Back arrow to return to Home Page
History of Merrimac
From the History of Essex County
Compiled under the Supervision of William Hurd
The town of Merrimac constituted the West Parish of Amesbury until its incorporation as a separate municipality, on the 11th of April, 1876. It is situated on the north side of the river from which it derives its name, and covers a territory about three miles long by two and a half miles wide, bounded on its four sides by the Merrimac River, the city of Haverhill, the New Hampshire line and the parent town of Amesbury. It is described in the act of incorporation as "all the territory now within the town of Amesbury, in the County of Essex, comprised within the following limits, that is to say, beginning at a point on the Merrimac River at the middle of the mouth of Pressey's Creek (so called); thence running northerly in a straight line to the most northerly point of land on the southerly side of Kimball's Pond; thence northwesterly in a straight line to a point on the town line, dividing Amesbury and Newton, N. H., 2050 feet west from the Monument on the State line, dividing Massachusetts and New Hampshire, situated on a road leading from Newton to Amesbury, and near the house of Arthur Robertshaw; thence westerly, southwesterly, and southeasterly as the present division lines run between the said town of Newton, City of Haverhill and said town of Amesbury to a point on the Merrimac River; thence easterly by the Merrimac River to the point of beginning."
This territory is beautifully diversified by hill, valley and plain, and shares largely the picturesque qualities for which both shores of the Merrimac River are distinguished. On the south and west extends a range of hills known as "Long" and " Red Oak," which are easy of access and from which interesting views may be obtained of the undulating slopes through which, like a silver thread, the river stretches from the mountains to the sea. From these points of view glimpses may be obtained, across and beyond the fields and forests nearer at hand, of church-spires along the New Hampshire line, while on the west "Birch Meadow," with its scattered farm-houses, and the summit of "Brandy Brow," the meeting-place of four towns and two States, catch the eye, and on the south and east and northeast the West Newbury highlands and " Bear Hill" complete the panorama of which the villages of Merrimac, the subject of this sketch, are the central and salient points. Nearby is the birthplace of Whittier, within the limits of Haverhill, but near the Merrimac line, and bounded by the landscape which, if it did not create the poet, at least kindled his imagination and inspired his pen.
The date of the settlement of the West Parish of Amesbury cannot be definitely fixed. It is known, however, that Edward Cottle was located in that section at a very early period, and that Samuel Foot and John Pressey were there respectively in 1639 and 1664. Henry Tuxbury, Thomas Nichols, John Grimpsen and Thomas Sargent were all settled there before 1670, while the Aliens and Fowlers and Morses were to be found there as early as the year 1700. What is now Merrimac was called Jamaco at an early date, and for a century or more it continued to bear that name. As the fear of Indian raids grew less year by year, the eagerness for landed possessions which characterized the settlers of New England pushed the wave of population farther and farther into outlying districts, and under the influence of this wave Jamaco increased gradually in population, adding yearly new families and new names to the settlement. The Davis, Kelly and Clement families made their appearance early in the eighteenth century, and about the year 1722 Abraham Merrill removed to Jamaco from Newbury with his family, including three sons,Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,whose descendants have until recently been numerous within its limits.
At an earlier date John Martin and Joseph Peaslee became settlers, the latter locating himself in Newton, then within the Salisbury grant, and finally in Haverhill, where he died. Joseph Lankester, Samuel Hadley and the families of Blaisdell and Hoyt were also there at an early date, and as early as 1666 a grant of land was made to Thomas Harvey. A Thomas Harvey was a ship carpenter and built vessels at Jamaco, on land granted to him by the town, in 1710. He was chosen a deputy in 1690, '94, '97, '99, 1706, '08, '13 and '14. At various times in the history of this district the names of Chase and Kendrick also appear and many others, some of which have been long extinct.
As early as 1715 the population of the West District had so far increased as to warrant the desire for a meeting house within its limits. Indeed, a vote, afterwards reconsidered, was passed by the town in that year to build a house in that district. In 1722
the town agreed definitely to the plan and a meeting house was at once erected. The West Parish agreed to pay the salary of their minister, and thus a separation of the two parishes was accomplished, which was confirmed by the General Court in 1725. On the 19th of May, 1726, the new church was organized and the church covenant was signed. Previous to the organization of the church the parish, at a meeting held on the 6th of July, 1725, voted to invite Joseph Parsons to settle as its minister. After some negotiations with Mr. Parsons he declined the invitation, and was afterwards ordained, on the 8th of June, 1726, as the third pastor of the church in Bradford, where he died, May 4, 1765.
At a meeting of the parish, held on the 5th of November, 1725, a commitee of two was appointed to visit Mr. Hale, of Boxford, or Mr. Samuel Coffin or Mr. Edmund March, of Newbury, or Mr. Wingate, of "Hamptown," and if possible secure one of them to preach three or four Sabbaths. On the 2d of December, 1725, the committee reported that they had secured Mr. Wingate, and the parish appointed a committee, consisting of Captains Foot and Stephens and Mr. John Blaisdell, to confer with Mr. Wingate concerning an engagement to "preach for a considerable time."
At a meeting held on the 3d of January, 1726, it was unanimously voted "to observe a day of fasting for to seek the blessing of heaven, and Thursday 25th of January instant, was the day appointed, and Mr. Wells, of the First church, Mr. Gushing, of Salisbury, and Mr. Gooken, of Hampton, N. H., were chosen to carry on the work of a fast & to advise who to call toy" work of ministry." As a result of the advice sought, Mr. Wingate was invited to permanently settle with a salary of "fourscore pound a year for the first two years and afterward a hundred a year, and the use of the Pasnedg." It was also agreed to give him thirty cords of wood each year, and that" in case his family should increase, there should be an increase of salary; and in case he should settle in the Precinct and provide for himself a horse and a dwelling-place, he should receive fifty pounds a year for the first four years over and above his fixed salary."
Mr. Wingate accepted the invitation, and it was voted "to observe the 19th of May as a day of fasting and specially seeking the blessing of Heaven upon the anticipated ordination." The fast was held as proposed, and Rev. Mr. Wells, of Amesbury, Rev. Mr. Gushing, of Salisbury East Parish, Rev. Mr. Parsons, of Salisbury West Parish, Rev. Mr. Tufts, of Newbury West Parish, and Rev. Mr. Brown, of Haverhill, were present. On the same day, as has already been stated, the church was organized and the Confession of Faith, consisting of fifteen articles, was made and acknowledged, and Rev. Paine Wingate, John Foot, Thomas Fowler, Abraham Merrill, Thomas Colby, Titus Wells, Valentine Rowell, Samuel
Stevens, Joseph Sargent, Joseph Bartlett, Philip Rowell, William Moulton, Tappan Ordway, John Blasdell and Abraham Merrill, Jr. signed the following church covenant:
"Forasmuch as the Lord hath accepted us sinful wretches into covenant with his Majesty, in Christ we therefore avouch the Lord to be our God, and make firm and sure covenant with his Majesty and one with another (through the grace of Christ) to give up ourselves to him; to submit to his government and all his holy ordinances, acknowledging him for our Prophet, Priest and King; to walk before him in all things, according to the rule of his Word; shunning all Atheism and Anti Christian with all other errors and j)o!luti<>ns in the worship of God. We do also bind ourselves to walk together with the Church and all the members of it in mutual love and watchfulness to tho building up of each other in the faith and love of our Lord Jesus Christ; to yield obedience to his holy will and to carry on the duties of his worship in public and private according to Gospel order and institution ; hereby craving help at God's hands for performance hereof we do also with ourselves give up our seed unto the Lord to be his people and to submit under the watch and discipline of this Church according to the Rules of Christ."
The church having concurred in the invitation to Mr. Wingate to settle, the ordination took place on the 15th of June, 1726. Rev. Mr. Wells, of Amesbury, offered an introductory prayer; Rev. Mr. Gooken, of Hampton, N. H., preached the sermon from John 20: 15; Rev. Mr. Tufts, of Newbury, made the ordaining prayer; Rev. Mr. Cushing, of Salisbury, gave the charge; and Rev. Mr. Parsons, of Salisbury, the right hand of fellowship. On the 13th of July Abraham Merrill and Joseph Colby were chosen deacons, and the church organization was complete.
