Philip Merrill was the patriarch of the Merrill family in western Maryland. He established his family on lands in Allegany County at the turn of the 19th century. Over the next three decades, he would expand his land holdings and raise his children from two marriages. Two sons would establish farms near Oakland and Avilton in what would become Garrett County. Other children would migrate to Iowa and Pennsylvania. Late in life, Philip Merrill would dispose of his lands and possessions and move westward to Preston County, (West) Virginia, where he likely lived out his days near Kingwood.
• Ancestry and early life
Multiple published accounts trace Philip Merrill’s ancestry to Richard Merrill “The Immigrant” (1642-1727) who left England for Staten Island, New York, sometime after 1679. The line of descent proceeds through Philip Merrill (1679-1739), then Nicholas Merrill (1728-1795), the father of our subject. Various authors report the birthplace of Philip Merrill as Morris County, New Jersey. He apparently migrated to Loudoun County, Virginia, before settling in Maryland at “Wills Town” prior to 1800. The author has not substantiated this history with any primary or secondary sources to date.
• Mistaken identity
There has been frequent misidentification of Philip Merrill of Allegany County in genealogic databases and family trees. The individual often confused with our subject is a Philip Merrill born in 1762 in St. Mary’s County, Maryland. This Philip Merrill appears to have been a distant cousin of our subject, descending from Richard Merrill (1642-1727) “The Immigrant” through his oldest son William Merrill (1688-1714), then Philip Merrill (1700-1744), and finally Joshua Merrill (b.1730). Philip Merrill’s marriage to Monica Truman in 1798 in Prince George’s County, Maryland, has been documented. The birth date, place of birth, and marriage information are often incorrectly attributed to our subject.
• Birth date analysis
The date of birth for Philip Merrill of Allegany County is not known. The date frequently noted on family trees and various genealogy websites as 1762 is incorrect, as explained above. An analysis of the census records allows an approximate birth date to be derived:
- 1800 Census – 26 thru 44 = date of birth 1755-1774
- 1810 Census – 26 thru 44 = date of birth 1765-1784
- 1820 Census – 45 & over = date of birth before 1775
- 1830 Census – of 50 & under 60 = date of birth 1769-1780
- 1840 Census – 70 & under 80 = date of birth 1759-1770
The only years that satisfy all of the five census listings are 1769 and 1770. Therefore a recommendation is made that “about 1770” be utilized for the birth date of Philip Merrill of Allegany County until more definitive evidence of date and place of birth becomes available.
• Wills Town, Allegany County, Maryland
The first documented evidence of Philip Merrill living in Maryland is found in the 1800 U.S. Federal Census, where he is listed as living in “Wills Town”, likely with his wife, three males under age 16, and three females under age 16.
“Wills Town” is a historical designation for the region extending from Cumberland on the Potomac River northwards to Pennsylvania following Will’s Creek. The “Wills Town” district included the land along Jennings Run from Corriganville to Barrelville, and also the territory of present-day Mt. Savage and Frostburg. Philip Merrill was living in that part of the “Wills Town” district immediately north of what would become Frostburg. An analysis of his neighbors in the 1800 census shows that most of them continued to be listed in this district in the 1810 and 1820 federal census records. This makes it unlikely that he moved any significant distance, if he moved at all, from the site where he originally settled in Maryland before 1800.
• “Ridge” being 69 and ½ acres
The land records of the Allegany County Court document the purchase of “Ridge” by Philip Merrill from Philip Hammond for $200 in November 1805. “Ridge” had been patented by Philip Hammond in 1804 and included Military Lot No. 3636 as well as 19 ½ acres of adjacent “vacant” land, making 69 ½ acres in total. The patent also lists “Improvements thereon” including 600 fence rails and a “Cabbin”.
“Ridge” patent (1804)
Philip Merrill’s first wife, whose identity is not known, appears to have died between the taking of the census in 1800 and his purchase of “Ridge” in 1805. Philip Merrill likely married Margaret Perry shortly after his purchase of the “Ridge” farm, as her name is not recorded on the deed. Beginning with the birth of William Phillip about 1807, the couple would have several children while living in this region. Their growing family is enumerated in the census records of 1810, 1820, and 1830 for this district of Allegany County. During this time Philip and Margaret Merrill would add adjacent properties to their land holdings, including Merrils Ville (10 acres) in 1806, Military Lot No. 3635 (50 acres) in 1815, Mount Misery (Military Lot No. 3637 containing 48 ½ acres), and two parcels of Williams Sheep Walk (31 5/8 acres total) in 1836.
Philip Merrill’s land holdings (1812 survey)
Philip Merrill’s land holdings were located at the northern edge of present-day Frostburg. It appears that he added properties resulting in a confluent land area totaling about 210 acres. The map of military lots shows the relationship of these tracts to the town of Frostburg:
“Map of Military Lots…” (1874)
• Children by first marriage
Philip Merrill and his first wife, whose identity is not known, had at least four children by the time of her death, being sometime after 1800. The oldest child appears to have been Lydia Merrill, born about 1785, probably in Loudoun County, Virginia. Lydia would marry Isaac Workman on January 13th, 1810, in Allegany County.
