This must be the week of the Merrys!

This must really be the week of the Merrys because I had another great find today!  I received a notice in my email today that the Nashville Public Library posted an online index to a listing of more than 19,000 names of people buried in the Old Nashville Cemetery. The listings are drawn from a series of internment books held by the Metro Nashville Archives, 1846-1949. So, I decide to take a look and guess what I find – more Merrys.

It is difficult to be precisely sure of all the exact relationships, but I think it lists another four children of Nelson & his wife Mary, in addition to his mother.  Also, there are some other Merrys that I think may be related as they are buried in Nelson’s plot. I am confused though on precise locations, because, I have been to Nelson’s grave and it is not in the Old Cemetery, but it is listed in this database. I may have to call the Metro Archives or go see the books in person to understand more about locations.  Mt. Ararat, where Nelson is buried, does have an affiliation with the City Cemetery, but I think there is an issue with naming.  But to summarize who is listed in this database…

  • Clancy Cousins – died at age 18, 11 Mar 1850. States that she is free colored female, and sister of Nelson Merry, who is also noted as free. Her cause of death was Fever. It is correct that Nelson was free.
  • Merry, infant boy – died 14 Jan 1851. States that he is the son on “N. Merry” and died of Croope. Now, this could be either Nelson’s son, or a son of his brother, Napoleon.
  • Merry, infant girl – died 6 Oct 1854. States that she is the “daughter of Nelson Merry” who is a free colored man.
  • Merry, infant boy – died 12 Jan 1857. States that he is the son of “Ann Merry” who is a free colored woman. This may or may not be Nelson’s son. His wife Mary’s middle name was Ann, so it could be that her middle name was used in this instance, or the infant’s mother could be a different person all together.
  • Merry, Mrs. Sidney – died 26 Jun 1873. The only note on this one is box paid on Nelson Merry’s lot. This is Nelson’s mother!  From census records, I know that Sidney lived with Nelson in 1870, but she was no longer there in 1880. In the 1870 census, she is listed as being 80 years old, but in the 1850 census she is also listed as being 80. So, given the 1850 census date, I had already estimated her year of birth to be about 1770. This cemetery listing matches that and if she died in 1873, that would make her just around 100 years old! I can’t wait to go search for an obituary.

Now, these dates may be actually burial dates and not dates of death – I need to check that in the source books. But, in addition to these whom I think the relationship is clear, there are others:

  • Two infant children of a Jas. Hoss (or Sloss) that are on the lot paid by “N. Merry”
  • A 100 year old woman named Angeline Thomas that is on the lot paid by “N. Merry.” Her date is 24 Jan 1872.
  • A 29 year old man named William King who is listed with Sidney Merry and is also in “box paid by Nelson G. Merry”
  • An infant boy listed as the son of George Merry, who is listed as free colored man.
  • An infant boy listed as the son of a Francis Merry
  • Merry, Mary – died in 1855. The listing just says “Nelson Merry’s lot.”  She was 10 years old. I’m not sure who she is because in 1850, Nelson & Mary are only listed with one child, John Wesley Merry.

All of this gives me reason to really go back and research other Merrys in I can find them. How intriguing!  Now, the fun is not over. I decided to visit the website of the city cemetery and was happy to see that they are very involved in genealogical causes. They have posted a list of people buried in the cemetery whose descendants have contacted the cemetery, and they have a volunteer looking up obituaries of people buried there and they are providing links to those obits. Very progressive! If only more cemeteries would do this!

NYPL Digital Images

In my blog reading this evening, I re-read a post describing the New York Public Library’s Digital Images database. Wonderful site! I just did a few random searches and located some cool pictures.This is a picture of Dr. Robert F. Boyd. In a visit to a cemetery in the area a few months ago, I’d taken a picture of his tombstone and recognized the name from some of my Nashville Globe newspaper reading. In finding this photo however, I am just now realizing that he was a professor at Meharry Medical College. This is a very nice picture of him and was published in the book

Gibson, J. W., and W. H. Crogman. Progress of a Race; Or, The Remarkable Advancement of the American Negro; from the Bondage of Slavery, Ignorance, and Poverty, to the Freedom of Citizenship, Intelligence, Affluence, Honor, and Trust. Miami, Fla: Mnemosyne Pub. Inc, 1969.

