Tag Archives: Stout

Benjamin Merrill and the Battle You Never Heard Of.

Benjamin Merrill

1731-1771

When I first heard the Battle of Alamance, I thought of France and WWI.  Alamance Creek actually runs through North Carolina. In the book, Captain Merrill and the Merrill Family of North Carolina , I learned about an important  Revolutionary War battle that preceded the battle of Concord and Lexington (April, 1775) by four years. Boston, site of the Boston Massacre in 1771, is thought to be the fuse that lit the fire under colonists to finally break from the British. But the same sort of harassment occurred in North Carolina around the same time, and concluded with an actual battle that later dropped from history books.

Why have we forgotten the Battle of Alamance the site of the first American blood spilled in the War of Independence? In the aftermath of the American Revolution, people numbered that battle among the important events in winning freedom. After the Civil War, Northerners tended to erase the South from history books, and their participation in the Civil War ( with a few exceptions like the Battle of New Orleans) disappeared. Not only did the winners write the history of the Civil War—they went farther back and rewrote the history of the Revolution as well. Today, the story is told differently, and I will meld the two versions as I tell the story.

BENJAMIN MERRIL, FARMER, SOLDIER

Benjamin Merrill was born in New Jersey. We share common 8 times great-grandparents—Richard and Penelope Stout. His mother, Penelope Stout (Jr.),  married into the French Huguenot Merrill family. According to a book called A Merrill Memorial, Penelope’s son Benjamin moved to North Carolina to an area called “Jersey Settlement” because a group of people from New Jersey, including his brother William, moved there. The move would have occurred about 1750, because his second son Andrew’s birth is recorded in North Carolina.

Benjamin was a farmer and a gun maker. He became the deacon of the Jersey Settlement Baptist Church, and a Captain in the militia.

Living in western North Carolina meant he was a frontiersman and fought battles with indigenous people still populating the area. The Jersey Settlement had more in common with neighboring Tennessee than with Eastern North Carolina with its elite plantation owners and businessmen. The local government operated on wild west principles—Sheriffs and Judges representing the English Crown, running rough-shod over the rights of the farmers.

According to a DAR application, Benjamin had a son named John born in 1750 in New Jersey. According to some sources, he married in 1753, which would have been after he moved to North Carolina, but I have not researched further to try to locate documentation. (John later lived in Georgia and in Monroe County, Mississippi.) According to most other sources, Benjamin had a total of 7 sons, including: John, Andrew (b. 1757 in North Carolina and continued to live there), Charles (b. 1761, later lived in S. Carolina), Elijah/Eli (b. circa 1763), William, (b. circa 1763), Jonathan (b. 1765), Samuel/Azariah (b. ?) and two daughters: Penelope (b. 1759), Nancy/Anna (b. 1760) .Some accounts list Samuel as the oldest son. In fact the information about his children is sketchy, and I have not rigorously  researched them. A tax record in 1757 also lists a Negro girl, Phyllis.

Apparently, Benjamin Merrill, tended toward independent thought early on. In 1756, he defied an order for “going out against a man who committed misdemeanors.” However, in 1759, he was among militia sent out on an alarm to aid a man attacked by Indians.

THE REGULATORS

Farmers in North Carolina, frustrated by corruption and excessive taxes and fees, formed an organization called The Regulators. This was in April 1767. They objected to local enforcement of English law rather than to the King’s rule. The same ambivalence shows up in documents about colonists in the north during this period. They wanted to be good British citizens. But they wanted fair treatment. They shied away from the idea of breaking with England.

An example of the abuse they suffered: By law a marriage license cost $1, but local officials charged $15. (Note, accounts I read said dollars, but I assume it was actually English pounds.) At first the Regulators tried by peaceful petition and argument to get more equitable treatment.

‘FIRE AND BE DAMNED“

However, making no headway, the Regulators turned to refusal to pay taxes, disruption of court proceedings, threats against officials, and vandalism. The ranking King’s officer, Governor Tryon, finally called together the militia to march against the Regulators after giving warning to the dissidents. Their reply–”Fire and be damned.”