The first son, Jesse Merrill, was reportedly born on August 3rd, 1788, in Loudoun County, Virginia. He came to Allegany County, Maryland with his family, but left home for Washington County, Pennsylvania after his mother’s death. He was 17 years old. There he married Nancy Hemphill in 1811. The couple would later move to Ohio, initially farming in Belmont County, and then later establishing themselves in Harrison County where Jesse served in the county government. In 1855, having raised 10 children, the couple moved to Buchanan County, Iowa. Jesse was active in his church and in 1859 donated the land for the construction of Liberty Church and the Hickory Grove Cemetery, where he and his wife were buried.
Nicholas Merrill was born about 1800 in Allegany County. He would marry Elizabeth Frost, daughter of their neighbor, Isaiah Frost, on April 19th, 1825. After 1830, the couple relocated to Monongahela Township, in Greene County, Pennsylvania where her father owned property. They remained in this community the rest of their lives.
Stephen Merrill was born about 1800 as well, but it is not known whether before or after his brother Nicholas. Stephen was raised on the “Ridge” farm and married a local girl, Catherine Workman. Following the births of their first three children, the young family set out for the Glades country in western Allegany (now Garrett) County. They established a 200 acre farm on Hoop Pole Ridge and raised eight children to adulthood. Stephen died in 1883 and was buried in the family cemetery on the farm.
• Children by second marriage
Margaret Perry was the second wife of Philip Merrill. They married about 1805 and continued to live on the “Ridge” farm in Allegany County. Their first child was born about 1807, William Phillip Merrill. He would marry Francenia Holtzman. They would have eight children.
Andrew Merrill was born about 1809. He did marry and had at least five children.
John Merrill was born in 1810. He married Eleanor Weitzell from New Germany in Allegany County. They would have eleven children. The family settled on land near Avilton, in what is now Garrett County. John Merrill was a founding member of the Cherry Grove Church of the Brethren in this community. He died at age 48 years, and was buried in the Merrill Cemetery on Pea Ridge, about 1 ½ miles south of Avilton.
Joseph Merrill (born about 1815), Drusa Merrill (born about 1820), and Catharine Merrill (born about 1820) were noted in records from Preston County, where Philip Merrill relocated prior to 1840. Few records have been found for these individuals, as courthouse records for this county were destroyed by fire in 1869. Catharine Merrill appears to have married George Rhodes of Preston County and settled there. Joseph is listed as living with his mother in Preston County in the 1850 census, following his father’s death.
• Avilton and Pea Ridge
The “Merrill Farm” located on Pea Ridge, near Avilton, was never the home of Philip Merrill. This was the home of his son, John Merrill, born in 1810. He settled there after his marriage to Eleanor Weitzell. The property was inherited by John’s eldest son, William H. Merrill. Another son of this couple, Elias Merrill, established his farm further south at the base of Pea Ridge on the Savage River. Despite published reports to the contrary, Philip Merrill never resided in this community and was not buried in one of the family cemeteries.
• Removal to Preston County, Virginia
In 1837 the land records of Allegany County record the transfer of all of the properties of Philip and Margaret Merrill to Daniel Cobb of the City of Baltimore for four thousand dollars. “Ridge” and many other surrounding properties would eventually be consolidated and acquired by the Borden Mining Company (coal mining).
The 1840 U.S. Federal Census finds an aging Philip, 70 years old or more, living in Preston County in what would become West Virginia. His wife and several family members are recorded on the census records as well. They were apparently living on the Felix E. Jeffers farm in the Whetsell settlement, according to one published source. This area was located southeast of Kingwood, in the Portland district (historic), east of the Cheat River:
Whetsell Settlement, Preston County
Philip Merrill likely died on the Preston County farm after 1840. The 1850 census finds Margaret and son Joseph in Preston County with a farm valued at $2000. Philip’s death and burial are not recorded in the records of Preston County as no records are available for this county prior to 1869 due to their loss in a courthouse fire.
Philip Merrill was responsible for establishing the Merrill family in western Maryland, where many descendants continue to live today. Research continues on this family line, and the Merrill family history will continue to evolve as new facts come to light and are added to this record.
Birth: about 1770 – Morris County, New Jersey (?)
Death: after 1840 – Preston County, (West) Virginia (?)
Known Children of Philip Merrill and unknown (1st wife)
- Lydia Merrill (1785 – ?), married Isaac Workman
- Jesse Merrill (1788 – 1882), married Nancy Hemphill
- Stephen Merrill (abt 1800 – 1883), married Catherine Workman
- Nicholas Merrill (abt 1800 – abt 1855), married Elizabeth Frost
Known Children of Philip Merrill and Margaret Perry (2nd wife)
- William Phillip Merrill (abt 1807 – ?), married Francenia Holtzman
- Andrew Merrill (abt 1809 – ?), married Mary A. (unknown)
- John Merrill (1810 – 1859), married Eleanor Weitzell
- Joseph Merrill (abt 1815 – ?)
- Drusa Merrill (abt 1820 – ?), married Sassena Stone
- Catherine Merrill (abt 1820 – ?), married George Rhodes