When Hannah (McManus) Merryman died in 1889, no obituary appeared in the Brunswick Telegraph. Her children, though, engraved her epitaph on the family monument in Varney Cemetery. Mark Cheetham of Richmond, Maine, transcribed the stone in 2007:
In memory of
our dear mother
who tried to make
home happy and
comforting ways try to
is our good and loving mother
The fractured epitaph provides a glimpse of Hannah’s character but the numerous tangled connections in the McManus-Merryman family offer insight into events in her life that both aided and challenged her efforts to keep a happy home.
Hannah C. McManus
When Hannah C. McManus was born in 1806, Thomas Jefferson was president of the United States and Maine was a district of Massachusetts. She was one of seven children of Robert and Elenor (Coombs) McManus of Rocky Hill. Hannah’s future husband, Enos Merryman, was born the following year on a nearby farm.
Young Hannah and Enos grew up surrounded by siblings and cousins in a neighborhood that straddled the Brunswick-Durham border. Like the McManuses and Merrymans, most neighbors were of English and Scots-Irish stock. Several were members of the Society of Friends, though the McManus and Merryman families attended Congregational or Baptist churches.
Hannah was still a child when Americans fought the English in the War of 1812. Many local men joined the efforts to preserve the country’s independence and their own seafaring livelihoods. These included Hannah’s teenaged brother Richard and several McManus cousins, all of whom joined Capt. Richard T. Dunlap’s Company in Bath.
During that war, Hannah’s mother died, leaving seven motherless children. Though some, like Richard, were nearly adults, it would have been difficult for farmer Robert McManus to care for his children while also working the farm.
In 1813, Robert married Eleanor Crosby. Was it taxing for Eleanor to rear another woman’s young children or was she naturally warm and loving enough to nurture the grieving youngsters? Perhaps Hannah’s love of home and family was born during this time as she helped care for her six half brothers and half sisters. Or perhaps her extended family on Rocky Hill modeled the virtues that guided Hannah throughout her life.
Hannah’s teenage years during the 1820s coincided with the decade of Maine: the state gained independence from Massachusetts, “Main” Street became Maine Street, and Bowdoin College welcomed the newly founded Maine Medical School.
Rocky Hill residents experienced a severe setback in 1823 when Hannah was seventeen. A blaze started in the woods and burned four miles down the hill toward Brunswick village, spreading a mile wide as it raged. The wild fire destroyed twenty-two sets of buildings and killed numerous farm animals.* No help for rebuilding their lives would have come from the village so Hannah would have witnessed families and neighbors helping one another rebuild their homes and barns, while each struggled to replace the food and income from their lost crops and livestock.
By the end of the decade, two families in the already close-knit community seemed to tighten into a knot, when four McManus women married four Merryman men. These included Hannah McManus and Enos Merryman, who married in July of 1829.
Mrs. Enos Merryman
Because Enos followed the sea, he was sometimes away for weeks or months at a time. During his absences, Hannah likely turned to her large extended family for company and comfort. So many of her children bore family names that it seems clear her kin were important to her:
Robert Lincoln (1830-1903) was probably named for her father or her older brother, Robert McManus. It’s not hard to imagine either of them bouncing the lad on their knee.
Harriet Knights (1831-1873) was born the same year Hannah’s brother, Capt. Robert McManus, married Harriet E. Knights of Portland. Perhaps the new Mrs. McManus stayed with the Merrymans while her husband conducted a particularly long voyage.
Walter Scott (1834-1881) may have been named for the author of many novels of the era such as Ivanhoe. Perhaps the family gathered around the fireside listening to the story read aloud by one of them, Hannah mending their clothing, Enos smoking a pipe purchased in a far away port.
George (1836-1858) is an echo of her brother Capt. George McManus. Did Uncle George fill the boy with tall tales of his sailing exploits, inspiring the boy to become a mariner?
Enos (1840-1908), of course, was named for his father. Was the child a particular favorite of the father? Did the boy feel obligated to follow his father’s career path?
Fannie Quinby (1843-1920) may honor Elizabeth McManus’s husband Rev. Oliver H. Quinby, whom Elizabeth married in 1841 and who died in 1842. Was Elizabeth Hannah’s sister? No matter, Hannah’s heart must have broken for the new widow and mother of infant Oliver B.
