Inspired by our “How I Solved It” guest bloggers, I’ve decided to dust off some old research logs and take a second look at some old problems. First up: my Merrill connection. During my trip to North Carolina for an NGS conference in Raleigh a few years ago, I did quite a bit of personal on-site wandering. I mean researching. Since the Merrill family was among the list of neglected North Carolina ancestors I decided this was the perfect time to make amends.
Also researched during this trip were the Hill, McClelland, Clark, and Lowe families. Stanfield, Bennett, and Smith were also on the list, but these were women’s lines which required investigation into their husbands first. (Lowe, Clark, and Merrill respectively.) I’ll write about each of these families later.
The trip began with getting lost. As usual. Actually, the trip began with the sudden realization that my flight was in two hours and frantic packing and phone calls while waiting for the taxi. But that is another story. Upon my arrival in Greensboro, I picked up the rental, bought a map, and pretended to know where I was. The drive from Greensboro to Asheboro and Asheboro to Lexington was very scenic along the back roads and I imagine that based on the sheer volume of square acreage covered and number of u-turns performed, I saw much of the territory my ancestors explored anyway. So it was ok.
First I went to the Guilford County Courthouse battle site. As usual, I was deeply moved to stand where so many men took bullets so that I could be free to appreciate their sacrifice. I had hoped to find a list of men who fought in the battle such as the series compiled by Bobby Gilmer Moss which I purchased at King’s Mountain and Cowpens a year or ten ago. But I couldn’t find one, so I put it on a mental list of things to find or do later.
From there I went to Asheboro, visited the library, tromped around in cemeteries quite a bit, and generally spun my wheels and achieved no measurable result other than happiness. Next on the list was Salisbury, the seat of Rowan County. I highly recommend the Rowan County Library in Salisbury. The librarian in the History Department upstairs was extremely knowledgeable about the area and founding families. She recognized Benjamin Merrill’s name right away and confirmed what I knew about his death. Which is that he was hung for being a Regulator.
In order to appreciate Benjamin’s death, an understanding of his life is required. In 1763, following the French and Indian War, the British crown found itself feeling rather broke. To their minds, they had just spent ghastly sums of money defending the Colonies, and the Colonies should therefore pay for it with taxes. To the Colonists, they had paid with blood, sweat, and tears. And anyway, they were broke too, especially on the frontier. Many families found themselves starving in the face of outrageous tax bills, while men such as GovernorTryon built luxurious houses and threw lavish parties. (which to the Governor’s mind was a pitiful attempt at maintaining the lifestyle he was born to) Adding insult to injury, corrupt government practices such as over-charging for marriage licenses, deed filings, etc. were rampant, unavoidable, and arbitrarily enforced.
Underscoring this was the fact that the people had no say in their government. There was no representation in parliamentary affairs in far-off London. By about 1764 the Carolina people had had enough, and wisely or not, they decided to regulate the government. Thus the Regulators were formed. Things came to a head at the Battle of Alamance in May 1771, where the Regulators were ultimately defeated and disbanded. Wikipedia even states “Delays prevented approximately 300 reinforcements under Captain Benjamin Merrill from arriving in time to help the rebel cause.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Alamance)
And so the life of Benjamin Merrill came to an end. He was hung, and although he surely thought that his name would go down in history as a disgrace as he stood at the gallows, I feel exactly opposite. I’m proud of him…whether he’s my ancestor or not.
And here is where my blog pertains to my genealogy. I had previously believed that Benjamin Merrill had a daughter named Nancy born about 1756 who married Joseph Clark about 1778. After Joseph Clark’s death about 1793, Nancy remarried to Benjamin Mendenhall.
I believed Nancy was the daughter of Benjamin Merrill and Jemima Smith because published sources said so. Oops. I will name, and go into detail about necessary corrections to these publications, after I’ve finished and documented the correct ancestry of my Nancy Merrill.
At the Rowan County library I found a book Captain Benjamin Merrill and the Merrill Family of North Carolina by William Ernest Merrill, M.S. (which I probably had in Salt Lake all along, but that is beside the point. The point is that I failed to verify what was printed elsewhere). According to this source, Benjamin was married to Jemima Smith, as I had believed, but they did not have a daughter named Nancy. Uh-oh.