The following list of persons included in the first rate for the minister's salary will convey a pretty accurate idea of the extent and character of the population of Jamaco in 1726:
Mr. Wingate's ministry was a long and eminently successful one. It continued nearly sixty years, and terminated only with his life on the 19th of February, 1786. He was born in Hampton, N. H., in June, 1703, and was the son of Joshua Wingate, of that town. He graduated at Harvard in 1723, and must have been settled in Amesbury soon after the close of his theological studies. His wife was Mary Balch, and his children were Paine, who married Eunice Pickering; Mary, who married Ephraim Elliot; Betsey, who married a Bartlett} Sarah, who married Samuel Bradley; John, who married two wives,a Webster and a Kimball; Joshua, who married Hannah Carr; Abigail, who married an Ingalls; and Joseph, who married Judith Carr. Paine Wingate, the oldest child, graduated at Harvard in 1759, and after preaching several years in Hampton, N. H., became a judge of the Supreme Court of New Hampshire, and Representative and Senator from that State in the United States Congress. He died at Stratham, N. H., March 7, 1838, in the ninety-ninth year of his age. His father, the Rev. Paine Wingate, lies buried in the cemetery at Merrimac, and the following inscription is cut on his monument:
"In memory of
Rev. Paine Wingate,
First Pastor of tho Church in Amesbury West Parish. In his meekness and moderation unaffected Piety and Benevolence were eminently conspicuous. The People of his charge were for a long series of years edified by his preaching and animated to the practice of pure Religion by his example. Having faithfully discharged the duties of his ministerial office near sixty years, beloved and honored by those who best know him, he departed this life in cheerful expectation of a better on the 19th of Feb., 1786, Etat 83."
Mrs. Wingate survived her husband less than two years, and having died on the 9th of October, 1787, at the age of eighty-one, was buried by his side. As her epitaph states, the monument over her grave was erected "to record the virtues of the dead and the gratitude of the living.''
In 1787 a new meeting-house was erected, and in the next year the church, with the concurrence of the parish, invited Rev. Francis Welch to settle, offering him the use of the parsonage, one hundred pounds as a settlement and a yearly salary of eighty pounds. The invitation was accepted, and on the 3d of June, 1789, the ordination took place, at which Rev. Mr. Webster, of Salisbury; Rev. Mr. Ames, of Newton; Rev. Mr. Noyes, of Southampton; Rev. Mr. Merrill, of Plaistow; Rev. Mr. Cummings, of Billeriea; Rev. Mr. Adams and Rev. Mr. Shaw, of Haverhill; Rev. Mr. Pealiody, of Atkinson; Rev. Mr. Tappan and Rev. Mr. Kimball, of Newbury; and Rev. Mr. Dutch and Rev. Mr. Allen, of Bradford, constituted the ordaining count il. Mr. Cummings offered the introductory prayer, Mr. Merrill preached the sermon from Phil. 1: 8, Mr. Noyes made the ordaining prayer, Mr. Webster gave the charge, Mr. Adams the right hand of fellowship and Mr. Peabody made the concluding prayer.
The ministry of Mr. Welch was a short one, but long enough to impress the people of his charge with his dignity and uprightness of character, with the example of his Christian life, with his eminent ability and eloquence, and to win their warmest affection. He died December 15, 1793, and the slab covering his grave in the cemetery in Merrimac bears the following inscription:
"Tills Monument is sacred to the dust and memory of the Rev. Fhaniis Welch, son of Joseph Welch, Esq., of Plaistow, N. II., who suddenly departed this life December l. 1791, in the twenty-eighth year of his age and fifth of his ministry; within a year of his nuptial contract with Miss Pricillia Adams, who remains with an infant to mourn the loss of a tender and affectionate husband.
"Through the dangers of life Reason uncontrolled held the Empire of his breast. Religion was his polar star. Modest without diffidence, steadfast without bigotry and devout without superstition, he well combined the most important qualifications for the ministerial office, and discharged it with faithfulness, reputation and success. Taken from prospects of extensive usefulness, and leaving an evidence of his worth in the universal lamentation of his acquaintance, he has led the way to those blissful mansions which ho earnestly labored to fill with inhabitants."
Mr. Welch, as his gravestone states, was the son of Joseph Welch, of Plaistow ; and his mother's maiden name was Hannah Chase. He graduated at Harvard in 1787, in the class with John Quincy Adams, Abiel Abbot, William Crunch, Thaddeus Mason Harris, James Lloyd, Samuel Putnam and others who lived to win a national reputation. His parents were Baptists, and though his departure from ancestral faith was a source of domestic anxiety for a lime, his father, at a later day, united with a Congregational Church; and a younger brother followed him into the Congregational ministry. He pursued his theological studies with Rev. Giles Merrill, of Plaistow, and married, December G, 1792, Priscilla, daughter of Rev. Phineas Adams, of the West Church in Haverhill.
In May, 1794, a call was extended to Rev. Jonathan Brown, which was declined, and in November in the same year Rev. David Smith was invited, and accepted, and on the 17th of January, 1795. Mr. Smith was ordained. The council consisted of the following ministers: Noyes, of Southampton, N. H.; Dana and Frisbie, of Ipswich; Merrill, of Plaistow, N. H.; Adams, of Haverhill ; Peabody, of Atkinson, N. H.; Allen, of Bradford; Eaton, of Boxford; Kelley, of Hampstead, N. H.; and Dutch, of Bradford; and Mr. Peabody offered the introductory prayer. Mr. Dana preached the sermon from 1 Thess. 11: 58, Mr. Merrill made the ordaining prayer, Mr. Noyes gave the charge, Mr. Adams the right hand of fellowship and Mr. Frisbie made the concluding prayer.
At the end of a little over five years from the settlement of Mr. Smith, an irreconcilable difficulty grew up between him and the parish, in which at first the church took no part, except to oppose the efforts of the parish to bring about his dismissing. His relations with the parish became at last, however, so unpleasant that a council was called, the result of which was the dismissing of Mr. Smith, on the 22d of May, in the year 1800.
Mr. Smith was the son of Col. Isaac and Eunice (Adams) Smith, and was born in Ipswich, Mass., July 23, 1761. He graduated at Harvard in 1790, and studied theology with his pastor, Rev. Joseph Dana. After leaving Amesbury, he was employed for a time, by the Missionary Society, as a traveling preacher in Western New York, and after residences in Haverhill, and in Bath, N. H., he finally fixed his home in Portland, Me., where he died May 19, 1S37. He was married twicefirst, to the widow of his predecessor in the Amesbury pulpit, Rev. Francis Welch, to whom he was married September 27, 1795, and second to a lady of Portland, by the name of Cutler. His children, all by his first wife, were John Adams, born in Amesbury, December 20, 1797; David, born in Amesbury, July 3, 1799; William Perkins, born in Haverhill, June 10, 1801; Mary, born in Haverhill, July 23, 1803; Elizabeth, born in Haverhill, January 17, 1805; Charles Henry, born in Bath, N. H., December 12, 1809; and Myra Adams, born in Bath, N. H., September 21, 1812.
After the dismissing of Mr. Smith the church remained without a pastor until June G, 1804, when Rev. Samuel Mead, of Danvers, was installed. The council at his installation consisted of Rev. Messrs. Hull, of Amesbury; Wadsworth, of Danvers; Kelley, of Hampstead, N. H.; Dutch, of Bradford; Tompkins, of* Haverhill; Woods, of Newbury; and Rev. Mr. Hull offered the introductory prayer, Mr. Wadsworth preached the sermon from 1 Tim. iv: 6, Mr. Kelley made the installing prayer, Mr. Dutch gave the charge, Mr. Tompkins the right hand of fellowship and Mr. Woods made the concluding prayer. The ministry of Mr. Mead continued until his death, which occurred on the 28th of March, 1818. He was the son of Zaccheus and Sarah (Harlow) Mead, and was born in Rochester, Mass., in 17(36. He graduated at Harvard in 1787, and after pursuing for a short time the study of medicine, prepared himself for the ministry, and was ordained pastor of a church in Danvers before he was called to Amesbury. He married, at Rochester. January 1, 1797, Susannah, daughter of Major Earl Clapp, of Rochester, and afterwards of Woburn, who, after the death of her husband, removed to Woburn. Mr. Mead had eight children, Samuel Barlow, born December 27, 1797; Jeremiah Clapp, March 4, 1800; Susan Clapp and Sarah Barlow, twins, November 15, 1802; Anna Barstow, December 5, 1804; Abby, March C, 1806; Mary, April 16,1809; and Jeremiah Clapp again, September 19,1812.
