Notes for Benjamin MERRILL

Benjamin Merrill (Merrell), Sr.

Benjamin Merrill (Merrell), Sr., was a pioneer settler of Fairview. He was born in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, on December 2, 1752. He was the oldest son of William Merrill and Mary Cornell. His parents moved to Rowan (now Davidson) County, North Carolina, in 1758. (At about the same time, Ben's namesake uncle and future father-in-law, Benjamin Merrill, also moved to Rowan County.) Benjamin was raised in that part of Rowan (now Davidson) County where present-day Davidson, Guilford, and Randolph Counties meet.

The Merrills were very anti-British. Benjamin joined the fight for American independence, enlisting on about March 1, 1776, as a private in Captain John Collier's North Carolina Company. He served for about six weeks, and then moved to York District, South Carolina, where he enlisted in August of 1776. He served as a private in Captain John Anderson's company of South Carolina troops and in a regiment commanded by Thomas Neel. On September 19, 1776, Merrill fought in a battle with the Cherokee at the head of the Tennessee River. He was discharged the following month, and then went back to North Carolina, where he soon married.

Benjamin reenlisted in February 1779 as a private in Captain William McCulloch's company of Colonel Neel's South Carolina regiment, and he was at the Battle of Brier Creek. In March of 1780, he enlisted yet again, this time as a private in Captain Moffett's company of Colonel William Bratton's regiment. He was discharged in May 1780, but in September of that year he enlisted one more time-in Captain McComury's company. After serving six weeks, Merrill moved to Randolph County, North Carolina, in November.

On February 4, 1778, Benjamin married his first cousin Penelope Merrill. Her parents, Benjamin Merrill and Jemima Smith, had moved to North Carolina from Hopewell, New Jersey, around 1756, and Penelope was born either just before or just after they moved. Her father purchased 1042 acres in Rowan (Davidson) County on the north side of the Yadkin River in 1760. He was a gunsmith and a farmer and became a prosperous man. He became a captain in the Rowan County militia and a leader of the Regulators. This was a group of North Carolina men who were opposed to the unjust rule of the British and their greedy, lying, thief of a governor, William Tryon. Penelope's father was one of a group of men Governor Tryon rounded up to be tried at Hillsborough in Orange County. Tryon's judge sentenced Merrill to death, ordering him "to be hanged by the neck; that you be cut down while yet alive, that your bowels be taken out and burnt before your face, that your head be cut off, your body divided into four quarters, and be at his Majesty's disposal." This execution occurred June 17, 1771, and Merrill's wife and all his children, including Penelope, were required to watch it.

In late 1782 or early 1783, the British raided the home of Benjamin Merrill's parents while Ben and his brother John were out hunting. The British split the tongue of his mother, Mary, with a knife and carried off his aged father, William, and presumably killed him, since he was never seen or heard of again. Thus, the fathers of both Benjamin and his wife were murdered by the British.

Benjamin and Penelope lived on their farm on the Rowan-Randolph County line until 1798. Many of their neighbors had been moving to Fairview since the early 1790s, and the Merrills joined in the migration in 1798, along with Benjamin's brother John and his wife, Catherine, and Penelope's sister Anna and her husband, Boyd McCrary.

Benjamin began to acquire land at a rapid pace. In 1799 he bought two tracts of land from William Wilson-one of 320 acres and the other of 200 acres. He received a 100-acre state land grant in 1800 and another 100-acre grant in 1802. In 1803 he received another two state grants, totaling 210 acres, located on Hooper's Creek. In 1805 he bought 300 acres on the French Broad River and also received a 50-acre state land grant on the French Broad. Finally, in 1809, Ben received a land grant for 50 acres on Clear Creek. This brought his land holdings up to at least 1330 acres.

The home of Benjamin and Penelope was located near where Gap Creek and Brush Creek flow in to Cane Creek. He lived near his brother John and his brother-in-law Boyd McCrary. Benjamin became a prosperous farmer and a well-to-do man. According to census records, he owned one slave in 1800 and two slaves in 1810. He was active in Cane Creek (now Fairview) Baptist Church and in most other aspects of the community. He instilled the need to succeed in all his children. They all were constantly buying and selling both lands and goods, and they all moved about the country. If any of them failed, it was not for lack of trying.

Penelope died at her Fairview home in early 1830 and was buried in the Merrill-Patton Cemetery on Brush Creek. Ben maintained his health almost to the end. In August 1835, for example, he came to vote with his nephew John Merrill in the congressional election between David Newland and James Graham. The following year, on May 10, he died at his home. His will, written in 1825, was probated in July of 1836, and Benjamin was buried in the Merrill-Patton Cemetery.

Benjamin and Penelope had 15 children:

1. Nancy was born in 1779 in either South Carolina or North Carolina. She married David Crumm, and the two of them moved to Missouri around 1812. She died by 1824.

2. William was born in 1781 in Randolph County, North Carolina. He married Elizabeth Ashworth, daughter of John Ashworth, Sr., and Nancy Ann Wood Ashworth [see Ashworth article, January 2000], and they lived in the Little River section of Transylvania County, North Carolina.