Since it was interesting, I went to the Jersey Settlement near Lexington anyway. (http://www.tamu.edu/ccbn/dewitt/mckstmerjersey.htm) Although it was looking like Benjamin might not be my ancestor after all, I was right there. Couldn’t pass it up. Again, I tromped around the cemetery happy as a clam and took pictures of the remaining Merrill family headstones just in case.
From there I went North working on other lines, but several days later stopped at the historical site of the Battle of Alamance on my way over to Raleigh. (http://www.nchistoricsites.org/Alamance/alamanc.htm)
Aside from being such an interesting place, the man there was incredibly helpful.
He pulled out a vertical file on Benjamin Merrill and although his photocopier was not working well, he made a copy of the whole file for me on his ink jet printer. What a pain for him, but I’m so super grateful and I promise it will not go to waste.
The documents in this vertical file include:
- Family Group Sheet of Capt. Benjamin Merrill compiled by B.J. Patterson in 1990
- “Captain Benjamin Merrill: A Pre-Revolutionary Revolutionist,” New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Vol LIX 1928, pages 215-217.
- “A Narrative History of Merrill Ancestors” by Thea M. Fabio Merrill of Houston, Texas. This document directs to other Merrill sources online including http://genealogy.patp.us/bio/davidson.aspx, and another site which was hosted at geocites but whose link is now broken.
- Transcribed manuscript of letter 16 Jul 1844 in Ripley County, Missouri, possibly written by Elizabeth Merrill (maiden surname unknown), second wife of Douglass Merrill. This letter documents the known whereabouts of some Merrill family members at the time of its writing. The file copy source is undocumented. It appears to have been addressed to Jacob Malone of Illinois State, Fulton County, Cuppola [illegible]
- Descendants of Richard Merrill (printout from Genealogy Software) contained in email to Battle of Alamance Historical Site from Suzy Parker on 1 Apr 2006, as well as another email from Suzy with same date.
- Photocopy from “The Regulator Papers” page 528-529. (No cover page showing publication information; title printed on page header.)
- Contact information for various descendants of Benjamin Merrill who have visited the site.
Based on the information contained in this file, it does appear that Benjamin did have a daughter named Nancy, but she did not marry Joseph Clark. This Nancy married Boyd McCrary. Not Joseph Clark or Benjamin Mendenhall. Also, my Nancy was believed to have been born about 1756. The Nancy in the family pedigree chart was born about 1751, with two other siblings born about the time “my” Nancy was believed to have been born. Although I can’t rule out a second (third?) marriage, and alternate birth years, it’s not seeming like this is my Nancy, if this family group sheet is to be believed.
B.J. Patterson, Family Group Sheet for Capt. Benjamin Merrill and Jemimah Smith (1990); folder “Benjamin Merrill,” vertical files; Alamance Battleground Historical Site, Burlington, North Carolina.
So, I have my work cut out for me. What can be gleaned from this trip is that Benjamin Merrill was probably not my direct line ancestor. There were several Merrill family members in the area; my job is to figure out which of them really was mine. Benjamin was probably an uncle or cousin. It’s quite a few generations back; I don’t know if DNA is going to be helpful on this one but I’m going to take a second look at this and see if a reasonably exhaustive, well documented search could have some answers.
I need help understanding ged match. i have a number 99.9 what does it mesn
I am convinced that Nancy Ann Merrill Clark Mendenhall (1756-1837) was the daughter of Benjamin and Jemima Smith Merrill. Her younger sister, Anna/Annah was another daughter who married Boyd McCrary and they moved West. Nancy Ann was married to Joseph Clark with no children. He died in an accidental fall from a horse. Benjamin Mendenhall married her in 1793 and they had several children including Margaret Mendenhall Leach, my GGGGrandmother. Benjamin Mendenhall was dismissed from the Friends Society for his marriage “outside the faith” in 1793 to Nancy Merrill Clark. Jemima’s will clearly lists “Nancy” as her daughter who would receive a “negroe girl” and “one half of my waring cloathes”. These bequests were not intended for Anna McCrary, who lived far away (and who may have already died at the time of the will being written). The other “negroe girl” and the other “1/2 of her ”waring cloathes” we’re left to “Eileen” (evidently a nickname for Penelope).
DNA confirms Joseph Clark as my X-grandfather. When I changed the last to Smith for Nancy, the Ancestry DNA advance to her. Is there any other inflammation about Joseph’s death besides William P Clark’s 1912 Clark of Randolph County NC? I can not locate any barrage document for Joseph Clark. thank you.