After the death of Mr. Mead the church was again without a pastor, and this time for a period of eight and half years. During a large part of the time Rev. Moses Welch, of Plaistow, a brother of the second pastor, supplied the pulpit, having been ordained as an evangelist on the 7th of July, 1819. In that year he was engaged for a year's supply, and the engagement was renewed annually in the four succeeding years. In 1824 he was invited to continue the supply for another year, but declined, and was subsequently installed over the church in Plaistow, his native town, December 26, 1826, and died in Wenham, February 17, 1831.
The next pastor was Rev. P. S. Eaton, who was ordained September 20, 1826. At his ordination Rev. Mr. Welch offered the introductory prayer; Rev. Dr. Eaton, the father of the pastor, preached the sermon from 1 Cor. 3:6; Rev. Mr. Dodge made the ordaining prayer; Rev. Mr. Kelley. of Hampstead, N. H., gave the charge; Rev. Mr. Farnsworth, of Oxford, N. H., the right hand of fellowship; Rev. Mr. Perry made the address to the people; and Rev. Mr. Sawyer the concluding prayer.
Mr. Eaton's ministry continued until May 10,1837, when he received his dismissal.
Rev. Peter Sidney Eaton was the son of Rev. Peter and Sarah (Stone) Eaton, and was born in Boxford, October 7, 1798. His father was for fifty-seven years the pastor of the church in West Boxford, and his mother's father, Rev. Eliab Stone, was for sixty years pastor of the Congregational Church in Reading, Mass. Mr. Eaton graduated at Harvard in 1818, and from Andover Theological Seminary in 1822, and married, at Charlestown, December 4,1828, Elizabeth Ann Leman. His children were Sidney Payson, born September 16, 1829; Henry Martyu, born June 28, 1835; and Elizabeth Ann, born May 16, 1841. He died at his home in Chelsea, March 13, 1863.
On the 1st of November, 1837, Rev. Lucius W. Clark was installed as the next pastor, and at the installation the sermon, was preached by Rev. Mr. Fitch, of Boston; the charge was given by Rev. Mr. Peckham, of Plaistow; the right hand of fellowship by Rev. Mr. Cushing, of the E;ist Church in Haverhill; and the address to the people by Rev. Mr. Keeler, of Amesbury Mills.
During the ministry of Mr. Clark a new meeting house was erected on the spot occupied by the present house, and dedicated September 18, 1839. Mr. Clark was dismissed at his own request, August 31, 1842, removed to Vermont, and died in Middlebury, in that State, January 2, 1854. He was the son of James and Jerusha (Morey) Clark, of Mansfield, Conn., and was born in that town July 2, 1801. He graduated at Brown University in 1825, and was licensed to preach by the Mendon Asssoeiation in October, 1826. On the 9th of December, 1829, he was ordained as pastor of the church at South Wilbraham, Mass., and after three years was dismissed. He afterwards supplied a pulpit in Plymouth five years, and went from that town to Amesbury. He married, April 30, 1830, Lucy Beard Jacobs, widow of Dr. Simon Jacobs, of Oakham, Mass., and daughter of Rev. Daniel and Lucy (Beard) Tomlinson, of Oakham. Mr. Clark had two children,Lucy Maria, born February 12, 1832, and Lucius Watson, born January 22, 1834.
The successor of Mr. Clark was Rev. Henry B. Smith, who was ordained December 29, 1842. The sermon at the ordination was preached by Rev. William Allen, D.D., of Northampton; the ordaining prayer was made by Rev. Dr. Perry, of East Bradford; the charge was given by Rev. Jonathan F. Stearns, of Newburyport; the right hand of fellowship by Rev. Edward A. Lawrence, of Haverhill; and the address to the people by Rev. Dr. L. Withiugton, of Newbury. Mr. Smith's ministry continued until September 29, 1847, when he was dismissed to accept a professorship in Amherst College. Mr. Smith was the son of Henry Arixene (Southgate) Smith, and was born in Portland, Me., November 21, 1815. He graduated at Bowdoin College in 1834, and immediately after served as tutor in the college, studied theology at Andover and Bangor, and spent a year or two in professional preparation at Halle and Berlin, in Europe. After leaving Amesbury he was professor of mental and moral philosophy in Amherst College from 1847 to 1850, and professor of ecclesiastical history in the Union Theological Seminary of New York from 1850 to 1854, when he became professor of systematic theology in the same institution, and died in New York February 7, 1877. He married, January 5,1843, Elizabeth L., daughter of Rev. William Allen, D.D., of Northampton, Mass., and his children were Arixene Southgate, born at Amesbury, November 2, 1843; Maria Malleville Wheelock, born at Amesbury, December 15, 1845; William Alleu, born at Amherst, August 16, 1848; and Henry Goodwin, born in New York, January 8, 1860.
The next pastor was Rev. Albert Paine, who was ordained September 7, 1848, on which occasion Rev. Henry B. Smith, of Amherst College, preached the sermon; Dr. Samuel C. Jackson, of Andover, gave the charge; Rev. D. T. Fisk, of Belleville, Newbury, the right hand of fellowship; and Rev. Dr. L. F. Dimmick, of Newburyport, the address to the people. Mr. Paine's ministry continued until April 11, 1854, when, at his own request, he was dismissed. He was the son of John and Betsey Paine, of Woodstock, Conn., where he was born, July 21, 1819. He graduated at Yale in 1841, and, after studying for a time at Andover, finished his theological course at the Auburn Seminary in 1845. He married, November 20, 1849> Sarah, daughter of Patten Sargent, of Amesbury, and had four children,Edward Sargent, born May 3, 1851; Charles Hamilton, born March 27,1853; William Alfred, born January 29, 1855; and Dolly Elizabeth, born October 16, 1856.
The successor of Mr. Paine was Rev. Leander Thompson, who was installed September 20, 1854, on which occasion Rev. Samuel Wolcott, of Providence, preached the sermon ; Rev. Ralph Emerson, D.D., of Newburyport, made the installing prayer; Rev. Daniel Dana, D.D., of Newburyport, gave the charge; Rev. Thomas Laurie, of West Roxbury, the right hand of fellowship ; and Rev. Albert Paine the address to the people. In 1859, during the pastorate of Mr. Thompson, the meeting-house built in 1839, being found too small, was sold and removed to give place to the present house of worship, which was at once erected and dedicated January 12, 1860. The old house was after its removal used for a time for public purposes.
The ministry of Mr. Thompson continued until his dismissal, May 2, 1867. He was the son of Churles and Mary (Wyman) Thompson and was born in Woburn, Mass., March 7, 1812. He fitted for college at Warren Academy in Woburn, and graduated at Amherst in 1835. He pursued his theological studies at the Andover Theological Seminary, from which he graduated in 1838, and was licensed to preach by the Andover Association, April 10, 1838. He was ordained as an evangelist at Woburn November 30, 1838, and after supplying the pulpit atGranby, Mass., for about a year, sailed from Boston for Syria as a missionary, January 24, 1840. After a protracted and severe illness he returned home in 1843 and was installed as pastor of the South Church in South Hadley, Mass., December 13th of that year. He was dismissed from his pastorate at his own request August 28, 1850, and from that time until his settlement at Amesbury was precluded by ill health from engaging to any great extent in the labors of a ministry. After leaving West Amesbury he supplied for one year the pulpit of the Congregational Church in Woltboro', N. H., the native town of his wife, and for three or four years the Congregational pulpit in Woburn, his own native town. During the last thirteen years he has been obliged, on account of the state of his health, to retire from the pulpit altogether. He has made his native town and the house in which he was born his
home and devoted himself largely to literary pursuits, chiefly of an historical character.
Mr. Thompson married, November 6, 1839, Ann Eliza, daughter of Samuel and Mary (Clark) Avery of Wolfboro', N. H., and had six children,Charles Henry, born in Jerusalem September 27, 1840 ; Edwin Wheelock, born in Beirut December 13, 1841; Mary Avery, born in South Hadley March 25,1844; Everett Augustine, March 28, 1847; Ann Eliza, October 29, 1848; and Samuel Avery, born in Wolfboro' October 16, 1850.
On the 15th of October, 1868. Rev. Lewis Gregory was ordained as the successor of Mr. Thompson, and was dismissed October 11, 1875. On the 7th of September, 1876, Rev. W. H. Hubbard was installed and was dismissed May 29, 1883. Thomas M. Miles was installed January 17, 1884, and is the present pastor of the church. In 1879 the name of the society was changed from the Second Congregational Church in Amesbury to the First Orthodox Congregational Society of Merrimac, and now bears that name. The meeting-house was aiso remodeled and rededicated January 1, 1879.