May 14, 1771, Tryon’s 1000 militiamen were heading toward the Alamance Creek, about five miles away, where a ragtag, ill-armed and poorly-organized group of about 2000 dissidents assembled. A man representing the Regulators approached Tryon to talk, but as he turned away, the Governor shot him in the back.

Apparently some of the militia were sympathetic with the Regulators, because when the Governor ordered them to fire, some hesitated. He commanded the troops, “Fire on them, or fire on me.”

Tryon’s militia easily won the May 16 Battle of Alamance (also called the Battle of the Regulators). The King’s militia lost nine soldiers and had 61 wounded. The losses on the Regulator’s side is unknown.

The victorious Governor issued a proclamation that those who would swear allegiance and pay their taxes would be forgiven, except Captain Merrill and five others. The Governor declared them outlaws who would be hanged, drawn and quartered. Tryon took 15 prisoners, including Benjamin Merrill, who was not actually present on May 16. All but 6 escaped execution.

CAPTAIN MERRILL’S ROLE IN THE BATTLE

About May 12, Captain Merrill was heading toward Alamance with his company of 300-400 men, when he encountered General H. Waddell, who commanded a component of the King’s forces. Merrill took the General’s men prisoner and General Waddell fled to Salisbury.

Merrill and his men proceeded toward Alamance, but when they were within a day’s march, they heard the battle and a scout informed them of the Governor’s victory. Merrill released his troops and returned to his home in Ronan County. The Governor’s men arrested Merrill in short order, and took him to Tryon’s camp on June 6, 1771. The captors put Merrill in chains and dragged him through the countryside to Hillsborough where on June 19, 1771, a judge proclaimed the official sentence.

(Warning: The following contains explicit language that can be quite unsettling.)

The Judge’s sentence concluded:

“I must now close my afflicting Duty, by pronouncing upon you the awful sentence of the law; which is that you, Benjamin Merrill, be carried to the place whence you came, you be drawn from thence to the place of execution, where you are to be hanged by the neck; that you be cut down while yet alive, that your bowels be taken out and burnt before your face, that your head be cut off, your Body divided in Four Quarters and this be it his Majesty’s Disposal and the Lord have mercy on your soul.”

When allowed final remarks on the gallows, Merrill asked for mercy for his widow and ten children and that they be allowed to keep some of his property. The Governor later signed an order fulfilling that wish. Then Merrill, professing some doubts about having rebelled against the King, and professing his own faith in God, went to his death singing a Psalm.

THOUGHTS ON ALAMANCE

It is interesting to note that Merrill’s final statement refers to ten children, but the Governor’s order refers to eight children, and a later document refers to nine children.

As for the Regulators, one account I read speculated that had Merrill reached Alamance in time, the result could have been much different. That writer believed that Merrill was a better military leader than any of the men involved at Alamance. He certainly seemed to have no trouble subduing the branch of the King’s militia led by Waddell.

Although the Battle of Alamance did not prove to be the beginning of the Revolution, coming five years before the Revolution started in earnest in Massachusetts, it certainly illustrates the long simmering resentment of English government in the colonies. The Regulators were using the same arguments later used in Philadelphia by the crafters of the Declaration of Independence. And their struggle had tangible results in North Carolina. Of the 47 sections of the state constitution that was adopted in 1776, ¼ of them—thirteen sections— were reforms sought by the Regulators.

While I have written extensively about my New England ancestors in the American Revolution, this July 4th, I want to turn my attention to the North Carolinians who were the first to fight the British in actual battle, and to my relative, Benjamin Merrill, who became a martyr for the cause five years before the Declaration of Independence.

The Anderson Stout Family Picture: Identifications

Wouldn’t it be nice if we had family pictures every decade or so that gathered children and grandchildren and spouses and cousins and aunts and uncles all together? And wouldn’t it be nice if someone remembered to put the date and all the names on the back of the picture? And while we’re dreaming, wouldn’t it be nice if there had been cameras before the early 1800’s?

