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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.

Dred is their son!

I haven’t been blogging much lately, the reason being that I have been quite busy personally. We are going to be moving within the next couple of weeks, so I’ve been prepping for that. Also, I’ve been mostly working on the family tree of an extended family member and have been so engrossed, I’ve just not posted much.

But, I do have something to share today! Thanks to help from a RAOGK volunteer, I received Dred Wimberly’s death certificate. I’ve posted about my efforts to link him to my family and his death certificate confirms that he is indeed the son of Allen & Della Battle Wimberly!!! This adds another link to my chain of evidence and given that Dred shows a very similar living pattern to his parents that my 3rd great-grandmother Mariah does, I am even more convinced that she is part of this family. This is really cool.

Link to Dred’s page on my family genealogy site.

Trip to Willard Library

I am just now getting around to posting this, but a couple of weeks ago, we went to Evansville during the week and I had an opportunity to spend a few hours visiting Willard Library in Evansville, Indiana. This library is the oldest public library in the state of Indiana. I’d begun to notice over the past several months that many of the resources I was interested in, are held at this library! They have a very extensive genealogy collection and the three hours I spent there seems like such a small amount of time!

So, here’s a recap of what I ended up bringing home with me, though I looked at much more.

  • Marriages of Rowan County, North Carolina: 1753-1868 compiled by Brent H. Holcomb. I was looking in this book primarily for surnames associated with my stepmother’s tree (Fry, Reed, Bean, Oneal, Crowell). I found several entries that I photocopied for later analysis.
  • County of Todd, Kentucky: Historical and Biographical – edited by J.H. Battle. – I photocopied a few pages out of this book as this is where my brother-in-law’s paternal family is from. Interestingly enough, he has a 2nd great-grandfather named Granville Waddell (who was a slave) and in this book I found mention of a white Granville Waddell who emigrated to the county and died there in 1852. I have yet to further research this possible lead. Another surname of interest from this book is Talley. Kalonji has black ancestors with the surname from this county and there is mention of white Talley’s in the area.
  • Todd County, Kentucky Obituaries by Tim Pulley – found many obits here for Meriweather’s (white and black), another surname associated with Kalonji’s tree. Also some obits for Talley, Daniel and Wisdom.
  • Todd County, Kentucky Marriages 1820-1879 by Era W. Stinson – another source for looking up Kalonji and his brother’s lines. Found some possible listings of interest. I did find one goldmine – the above mentioned Granville Waddell married Philis Bell 8 Feb 1868 – I finally have their marriage date!
  • Vital Statistics Todd County, Kentucky – by A.B. Willhite – this book had births, marriages and deaths – both black and white.
  • Marriage and Death Notices from the Western Carolinian by Robert M. Topkins – found a few Crowell’s and Reed’s listed.
  • Estate Records of Edgecombe County North Carolina 1820-1850 Vol. II – by Joseph W. Watson – one of the few books they had for Edgecombe County (of interest sfor my maternal grandmother’s line). I am glad I looked here, because I learned more about Edmund McNair than I knew before, including the fact that he had plantations and slaves in more counties than I knew of. I will have to go back to some of the material I’ve collected about Dred Wimberly, but I think I remember that some items mentioned him being born at Walnut Hill. Well, from this inventory information, I learn that Walnut Hill is in Franklin County, not Edgecombe County.

I also photocopied a few Kentucky death certificates in hope of finding more relationships. Overall, a good visit. I really need to get back!

Light blogging

My blogging these days has been light but I have been working on genealogy. I have been helping my stepmother’s cousin work on his mother’s tree. Also, I’ve been taking a look at Family Tree Maker 2008 trying to decide if I want to purchase it or not. So far it has some cool features, but I’m not sure it’s right for me. I have such high demands and expectations for genealogy software 🙂

Newspaper Directory

For anyone that loves historical newspapers as much as I do, this post is for you. In reading the latest issue of Family Tree magazine, I read the column they have on the Library of Congress’ website for historical newspapers. While I’d been to the site before, I didn’t realize until I read this column that the site offers a directory to published newspapers that also lets you see which libraries hold it! This is great!

A Big Family

From the 1 Apr 1898 issue of the Roanoke Beacon (Plymouth, North Carolina)
pg. 4

Mrs. Sallie Hinton of Turkey Foot precinct, this county, is probably the head of the largest family in the world. She is the mother of twelve children, all alive and married. She is the grandmother of fifty-seven grandchildren, and the great-grandmother of twenty-two great-grandchildren, all of whom live within a few miles of her. She is seventy-one years old and an active lady, does all her milking, cooking and other housework, and enjoys the very best of health. — Georgetown (Ky.) News.