The history of the Congregational Church has been awarded a large space in this narrative as it was the point round which the population gradually crystalized which has now become the town of Merrimac. Indeed, the population and the church were identical, and no history of the town, though its incorporation was so recent, would be complete without a description of the gradual evolution of a municipality from its germ in the church and parish.
Until 1836 the Congregational Society was the only religious organization within the limits of what is now Merrimac. In that year the Universalists built a meeting house, and in the next year, 1837, organized a society. Their first pastor was the Rev. Elbridge G Brooks, who began his pastorate in 1837 and remained about eighteen months. He was followed by Rev. J. S. Barry in 1839, and Rev. J. J. Locke in 1841, who preached until 1843, when he was succeeded by Rev. George G. Strickland. The pastorate of Mr. Strickland continued five years, during which he married Ruth, the eldest daughter of Jonathan B. Sargent, a leading member of the society.
Mr. Strickland was followed in 1849 by Rev. L. Howe, who preached one year, and was succeeded in 1851 by Rev. H. P. Cutting. Mr. Cutting was followed in 1852 by Rev. J. Davenport, who served about three and a half years, and was succeeded in 1856 by Rev. William P. Colby, and in 1858 by Rev. Calvin Damon. The pastorate of Mr. Damon continued eight years, and in 1868 Rev. Wro. F. Potter became the pastor, and served two years; Rev. W. R. Wright followed in 1871, preaching one year; Rev W. D. Corkin in 1874, who preached two years; and Rev. Henry Jewell in 1880, after a supply of the pulpit for several years by students of divinity. Mr. Jewell occupied the pulpit four years, performing his parochial duties with earnestness and fidelity, and winning the affection and respect of not only his own people, but the whole community. Rev. Anson Titus followed in 18«4, who has recently dissolved his relations with the society, and left it at present without a pastor.
The Baptist Society at Merrimacport was organized at the house of Levi Williams August 25, 1849. What is now Merrimacport was then called the river village of West Amesbury, and the church in question was at first called, until 1857, the West Amesbury Baptist Church. Previous to that time, preaching had been supplied since 1847 by Rev. J. N. Chase and Rev. George Keely, of Haverhill. The public recognition of the church took place at Mechanics' Hall, September 20, 1849, at which time there were thirty-seven members, and the church was received into the Salem Baptist Association, at its meeting in Lowell, September 27, 1849. Nathaniel S. Pinkham, from Concord, N. H., was ordained as the first pastor, March 28, 1850. The sermon was preached by Rev. E. E. Cummings, of Concord, N. H.; Rev. George Keely, of Haverhill, made the ordaining prayer; and Rev. D. C. Eddy, cf Lowell, gave the right hand of fellowship. The meei ing-house which had been erected by the society was dedicated on the same day, Rev. Mr. Pinkham preaching the sermon.
The pastorate of Mr. Pinkham closed in 1852, and Rev. Josiah H. Tilton followed on the 21st of September in that year, who preached until May 3, 1854. On the 13th of September, 1854, Rev. S. T. Thatcher was ordained and served until July, 1857, at which time the church took the name of the South Amesbury Baptist Church, and held it until the incorporation of Merrimac in 1876, when it assumed the name of the Merrimacport Baptist Church, by which it is still known.
Rev. Charles Freeman Foster followed Mr. Pinkham, December 4, 1857, and remained until June 19, 1859. On the 2d of the following September, Rev. John Richardson became the pastor, and continued until his resignation, in 1864. Rev. James J. Peck, succeeded May 2, 1865, and resigned March 1, 1867, followed by Rev. Obediah E. Cox, August 1, 1869, who resigned July 3, 1870.
The next pastor was Rev. Jonathan E. Brown, who began his labors November 1, 1870, and resigned June 1, 1871, followed by Rev. George W. Davis, November 8, 1871, who ended his pastorate March 1, 1874. Until July, 1878, the pulpit was supplied by Rev. R. G. Farley, Rev. J. H. Cox, Rev. A. Dunn and Rev. Otis Wing. In July, 1878, Rev. J. H. Seaver became the pastor, and closed his pastorate in August, 1882. After the resignation of Mr. Seaver the pulpit was supplied by Rev. W. A. Hodgkins, of Lawrence, J. R. Haskins, of Merrimac, J. K. Chase, of South Hampton, N. H., and W. H. Cossum, of Poughkecpsie, N. Y., until January, 1886, when the present pas
tor, Rev. J. E. Dinsmore, entered on his pastorate. Another Baptist Church was organized in the central village of what is now Merrimac April 4, 1867, with eighteen members,seven males and eleven females,and was recognized by an association of Baptist Churches July 3, 1867. The first sermon was preached before the new society July 14, 1867, by Rev. C. H. Corey, D.D., president of the Colver Institute, in Richmond, Virginia, from Acts 5: 38, 39. The corner-stone of a church edifice was laid with appropriate ceremonies July 13, 1869, and the church was dedicated January 12, 1870, Rev. Dr. Lorimer, of Boston, preaching the sermon. The following pastors have been settled over this church: Rev. W. H. Kling, of Baltic, Conn.,from July, 1868, to January
I, 1871; Rev. E. M. Bartlett, of Bath, Me., from October, 1872, to July 1, 1876; Rev. W. H. Coflin, of Nantucket, from December 19, 1877, to January 31, 1880; Rev. R. D. Fish, of Cheshire, Mass., from April 21,1880, to August 20, 1882; Rev. J. R. Haskins, of West Acton, Mass., from June 1, 1883, to March 23, 1884; and Rev. S. D. Ashley, of Huntington, Mass., the present pastor, from March 1, 1885.
At Merrimacport there is a Methodist Society, which was organized in 1875. On the first Sabbath in December, 1874, Rev. E. M. Dinsmore, of the New Hampshire Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, began to preach in Citizens' Hall, and awakened a deep interest among the people. At the next Annual Conference, in April, 1875, he was appointed preacher in charge, and on the 5th of December following a Methodist Church was organized, consisting of twelve members. Mr. Dinsmore was held in high esteem by the whole community, and under his care the church took a permanent root. He was followed in 1878 by Rev. N. C. Alger, and in 1879 by Rev. C. E. Eaton. In 1880 Rev. Charles N. Chase was appointed pastor, and continued in charge until 1883, being succeeded by Rev. F. C. Pillsbury, who remained one year, In 1884 the pulpit was supplied by students from the Boston School of Theology, and in 1885 Rev. A. R. Lunt received the appointment of the Conference, and remained two years. In 1887 Rev. William Love was assigned to the church, and is still its pastor. The church continues to worship in Citizens' Hall, and has increased its membership to thirty-six.
During the summer of 1877, Episcopal services were held for the first time in Merrimac, in Sargent's Hall, Rev. Dr. Twing, of New York, and Rev. E. L. Drown, of Newburyport, officiating. During some years after 1877 occasional services were held at private residences, under the charge of the late Rev. John S. Beers, of Natick, general missionary for the diocese of Massachusetts. Interest in the services increasing, regular semi-monthly services have been held in Coliseum Hall since the autumn, of 1886. The society has no formal organization, but is known as the Merrimac Episcopal Mission.
The Catholics of West Amesbury, now Merrimac, first held services in Mechanics' Hall in 1870. The society being a mission of the Amesbury Parish, has always been under the charge of Rev. John Brady, of Amesbury. At the time of its organization the society numbered about one hundred and fifty. It continued to hold its services in Mechanics' Hall until 1884, when its growth and prosperity warranted the erection of the church it now occupies on Green Street, to accommodate its numbers, which had increased to about three hundred and fifty.
