|Summer 2008||Volume 6 Number 2|
The Merrickville & District Historical Society was pleased to be invited to participate in the new Public Library by operating a special room devoted to genealogical study and to archival storage. As well as containing the 20,000 pages of family records developed in the Alice Hughes papers, the room will contain a computer terminal on which the public will be able to search and view thousands of documents and records now digitally stored thanks to funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation as well as a private grant from the estate of the late Thomas Manning. This will be achievement of a four year project undertaken by the Historical Society to make the important records of local history and heritage more accessible to the community.
Like all missionaries of the time these itinerant preachers covered huge areas, traveling along trails and through woods by horseback to visit their parishioners. Servicing Merrickville from a base in Kemptville, Reverend Hy Patton was an appointee to the townships of Wolford, Marlborough, part of Montague, Oxford, and North and South Gower.
In 1869, the “English Church” was enlarged with the addition of Trancepts and Chancel and in 1887 an attractive red brick rectory was built next door.
The Church as it appeared c 1900 is pictured below.
Anticipating growth both of the Congregation and the Village, the original Church was torn down and replaced by the graceful stone building this year celebrating its 100th year. The new stone Church with interior designed on a crucifix form, was built in a collegiate Gothic style which exuded grace dignity and solidity. Local citizens contributed to the project with the Jakes, Magees and Merricks donating the triple lancet windows.
Early maps show the Merrickville Blockhouse was originally intended to be located not adjacent to the upper canal locks, but further East on a hill overlooking the River; in fact on the site of the present Anglican Church. All of the other Blockhouses on the Rideau were located on heights of land to give commanding views of the Canal, but, on the flat field where the Blockhouse is located, there is no good view in any direction up or down the Canal.
Why was its location moved? By the time the Blockhouse was to be built, money was tight, and the war threat was diminished. And Col By was under increasing pressure for cost over-runs. Further, the Rideau Canal Act did not allow expropriation. Perhaps Colonel By frugally used land the Crown already owned rather than purchasing additional property. A further complication could have been that the favoured land was owned in part by William Merrick and we have learned he was not very co-operative to Colonel By and his canal, to say the least.
**the following story is stitched together by the author from the few various references found (below) and with a few reasonable assumptions. JC
Sylvia Comstock was born March 23, 1774 (3) and upon the death of her father and her mother’s re-marriage she became the step-daughter of Ephraim Eyres. During the Revolutionary Wars, Ephraim Eyres was a Loyalist spy and for his efforts in support of the British he was captured and jailed in Albany NY. (1) It appears during his imprisonment, his wife was allowed “go forward” with some of her property and family perhaps as far as Lunenburg, Ontario (Stormont Township, near Cornwall). Following the peace settlement in 1783, Ephraim escaped prison or was released and he headed north to Canada arriving to join his wife in 1784 at Stormont which at the time was a “staging area” for new United Empire Loyalists awaiting receipt of land claims and entitlements. (1)
Meanwhile millwright William Merrick arrived in Canada at Sorel, Quebec during the summer of 1788 (2) and traveled up the St. Lawrence from Sorel to Lunenburg where the same year he encountered and married Ephraim’s daughter Sylvia Comstock. Perhaps with several of own children, Ephraim was anxious to get his step daughter off his hands for Sylvia appears to have been only 14 or 15 years old at the time of her marriage to 28 year old William !! (3) Merrick, who was a late arriving Loyalist with no apparent record of service on behalf of the British in the American Revolution, had nothing but a basic property claim to look forward to, whereas Sylvia as the daughter of a British Revolutionary war hero was entitled to petition for a substantial land entitlement.
Meanwhile back in Elizabethtown Sylvia was occupied with a new family and by the time she joined Merrick at his new mill probably about 1796, she had given birth to three children, Charlotte, 1791, William Jr. 1793 and Charles, 1796. She was now 23 years old. While she had probably often traveled to her husband’s Merrick’s Mills it appears she continued to live in Elizabethtown, at least during the winters.(2).
Sylvia and William Merrick had 7 children who survived to adulthood, and who as a family continued to build mills and develop the successful Village which became Merrickville.
Sylvia Comstock Merrick must certainly have been a remarkable woman. Aside from raising seven children, she was apparently of strong support to William, who was a dominant, strong-willed, determined and at times difficult individual. He was also opportunistic, generally allying himself with others who were in position to receive greater land grants and allocations than he was; all traits that made him successful as a pioneer and developer of Merrickville. But he probably was not the most gentle of men to live with.
To quote his great-great-great grandson Kimble Abbott who spoke to the Merrickville & District Historical Society in 1967, “I can only give you my impressions drawn from the family and the little research that I have been able to undertake. I don’t think that he was a popular man. After all he was running things here and it wasn’t called Merricks Mills for nothing. He was a man with a vision and determination born from survival in the wilderness. There is nothing in the background from his family to suggest that he would let anything stand in the way of his objectives.”
(1) Marilyn Sapienza, (2) Kim Abbott, (3) Merrick Family web site www.merrick-mirickfamily.com
We are extremely pleased and grateful for the support of our members in our activities. Over the last few years our membership has re-grown to levels experienced in “the early days”. As of this moment we have 131 current paid members 48 of whom have chosen the convenient (and bargain) life membership option.
If you have received with this issue a friendly reminder, it means you have been a paid member in the last two years, but that we have not recorded your membership for the current year. If you would like to renew your membership we invite you to do so now.
Of course, you are not required to be a member of the Merrickville & District Historical Society to attend our regular Spring and Fall lectures, but, with the increased cost of mailing, we will in the future only be able to send this newsletter to currently paid-up members. (If you are computer savvy and patient, you can read the newsletter at www.merrickvillehistory.org Our popular website has had over 30,000 visits, and all 17 newsletters have been published there.
To date we have been able to maintain our membership dues to a modest $5 per person or $10 per family with life membership at $50.
Sheena Cowan, Membership Chair
His grandson, noted wood-carver John Byron Garton of Smith’s Falls, refurbished the brass wheel and propeller of the vessel and mounted them on a handsome board of American walnut, shaped like the dory. Having done that he was left wondering where it might be displayed to advantage. His daughter Deanna approached the Merrickville Historical Society and a suitable location was found in the canal section of the Blockhouse Museum, where it is now displayed, together with a photo taken at the time and an article on the history written by his wife Jenny Garton.
The exhibit was formally accepted by President Nina Donald at the end of the formal Blockhouse opening ceremonies on June 14, 2008.
Submitted by Gillian and David Hammonds Co-Managers, Merrickville Blockhouse Museum
Copyright The Merrickville & District Historical Society, 2008,
John Cowan, Editor
Merrickville and District Historical Society
PO Box 294
Merrickville, Ontario K0G 1N0
website design donated by Ken W. Watson
©2008 The Merrickville and District Historical Society