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XI. Eighteenth Century Migrations
      Concord, NH
      Conway, NH
      Plymouth, NH
      Warren, NH
      Corinth, VT
      Kennebunkport, ME
      Topsham, ME
      Falmouth, ME
      North Yarmouth, ME
      New Gloucester, ME
      Lewiston, ME
      Buxton, ME
      Greene, ME
      Fryeburg, ME
      Brownfield, ME
      Andover, ME

 
A Merrill Memorial


    Samuel Merrill, 1928, reprint 1983

Some Eighteenth Century Migrations - Chapter XI, pp125-152

Andover, ME

    When the country-side was aroused, as by an electric shock, by the Lexington alarm, Ezekiel5 Merrill (Roger4, Nathaniel3, Abel2), of West Newbury, responded, and served for a few days as a corporal in the Newbury company of minute-men. (See page 399.) After this brief service he removed his young family for safety's sake to Pelham, N.H., and again enlisted as corporal, taking part in the Saratoga campaign which ended with Burgoyne's surrender.

   War in those days, for the hardy yeomen of New England, was not a business requiring many months of intensive training, as it has become in these later times. Like most of the "embattled farmers" of the Continental army Ezekiel Merrill was by turns soldier and tiller of the soil, serving four brief enlistments in the field, in the Revolution, alternating with seasons of agricultural labor.

   After the war many veterans of the conflict were loth to settle down in ease in the commonplace surroundings of their former homes. The spirit of adventure was not fully satisfied. Like many others Ezekiel Merrill looked to the backwoods for a congenial home. He was a cheerful, generous-hearted man, fair-haired, with handsome face and ruddy complexion, athletic and self-reliant. He had only a smile for all the hardships and all the dangers of military campaigns, and he was ready with the same smile to meet whatever might befall in the lonely life of the pioneer.

   Gen. Joseph Frye had founded, on the Saco River, the town now known as Fryeburg. This place was for a time the last outpost of civilization, and thither, in 1785, Ezekiel Merrill took his family. Gen. Frye had explored the country farther north, and he told in glowing terms of the fertile intervales of the Ellis River, a small tributary of the Androscoggin. A company was accordingly formed to lay out a town on the Ellis River, and Ezekiel Merrill was one of the number.

   With his brother-in-law, Michael Emery, he spent much time clearing land and building the necessary log structures for the beginnings of a farm, and in March, 1787, his family and household effects were taken over the rough woods road, heavy with the Winter's snow, as far as Bethel. Sixteen hand sledges, drawn by the men and the larger boys, carried the younger children and the necessary supplies and utensils for beginning housekeeping anew.

   Bethel was about thirty miles north of Fryeburg, but it was still many miles short of their ultimate destination. The family remained in Bethel a year, while the father and his older sons made further preparations for establishing their home in Andover.

   Finally, 18 April, 1788, the last stage of the journey was undertaken. Seven birch canoes, with stalwart Indians of the Pequawket tribe handling the paddles, glided down the Androscoggin, bearing all the members of the family and such supplies and other articles as they would need in their new home. The little fleet went with the current as far as the mouth of the Ellis River, where they camped for the night. The next day they paddled up the latter stream, the entire distance traversed by canoe being thirty miles.

   Their new home was on the east side of the west branch of the Ellis River. Their nearest neighbors, aside from the Indians, were at Bethel, but Bethel lacked most of the advantages afforded by country villages. The nearest church, school, doctor and lawyer were at Fryeburg, nearly sixty miles away.

   The cabin which received the family had a log floor and pole partitions, a stone fireplace and a log chimney plastered with clay. Lacking glass, small openings in the walls admitted light, the openings being closed with shutters when necessary to exclude the cold. With a few of the simplest tools various articles of furniture were constructed, but nails were lacking, and wooden pins were made to take their place. Cedar splits furnished roofing, and material for doors.

   Some game was secured for food, the first season, and many fish. For lack of a mill for grinding corn, mortars were made by hollowing out the stumps of trees, and excellent hominy was produced by pounding the corn with wooden pestles. The Indians were friendly, and the squaws taught the farmer's wife many primitive arts, especially those relating to preparing food from the roots and herbs which abounded in the woods and beside the streams. Potatoes, corn and beans were planted soon after their arrival, and in the Fall Roger, the oldest son, now fourteen years old, carried a load of corn by canoe to Bethel, where a small mill had been built, and returned with the meal, thus securing the Winter store of grain before ice made navigation of the river impossible.