Besides the churches, it is proper that the schools in the West Parish of Amesbury before the incorporation of Merrimac should find a place in this narrative. The education of the youth in earlier years was of a meager and unsatisfactory character. There were scattered schools open only a small part of the year, and taught by masters hired by votes of the town. The first School Board in Amesbury was chosen in 1792, and Rev. Francis Welch, Willis Patten, Mathias Hoyt and John Kelley were members from the West Parish. In 1803 there were in the parish four school districtsthe " River District," receiving $174.49, with fourteen weeks school ; the "Esquire Sargent's," receiving $181.17, with fourteen weeks; the ''Birch Meadow," receiving $135.10, with eleven weeks, and the "Highland," receiving $92.55, with eight weeks. At the time of the incorporation of Merrimac, in 1876, there were within its limits eleven schools a high, grammar, intermediate and primary at the Centre; a high, grammar and primary at South Amesbury (now Merrimacport), and four district schools at Birch Meadow, the Landing, Bear Hill and the Highlands. The whole number of scholars in the schools at that time was three hundred and sixty-seven. There are now fourteen schools in Merrimaca High, Centre Grammar, Centre Intermediate, Centre First and Second Primaries, Prospect Street First and Second Primaries, Merrimacport Grammar, Merrimacport Intermediate and Primary, and the Landing, Bear Hill, Birch Meadow and Highland Schools. The whole number of scholars is four hundred and seventy-six. There are eight school-houses, the house at the Centre accommodating five schools, the house in Prospect Street two, two at Merrimacport, accommodating three, and one for each outlying school.
The High School was established in 1873, and Mr. Frank Wiggins was the first principal, continuing in charge until the spring of 1883, and followed by Prof. John A. Nichols, who served during the summer of that year. In the autumn of 1883, George F. Joyce became the principal, and still holds the position. In 1879, Ellen Gunnison was appointed assistant and continued until the summer of 1881, when she was succeeded by Helen K. Spoff'ord who stills holds the position.
There are other features in the history of the West Parish which may very properly be alluded to. In 1731, the West Parish established a second cemetery, having purchased land of Captain John Foot, Jr., on the plain, which was the nucleus of the present burial-ground. Another purchase was made of Captain Foot of two hundred and ten rods, for a training field and parish uses, to " lay common forever.'" In 1735 an attempt was made to establish a ferry at Savage's Neck, and it was finally granted by the Quarter Court and left with the selectmen to manage.
In 1737, a way two rods wide was opened along the river bank, from the river landing to Cottle's Landing near Haverhill. This new road was given to the town by Captain John Sargent, Deacon Thomas Stevens and others. In the same year the town voted "to allow and pay to Captain Thomas Hoyt one hundred pounds of money for an open road of two rods wide through his land, where his son Jacob now dwells, beginning at the northeast corner of Hannah Grant's land near his dwelling-house, and so through said Captain Hoyt's land to ye highway near ye ould Fort," Thomas Hoyt lived at the Pond Hills and owned the large farm at Tucker's Hill where Moses B. Hoyt recently lived, and his sons John and Jacob lived on that farm. It is therefore probable that the road opened was the present Birchy Meadow Road, to a point near the late Enoch Heath's land, where an old fort once stood. William Moulton,
through whose land it was at first proposed to open a road, lived where the late Hon. William Nichols died.
In 1757, during the French War, Amesbury was required to furnish forty-three men to join the forces at Kennebec, Oswego, and Crown Point. Of these, the West Parish men were probably: John Martin. Moses Preesey. Robert Ring. Jacob Hoyt. Samuel Colby. and Joseph Harvey.
In the same year a draft was made from the militia company in the West Parish to recruit the army under the Earl of Loudon,including John Kelley, Joshua Sargent, Joseph Colby, Sargent Huse, Roger Colby, Thomas Williams, Stephen Sargent, Jr., Jonathan Moulton, Daniel Hoyt, Jonathan Clements, Enoch Chase, Jr., Ephraim Currier, Jr., Benjamin Morse, Wells Chase, Jr., Jonathan Kelley (3d), David Currier, Enoch Nichols, Joseph Harvey, Jr., Elliot Colby, Nathan Hoyt, Joseph Dow, Jr., John Kendrick, Nehemiah Hardy and Christopher Sargent. Fort William Henry, which was their destination, surrendered to Montcalm while they were on the march, and they returned home after four days absence. In 1878 Captain Richard Kelley, with twenty men of his company, joined in the successful expedition against Louisbourg.
In 1771, an account of the property and industrial interests of the West Parish was taken, which showed its total valuation £2261 10s. There were two hundred and seventeen acres of tillage land,and the largest amount cultivated by any one man was seven acres. Isaac Merrill had seven acres; Ensign Orlando Sargent, six; Nathaniel Davis, five; Barnabas Bradbury, four; Barzilla Colby, four; Ebenezer Farrington, four and a half; Benjamin Morse, four; Deacon Stephen Sargent, four; Thomas Sargent, Jr., four; Samuel Sargent, four; and Christopher Sargent, four. The number of acres in orchard was twenty-four, of which Isaac Merrill, with one and three-quarters acres, and Ebenezer Farrington, with one acre and a quarter, owned the largest shares. Some of the richest men were Orlando Sargent, valued in land at £36 2s. 6rf.; Isaac Merrill, £47 7s. 6d.; Benjamin Morse, £31 7*. (id.; Joseph Moody, £30 15s.; Thomas Sargent, Jr., £27 10s.; Josiah Sargent, £26 5*.; Christopher Sargent, £25 5s.; Thomas Rowell, £28 15s.; and Barnard Hoyt, £25. Isaac Merrill owned two negroes; Benjamin Morse, one; and Wells Chase, one. There were fifty-one horses, one hundred and seventeen j oxen and two hundred and seventy-four cows. Isaac Merrill owned nine cows; Orlando Sargent, seven; Isaac Sargent, six; Ebenezer Farrington, six; and Barnard Hoyt, five. Jacob Harvey owned two mills on Cobler's Brook.
In 1775, after the battle of Lexington, Amesbury took immediate steps to raise volunteers for the common defense. Captain John Currier, of the East Parish, raised a company of fifty-four men, of whom about twenty belonged to the West Parish, and was in the engagement at Bunker Hill. In this company Wells Chase was lieutenant and Timothy Silver corporal, and both were w-ounded. Early in 1776 twenty-six men entered the army from the town, and of these, four were from the West Parish. Soon after, fifteen more enlisted, and seven of these were West Parish men. In September of that year ten more men joined the army at Fairfield from the parish, and Wells Chase carted their baggage. Before the end of the year nine more soldiers were paid a bounty of thirty-six dollars each and enlisted, and during the year 1777 repeated calls for men were made, to which Jamaco always responded. In 1780 paper money had depreciated to such an extent that at a special town-meeting the sum of forty-eight thousand four hundred pounds was raised for the town's use. A call had been made for a supply of ten thousand three hundred and seventy pounds of beef, and Ezra Jewell and Seth Kendrick were appointed to procure it, and sixteen thousand pounds was raised to pay for it.
In 1782, the last year of the war, the number of polls in the East Parish was two hundred and thirty-one, and in the West, one hundred and sixty-three. In the former the value of estates was £43,859 3s. and in the latter £42,470 8s.
In Shay's Rebellion, which occurred in 1786, a call was made on Amesbury for men, and those who reported from the Went Parish were Jacob Sargent, Robert Sargent, Moses Sargent and Jacob Hoyt
In 1808, two prominent men in the West Parish died, Capt. Robert Sargent and Col. Isaac Whittier, both at the river. The former was born in 1716, and was in his ninety-second year. He served as selectman in 1758 and 1769, and held a military commission for some years. He died on the 22d of January. The latter died on the 10th of February, at the age of fifty-three years. He served six years on the Board of Selectmen, and was its chairman. He was a military man and held a commission as colonel.
On the 23rd of April, 1809, Dr. Nathan Huse died, at the age of ninety-two years. He was a native of West Newbury and at the age of twenty-two settled at the Highlands. For about seventy years, he practiced in his profession, and always held the respect and affection of the scattered community in which be lived. In 1813, Capt. Mathias Hoyt died. He had been a prominent man, serving during the Revolution on the Committee of Correspondence and Safety, and afterwards for several years on the Board of Selectmen. At one time he kept a tavern where the late Joseph W. Sargent lived, but removed to the Highlands, where he died. In 1816, Deacon Willis Patten died, on the 12th of September. He lived at the river and was a prominent man in that part of the town. In this year James Chase began the manufacture of earthenware at the river, in which he continued until his death, in 1858, when his son Phineas assumed the business.
Since the incorporation of the town the death has occurred of Colonel Joshua Colby, one of its most prominent citizens. He was born in West Amcsbury June 25,1795, and died in Merriruac August 31,1881. He occupied many positions of trust in his native town, serving as selectman of Amcsbury at various times between 1830 and 1860. He was Representative in the Legislature three years, between 1830 and 1840, and a member of the Executive Council in 1843, associated with Governor Morton. He was for forty years a director of the Powow River Bank of Amesbury, and acquired by his high character the esteem of his fellow-townsmen, and a large influence in their public affairs.