Dred’s Brother?

In my quest to confirm my suspicions on Dred Wimberly, I have another clue. I sent away for his death certificate, but the register of deeds tells me they could not locate it. Hmm.. time to try the NC State Archives. But, they did have the death certificate of whom I suspected to be Dred’s brother, Richard Wimberly.

Richard Wimberly, according to the death certificate, was born about 1859 and his parents were Allen & Della Wimberly. Informant was Dred Wimberly. Well, since my hand searching of the county census records of 1870 show only one Richard Wimberly and he is in the household of Allen & Della, I’m fairly certain this is he. Then, given that Dred was his informant, this adds to my theory that Dred is the son of Allen & Della as well.

I’ve located Richard and his family in the 1900, 1910 and 1920 census records. I’ve located his widowed wife in the 1930 census (he died in 1921). Maybe through his line I can find a living descendant to talk to. I continue to search.

Explorations in Evansville: Part 1

Yesterday, we took three of my stepsons back home to Evansville after having had them for two months. Yesterday afternoon, Kalonji drove me to the area of town where he grew up.

Our first stop was to E. Cherry street. His grandmother, Betty Sanders, lived in the first house on the street – 652 E. Cherry Street. However, her house is no longer there, it is now the empty lot you see in the picture, to the left of the driveway. So, I took a few pictures and pasted them together. It’s not a great paste, but it gives the idea of what her corner looked like. The two houses next to where hers was are very similar in shape and appearance to what hers was according to Kalonji.

I Love the Tennesse State Archives!

This past week has been filled with a lot of fun hunting for relatives of my stepmother. Her family reunion was this past weekend and I connected with a few of her family members who are also into genealogy. Then, I had a chance to make a quick trip to the Tennessee State Archives and it was a VERY productive 45 minutes!

Some of what I gathered:

  • Abandoned Cemeteries of Stanly County – My stepmother is a Frye and last month, her cousin was able to find the mother of their earliest known ancestor. It turned out that the ancestor, Maggie Fry, is white. So, I’m researching her family, the Fry’s of Stanly County. In this book, I found information on the Fry family cemeteries there, but Maggie is not listed. However, other members of her family are listed. Additionally, another branch of the family, Crowell, is from this county. So, I’m beginning to track the white Crowell families in hopes of making a connection. Found some cemetery listings for Crowells.
  • Stanly County, North Carolina, Marriages – More Fry’s, Crowell’s and a couple of other surnames located. Found the marriage record of a relative of Maggie’s.
  • Kershaw County, South Carolina Cemetery Survey – two days ago, I found a post on the Ancestry Kershaw County board of someone who was willing to do lookups in this book. She provided me with information for some of the Reid’s in my stepmothers tree. So, I had to go look at the book myself after discovering TSLA had it. There are several family members listed in the book along with more clues to follow.
  • Rowan County Cemeteries – this was a multi-volume set, like 8 volumes or something like that! I only had about 5 minutes to look in it, but I struck gold! Tony’ Reid’s burial plot is listed and the book provides the names of his wife’s parents. His wife was Elizabeth “Bettie” Parker and her parents were Wiley and Lucinda Parker. Tony’s birth year as listed in the book is wrong, but that’s okay. I know from census records when he was born.
  • Marriages of Rowan County, North Carolina: 1868-1900 – Jackpot! Found out that Tony Reid and Bettie Parker were married November 15, 1871.
  • Rowan County: a Brief History – was interested in this as it had a few pages on the history of Gold Hill. Gold Hill was the community around the gold mines in Rowan County that were the first docmented gold mines in the US. Tony Reid lived in Gold Hill and in 1880 his occupation is miner and farmer, so I’m guessing he may have worked these mines.
  • Somebody Knows My Name – went back to this classic to get the marriages of Rowan County. Unfortunately, the book does not cover Cabarrus or Stanly counties. Located a couple of people of interest, but can’t be sure of anything yet.

Amazing day! Now, to start analyzing all of this…

Also, I created a database of books that I want to keep track of. I found I was having difficulty managing what books I wanted to make sure I kept note of for future lookups, where they may be located etc. Once I get it more developed, I’ll blog about it more in depth.