In the last blog, Hannah Keeps Her House, Enos Merryman (1807-1851) died intestate and in debt. When his Rocky Hill estate was auctioned off, his widow, Hannah McManus Merryman (1806-1899), was able to keep the farm by bidding funds from a mortgage from her kin, Robert and Richard McMannus.
Unfortunately, she was unable to repay the loan when it came due two years later; the McManus men repossessed the property.
Hannah lost her home.
Her losses continued. In 1858, son George (1836-1858), a mariner like his father and his brothers, died in New Orleans. George may have been one of the 4,845 people who died of Yellow Fever there that year. Then Hannah’s world shrank even more when her ninety-three-year-old father, Robert McManus (1764-1858), died about that same time.
The following year, Hannah’s repossessed Rocky Hill property was sold.
Despite that sale, the 1860 census recorded Hannah, daughter Fannie; sons Walter (seaman), Enos, and John; plus boarder William Alexander (ostler) living together on Rocky Hill. They were two doors away from her cousin Harvey McManus, his wife Dorcas, and their five children.
Life Goes On
Still, Hannah’s family continued to grow in its convoluted way as more of her children married and had families of their own. Successful ship captain Robert Lincoln married his distant cousin Almira Merryman (1834-1899), daughter of Capt. Thomas and Almira (McManus) Merryman.
Some of Hannah’s children, like those of her sister, Eleanor (McManus) Merryman, moved away. By 1860 Hannah’s own daughter Harriet and her husband, Thomas Merriman, were in Brookline, Massachusetts, where Thomas worked as a carpenter.
The Civil War was on the horizon. The potential for more loss and grief must have been clear to Hannah whose her mother died during the War of 1812. Now Hannah stood to lose Robert and Enos Jr., who were among twelve McManus and Merryman men registered for the draft between 1863 and 1865.
Fortunately, her sons stayed safe, and life went on.
After the war, Enos Jr. and his cousin, Ellen C. McManus, were wed in a ceremony by a Baptist minister in Brookline. Perhaps the newlyweds were in that town to be near Enos’s sister Harriet and her husband Thomas. Enos had left the sea and worked as a carpenter like Thomas. The familial marriage between Enos Jr. and Ellen was doomed, however, ending in divorce six years later, in 1871.
Harriet and Enos weren’t the only Merrymans in the Bay State. By 1870, Hannah, niece Emma Ann Clough, and widowed sister Adeline Kincaid lived in Haverhill where several of Hannah’s nieces and nephews had already moved. The three women were in the home of Adeline’s daughter and son-in-law, Affie (Kincaid) and John Chase. The census didn’t record if the women left Maine for financial reasons, to be closer to family, or because Hannah was hurt and angry that her kin turned her out of house and home.
In any event, Hannah may have been grateful for the move to Massachusetts because she was closer to daughter Harriet, who, it turns out, did not have time to spare. In 1873, Harriet died of uterine cancer at the age of forty-one, in her home in Roxbury.
Hannah’s younger daughter, Fannie, was still unmarried at the time, perhaps inspiring Hannah to play matchmaker. The 1870 census listed Hannah living near carpenter Edward B. Bishop, his wife Mary, and their child. It’s not clear if Mary died or the couple divorced, but in 1876 Edward married Fannie (1843-1920). She seemed to be the first of her siblings to wed outside the Merryman and McManus clan. However, it should be noted that Edward was originally from Harpswell, Maine, where Bishops and Merrymans had been marrying one another for a very long time.
About this time, Enos Jr. remarried, this time to Massachusetts-born Sarah Ellinwood.
In 1875, Hannah’s brother, eighty-year-old Richard McManus, died of heart disease after amassing “a handsome property which, however, the reverses of later years have somewhat diminished.”* Perhaps this event prompted Hannah’s return to Brunswick, for by 1880 she lived in Brunswick village. The census that year showed she continued to surround herself with family: her son, the shipmaster John Henry, and her sister, Adeline Kincaid.
Hannah’s third child, Walter, meanwhile, had left the sea to become a farmer in the Growstown part of Brunswick. By 1877, he, too, had married. At first glance his wife, Nancy McManus, appears to have been Walter’s cousin. Nancy’s maiden name, however, was Webb; she was actually the widow of James McManus. It was she who purchased the Growstown farm in 1877. When Walter died just four years later, their farm was still mortgaged to Charles Webb of Bangor, likely Nancy’s relative. Though the widow’s situation echoes Hannah’s of thirty years prior, Nancy Merryman successfully repaid her mortgage and did not lose her home.
A New Brunswick
When Hannah left her rural hometown years earlier, several factories operated along the Androscoggin River at the head of Maine Street, but seafaring, shipbuilding, and farming were still the most important occupations. By her return, the factories had overtaken the traditional occupations in importance. Young women at the Dennison Box factory earned more than local schoolteachers. As shipbuilding all but stopped in Brunswick, the railroad gained in influence: the town followed standardized “railroad time” instead of traditional “farmers’ time” that had been determined by the sun and varied from town to town. Farmers lost additional ground as shopkeepers cut back their evening hours, the only time available to farmers to replenish supplies after a long day’s work.