In 1824 a post-office was established at West Amesbury, and Edmund Sargent was appointed postmaster. The present postmaster is George S. Prescott, who was appointed by the present administration at the expiration of the term of George E. Ricker. In 1825, Major Thomas Hoyt died, on the 14th of January. He was a son of Capt. Matthias Hoyt, and served for a number of years both as selectman and Representee to the General Court.
In 1827 the ferry at Patten's Creek was rented to Col. Stephen Bailey for five years, at one dollar per year, and this was the last known transaction concerning ferries on the river. On the 10th of November 1830, Christopher Sargent died, at the age of ninety years. He was the son of Moses and Sarah Sargent, and was born May 18, 1740. He held the office of selectman thirteen years, was Representative to the General Court fourteen years, and town clerk nine years. He lived on the homestead, where his grandson Moses now resides.
In 1848, Thomas T. Merrill, Stephen Patten, Jonathan B. Sargent and their associates were incorporated, with a capital of fifty thousand dollars, under the name of the West Amesbury Manufacturing Company, for the manufacture of carriages and doors and blinds. The first meeting of the company was held June 1, 1848, and Joshua Colby, Stephen Patten, Jonathan B. Sargent, Alfred E. Goodwin and Thomas T. Merrill were chosen directors, and the capital was fixed at eight thousand dollars. Alfred E. Goodwin was chosen treasurer, and on the 10th of June, Jonathan B. Sargent was chosen president by the directors. Thomas T. Merrill was appointed manufacturing agent, and held the position until his death, in 1871. The company was engaged exclusively in the manufacture of carriage wheels until they added that of carriage gears, under the charge of John S. Foster. The company has carried on an extensive business, increasing its capital stock until it now amounts to forty thousand two hundred and fifty dollars. Its present officers are Frederick Nichols president, S. S. Blodget treasurer, and M. S. Gibbs manufacturing agent.
In 1850, two fire engines were bought by the town, one for South Amesbury and one for West Amesbury. In October of the year previous the house of William Chase, at the river, had been burned, and the town became alarmed at its want of fire apparatus.
The present Fire Department of Merrimac was organized in 1884, and is now under the direction of Edward H. Sargent, chief engineer; H. S. Stevens, first assistant; and Albert Parker, second assistant. The apparatus of the department consists of one steamer, " Niagara,"third size, built in Manchester, N. H. in 1883, with twenty men and W. H. Blodgett, engineer; one Howard & Davis hand-engine, first class, built in 1850, with thirty men; one Gleason & Bailey hand-engine, first class, with thirty men; one hook-and-laddcr truck, with fifteen men; two thousand feet of hose, and two engine-houses, one at the Centre and one at Merrimacport.
In 1851, several new streets were accepted by the town, one from near the land of Humphrey Nichols to the wheel factory at Cobler's Brook, one near the residence of William H. Haskell and one at the River Village from the house of Ephraim Goodwin to that of Charles L. Rowell. In 1854 a new road was located from the New Hampshire line to the Merrimac River, to avoid the sharp hill at the west end of Bear Hill.
In 1857 a post-office was established at the River Village, and Ebenezer Fullington was appointed postmaster. The present postmaster is William H. Colby, who was appointed by the present administration and succeeded Charles E. Rowell. In 1859 a piece of new road was built at Patten's Creek, connecting the river road with the middle road, which was the means of discontinuing the old bridge.
In July, 1861, Capt. Joseph W. Sargent, of the West Parish, raised a company which was mustered into the United States service and formed Company E of the Fourteenth Regiment.
During a larger part of the war the Fourteenth Regiment was stationed near Washington, and was finally changed to the Second Heavy Artillery. B.C.Atkinson was promoted to be first lieutenant May 28,1862, and captain Octjber 8, 18G4. Henry F. Badger died of fever at Fort Albany, February 2, 1862. Lewis P. Caldwell was promoted to be second lieutenant May 28, 1862; to first lieutenant July 26, 1863, and died of wounds June 17, 1864. William L. Doraett was promoted to sergeant and died at Annapolis, Md., December 8, 1864, from the effects of starvation in a Confederate prison. Edwin Follansbee was made corporal, and Sergeant William S. Foster became corporal. Charles L. Flanders was taken prisoner and died. William M. Hamilton became second lieutenant August 14, 1863. George F. Little became sergeant and William F. Martin became captainwas taken prisoner at Winchester and lost a leg. Charles E. Osgood became second lieutenant and was severely wounded. Allen Osgood was confined in Andersonville Prison ten months. Eldridge A. Ring was corporal and was promoted to sergeant. John S.Runnels was made quartermaster-sergeant and died September 18,1863, at Fort Whipple. James Ross and Gustavus D. Sargeut were prisoners at Andersonville. Alexander Smart became second lieutenant and William G. Thompson became second lieutenant June 18, 1862, and captain June 1, 1864, and died of wounds May 20, 1864. Capt. J. W. Sargent resigned his command December 24, 1863, on account of ill health. When his company left Washington, it joined the Army of the Potomac at Petersburg, and was there engaged in the various attacks on the enemy's works. Some were wounded and several taken prisoners and many re-enlisted and served through the war. In 1863 a draft was ordered of eighty-eight men, and thirty of these were men of the West Parish.
In February, 1864, the First National Bank of Amesbury was organized with a capital of fifty thousand dollars, and its name was changed by act of Congress December 27, 1876, to the "First National Bank of Merrimac." Its charter was renewed February 24, 1883. In June, 1804, its capital was increased to seventy-five thousand dollars; in October, 1864, to one hundred thousand dollars; in June, 1872, to one hundred and fifty thousand dollars; and in May, 1875, to two hundred thousand dollars. The original directors were Patten Sargent, Thomas T. Merrill, John S. Poyen, Benjamin F. Sargeut and William Gunnison. The present directors are William H. Haskell, president; William P. Sargent, J. A. Lancaster, John B. Judkins, Albert Sargent and Isaac B. Little. Patten Sargent was the first president, and was followed in 1871 by the present president, William H. Haskell, who had been cashier from 1864 to 1869. John L. Pearson was appointed cashier January 12, 1869, and was followed by the present incumbent, Daniel J. Poore, in May, 1874. The bank has always been well managed and it has paid to its stockholders an average annual dividend of 8.45 per cent., it has a surplus of fifty thousand dollars.The Merrimac Savings Bank was incorporated in 1871 as the Amesbury Savings Bank, and received its present name under an act of the Legislature passed in 1877. Its original officers were John S. Poyen, president; John P. Sargent, Isaac B. Little and J. B. Judkins, vice-presidents; treasurer, Wm. H. Haskell; secretary, James D. Pike; and A. E. Goodwin, Wm. Gunnison, Thomas C. Sawyer, A. B. Morse, James D. Pike, W. H. Haskell, John Cleary, Albert Sargent, M. G. Clement, J. Warren Sargent, B. F. Sargent and J. A. Lancaster, trustees. Its present officers are Wm. H. Haskell, president; Daniel J. Poore, treasurer; O. E. Little, secretary; Isaac B. Little, J. B Judkins and John Cleary, vice-presidents; and Wm, H. Haskell, John Cleary, J. A. Lancaster, M. G. Clement, George G. Larkin, George E. Ricker, B. F. Sargent, Isaac B. Little, A. B. Morse, G. 0. Goodwin, L. C. Loud, Albert Sargent, J. B. Judkins, James D. Pike, D. J. Poore and H. O. Delano, trustees. This bank has never lost a dollar, and has paid regular dividends averaging 5.04 per cent.
On the 8th of May, 1868, the West Amesbury Branch Railroad Company was incorporated with a capital of one hundred and fourteen thousand dollars. It was opened in 1872, and leased to the Boston and Maine Railroad Company for ninety-nine years from January 1, 1873.In 1878 the street from the estate of George W. Currier to that of Mrs. Little, on the hill, was opened as a highway.
