as a private park, with beautiful driveways through the pine woods. The old well remains, but, with elaborate stone curbing and covered by an ornamental roof, it is unrecognizable.

   The house of Abraham2 Merrill was evidently of good size and well built, for, when danger of attack by the Indians was impending, in March, 1690, it was ordered that "The committee of Newbury appoint the house of Mr. Abraham Merrill to be a garrison house and request him with all convenient speed to fortity his house." (***)

   Abraham Merrill was a leader in carrying out the measures taken for the protection of the town (See page 59) from Indian raids, and he was a leader in his neighborhood in the long-continued contest over the establishment of an independent religions society in the western part of the town. He was a member of the committee appointed in 1695 to divide the town into two parishes, and nineteen years later he became one of the first church wardens when the Episcopal church was established on the border line between the two parishes. (See pages 61-63.)

His Grave

   The graves of Abraham2 Merrill and many of his descendants are in the cemetery at Sawyer's Hill, half a mile southeast from the old homestead. The earliest family gravestone is that of Abigail Webster, first wife of Abraham2. It is described as a rather thick piece of finegrained stone, and apparently waterworn. It seems as if it may have been used as a mortar for pounding corn to make hominy, for the back is hollowed like a dish. The inscription, which is rudely cut, reads:

C O N   A B R A H A M
AVGVST Ye 12 1712

   This is perhaps the earliest Merrill tombstone in the country. Few earlier gravestones are found in New England cemeteries. A grave beside this one, marked by two rough pieces of granite at head and foot, may be that of Deacon Abraham.

Reminiscences of William7 Merrill

   William7 Merrill (Henry6,5,4, John3, Abraham2), whose family lived on this farm for four generations, wrote me at some length about it in March, 1901. Mr. Merrill was then 83 years old. He had spent his life in Newburyport and West Newbury, and was better versed in matters relating to the family than anyone else in that section. Mr. Merrill said that Abraham2 doubtless built the first house on the premises. It stood about half way from the road to the river. Prior to 1729 a second house was built not far away, and the positions of both of these are shown on an old plan of the West Parish of Newbury, made in that year, which is reproduced in Currier's "Ould Newbury," page 348.

   The older house was occupied by John3 Merrill (Abraham3) and the newer one by his brother David3. Finally John3 acquired the whole farm, and lived in the newer house, and here his descendants spent their lives until comparatively recent years.

   "The second house I remember well," wrote Mr. Merrill. "It faced the south, was two stories high in front and one story in the rear. The barn was nearly a hundred feet in length. . . . The skins of animals killed on the place were tanned and made into shoes on the farm; flax was raised and spun; sheep were kept, and the wool spun and woven. . . . About 1850 the house was taken down.

   "Nothing remains except the old milldam. There was a grist mill on a brook which ran through the farm. . . The banks of the brook rise considerably, and near the top a ledge crops out. In this ledge there is a vein softer than the rest, and the weather has worn this away so that it looks like the track of a wheel through mud nearly dry. This was called 'the devil's wheelbarrow track,' that he made when wheeling a grist to mill. My father, Henry6, told me that when he was a small boy, and left alone in the mill, he would look out of the window in terror lest another such grist should be brought to mill. The singular vein and the old dam, which has been repaired, are the only things which remain on the place unchanged."

Settlement of the Estate

   Abraham2 Merrill died intestate, and no record of administration of his estate is to be found in the Probate Office at Salem. The reason is to be found in the Registry of Deeds. Under date of 1 Feb. 1706/7, he conveyed to his son, Abraham3, part of two freehold lots, numbered 74 and 75, in Newbury, thirty acres; also a rate lot, twenty acres, and an undivided half of his salt marsh "below grate pine Island." Possession was to be given "Imediatly after mine and my wife Abigall Decease." The consideration for this conveyance was stated as follows:

"for and in consideration of my Eldest son Abraham Merrill paying to my son John Merrill six pounds thirteen shillings and four pence and to my son Daived merrill the sum of six pounds thirteen shillings and four pence to be all paid in good pay as money to my two sonns their heires or order within one year after mine and my wife Abigalls Decease and in consideration of my said son Abraham merrill Dwelling with me untill he was of the age of about thirty years and did help me to carrey on and manage my buisness faithfully."