Having seen Benjamin Merrill’s name mentioned on a N C Genealogy Faceback page and explaining what I believed to be my Mendenhall connection, someone invited me to the Benjamin Merrill Facebook page.
I descend through Benjamin Mendenhall and his first wife Mary (MNU). After her death, he married Nancy – last name believed to be Merrill. Incidentally, he was a Quaker and was said to have been condemned for marrying out of unity to Nancy.
Anyway, several on the Merrill FB page said that Nancy married Boyd McCrary, as you have found. Others said she married Joseph Clark and Benjamin Mendenhall.
Further research led me to a Rootsweb tree that shows Nancy Ann Smith married 1st Joseph Clark and 2nd Benjamin Mendenhall. This Nancy being the daughter of David Smith and Ann Bryant of Richmond County, VA.
Apparently her father, David Smith, died without a will or estate papers in Randolph County, NC, according to notes in the Rootsweb tree but “his brother, William, died childless in Shenandoah County, Virginia in 1799 and left his estate to his wife Elizabeth and the residual to the children of his brothers David and Samuel. From William’s will, the estate papers and a number of deeds in Shenandoah, David and Samuel’s children are identified.”
Notes for brother, William Smith, mention Benjamin Mendenhall and wife Nancy of Randolph County NC on a power of attorney. Where would this power of attorney be located? Randolph County NC or Shenandoah County VA?
What a convoluted mess! Not sure if having Smith’s as ancestors makes it any easier, but hopefully this is on the right track.
Looking forward to your response and input,
P.S. The information seems to have come from Charlie White in Concord, NC, who I had corresponded with about 9 years ago regarding other common lineages but if my research is correct, he is in his late 70’s now and I’m not sure whether to contact him or not.
I thought I sent a very long reply last night but it isn’t showing up yet. Rather than try to type it all again, I’m sending this link to a Rootsweb tree with notations for your input. It shows that Benjamin married Nancy Ann Smith.
Please reply here with your opinion. I’ve checked the box to be notified of new posts.
Looking forward to your response.
I see this went through immediately! So, here’s the link. https://wc.rootsweb.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=jillhicks&id=I25037
This William Smith is apparently Nancy’s uncle. Her father, David, died intestate but his brother, William, died childless and left a will and deeds that name his nieces and nephews. Nancy and Benjamin Mendenhall are mentioned in a power of attorney.
Please let me know what you think.
Thank you for posting the website. Seems to support that my 5th GF Joseph married Nancy Ann Smith (not Merrill), Daughter of David Smith. I have emails out to the Director of the Mendenhall House in NC to see if they have records about Benjamin and Nancy Smith Clark Mendendall, Quaker records, possible grave site. Joseph Clark’s father my 6th GF Samuel E Clark and the Mendenhall’s had adjoining property in Randolph County, NC, by the Deep River and Muddy Creek. Not easy getting the correct 5th GM Nancy. My Thurlines on Ancestry.com recently shows Mendenhalls as half ancestors. Maybe the Family History Center here in Richmond VA will have some the sources for me to look at on the above website. One undocumented Family list source states Joseph and Nancy Smith married in 1778 in Virginia. Another undocumented family list states Nancy Clark married Benjamin Mendenhall in May 1793 in Randolph County, NC, which is shorty after Joseph Clark died in 1792/93. I have not been able to locate information about Joseph’s death or where is buried, but working on it also.
Thank you so much for your reply!
I was just fortunate in my google search to come across the website with the Smith information. Hopefully, it can clear up some of the confusion about who the correct Nancy is. I descend from Benjamin and I’m not sure where he is buried either! Maybe this will help us both out.
I am familiar with the Clark’s in Randolph, as well. I’ve seen them many times in my research. Were they Quakers also? There was a book, “Johnsons and Their Kin of Randolph,” that has information about Clark’s as well (I descend from Johnson’s). It contains info on Clark, Merrill, Johnson and other surnames. Here is a link to the page about Clark’s.
Not sure if the info was in error and got spread or if we’re just missing something. I haven’t studied it well but there are lots of notes therein. Perhaps, Benjamin Merrill’s wife Jemima Smith was related to the same Smith family and there was some confusion about that?
Please keep me informed about anything you find.