Dr. R. F. Boyd, Professor in M... Digital ID: 1223159. New York Public Library

Even cooler however, is that I found this photo of Mrs. Rev. Nelson G. Merry, the first black preacher in the state of Tennessee. I was ecstatic to find this!! I have been researching the Merry family for a friend who is a descendant of Nelson’s brother, Liverpool Napoleon Merry. And, the above-mentioned visit to the cemetery was because I wanted to search for her husband’s grave! My other blog posts about the Merrys can be found here.

From my own personal research, I know that she was born Mary Ann Jones and she was born abt. 12 Jan 1828 to Edmond Jones in Kentucky. She and her husband likely married around 1850 when they first appear in census records together as a 25 year old and 23 year old couple. Though I have not found her in all census’ that she would have lived through, I do know that she and her husband had at least 7 children. Her 77th birthday notice was published in the Nashville Globe 18 Jan 1907.

The wife of the Rev. N. G. Mer... Digital ID: 1232639. New York Public Library

Her picture was published in the book — Buck, D. D. The Progression of the Race in the United States and Canada Treating of the Great Advancement of the Colored Race. Chicago: Atwell Printing and Binding Co, 1907.

Amazing. I can’t wait to see what else I uncover!

I knew that street looked familiar

Over the past week, I’ve had occasion to drive through the Meharry neighborhood a couple of times, and each time I came across Pearl St, I thought to myself.. “that street looks familiar.”

As I am transcribing my notes from researching the Merry’s , I figured out why. Napoleon Merry lived on Pearl Street!

On my last visit to the TN State Archives, I spent some time using the Nashville City Directories. I had not had a chance to really explore directories as a source of genealogical information yet and happened upon them by chance. While I was using them, I overhead one of the library staff members informing someone else that only those who worked in the household were listed, something that I found to be not always true, but the tidbit was helpful.

As it turns out, the Merry’s appear in the directories from in almost every year from 1866 to 1930 (i stopped looking in 1930). It was a very interesting experience. In the process I learned that 8th Street here in Nashville used to be called Spruce Street. Apparently, the name change occurred between 1903 and 1905 as the address of Mrs. Mary A. Merry changed from being 316 N Spruce Street to 316 8th Avenue.

What to follow-up on:

  • Nelson’s son John is listed in 1880 but no other year after that. It lists his address as 66 N McLemore, so I need to find him in the 1880 census.
  • Is the Ada/Addie/Annie Merry listed as widow of John in 1890, 1894, 1897, 1898, and 1901 Nelson’s daughter-in-law?
  • There is a William Merry listed in 1896, 1902, 1905, and 1906 that I have no idea who he is?
  • There is an Edward Merry listed in 1897 who boards with said Addie Merry – who is he?
  • Mrs. Lottie Merry – listed as a cook and living on 1921 Hayes in 1891 – need to find out who she is
  • There are other people too -Henry Merry, Beulah Merry — all worth looking for additional information.

My full notes are here.

Researching the Merrys

I continue to look for information on the family of Nelson Merry. I went to the Archives this afternoon and spent a few hours looking up sources. Today, I discovered the joys of using city directories! I’ve not used them in my own research yet, but as I was browsing the shelves in one of the reading rooms at the Archives, I saw them and decided to look.

I am quite glad that I did! I looked through more than 20 years of directories for the families and found some very interesting information. In fact, I was able to quickly locate the death certificate information for Adella Merry Mitchell (daughter of Nelson G. Merry). I noticed from the directory information that the last time she is listed alongside her husband was 1917.

I also finally got a chance to use Stephen Morse’s Enumeration District finder today and had located the family residence in 1920 because of his tool – my text searching had been unsuccessful, so I browsed through the ED that was indicated by his tool and found the residence. By 1920, Edward Mitchell (Adella’s husband) was widowed.

This knowledge then narrowed down my search for Adella’s death immensely. So, going to the TN online index for deaths, I stared with 1917. Wouldn’t you know it was there! Adella Mitchell died July 26, 1917. I will have to go back to the Archives tomorrow to get her death certificate.