   The splendor of a military uniform appealed to the Indian fancy, and Corporal Merrill bartered his disused regimentals for a large stock of furs. With these he went to Bethel by canoe, and to Fryeburg with a hired horse, obtaining there, by exchange, groceries, cloth and other needed articles. Mrs. Merrill learned from the Indians how to make moccasins, and these served instead of shoes.

   Ezekiel Merrill seems to have lacked time, or taste, for hunting, and little meat was secured for food the first Winter in Andover except crossbills. These little birds were trapped or shared in considerable numbers in the Indian manner, and furnished many a welcome meal.

   Metalluk, an Indian of the St. Francis tribe of Canada, was living in the neighborhood, far from his tribal associates, and between him and Roger a close friendship sprang up. Roger was a hardy and energetic boy, eager to master the arts of hunting and woodcraft, and Metalluk was an able teacher. When the snow was deep and crusted the two would go forth on snowshoes after moose. As soon as they found some of the great animals in their Winter "yards" it was easy work to kill enough to provide a year's supply of meat. The meat was easily cured by drying and smoking, by methods commonly practised by the Indians.

   For many years all the clothing of the family was home-made. Home-tanned deer- and moose-skin at first furnished an excellent substitute for cloth: later homespun wool and linen took the place of the skins of animals. Even the buttons, in the early years in Andover, were of domestic manufacture, little disks of leather proving a good substitute for harder materials.

   The first Winter Ezekiel Merrill "swamped" a rough road to Bethel, over which a handsled might be drawn. He made snowshoes, sleds, and the various articles needed in sugar-making, cleared land and cut firewood, and made preparations for building a barn. He brought three large iron kettles over his new road from Bethel, and in the Spring was able to make a large store of highly-prized maple sugar.

   Two of Ezekiel Merrill's eight children were born in Newbury and five in Pelham. The youngest, Susan6, born 13 July, 1790, was the first white child born in Andover. Two friendly women of the Pequawkets were the only attendants upon the mother in her confinement. School advantages for the growing family were, of course, entirely lacking. To meet this need Ezekiel Merrill took his eldest daughter in his canoe, with a bale of valuable pelts,

<!--[Image for Merrill house, Andover, ME]-->

and paddled down to Bethel. Securing a horse on which the young girl could ride, together with the peltry, he walked from Bethel to Fryeburg. Arriving in Fryeburg arrangements were made for Sarah Merrill to attend school, and the furs were given in payment of her living expenses. Sarah in turn, on returning home, was to teach the younger children. Later, when the season's work was done, Roger joined his sister at school, making the journey alone, on foot.

   Several other settlers arrived in 1790, but the town was not incorporated until 1804, when it received the name East Andover. "East" was prefixed to avoid confusion with Andover, in Essex County, Massachusetts, but in 1820 the prefix was dropped.

   In 1791 the first frame house in Andover was built by Ezekiel Merrill. It occupied a beautiful location, and was still standing, in a good state of preservation, in quite recent years, being still known as "Merrill House." It was the square two-story farm house of familiar type, with large chimney in the center. The nails used in its construction were made by hand in Bethel by Peregrine Bartlett, Ezekiel Merrill's son-in-law. The house in the early years was always open to travelers, without charge. "The great hall was often full of Indians, sleeping all across the floor, with their heads to the fire, as is their custom, while white visitors were lodged in the guest-chambers." (*)

   Andover's population has remained small, numbering 767 in 1920. In recent years few descendants of its first settler, bearing the Merrill name, have been residents of the place. The traveler may reach the town by a stage ride of sixteen miles from Rumford, on the Maine Central Railroad.

* Most of the facts here given relating to the settlement of Andover, Me., are from a paper written by the late Miss Agnes Blake Poor of Brookline, Mass., to be read before Hannah Goddard chapter, D.A.R., 9 Dec. 1897. Miss Poor was a great-granddaughter of Ezekiel5 Merrill. She said that many of the particulars were taken from the papers of her uncle, Silvanus Poor, Jr., "a local antiquarian of great diligence and ability." Miss Poor died 28 Feb. 1922, aged seventy-nine. The illustration on the previous page is drawn from a water-color in the possession of the Poor family. The water-color is dated June, 1877. the house has since been enlarged and greatly improved.

 

Section II - Genealogical Record


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