I went to the Family History Center here in Richmond VA. The Center does not have copies of the wills in Shenandoah County, VA. However, the Center had two books that lists the will of William Smith by index number and books E and G. The ladies of Center suggested I go to the Virginia State Library located here in Richmond, VA to see if they have William Clark’s will on micro film. I have applied for the library card and await approval. For my Nancy a copy of the document with” Benjamin Mendendall and wife Nancy” seems to important along with the wording about bequest to the children of his two brothers; David Smith who seems to be my 6th great-grand father. Again thank you for the above information / substantial lead.
You’re so welcome and I am fortunate to have come in contact with you since you are near the records in Richmond. I am in southside VA near NC border and I don’t get up that way very often.
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE keep me informed regarding anything you find.
I may have replied in the wrong box a couple of times to you.
I made it to the Virginia State Library located here in Richmond, VA on 9/07/19 . I viewed and confirmed the above will and deed information for William Smith is on micro film, Books, E, F, G, and Q is the deed. All of the Power of Attorneys (POAs) are listed on a Shenandoah County Court document in one long paragraph, with the court clerk of the State where the out of State persons lived. For me Benjamin Mendenhall and his wife Nancy (my 5GF Joseph Clark’s was a Nancy’s first husband until he died in 1793.). A copy of POAs from all were not in the file. As stated above trying to confirm Nancy Smith, daughter of David Smith married Joseph Clark. Benjamin Mendenhall received a payment in April 1805. The married wife’s’ did not sign documents. Benjamin Mendenhall signed two deed documents. I viewed and copied certain pages in Will Books E, F, and G, along with Deed Book Q. I confirm the statements in Jill Franklin Hicks, Rootsweb positing of 2009-12-18.
I have seen most of the information starting with Samuel Clark in the above linked to the book by Mr. Shaw about the Clarks. Some is based on William P. Clark”s article he wrote for a newspaper in 1916. W P Clark states some of the information may not be correct. I have not yet researched all of the information by Mr. Shaw. I previously found the will of 6th GF, Samuel Clark the father of my Joseph Clark. Sons of Samuel Clark served in Randolph County Regiment of Militia during the Revolutionary War (JD Lewis, The American Revolution North Carolina). Joseph Clark was a Captain. (Colonel Joseph Clark is a different Joe Clark). My Clarks were the closest neighbors of Martha Bell, of Bells Mill. Comments on Mr. Shaw’s:
1) Page 81 about Joseph Clark and John Clark being granted land in 1751. Neither my Joseph nor my John Clark were born yet. Their father Samuel Clark was still in York, Pennsylvania.
2) Page 81: In my Ancestry.com Profile, the copy of 1790 Census for Randolph, North Carolina shows 8 Household members (not 7 as page 81 states), has 6 females, one male over 16, and one male under 16 my 4FG George Washington Clark who moved to Knox County, Indiana in about 1818 from North Carolina. We have four generations of Clarks buried in the same cemetery in Knox County, Indiana with readable headstones. My tree name in Andestry.com is: Clark JMC Knox Co;, IN, Guilford, Co, NC, York PA. There is another Joseph Clark in the 1810 census for a different Joseph Clark in Greensboro, Guilford, County, NC.
3) Based on “Nancy his wife” remarrying in 1793 we believe my Joseph died late 1792 or early 1793. However, I am not convinced Nancy Merrill was Joseph’s wife who remarried Benjamin Menhenhall.
4) First time I seen the name Henry Johnson marrying an unknown daughter of Samuel Clark. Also on page 81.
This week I confirmed research by Christie (Hill) Russell (copy of her summary in Mary Clark’s Profile) that the above son of Joseph Clark, George Washington Clark’s sister, Mary Clark 1792 – 1866 married John Hill in 10/29, 1810 in Strokes County, North Carolina. The Bondman was William Smith; Mary Clark’s maternal uncle, the brother of her mother Nancy Ann Smith who had married Joseph Clark. I do not have the backup information to confirm, but have sent an email. I found on line a copy of the marriage listing in Stokes Co., NC.
Showing today on my ThrulLInes is Rachel Mendendall as a 5th Aunt. I have added the below to my tree for her: A wittiness on the 1815 Marriage Bond of Randolph County, NC is William Smith. Is William Smith Nancy Ann Smith’s uncle? If my 5th GF Joseph Clark married Nancy Merrill, why is there no Merrell as a wittiness? The book, History of Randolph Co. Historical Society 1980: Merrell’s 1 of 12th wealthiest families in Randolph County at one in 1779.