Vera and Guy Anderson family

Family portrait taken in 1909

Oh well, I should not complain. I have this wonderful family photo, which you may be tired of looking at, and my mother, Harriette Anderson Kaser and aunt, Rhema Anderson Fair took the time to label all the people and tell some stories about them. Today I am going to tie it all together and put it away in the drawer, so just a little more patience, please.

Twenty-eight relatives of Guy and Vera Anderson gathered in 1909, apparently to celebrate the birthday of Vera Anderson, May 23, when she was 28 years old. (There is also the possibility it was taken on April 8, when Herbert Guy Anderson was one year old.)

THE HOUSE

My mother remembered the house with love approaching awe.

The house was on Mile Hill outside Killbuck.  Originallly owned by Dr. Roof.  Harriette Kaser thinks that Ben Anderson (Guy’s brother, Bernard Franklin Anderson) bought it form Dr. Roof and then Guy Anderson bought it from Ben and owned it at the time of the picture.  She said that Garfield Woods bought the house from Guy Anderson.

“When Dr. Roof bought the house they planted a big orchard.  Amy and her husband Thomas Roof traveled all over the world, and that’s why they sold it.  When I was little, I had a playhouse in back.  The house had beautiful woodwork and had front and back staircases–the back one for the maids.  There was a big barn, way off from the house.  In the back there was a brick house where they kept food. [Probably a spring house.]

The top of the hill had a beautiful view.  In the picture, you can see they are sitting and standing on a cement sidewalk. It stretched around a huge lawn and down to the driveway.”

While it was unusual to have a cement sidewalk out in the country, Rhema Fair, in her videotaped memoir explained that it was even better than that.  The Roofs liked to go to Florida and they brought back seashells which they embedded in the cement on the edges of the sidewalk. In front of the house they used seashells to spell out ROOF.

The house still stands in the same place, and is very recognizable.

Old Anderson Farm

Old Anderson Farm as it looks today, Photo courtesy of Herb Anderson

The People

(WARNING: If you are not related to these people, you may want to stop reading before you run into a bunch of names and dates)

Below I have linked stories I have told earlier, and given a little information about each person, including their relationship to me and to my grandfather or grandmother and their immediate family. Starting with the children on the ground in the front, left to right:

Alice King  (1906-  )  Daughter of Jennie and George King; granddaughter of Sarah Anderson McDowell. My third cousin.

Rhema Anderson, (1901-1996), daughter of Guy Anderson and first wife Lillis Bird. Raised by Frank Anderson and Amy Anderson Roof. My Aunt.

Estill Anderson, (1905-1926) Son of Ben and Nettie Anderson. My 2nd cousin.

Telmar Anderson  (1903-1982), Son of Guy and Lillis Bird Anderson.  My uncle.

SECOND ROW

Caroline Anderson Bird (1846-1918), Daughter of John and Isabella Anderson. Aunt of Guy Anderson . Married to Leonard Bird. For some reason, my mother called her Aunt Catherine. My great-grand aunt.

Amy Anderson Roof (1843-1917). Daughter of John and Isabella Anderson. Aunt of Guy Anderson.  My great-grand aunt. Both my mother and aunt remember Amy’s beautiful long red hair, and the fact that she and Caroline were inseparable. She and her husband were known as great travelers, and Aunt Rhema remembered her as the greatest influence on her young life.

Margaret (Marge) Anderson Lisle. (1827-1917) Daughter of John and Isabella Anderson. Aunt of Guy Anderson. Caretaker for her own children and several grandchildren. My great-grand aunt.

Isabel Sarah McCabe Anderson. (1818-1912) Widow of John Anderson. Grandmother of Guy Anderson.  My mother thought she came from Scotland with her family, but in fact it was her grandfather who first came to the U.S. She married John J. Anderson and moved to Ohio from Pennsylvania against her family’s wishes.  My great-great-grandmother.

Doctor William Cochran (Doc) Stout (1845-1910) Son of Isaiah Stout and Emmaline Cochran Stout. Father of Vera Stout Anderson. My mother said that this picture must have been made after he had a stroke, because he has his cane with him. He died within a year of the photograph, on August 18, 1910. My great-grandfather.

On Doctor Stout’s Lap:

Harriette V. Anderson Kaser (1906-2003) Daughter of Guy and Vera Anderson. My mother.