John Henry (1845-1901) may well be a nod to Hannah’s brother-in-law John Merryman. John Henry followed the sea rather than his uncle’s farming ways, though he did emulate his uncle by making his way to California.
Hannah C. Merryman, Widow
Ships were still the main mode of long-distance travel when the first locomotive steamed through Brunswick in 1849. That year Hannah’s brother-in-law John Merryman headed west to dig for gold in California, and her husband Enos bought a Rocky Hill farm between River and Durham Roads. Their eldest child Robert was fifteen, just the right age for a first stint aboard ship. The youngest was only five, but no longer a baby needing constant attendance. The Merrymans seemed on the verge of easier times.
The 1850s, however, turned out to be a particularly difficult time for Hannah and her family. At the beginning of the decade, Enos, Hannah and their children lived in Portland, away from the comfort of their Rocky Hill family and friends. Also listed in their home in that year’s census were Elizabeth (McManus) Quinby Clough and Anna Clough, presumably Hannah’s sister and niece. Elizabeth had married Durham neighbor Josiah Clough after her first husband’s death. Was she in the city visiting Hannah that day or was she staying in their home?
The following year the Merrymans may still have been in Portland when Enos was ship-keeper aboard a ship docked at the port of New York and died of smallpox in January. It took days for Hannah to receive the news of her husband’s death because the telegraph hadn’t come to Brunswick yet. Did word come in a letter carried by stage or train, or in person by a mariner returning home to Brunswick?
A month later in Portland, the branches of the Merryman family tree tangled a bit more when Hannah’s eldest daughter Harriet Knights Merryman married Harriet’s own distant cousin, Thomas Merryman (1826-1892). Thomas was himself the son of two distant cousins, James and Mary (Merryman) Merryman. The joy of their marriage must have been tempered by the sadness that Enos was not there to witness his daughter’s marriage, nor delight in his first grandchild, a boy named Thomas.
Enos died intestate, so the Cumberland County Probate Court ordered the couple’s Rocky Hill real estate auctioned off to repay debts and mortgages nearing $900. The sale was held at the homestead in May of 1853. Hannah turned to family for help, borrowing money from Robert and Richard McManus, presumably her brothers of the same names. Her offer of $531 for the 34-acre farm on Durham Road plus another 10 acres nearby was the winning bid.
Hannah kept her home.
Next Blog: The Rest of Hannah’s Story
- Ancestry.com: Various including City Directories, Family Trees, United States Federal and State Censuses, Vital Records (Birth, Death, and Marriage).
- Vital Records of Brunswick, Maine 1740-1860 and The Forsaith Book. Compiled by Joseph Crook Anderson II, CG, FASG. Picton Press, Rockport, Maine, 2004.
- Cemeteries of Brunswick, Maine, Varney Cemetery, M, <http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~mebrucem/trans35.13.html>, compiled by Barbara A. Desmarais, ongoing.
- Brunswick Cemeteries, Brunswick, Maine, Varney Cemetery, Cheetham, Donald, and Mark Cheetham, Richmond, Maine, 2007. Also see: <http://www.curtislibrary.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Varney-Cemetery-searchable1.pdf>
- Our Town, Reminiscenses and Historical Studies of Brunswick, Maine. From the Collections of the Pejepscot Historical Society, Brunswick, Maine, 1967. Edited by Louise Helmreich, Ph.D.
- A Genealogical Surname Index to the History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell, Maine by George Augustus Wheeler and Henry Warren Wheeler 1878. Compiled by Shirley Simington Schilly, Pejepscot Historical Society, Brunswick, ME, 1985.
- Walter Merryman of Harpswell, Maine: And His Descendants, Sinnett, Charles Nelson, Rumford Printing Company, Harpswell, 1905.
- Bird’s eye view of the city of Portland, Maine, 1876, Warner, Jos., Stoner, J.J., Portland, Me. 1876 The Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library, <http://maps.bpl.org/id/10424>
- History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell, Maine. Wheeler, George Augustus Wheeler, MD. And Henry Warren Wheeler, Alfred Mudge & Son, Printers, Boston, Mass., 1878.