Rev. Nelson Merry’s Obituary

In my last post, I mentioned that I took a trip to Mount Ararat Cemetery in order to locate the tombstone of Rev. Nelson Grover Merry. Today after work, I went to the public library to get his obituary and I found it! His birth year in the obit is wrong (he was born in 1824), but the article gives other details that will be helpful for his descendant to further work backwards.

From the Nashville Banner
Tuesday, July 15, 1884

Death of Rev. N.G. Merry, a Prominent Colored Minister. Appropriate Action Taken by Many Leading Citizens Today.

At 4:30 o’clock yesterday afternoon Rev. N.G. Merry, colored, pastor of the First Colored Baptist church, on Spruce street, breathed his last. The deceased had been pastor of this church for nearly thirty years. In a biographical sketch paper prepared by the officers, trustees and deacons of the church the following appears.

Rev. N.G. Merry was born in Christian county, Ky., on July 10th, 1884; he removed to Tennessee in 1826 where he lived until 1836. He then returned to Kentucky and lived there until 1840. On the 15th day of May of that year, her removed to Nashville and resided here ever since. He was converted, and on November 1st, 1845, at the age of twenty-one years he was baptized in the Cumberland river by Rev. Dr. R.B.C. Howell. From his conversion he was impressed that he must preach the gospel. He commenced to exhort, although with great fear and trembling. He tried to shrink from duty, but the more he tried the stronger became the conviction, that of necessity he must preach. In March, 1852, he received a license to fill the pulpit of the colored branch of the First Baptist church of this city.

A request was made for his ordination, and a council was called on November 20th, 1853, which set him apart for the Christian ministry. Rev. S. Baker, D.D., delivered the ordination sermon, since which time he has been our regular pastor up to the time of his death. He began the pastorate of our church with 100 members. He leaves us with a membership of over 2,400. The deceased leaves a wife and six children. Elder Merry was the best known and most popular colored minister in Tennessee; not only for his great power and fluency of speech, but also for those qualities that distinguish the true Christian and gentleman.

The funeral will occur from the First Colored Baptist church tomorrow, at 2 o’clock, p.m., and will be conducted by Rev. R.B. Vandavell, of East Nashville, assisted by Rev. G.W. Dupee, of Paducah, Ky., Rev. D. A. Gaddie, of Louisville, Ky., the officers of the Preacher’s Union.

Elder Merry was a leader of his people, and was beloved and respected by them no less than by the white citizens of this city.

A meeting of white ministers and other white persons was held at the First Baptist church this morning, in respect to the memory of the deceased colored minister. Among those present at the meeting were Rev. Dr. J.B. McFerrin, Rev. Dr. Strickland, Rev. Dr. O.P. Fitzgerald, Rev. Dr. C.D. Elliott, Judge James Whitworth, Anson Nelson, Dr. J.B. Stephans, Capt. Wm. Stockell, Col. A. S. Colyar, Dr. J. B. Lindsley, T.W. Haley, Dr. J.P. Dake, Sr. and Rev. W.M. Burr.

Rev. Dr. J.B. McFerrin was called to the chair and Anson Nelson appointed secretary.

Rev. Dr. McFerrin, Rev. Dr. Elliott, Col. A.S. Colyar, Dr. J.B. Lindsley, Capt. Wm. Stockell, T.W. Haley, Judge Whitworth, Dr. J.P. Dake, Rev. Dr. O.P. Fitzgerald and Rev. W.M. Burr made remarks appropriate to the occassion.

Rev. Dr. C.H. Strickland, Judge Jas. Whitworth, Col. A.S. Colyar, Anson Nelson, and Rev. Dr. McFerrin were appointed a committee to draw up suitable resolutions. The committee reported as follows:

Resolved, That in the death of Rev. Nelson G. Merry, not only his church and his race have lost one of the noblest men and ablest ministers, but the whole community has sustained a great loss which will be felt for many days to come.

Resolved, That we sincerely condole with his church and his family in the death of so good and so useful a man.

Resolved, That a copy of these resolutions be furnished his church and his family, and that the city papers be requested to publish the same.

Rev. Dr. Strickland presented a letter from Bishop McTyeire, and requested Rev. O.P. Fitzgerald to read it, a duty which he performed cheerfully. Following is the letter:

My Dear Dr. Strickland – By the morning paper I see announced the death of Rev. Nelson Merry, pastor of the colored Baptist church for so long a time; and that a meeting of the white ministers of the city is to be held in your Sunday-school room at 10am., to take due notice of the occasion.