William J. Anderson (1905-1975) Son of Guy and Vera Anderson. My uncle.

THIRD ROW

Ada Brink Allison, (1867- 1946) Sister of Mary Brink Anderson who was Guy Anderson’s Mother and his aunt, Sarah Jane Brink Anderson (wife of Frank Anderson). Married to DeSylva Allison. My great grand aunt.

DeSylva Allison (1863-1941). Husband of Adda Brink Allison, uncle of Guy Anderson. He was sheriff of Holmes County at one time. My great-grand uncle.

George King (1873- ) Husband of Jennie McDowell King, who was Grand-daughter of Sarah Jane Anderson McDowell.

Sarah Jane Brink Anderson (1850-1912),  Wife of Frank Anderson and sister of Guy’s Mother. My great grand aunt.

Frank Anderson (1852-1926), Son of John and Isabella Anderson. Uncle of Guy Anderson, and the man who raised both Guy and Guy’s daughter Rhema. My great-grand uncle. Frank and Guy’s father married sisters. Frank and Sarah Jane were another couple who traveled a great deal, said mother, going West long before most people did.

Vera Stout Anderson (1881-1964), wife of Guy Anderson and my maternal grandmother and namesake.

Herbert Guy Anderson (1908-1963), baby that Vera is holding, son of Guy and Vera. My uncle.

Leita Allison (the short woman) (1887-1955) Aleitia Larrimore Allison was married the year before this picture to Errett Allison, cousin of Guy Anderson. She worked on Guy and Vera’s farm.

Harriette (Hattie) Morgan Stout (1842-1928), married to Dr. William Stout, mother of Vera Stout Anderson. My great-great-grandmother.

Errett Allison (1884-1952), cousin of Guy Anderson and worked on farm. Son of DeSylva and Ada Allison. My first cousin twice removed.

Nettie Andress Anderson (1882-1911), wife of Ben Anderson who was Guy Anderson’s brother. Wife of my grand uncle.

Bernard Franklin (Ben) Anderson, (1881-1963) Brother of Guy Anderson, son of Joseph and Mary Anderson. My grand uncle.

Glen Lisle (1892-1952) Grandson of Margaret Anderson Lisle, Guy’s Aunt. My 2nd cousin once removed.

BACK ROW

Alice/Ada McDowell (?) Mother identified this woman as Ada McDowell, but I cannot find an Ada McDowell that fits. On the back of the picture mother had first written Jennie McDowell, then changed it to Ada.

It is possible that the woman is Alice McDowell, mother of Jennie King, since Jennie seems to be looking in her direction.  If that is the case, Alice McDowell Eyster (1858-1910) was the daughter of Sarah Jane Anderson McDowell and James McDowell, she was a widow, living with George and Jennie King, and died the year after this picture was taken. Alice McDowell was my first cousin two times removed.

Leonard Guy Anderson (1878-1944), husband of Vera Stout Anderson, son of Joseph and Mary Anderson.  My grandfather.

Jennie McDowell King (1817-____) Grand daughter of Sarah Jane Anderson McDowell, Guy’s aunt.  Daughter of Alice McDowell (later married Eyster) and unknown father. My second cousin once removed.

Mary Brink Anderson Kline (1858-1935) Standing in front of post to the right of Vera. Mother of Guy Anderson, widow of Joseph Anderson. Sister of Sarah Jane Brink Anderson and Adda Brink Allison.  Remarried a man named Kline after being a widow 40 years. My great-grandmother.

DO YOU KNOW MORE?

As you can see there are still some gaps in my knowledge here, so I would appreciate any input if you can add information on any of these people.

Sources

The photo, in the author’s possession has names written on the back in Harriette Anderson Kaser’s hand.  She told me in a conversation in 1999 that she and Rhema Anderson Fair had made a tape about the people in the picture and noted the names. The tape is missing.

My cousin Herbert Anderson gave me the picture of the house at it stood in the early 2000’s. Another cousin gave me information about Jennie King and her family.

Birth and death dates are from documents found at Ancestry.com