After the Revolutionary War, the first generation of Americans on River Road settled back into their daily lives of farming, shipbuilding and seafaring; marrying and raising families; and paying taxes. Massachusetts was deeply in debt after the war and looked to its northern districts for funds. By 1785, Mainers, both wealthy and poor, were assembling to express their desire for independence from Massachusetts.
Though England officially recognized American independence at the 1783 Treaty of Paris, the country continued to harass American merchant ships and to impress Americans into the British Navy. At the start of the War of 1812, another generation of Americans enlisted in the military to protect both their young country and their livelihoods. The danger to Brunswick-area residents was very real since our main mode of transportation was by boat and canoe, settlements having developed along our rivers, streams, and ocean. During the war, the English man-of-war The Rattler commandeered the fishing vessel of three Sinnett brothers from Bailey Island and used the boat to scout along the shores of Casco Bay. That war’s end in 1815 was celebrated as a second Independence Day, ushering in the “Era of Good Feelings.”
These good feelings didn’t extend to Maine residents, however. Since Massachusetts bankers had actually loaned the British money to carry out the war, residents had thought the area would be safe from serious damage during the war. However, in 1814 the British attacked, looted, and then occupied eastern Maine. Residents then expected aid from Massachusetts to retaliate against the British. Instead the state’s bankers refused to loan funds to the Federal government and the state government refused to send troops for the war effort.
Finally, after almost 35 years of campaigning, Maine was granted independence by Massachusetts. The following year, 1820, the United States Congress passed statehood for both Maine and Missouri. The bill was known as the Missouri Compromise, which sought to maintain a balance between the number of free (Maine) and slave-holding (Missouri) states.
That year Brunswick began its own “Era of Good Feelings” which would last for the next 30 years. Covering almost 47 square miles of land, Brunswick had grown from a population of 1357 in the first census taken in 1790 to more that double, 2931, in 1820. The History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell reported:
In 1820 there were more than twenty stores, well filled with goods, and numerous mechanic shops of different kinds. There were one hundred and twenty-five houses in the village, besides five hotels and five places of public worship.
Over the next 4 years, 64 buildings would be built in the village, including 23 “handsome dwellings,” 7 stores, and a plethora of “mechanic shops” (trades such as bricklayers, blacksmiths, coopers, and carpenters).
All the same, River Road, like most of Maine, remained rural and homogeneous. The marriageable men and women necessarily looked to their neighbors and family friends for partners. This may be why in 1828 and 1829, four granddaughters of James McManus (see Sins of the Father and Ann at the Crossroads) married four great-grandsons of Walter and Elizabeth (Potter) Merryman, early settlers of nearby Harpswell.
The Brunswick Town Clerk recorded these intentions of marriage:
- May 29 1828, Marriage is intended between Mr John Merriman and Miss Elenor C McMannas both of this town
- June 12 1829, Marriage is intended between Mr Enos Merryman & Miss Hannah McMannas both of this town
- July 26 1829, Marriage is intended between Capt Thomas Merryman & Miss Almira McMannas both of this town
- Augt 8 1829, marriage is intended between Capt Henry Merryman and Miss Catherine McMannas both of this town
All eight parties resided on River Road. Brothers John and Enos Merryman married sisters Eleanor and Hannah McManus, in 1828 and 1829 respectively. Then in short order, brothers Thomas and Henry Merryman married cousins Almira and Catherine McManus. The next 4 blogs will describe each couple’s journey.
Next Blog: John and Eleanor: From Cradle to Grave on River Road
- Ancestry.com: United States Federal Censuses
- Vital Records of Brunswick, Maine 1740-1860 and The Forsaith Book. Compiled by Joseph Crook Anderson II, CG, FASG. Picton Press, Rockport, Maine, 2004
- History.com, The War of 1812. http://www.history.com/topics/war-of-1812
- OhioHistoryCentral.org, Ohio Mechanics Institute. http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/w/Ohio_Mechanics_Institute?rec=782
- Walter Merryman of Harpswell, Maine, and his descendants. https://archive.org/details/waltermerrymanof00sinn Sinnet, Charles N., 1847-1928, Rumford Printing Co., Concord, NH, 1905.
- The Library of Congress, Primary Documents of American History, The Treaty of Paris. http://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/ourdocs/paris.html
- Ibid. Views from offshore of the New England coastline and islands at the entrance to Boston Harbor. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/cph.3a46234/
- Ibid. On board the fishing boat Alden out of Gloucester, Massachusetts. Seining boat being towed by the Alden http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/owi2001030394/PP/
- History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell, Maine. Wheeler, George Augustus Wheeler, MD. And Henry Warren Wheeler, Alfred Mudge & Son, Printers, Boston, Mass., 1878
- Wikipedia.org, Brunswick, Maine. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brunswick,_Maine
- The History of the State of Maine. https://archive.org/details/historyofstateof02will Williamson, William D., Glazier, Masters & Co., Hallowell, 1832.