Previous and pressing engagements prevent my attendance. I should like to be with you and join in doing honor to one who illustrated our holy vocation, and was an honor to his race.

I have long regarded him one of the strongest factions for good in our city. Judged by the New Testament standard – he is greatest of all who is servant of all – who does the most for the many, then a measure of greatness cannot be denied to the man who has raised up a church and congregation from one hundred to three thousand; who has steadily ruled over them with pastoral kindness and fed and guided a flock that outnumbered Cyprian’s.

In 1881 I had the pleasure of visiting Mr. Spurgeon’s college for training preachers, in the rear of his London tabernacle, and at his request made a short address to his class of seventy odd theologues. Of course, I must tell of America and her churches. Nothing that I said pleased and surprised my audience more than this: That the largest church in Nashville was a Baptist church, and that was a colored church. (Hear, hear, said the Englishmen). The pastor who gathered and instructed this church was a colored man, and he had been their pastor before, through and since the war. And more, they worshiped in a brick meeting house covered with slate and trimmed with stone.

All these were new and grateful revelations, and received with frequent interjections of that little word (hear!) with which an Englishman challenges attention to whatever strikes h im.

No pastor, among all those who have served Nashville churches, with smaller membership and larger opportunity, has ever been able to bring up every soul in his charge, or even a majority to his ideal of what a Christian ought to be. If Nelson Merry has failed here, who has succeeded? But it is not easy to estimate the amount of good, done by his large influence, exerted through so many years. He was ever on the side of order, of temperance, of righteousness; and, I doubt not, being a genuine Christian himself, he led multitudes in the way to Heaven.

It is largely due to what the Baptist and Methodist churches did in this way, for the colored people, that our country, quietly and safely made the tremendous transition from 1861 to 1866. The average statesman, politician, and historian take no account of this mighty influence; but the future philosopher will. Yours very truly — H.N. McTyeire.

Rev. C.D. Elliott, Rev. Dr. Strickland and Anson Nelson were appointed a committee to wiat upon the officers of the First Colored Baptist church and present the proceedings of the meeting.

Mt. Ararat Cemetery

Over the weekend, I have become intrigued by the history of Mt. Ararat cemetery here in Nashville. The cemetery was the first African-American cemetery in the city.

I started to become interested in it because over the weekend I’ve been looking up information about Nelson G. Merry – a very prominent former slave who led a very prominent church here in Nashville. One of my little side projects is posting information from The Nashville Globe, a black newspaper that used to be published here in Nashville. From one of my posts, a descendant of Merry’s contacted me as I had posted the birthday notice of Merry’s wife. As I was looking up information on him and learning that he was buried in this cemetery, I decided yesterday to pay the cemetery a visit today. This is the old entrance to the cemetery – now this one is closed off and you have to go through a side gate to get to the historic side.

There is also a historical marker at the site.

Note to the state of TN – it would be great if the state had an online resource for historical markers like North Carolina does!

So, around noon today, I drove over, found the cemetery very easily and spend about an hour walking the grounds. I found Merry’s tombstone, and it is beautiful! His obelisk is the largest tombstone on that side of the cemetery and is very detailed.

As I walked around (well, as Kaleya and I walked around), I really began to feel connected even more to the history of the place. Some of the people buried here, I’ve come across when reading the Nashville Globe – for example, Dr. Robert F. Boyd is also buried here.

Yesterday, I found this online article that was recently published in the Nashville Scene that includes some information about the cemetery. The article also has a picture of Merry’s tombstone. There is also a picture of a tombstone that is shaped like a wheel, but I didn’t see that one today – I would have loved to have seen it.

It was heartbreaking though to also see how many headstones were broken, overturned, etc. I am glad that it is now being cared for though – but just imagine all the people interned here whose names will not be known. I am glad that I went. I plan to add the pictures I took to Find A so that others can hopefully find them too. Of all the people buried here, there are only 21 people listed on FindAGrave. There is a long list that is online as compiled by a cemetery survey in this county. I may also do something more extensive than this, but I’ve hardly got time for my current projects!

Update: Here is the link to all the pictures that I took. Until I can get them more organized…link to Mt. Ararat pics.