In addition to the above full 5th Great Aunt, Mary “Polly” Clark Hill marriage to John Hill; William Smith was the Bondman for Margaret “Peggy” Mendenhall’s Marriage Bond 2/04/1823 per a list of bonds; and for Rachel Mendendall’s marriage to John Johnson (I was able to add a copy of the North Carolina Marriage Bond of 11 /06/1815 to my Anestry.com profile file for her.) Both Rachel and Margaret are daughters of Benjamin Mendenhall and Nancy. Both daughters now show as half aunts on my Ancestry DNA Thurlines. However, I still have not confirmed William Smith is Nancy uncle. Why did a Merrell not sign the bonds for three daughters of Nancy?
Still have not located marriage records of Joseph t Nancy or Ben Mendenhall to Nancy. Also have not been able to locate burial information for all three of them. Still searching.
Update 4/06/2020: I located on Family Search, from North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, NC , the 1801 Probate Randolph County, NC file for my 5th GGF Joseph Clark. One page from 1801 shows as administrators David Smith (brother of 5th GGM, Nancy Ann Smith?), Samuel Clark (brother of Joseph Clark?), and Benjamin Mendenhall (Nancy Ann Smith Clark’s second husband). No Merrill’s are stated in any of the 18 pages of the file. Three pages, two signed by Benjamin Mendenhall show payments to the children of my 5th GGF/GGM children: son my 4th GGF George Clark; daughters 6th GG Aunts Mary (Poly) Clark, Jane Clark Brown, and Nancy Clark. For some reason there are no payments to daughter Hannah Clark. Payments to children are from 1805 to 1809. I have uploaded the 18 pages to Joseph Clark’s / Nancy Smith Clark’s profiles and relevant pages to the children in Ancestry.com (DNA).
One correction: There another page with a payment to daughter Hannah Clark in 1810 in e 1801 Probate Randolph County, NC file for my 5th GGF Joseph Clark.
Please see my responses below.
Thank you so much for your replies. I’m sorry it has taken me so long to respond.
There is most definitely a Smith connection there. I’ve taken notes of all this and added it to my family tree software.
I don’t subscribe to Ancestry.com, presently.
I’m going to do some more research on Benjamin Mendenhall and see if I can find any records that mention Smith in his estate files. Family search has some of the records but they just leave you hanging. It seems that there was no will found and then someone contested that and was going to prove it but then the records ends! I guess I need to search at the archives if I can ever get there. I still don’t know what Benjamin Mendenhall’s first wife’s maiden name was either.
I’ve also seen your post on the Bell’s Mill blog. I’m also related to Martha McFarland McGee Bell. Interesting that her family was the nearest neighbor to your Clark’s.
I will keep you posted on anything else I find and please do keep me posted on your findings.
Also, I wonder why Heather – the author of this blog – has never responded.
She seems to be an excellent researcher.
Just wondering what her opinion is regarding all these new findings.
Based on what I found on http://www.ancestry.com, North Carolina, Estate Papers, Nancy, Benjamin’s wife, James Elder husband of Nancy’s daughter Hannah with Joseph Clark, a Johnson, along with children with Nancy and Benjamin contested the will over land and or inventory. No Merrills stated. No outcome with the will papers.
Still searching for information about my 5th GGPs Joseph Clark and Nancy Ann Smith daughter of David Smith Sr. to add to the above.. At the Library of Virginia I checked for a possible marriage in Counties in Virginia bordering Virginia and North Carolina; found land for Clarks and Smiths, but not sure if my family and no Virginia marriage information in Virginia Counties for them. Phone call to a business located by the current Randleman, NC Reservoir where Joseph’s land was has not resulted in finding grave location
for Joseph or Nancy. Research slowed by CV-19.
I have sent letters in a long shot attempt to locate the headstones for both my 5th GGF Captain Joseph Clark ad my 6th GGF Samuel Clark to current property owners on both sides of the Guilford County and Randolph County, North Carolina boarder base on Samuel’s land grant and a Fred Hughes map.
Letters also sent to current land owners based on the location of Joseph’s property on a Fred Hughes map in Randolph County, NC. Maybe Nancy was buried with her first husband Joseph Clark, another long shot. I will be going to the Randolph Room library to see what is the Clark files.