The village itself had been a typical New England hamlet spanned by dusty roads, dotted with unadorned wooden shops and homes. The railroad changed that, too. Maine Central Rail Road (MCRR) built a black iron bridge on Mill Street spanning the Androscoggin and another crossing overhead on Jordan Avenue, a new brick sidewalk was installed from the railroad station to Mill Street, and MCRR opened a roundhouse on Union Street. The newly urbanized village gained a crown jewel upon completion of the picturesque Town Hall.
The Brunswick of Hannah’s earlier years was principally an Anglo-Saxon Protestant town, but even in her time two groups challenged that homogeneity. The first was the African American settlement in East Brunswick that peaked in the 1850s at nearly sixty members, less than 2% of Brunswick’s total population of 4,977 in 1850. The other group, Irish immigrants, arrived in waves during the Irish Potato Famine before the Civil War and included not just Protestants, but also Catholics. Over time, some Bath-Brunswick African American families faded to white and new generations of Maine-born Irish lost their foreign accents, quietly blending into the community-at-large, restoring a sense of sameness.
After the Civil War, the Irish Catholics were joined by French Canadian Catholics, most having come to work in the Cabot cotton mill at the head of Maine Street. Brunswick “natives” described the French part of town as “colorful” and akin to being in a foreign country. The immigrants’ tenement homes along the river reflected their rural Quebec origins; the families raised pigs for food, cows for milk and cheese, and some even made their own beer. They continued to speak French among themselves and sent their children to a French Catholic School. Furthermore, Irish and French Catholics alike worshiped in Latin. It’s doubtful that Hannah found comfort from such an unfamiliar, albeit rural, society.
From 1870 to 1890, the “foreign” population of Brunswick roughly doubled each decade. By 1891 there were almost 2500 French Canadians in a town of 6,012 people. Surely some feared French Canadian Catholics would become the majority.
While the Catholic population increased, Hannah’s own generation continued to shrink. She lost her sister Adeline in 1886, then her brother, Capt. Robert McManus, the very next year.
By the time Hannah died in 1899 at age ninety-three of valvular heart disease, she had been a widow forty-eight years, more than twice as long as she had been married. She even outlived four of her seven children. And, though she herself had come back to her hometown, none of her remaining children or grandchildren lived in Maine. She had seen her hometown evolve from an Anglos-Saxon Protestant farming and seafaring village to an industrial town with an ever-increasing Catholic population. Did the changes reinforce Hannah’s identity or did her sense of self evolve along with the town?
Hannah’s family certainly evolved. They left Maine, some found new occupations, and others left the comfortable extended McManus-Merryman family to find spouses. In a small way, they even changed their name. Though Brunswick documents record the “Merryman” surname, records from Massachusetts to California list Hannah’s children as “Merriman.” While the family monument erected in Varney Cemetery on Pine Street reminds us of Hannah’s cherished position in her large and complicated family, the “Merriman” names inscribed on it also remind us that families change in ways small and large.
Hannah (McManus) Merriman herself did not change in one very important way. The Merriman monument memorializes the births and deaths of her children Walter Scott, John Henry, and Harriet Knights; along with grandson Thomas P. Merriman. Even in death, Hannah is surrounded by family.
Next Blog: Le Cultivateur
- All Saints Maine. http://www.allsaintsmaine.com/st-john-baptist-history/.
- Ancestry.com: Various including City Directories, Family Trees, United States Federal and State Censuses, Vital Records (Birth, Death, and Marriages).
- Vital Records of Brunswick, Maine 1740-1860 and The Forsaith Book. Compiled by Joseph Crook Anderson II, CG, FASG. Picton Press, Rockport, Maine, 2004.
- Cumberland County Registry of Deeds, 25 Pearl St., Portland, Maine (also see https://me.uslandrecords.com/ME/Cumberland/D/Default.aspx)
- Brunswick Cemeteries, Brunswick, Maine, Varney Cemetery, Cheetham, Donald, and Mark Cheetham, Richmond, Maine, 2007.
- *Brunswick Telegraph, Sept. 10, 1875.
- Curtis Memorial Library, http://www.curtislibrary.com/research/topical-directory/brunswick-history/, Town Hall Photo, 8/12/1926.
- Cemeteries of Brunswick, Maine. http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~mebrucem/trans35.13.html, compiled by Barbara A. Desmarais, ongoing.
- Digital Commons, Cabot Mill Post Card, undated,http://digitalcommons.library.umaine.edu/spec_photos/904/.
- Our Town, Reminicenses and Historical Studies of Brunswick, Maine. From the Collections of the Pejepscot Historical Society, Brunswick, Maine, 1967. Edited by Louise Helmreich, Ph.D.
- Brunswick’s Golden Age. Kirkland, Edward Chase. Lewiston, Maine, 1941.
- Walter Merryman of Harpswell, Maine: And His Descendants, Sinnett, Charles Nelson, Rumford Printing Company, Harpswell, 1905.
- Railway Time https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Railway_time