In 1876 the town of Merrimac was incorporated. It is unnecessary to recount the successive steps which led to this important event. The act of incorporation was approved by the Governor on the 11th of April, and a warrant for a town-meeting on the 20th was issued by James D. Pike and served by Thomas B. Patten for the purpose of choosing town officers. The meeting was held on Thursday, the 20th, in pursuance of the warrant, at Mechanics' Hall, and called to order by Mr. Pike, by whom the warrant had been issued. Joseph W. Sargent was chosen moderator, and Bailey Sargent town clerk. The selectmen chosen were Wm. H. Haskell, S. S. Blodgett, Alexander Smart. The selectmen, with James D. Pike and E. M. Morse added, were chosen a committee to confer with the town of Amesbury respecting a division of town property, and to adjust all matters between the two towns. At a meeting held on the 27th of April the same committee were authorized to purvey and establish a line between Amesbury and Merrimac, and the selectmen were directed to draw up a code of by-laws and report at the next annual meeting.
Before the incorporation of the town William P. Sargent, of Boston, a son of Patten Sargent and a native of West Amesbury, had promised the new town, in case of its incorporation, the gift of a townhouse. Indeed, this prospective gift did much towards smoothing the way towards the formation of a new town. After the incorporation Mr. Sargent at once communicated his intention to the town, and at a meeting held on the 27th of April, 1876, the selectmen were constituted a committee to confer with him on the subject. The result was that the lot on the corner of Main and School Streets was bought and presented to the town by William H. Haskell, A. E. Goodwin, John S. Poyen, William Gunnison and Moses G. Clement, and the cornerstone of the hall was laid on the 27th of July. On the 13th of November it was dedicated under the name of " Sargent's Hall," completely finished and bearing a clock on its tower, presented by Patten Sargent, a native resident of the town. The cost of the land was about five thousand dollars, and that of the building about twenty thousand dollars. At a townmeeting held on the 27th of November, 1876, it was voted to purchase for the sum of two thousand five hundred dollars the lot of land, with the buildings thereon, owned by J. S. Poyen, northerly of the townhouse, and to accept the offer from Colonel Joshua Colby to give to the town the land between the townhouse and the above lot.
At a meeting held on the 21st of August, 1876, a communication from Dr. J. R. Nichols was read, offering a gift of one thousand volumes as the basis of a public library. The town accepted the gift, and, after voting to establish a public library, chose Patten Sargent, J. A. Lancaster, J. S. Poyen, William Chase, William H. Haskell and Dr. J. R. Nichols, trustees. On the 10th of May, 1877, the library was formally opened on the first floor of Sargent's Hall, a part of which it occupies, the remainder being occupied by the post-office, the National Bank and a business store. Valuable contributions have been made, from time to time, by various citizens, and in 1882 the sum of two hundred dollars was presented by A. E. Goodwin, the income from which is devoted to the purchase of books. The town also makes an annual appropriation of money for the support of the library, and at the present time its shelves contain nearly four thousand volumes.
In addition to the thanks of the town presented to William P. Sargent for his gift of the Town Hall, the selectmen were instructed in 1877, to cause a tablet to be placed in the vestibule of the building, commemorative of its donor, and in 1882 the sum of three hundred dollars was appropriated to procure his portrait. Among other gifts to the town was one made in 1883 by J. A. Lancaster of a lot of land for a cemetery.
Besides those institutions to which reference has been made, there are others in Merrimac worthy of mention. The Bethany Lodge of Masons was instituted December 30th, A. L. 5869. Its present Worthy Master is William F. Ward, and its Past Masters have been Morton B. Merrill, Frank Wiggin, Ora O. Little, Frederick M. Chase, Elbridge C. Sawyer, Alexander Smart, Ralph H. Sargent and M. Perry Sargent.
The Riverside Lodge, No. 174, of Odd Fellows was instituted December 3, 1875. On the 11th of Mav 1887, the lodge dedicated a new lodge-room in the new building of J. S. Poyen & Co., and furnished it at an expense of two thousand dollars. Since its organization it has received from initiations, dues and interest $10,421.63, and paid in sick benefits to its members twelve hundred and thirty-one dollars, in funeral benefits three hundred and fifty dollars, in relief to its members two hundred and sixteen dollars. It has at the present time one hundred and forty members, and the present Noble Grand is F. B. Follansbee.
The Colonel C. R. Mudge Post 114, of the Grand Army of the Republic, was organized December 20, 1869, under the command of Alexander Smart. Its Past Commanders have been, besides Captain Smart, M. B. Townsend, R. G. W. Foster, Ezra Hale, D. L. Getchell, C. J. Churchill, H. M. Howe, A. J. Sawyer, George A. Grant and Charles O. Roberts. Its present Commander is M. P. Brew.
The Young Men's Christian Association was organized January 19, 1867. It has a free reading-room, and prayer-meetings are held at the rooms of the association every Sabbath evening. Its present officers are Walter S. Williams, president; Wilbur E. Alton, secretary, and Charles Wilder, treasurer.
The Merrimac Branch, No. 326, of the Irish National League of America, was organized August 13, 18S3, with thirty members and the following officers: Joseph P. Connor, president; Michael Collins, vicepresident; Michael Burns, secretary; John Shehan, treasurer, and Daniel Sullivan, collector. At present it has twenty-five members and the following officers: Augustin O'Counell, president; Michael Burns, vice-president; Joseph P. Connor, secretary; Cornelius Murphy, treasurer, and John Shehan, collector.
The Colonel C. R. Mudge Ladies' Relief Corps, No. 24, was organized in December, 1882. Its officers are Mrs. Clara Howe, president; Miss Lena Sherman, secretary, and Mrs. Lydia Sargent, treasurer.
Merrimac, at the time of its incorporation, was assigned to the Eighteenth Representative District of Essex County, with West Newbury, Salisbury and Amesbury. In 1876 Frederick Merrill, of Salisbury, and Orlando S. Bailey, of Amesbury, were chosen to represent the district.
1877. James D. Pike, of Merrimac ; Samuel Coffin, of Salisbury.
1878, Orin Warren, of West Newbury; Albert S. Adams, of Amesbury.
1879. Elias P. Collins, of Salisbury ; William Sraeath, of Amesbury.
1880. Richard Newell, of West Newbury; Benjamin L. Fifield, of Salisbury.
1881. Oliver A. Roberts, of Salisbury ; Albert Sargent, of Merrimac.
1882. Marquid D. F. Steere, of Amesbury; David L. Ambrose, of West Newbury.
1883. John L. Cilley, of Salisbury; John*B. Judkins, of Merrimac.
1884 Alexander M. Huntington, of Amesbury ; Moses C. Smith, of West Newbury.
1883. Hiram Walker, of Salisbury ; George O. Goodwin, of Merrimac.
1886. Alexander Smart, of Merrimac; John II. Pousland, of Amesbury.
In 1880 the same towns constituted District No. 1.
At the last election in November, 1887, James D. Pike, of Merrimac, was chosen Senator from the Fourth Senatorial District of Essex County, composed of Amesbury, Haverhill, Merrimac, Salisbury and Wards Three, Four, Fiveand Six of Newburyport, and containing at the last apportionment 10,836 voters.
The manufacturing interests of Merrimac are considerable and its manufacturers are active and prosperous. In the early clays of Amesbury, agriculture engaged the attention of its people, but in time sawmills were built, the salmon and sturgeon and shad in the river were caught and sent to various markets, and ship-building was carried on to a limited extent in the West Parish. At what is now Merrimaeport , brickmaking was carried on at an early date by the Curriers and Presseys and Sawyers and Pattens and Sargente, and a trade with the West Indies of no inconsiderable extent was engaged in, this place being a distributing place for sugar and molasses among the adjoining and more distant towns. The manufacture of earthenware was begun at the Port as early as 1790, and at a later date James Chase took up the business, which his son Phineas has carried on since his day. Smith Sargent was also, about the year 182.r>, engaged in the business. The business of coopering was also carried on at the Port at one time with activity, and about the year 1827 a tannery and currying establishment was built there by Jacob Gove, and carried on under the firm-name of Gove, Clough & Powell. In I860 the South Amesbury Wharf Company was formed, at what
is now Merrimacport, and the coal business started by S. S. Blodgett has become an extensive one.
The Ray State Felt Boot and Shoe Company, organized to manufacture felt boots and shoes by a patent process, was incorporated in 1883 and established in Merrimac, September 15, 1885, with a capital of twenty thousand dollars. The officers are Theophilus King, of Quinoy, president; James D. Pike, treasurer; James Brandy, superintendent; and Theophilus King, Elbridge M. Morse, Moses G. Clement, Charles Bryant and James D. Pike, directors. The producing capacity of this company is twelve thousand cases per year, valued at one hundred and fifty thousand dollars. The goods find their markets principally in the Western States and in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. The demand for these boots and shoes increases yearly in the States where the winters are severe and there is much exposure to snow and cold.
