Tag Archives: Fairview

William and Elizabeth Ashworth Merrill by Bruce Whitaker

Camely Jerusha Ashworth Cisson (1856–1928)

William Merrill was born in the Jersey section of Rowan (now Davidson) County on March 6, 1781, the son of Benjamin (1752–1836) and Penelope Merrill (1760–1830). William’s parents were first cousins. Benjamin Merrill, who was born in New Jersey, was the son of William Merrill (1730–1782) and Mary Cornell (1724–1813).

In 1782 the British raided the farm of William Merrill. They carried off William and presumably killed him, though his body was never found. Mary protested to the British for raiding her farm and taking her husband. They pried open the old woman’s mouth and cut her tongue in half with a knife.

William Merrill’s mother Penelope Merrill was the daughter of Benjamin Merrill and Jemima Smith. Penelope’s father was a member of the Regulators, a resistance group dedicated to fighting exorbitant legal fees and the corruption of appointed officials in the frontier counties of North Carolina. He was not at the Battle of Alamance, but was still arrested by the British. They hung Benjamin, then cut him down before he died, took out his bowels and burned them before his eyes. They then cut his head off and cut his body into four separate pieces. Needless to say, the Merrills became even more anti-British than everyone else in very anti-British Western North Carolina.

William Merrill’s parents moved to Fairview around 1798. William’s uncle John Merrill moved to Fairview around the same time, as did his mother’s sister Anna Merrill McCrary and her husband Boyd. The Merrills and McCrarys settled just north of the site of Cane Creek Middle School. William Merrill’s father became relatively well-to-do for that period of time. William Merrill soon met Elizabeth Ashworth, who was born in Rutherford County on Sept. 7, 1785 to John Ashworth Sr. (1735–1805) and Nancy Ann Wood Ashworth (1745–1833). The Ashworths were one of the first families to settle in Fairview. Sherrill’s Inn was built around their home at the foot of Hickory Nut Gap. Elizabeth Ashworth’s mother Ann Ashworth was a doctor or a witch depending upon whom you asked. Either way she tended the sick, made potions and cast spells. People were a little afraid of Ann Ashworth since she was known to put a spell on anyone who made her mad.

William Merrill and Elizabeth Ashworth married around 1802 and lived on land William received from his father Benjamin Merrill. William Merrill was a blacksmith as well as a farmer. The Merrill’s first five children were born in Fairview. William and Elizabeth Merrill moved to what is now part of Transylvania County in December 1809. They moved to the lower end of Crab Tree Creek on Little River, where they soon expanded their farm to include over 1000 acres. Merrill built his blacksmith shop on a small branch near his house and later built one of the first grist mills in his neighborhood at the last falls on Bullen’s Creek, which empties in to Crab Creek. It was called Merrill’s Mill and operated for almost a hundred years. In Buncombe County Court’s March Session 1819, William Merrill recorded his mark that he used to identify his cattle, hogs and such. William’s animals were to have “a crapp off both ears and an under bit out of each ear.” This was recorded by John Miller, Clerk of Court.

A bill of sale has been found transferring a Negro slave to William Merrill from his mother-in-law Ann Ashworth. The bill of sale read: “Know all men by these presents that I, Ann Ashworth of the County of Buncombe and the State of North Carolina have bargained and sold unto William Merrill one Negro Boy, about 16 years of age named Edmund for the sum of Five Hundred Dollars to me in hand and paid by William Merrill. Which said Negro Boy I do warrant to be sound in Body and Mind … Witness whereof I have here unto set my hand and seal this the 27th day of December 1832. Signed: Ann Ashworth.” At this period of time you could have bought over one hundred acres of land for $500. It is clear why there were so few slaves in Western North Carolina; most people’s total net worth was less than the price of this one slave. William Merrill became almost blind in his later years, though he was able to recognize his children by the shape of their heads or by their voices. Elizabeth Merrill was forced to take charge of the family’s farm because of her husband’s disability. She was a big woman, said to weigh at least 300 lbs. When she discovered that most of the summer visitors to Flat Rock did not have a garden, Elizabeth got a one-horse wagon and would drive to Flat Rock to sell eggs, chickens, butter, vegetables and jam. Elizabeth Ashworth Merrill died in May 1853 in her 68th year. For some reason they held her funeral over a year later on August 6, 1854. William Merrill died in 1858. He was 77 years old. They are buried in the Orr Cemetery in Little River.
William and Elizabeth Ashworth Merrill had 14 children.
The first, Jesse Merrill, was born in Fairview June 27, 1804. He married Susan Huggins and died around 1834. Nancy Merrill was born in Fairview August 6, 1805. She married Stephan Shipman (1801–1863) and died in December 1843. Nellie Merrill was born in Fairview November 1, 1806. She married Samuel Allison and died December 5, 1845.

Mary Merrill was born in Fairview January 7, 1808. She married David Barnett and died before 1850. Elizabeth Merrill was born in Fairview April 9, 1809. She married Joseph Shipman (November 3, 1804–April 13, 1890). Elizabeth died December 11, 1884. Both are buried in the Baptist Church Cemetery in Transylvania County.

Margaret Merrill was born June 16, 1811 at Little River in what is now Transylvania County. She married her first cousin Jesse Ashworth (May 9, 1808 – after 1880), son of John Ashworth Jr. (1775–1827) and Celia Nettles (1778 – c.1855). Margaret died after 1880. Sarah “Sallie” Merrill was born at Little River August 27, 1813 and married Robert Porter Kilpatrick (December 27,1811 – December 19, 1882). “Sallie” died Nov.25, 1894. Both are buried in Little River Baptist Church Cemetery.

Rachel Merrill and her twin Martha Merrill were born at Little River September 15, 1815. Rachel married Charles Justis and Martha married Charles C. Pearson, who died before 1870. Martha died May 25,1872. She is buried in the Orr Cemetery in Transylvania County. John Merrill was born at Little River January 18, 1818. He married Mary Cantrell (1817–1874). John died September 22,1880, and both are buried at the Orr Cemetery. William Merrill was born at Little River November 28, 1819. He married Sue Hollingsworth and they moved to Arkansas. Joseph Merrill was born at Little River June 22, 1822. He married Sarah “Sallie” Owens (b. 1828). Joseph died October 5, 1849.

Benjamin Merrill was born at Little River April 6, 1824. He first married Clarissa T. Shuford (September 27, 1826 – July 7 ,1874 ). She is buried at the Orr Cemetery. He married for the second time on April 22, 1875 to Rosannah Hadden (May 12, 1833 – August 3, 1876). On April 3, 1877 Benjamin took for his third wife Louisa Jane Hadden (April 23, 1835 – April 7, 1879). He was married for the fourth time on January 29, 1880 to Louisa Cagle (August 29, 1835 – December 14, 1897. Benjamin Merrill died May 17, 1909. He and his fourth wife are buried in Little River Baptist Church Cemetery.

James Riley Merrill was born April 11, 1827 in Little River. He died in 1866 and is buried in the Orr Cemetery.

Local historian Bruce Whitaker documents genealogy in the Fairview area.