   The acknowledgment of this deed was not taken until 7 April, 1712. It was recorded the following month, in book 23, leaf 270, of Essex deeds.

   March 3, 1706/7, Abraham Merrill gave a deed to his son David3 covering "all the westerly end of my home living containing by Estimation fifteen acres," this being described as bounded on one side by the Merrimack River; also twenty acres on "Artechoake River," an undivided quarter of his salt marsh below Great Pine Island, a half of his meadow land in Salisbury, a half of his freehold and common rights and rate rights in Newbury, a half of his wood lots, and a half of his household goods. Possession, as before, was contingent on the death of the grantor and his wife, but the grantee should have immediate possession in case he delivered to the grantor for life, and to his widow after his decease, one-quarter part of all the grain, indian corn and hay raised on the premises. This deed was made "in consideration of my son David Merrill paying the sum of thirty one pounds in Good pay as money to be paid to my three daughters within three years after mine & my wives Abigails decease viz to my daughter Abigail Ordway ten pounds and thirteen Shillings and to my daughter Hannah Long ten Pounds & Eighteen Shillings & to my daughter Sarah Morss nine pounds & nine Shillings in Consideration that my son David Merrill hath dwelt with me and did help me to carry on my business in the management of my living untill he was of the age of twenty nine years and also other Good & Lawfull Considerations me thereunto moving."

   This deed was acknowledged 7 April, 1712, and recorded the following October, in book 26, leaf 75.

   Finally Abraham2 Merrill gave to his son John3 the easterly end of his "home living," containing about thirty acres, on the bank of the Merrimack; also a share equal to that conveyed to David in his salt marsh and meadow land, in his freehold, common and rate rights, in his wood lots, and in his household goods. This deed was dated 7 April, 1707, and it was conditioned on the grantee "Paying the Sum of Thirty one Pounds in Good pay as money to be paid to my Son Jonathan Merrill and my daughter Mary Thurloes children & my daughter Eliza Emery and to my daughter Prudence Bartlett within three years after mine and my wives Abigails decease," the £ 31 being apportioned as follows: to Jonathan £ 9, to Mary Thurlow's children £ 10, to Elizabeth £ 8, to Prudence £ 4. It was further recited that the grantee had dwelt with the grantor, and assisted him in his business, until he was thirty-three years old.

   As in the case of the deed to David, immediate possession was contingent on John3 Merrill delivering to his father annually one-quarter of the crops. The acknowledgment of this deed was dated 7 April, 1712, and it was recorded 2 Oct. 1712, in book 26, leaf 76.

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   Abraham Merrill's signature, shown in the margin, is copied from a petition to the Governor and Council and the General Court, dated February, 1709, regarding the erection of a new meeting house. This petition is on file in the State archives in Boston.

* The Massachusetts Bay Colony was organized under a charter granted to "The Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England." "Freemen" were those who, having been duly chosen by the General Court, and having taken the freeman's oath, were entitled to vote for Governor, Assistants and Deputies to the General Court. They were, in effect, members of the Company, and they alone had a voice in its affairs. The election of freemen ended in 1684 with the abrogation of the charter of the Colony. "Freeholders," or "proprietors," were those who, by grant, purchase or inheritance, were entitled to share in the common lands. All adult male inhabitants, including those who were neither freemen nor freeholders, might vote for town officers and on questions of taxation.

** Joshua P. Chase was a son of John Chase, whose father, Amos Chase of Amesbury, married Eunice6 Merrill (Richard5, Nathan4,3, Abel2.)

*** Coffin, History of Newbury, p. 153.


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     © - Updated 30 July, 2002