3. Jane (Jain) was born in 1782 in Randolph County, North Carolina. She married David Morrow, and the two of them moved to Missouri around 1812. She was still alive as late as 1842 near Palmyra, Marion County, Missouri.

4. Nimrod was born in 1784 in Randolph County, North Carolina. He left Fairview around 1834/35 and moved to Texas. In 1856 he was living in Rusk County, Texas.

5. Penelope was born in 1786 in Randolph County, North Carolina. She married Peter Shephard and lived in the Crab Creek section of southwest Henderson County.

6. Eli was born in 1787 in Randolph County, North Carolina. His first wife was Nancy McCrary, the widow of Eli's first cousin William Merrill. Eli lived around Horse Shoe in what is now Henderson County until 1822 or 1823, when he moved to Missouri. His first wife died there, and Eli then married Mary A. McKay. In 1843 Eli moved to Dallas County, Texas, and remained there until his death in 1849.

7. Mary was born in 1789 in Randolph County, North Carolina, and died young.

8. Jemima was born in 1791 in Randolph County, North Carolina, and apparently never married. She lived with her father until he died. She moved to Texas and was living with her brother Nimrod as late as 1854.

9. Elizabeth was born in 1793 in Randolph County, North Carolina, and died young.

10. Benjamin, Jr., was born in 1795 in Randolph County, North Carolina, and left Buncombe County for Missouri around 1813. By the 1840s he was in Lamar County, Texas, where he was District Surveyor.

11. Charity was born in 1797 in Randolph County, North Carolina. She married Boyd McCrary, and they lived in the Crab Creek section of what is now Henderson County. Almost all the McCrarys in Henderson, Transylvania, and Buncombe counties are descended from them. They are buried in the McCrary Cemetery in Henderson County.

12. Rachel was born in 1798 in Fairview. She married Alexander McCall and was the second of his three wives. They lived in the Crab Creek area of Henderson County, and she died around 1864 in that county.

13. Jonathan (twin) was born in 1801 in Fairview. He married Harriet L. Murray, and they lived in the Riceville section of Swannanoa. Jonathan went to Texas at least once to visit his brothers, and he died in the Riceville area in 1874.

14. David (twin) was born in 1801 in Fairview. He first married Katherine Garrison, who died in Fairview in the early 1830s. He next married E. Garrison, and they moved to Merrillsville, Marion County, Missouri, in the mid-1830s. David moved to Cedar Hill, Dallas County, Texas, in the early 1840s.

15. Levi was born in Fairview in 1803. He first married Synthia Cooper, daughter of Adam Cooper. She died in 1837. He later married Margaret P. Murray. They moved to Missouri in 1838 or 1839. Levi then moved to Ottumwa, Wapello County, Iowa. One of his sons, Julius Alexander Merrill, moved to Buncombe County and lived at Leicester.

Days gone Fairview
by Bruce Whitaker


Benjamin Merrill married his first cousin Penelope Merrill 4 Feb 1778. She is the daughter of Captain Benjamin Merrill of Revolutionary War fame, who was hanged by the British, 19 June 1771 at Hillsboro, N.C. Captain Benjamin Merrill was captured at the "Battle of Alamance", and was susequently sentenced to hanged by Govoner Tryon of S.C. This Benjamin Merrill also fought in the Revoluntionary War, and his Survivors Pension Number is #S8891. Since Penelope Merrill is Capt. Benjamins daughter, we are directly related to him also. This Benjamin enlisted in 1776 in Guilford County, N.C. He is buried in a
private graveyard, just off Upper Brush Creek Road in the old Cane Creek Section of Buncombe Co., N.C.

I received Benjamin Merrill's Revoluntionary War Pension Record in April 1993. The records contain several pages of handwritten affidavits apparently written by a court clerk or someone, showing Benjamin's service against the British and the Tories. It is stated he fought the Indians "at the head of the Tennessee River, and the Battle of Briar Creek". He applied for and received his pension in the amount of $24.66 annually. Certificate #23179.

Enlisted 1 March 1776 - Private in Capt John Collier's Company, North Carolina
Enlisted 1 August 1776 - Private in Capt. John Andrew's Company, North Carolina
Enlisted 19 September 1776 - Engaged in battle with Indians on Tennessee River
Enlisted 1779 - Capt. William McCullough's Company, South Carolina Regiment

Facts about this person:

Buncombe, County, North Carolina

*Source Family Tree Maker Wold Family Tree Collection tree # v90t2562


TITLE: Captain Benjamin Merrill and the Merrill family of North Carolina /
AUTHOR(S): Merrill, William Ernest, 1906- (Main)
PUBLISHED: [Brevard, N.C. : Transylvania Times, 1977]
DESCRIPTION: 109 p. ; 23 cm.
NOTES: Reprint of the 1935 ed., with corrections and additions listed in the 1951 Supplement. Includes bibliographical references and index.
SUBJECTS: Merrill family.
North Carolina--Genealogy.
LC CALL NO.: CS71.M571977
DEWEY CLASS NO.: 929/.2/0973 ED: 19
LCCN: 80-128776
Genealogical Publications: A List of 50,000 Sources from the Library of Congress
Family Histories


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