The manufacture of carriages, upon which the prosperity of Merrimac chiefly depends, was begun early in the century by Michael Emery, of West Newbury, who learned his trade in Newburyport. At one time Newbury and West Newbury were considerably engaged in the business, but in some unaccountable way their industries gradually drifted across the river to Amesbury, and finally disappeared. Since the days of Michael Emery the business at Merrimac has been carried on by a large number of enterprising men. Among these may be mentioned the followiug, who have either died or retired: Joseph Sargent, Patten Sargent, Willis Patten, Joshua Sargent, Jr., John Sargent, Jr., Wm. Gunnison, Ephraim Goodwin, Moses Clement, Francis Smiley, Francis Pressey, Nicholas Sargent, S. S. Tuckwell, William P. Sargent, Edmund Whittier, Stephen R. Sargent, Stephen Bailey, Edmund Sargent, William Nichols, John Sargent, Jonathan B. Sargent, Frederick A. Sargent, Wm. H. Haskell, John Little, Joshua Colby, James Nichols, Wm. Johnson, Caleb Mitchell, Cyrus Sargent, Alfred E. Goodwin, Francis Sargent, O. H. Sargent, James H. Harlow, Stephen Patten, Eben S. Fullington, Joseph W. Sargent, John S. Poyen, Charles H. Palmer, Isaac Jones, Wm. Smiley, Thomas E. Poyen, George F. Clough, Isaac B. Little, George G. Larkin, Thomas B. Patten, Amos T. Small, A. M. Waterhouse and Thomas Nelson.
The number of carriages, with their value, manufactured annually by those at present in the business, is as follows:
George Adams & Sons began business in 1857; number of carriages, 200; sleighs, 100; value, $35.000; men employed, 18.
Moses G. Clement & Son began business in 1849; carriages, 200 ; sleighs, 60; value, $45,000; men employed, 19.
C. E. Gunnison & Co. began business in 1879; carriages, 250; men employed, 20; value, $35,000.
H. M. Howe (late Howe & Clouoh) began in 1879; carriages, 75; value, $20,000; men employed, 15.
J. A. Lancaster & Co. began in 1858; carriages, 438; sleighs, 112; value, $70,000; men employed, 30.
Loud Brothers began in 1866; carriages, 200; sleighs, 125; value, $82,000; men employed, 32.
C. H. Noyes & Son began in 1845; carriages, 90; value, $18,000; men employed, 10.
Daniel M. Means began in 18S1; carriages, 75; sleighs, 15; value, §15,000; men employed, 12.
Samuel Schofieli> & Son began in 1879; carriages, 75; value, $18,000; men employed, 11.
S. C. Pease & Sons began in 18(31; carriages, 300; value, $100,000; men employed, 42.
Palmer & Doucet began in 1873; carriages, 175; value, $75,000; men employed, 50.
Clement & Young began in 1884; carriages, 75; value, $18,000; men employed, 12.
Wm. 0. Smiley began in 1882; carriages, 75; value, $12,000; men employed, 8.
John B. Judkins & Son began in 1857; carriages, 200; value, $80,000; men employed, 50.
H. G. & H. W. Stevens began in 1869; carriages, 415; carriages repaired, 600; value, $185,000; men employed, 100.
Wm. Chase & Sons began in 1838; carriages, 50; sleighs, 10; value, $15,000; men employed, 11.
M. Colby began in 1868; carriages, 150 ; sleighs, 40; value, $30,000; men employed, 19.
George Gunnison began in 1882; carriages, 50; value, $9000; men employed, 7.
Willis P. Sargent began in 1854; carriages, 40; value, $6000; men employed, 3.
Merrimac may be said to be almost exclusively a carriage town, and as such has won an enviable reputation both for the style and quality of its work and for the enterprise and business integrity of its manufacturers. The styles of work done take a wide range, from the coach and landau and coupe to the less pretentious road-wagon and sleigh. Different manufacturers produce different classes of work, and almost every one has something in style or quality peculiarly his own. In the early history of the carriage business there were no shops in which a complete carriage was built. The business was carried on by an interchange of parts, one shop making bodies, another gears, another doing the iron-work, and another the trimming and painting. By this interchange of parts the carriages were constructed, and there are those still living who began the business in this way.
The manufacture of carriage-bodies and the woodwork of sleighs has always continued a business to be carried on to a considerable extent by itself, and now employs a large number of men. Among tne first shops where this special business has been carried on were those of John Clement, Job Hoyt and Ebenezer Fullington, all of whom began about 1820. It is now carried on by Gilman S. Hoyt, Melvin Clement, Joseph W. Nichols, Edward B. Sargent
Charles E. Pierce, Arthur Nichols, Wm. H. Colby and N. J. Spofford, the last two of whom are established at Merrimacport.
The first application of machinery to the manufacture of carriage gears was made by John S. Foster, who was for several years connected with the West Amesbury Manufacturing Company, subsequently building a factory for the prosecution of that business, in connection with sawing and planing and general job work. In 1867 he formed a partnership with Henry M. Howe, for the manufacture of wheels. Their factory was burned February 15,1870, and rebuilt and reoccupied in forty-nine days. In 1871 John Cleary became a member of the firm, and in 1879 George S. Prescott became connected with Mr. Foster, under the firm-name of Foster & Prescott. The product of their business was from four to five thousand sets of wheels annually, with other carriage parts. Their mill was burned February 17, 1882, and their business was not resumed.
In connection with the main business of carriage building there are .establishments engaged in the manufacture of special parts of carriages. The Merrimac Manufacturing Company, incorporated in 1848, has already been referred to, and is extensively employed in the manufacture of wheels and gears. There are other establishments engaged in the manufacture of different parts of carriages, among which are those of George B. Patten for carriage bows, and John H. Murphy and Alden B. Morse for silverplating. The houses of J. S. Poyen & Co. and Little & Larkin are largo importers and dealers in carriage materials. They have been established many years, and are doing an extensive business in addition to their home trade, selling largely to manufacturers in other places, their aggregate sales amounting to nearly a million of dollars.
There are four halls in the town, the Mechanics' Hall, fitted with a stage and appliances for dramatic performances; the Town Hall, called Sargent Hall; the Coliseum Hall, leased to the Army Post, and Citizens' Hall at Merrimacport.
In the autumn of 1882 George W. Currier began the publication of a weekly newspaper called the Merrimac Enterprise, the issue of which was continued by him until February 1884, when he sold the establishment to D. J. Poore and James D. Pike. These gentlemen bought at the same time the material of the Merrimac Reporter, which, after a short career, had been discontinued. They continued the publication of the Enterprise until April, 1884, when they established the Merrimac Budget, and as editors and proprietors continued its publication until April, 1885, with an increasing subscription list and a good job printing business in connection with it. At the last date they sold the establishment to Charles A. King, formerly of the Milford Gazette, and the Budget is now conducted by him as its editor and publisher.
The manufacture of boots and shoes was at one time carried on in Merrimac to a limited extent. Moses Goodrich and Charles Sargent were engaged in the manufacture of boots, and Stephen Clement and James B. Hoyt in that of shoes. Some of these, however, are now dead and only a remnant of the old business remains.
Among those connected with the industries of the town may be mentioned George S. Prescott, who has been for some years engaged in the setting up of lightning-rods in conformity with scientific inventions and discoveries ol his own relating to the connection of electric currents with water courses.
The population of Amesbury in 1875, the year before the incorporation of Merrimac, was5987; according to the next census, in 1880, it was 8355, and in 1885, 4403. In 1880 the population of Merrimac was 2237, and in 1885, 2378. The valuation of Amesbury in 1875, the year before the incorporation of Merrimac, was $2,331,694.62, and in 1876, $1,802,007. In 1886 it had increased to $1,864,101. In 1876 that of Merrimac was $968,845, and had increased in 1886 to $1,204,136.
Merrimac is well supplied with professional men and traders in the various branches of business too numerous to mention. It has a good hotel, well kept, and with its increasing prosperity is destined to have a larger growth.
Note: The writer acknowledges the great assistance in the preparation of the sketch of Merrimac which he has received from manuscript notes prepared by .Joseph Merrill, Esq, of Amesbury, and Hon. James D. Pike, of Merrimac.
Back arrow to return to Home Page