David Merrell Writes Home: Part One

by Bruce Whitaker

David Merrell was born in Fairview on May 26, 1801. He and his twin brother, Jonathan, were the sons of Revolutionary soldier Benjamin Merrell and his wife Penelope. David Merrell, his brother Eli and sisters Nancy Crumm and Jain Morrow moved to Merrellville, Missouri around 1827–1830. The town is believed to have been located in Marion County, Missouri, near Hannibal. David and Eli Merrell moved to Cedar Hill in Dallas County, Texas in late 1844. Cedar Hill is now a suburb southwest of Dallas.

The following letter was written by David Merrell to his twin brother Jonathan and wife Harriet in Buncombe County. [Editor’s note: Some period capitalization and punctuation has been left, and Bruce has inserted some comments in brackets for clarity.]

Dallas County, Texas

August 1, 1852

Dear Brother and Sister, 

I take this opportunity of informing you that we are all in the Enjoyment of Reasonable health. Hoping this line may find you all enjoying the same blessing. I have but little of interest to write. More sickness than common. About the first of July, I was riding three or four days in the hot sunshine which gave me the fever which lasted two or three days but I got entirely over that. The Flux has ranged to a considerable extent but I think it is abating some. Old Mrs. Anderson and daughter have died lately of that disease.

This is a time of great excitement in the Country. Great Indian Excitement. An Express came in from the frontier for men to relieve the distressed frontier, the word was that Fort Belnap and Fort Worth were both taken and seven or eight families killed. The men turned out unanimous for forty miles around and went with a rush and low and behold no bloodshed no body hurt. But no doubt they intend to do mischief and they have stolen some horses and killed some cattle belonging to one Edwards, this man Edwards has carried on a trade with them for two years in a very fradulent way and they got mad at Edwards and took a large gang of fine horses and keep killing his cattle until the have nearly broken him up. They [the Indians] have been starved badly and threaten the frontier with distruction. Last winter was a year ago there was a large gang of Indians camped near Conleys, this Conley married Nancy Merrell [the daughter of David Merrells’s brother Eli Merrell and his wife Nancy McCrary], while camped there, there came a heavy sleet, there being one old squaw along and her suffering very great from the inclement weather. Nancy took her in the house and fed her for perhaps a week and the squaw fell in love with Nancy and when she found her people had resolved on the destruction of the frontier the squaw came and told Nancy the hole secret and advised her to move. This took place only three or four days ago. The women and the children have all moved in [to the fort] but the men have returned to watch their property. What the result will be I can’t tell but I think it will die away when they find the whites are ready and willing [to fight]. The Regulars are not very strong at these posts but by a timely Express can have a large army in a short time.

Our land matters are rather in a bad condition or at any rate involved in difficulty with a treacherous agent. The people found him out and took his office, books, papers and all and he was glad to get away alive, but it has caused great excitement. The country is full of meetings and resolutions and men who has sided against the right of the settler has to walk straight. One old fellow had to ride a wooden horse in Dallas and others had their orders to leave Texas in 30 days. What the result will be I cannot tell. Bloodshed I fear, the people are all hot no chills. Now every colonist is interested his home involved. I believe if one gun was fired the foe would be exterminated or at least all the foes that could be found. Our senator and several representatives are required to resign their seats in the Legislator.

Crops of all sorts are very fine this year. If you could see this country now it does not look like it did when you was here. Large fields all about the prairie and houses in every direction.

I heard from brother Ben some two weeks ago they was all well. Ben’s children are all married and gone, Ben is a candidate for the office of District Surveyor for the Lamar District. It is a office of some importance. I expect he held the office 2 years. I’ve not heard from brother Nimrod and Jemima for some time not since they wrote to Ben Merrell last February. Eli [son of David’s brother Eli] and his little wife is in the neighborhood now he quit going fishing after he thought he had the Fish safe it gave a flounce Fish like and broke loose and would have been glad to have nibbled again but he had no bate. He then courted a Miss Elizabeth Cope and married her, the Cope family is a very respectable family. Eli has a son some 4 months old and calls his name John William. Catherine Jones [David Merrell’s daughter] has a daughter about 10 days old they call its name Dianisha Elizabeth Catherine. The child looks like it live for all. Yesterday I sold a part of the personal property of Whites Estate. He willed the most to his wife. I sold to the amount of near $300 his estate was appraised to nearly $1200 and part of that land is 25 cents per acre. Whites widow is living with us with her little son. Her farm is rented. Ben Merrell [a son of Eli Merrell Sr.] is a candidate for Judge of Probate Court and Chief Justice of the County of Dallas.

When this comes to hand write and give a general history of all the old acquaintance and direct to Cedar Hill P.O., Dallas, a new Office on the Old Mountain Road 2 miles West of us. There is a new store at that office. There are three stores in sight of here. Give my respects to all inquiring Friends Etc.

— David Merrell & E Merrell (his wife) 

This is the day of Election for our County Offices in this state. Our Colony Difficulties and Indian News caused such an Excitement we have almost forgot the election 2nd of August. I have not heard any account from Silas McCrary. [Silas and his wife Malinda Whitaker moved from Fairview to DeKalb in Bowie County, Texas in the early 1850s.] D.M.

Local historian Bruce Whitaker documents genealogy in the Fairview area. You can reach him at 628-1089 or email him at [email protected]

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