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Merrill, William

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Merrill, William
First name William
Last name Merrill
From County
Date of birth February 27, 1817
Died January 4, 1894
Born in Batavia, New York
Famous for farmer, miller, builder, contractor


William Merrill was born Feb. 27, 1817 in Batavia, New York. He was the fourth child of ten born to Baldwin and Mary Heath Merrill. In 1818, Baldwin moved the family to near Fort Erie, Canada. While living in Bertie Township, William was a member of the first Temperance Society. The family moved to Norwich, Oxford County in 1833. Baldwin purchased a farm. The family moved out to the farm and William, 16, helped on the farm. At the age of 18 William apprenticed as a cooper and opened a business in Norwich which he kept for 10 years.

William began to buy land in Burford Township for a lumber business. In 1844 he married Eliza Jane Woodrow, daughter of Joseph and Nancy Chapman Woodrow. Around 1845, he took up residence on his farm at Lot 20 Concession 14, Burford Township, four miles east of Norwich on the east side of Branch Creek on the south side of the road. He named his farm Pineydell. He cleared land and operated a saw mill, door and sash factory and cheese box factory. It was said to be the first cheese box factory in Canada. He employed 35. In 1851 he is recorded on the Norwich Township census with Eliza and two daughters. The 1875 Page & Smith atlas shows many buildings where the workers lived on the property.

In 1861 he built the Norwich Gore Methodist Church. Probably the large double lancet windows were made at his door and sash factory. He also built the Gore School, union school section number 5. The Poole collection at the Norwich Archives has an interesting handwritten description of Merrill’s house: Mr. Murrell’s house faced the west from a side road. The verandah ran around three sides of the house, north, west and south. On the northeast corner there was a store that served the mill yard people and neighbours. The kitchen was next to the store on the south side. Joining the kitchen was a room where wood was kept for fuel as everybody used wood stoves for cooking and heating. Joining this woodhouse was a carriage room where carriages and buggies were kept. Then, joining this, was a horse stable. High class houses were built in this style in early days.

In 1881 he went into partnership with his son, William S. At this time he is living in Brant County with Eliza and son William, a widower, Eliza Hugley, 9, two servants, plus Jacob Schell, a farmer, and Charles Duffey, carpenter. In 1885 Merrill moved in to Norwich and stayed there the rest of his life. At this time he moved his planing factory in to town. He won the contract to build a new Methodist church in town, 62 x 110’ and Romanesque in style. He used Brantford architect, William Mellish.

Merrill also built Curries Methodist Church in Oxford County and all the stations on the Port Dover Lake Huron Railway. He was a councillor, school trustee and Justice of the Peace. He raised a family of three daughters and one son. William died January 4, 1894.

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