Merchant descendants resided mostly in Westover community

Published 11:59 pm Friday, April 3, 2009

The Merchant families who have lived in Covington County appear to have come from a long line of descendants from the pioneer Marchant families of Virginia. Many have been identified who lived in that state and surrounding ones. Our subjects to be reviewed in today’s column came from the state of South Carolina where many of this name resided for a period of time.

Many Marchants who lived mostly in Virginia are listed among Colonial records. There were a number who were patriots in the Colonial American Army. Even before this period, the ancestors of today’s line dated back to 1725 in South Carolina.

Richard Marchant and his wife, Elizabeth, lived in South Carolina and had a son, Mercer Marchant, born in 1785 in that state. Mercer married there and he and his wife had a son, Richard, named for his grandfather, born circa 1808 in Edgefield County or District.

Mercer and Richard Marchant both moved to Alabama before 1830, which was fairly early to be settling in this state. In the 1830 Census for Lowndes County, Alabama, Mercer was listed possibly as Messie Marchant at 50 to 60 years of age. His wife was probably a second one since she was considerably younger at 30 to 40 years old. With them were the following children: Two males under 5 years, one male between 10 and 15, and 2 females between 10 and 15. Mercer’s older son, Richard Marchant, was head of a household, which included his wife and a male child under 5 years. Richard and his wife were between 20 and 30 years of age.

Mercer Marchant died in 1837 in Lowndes County, which was before the 1840 census. In that census there was a household headed by Joel Marchant and Susan Marchant. Susan was between 50 and 60 years of age and identified as a widow. She had the following children with her: one male under 5 years, one male between 5 and 9 years, and 2 females between 10 and 15 years. There is a Susannah Marchant who could possibly be the above

Susan and the widow of Mercer Marchant. He was born in 1785 and she in 1798. In 1850, Susannah was 52 years of age with the following three children with her: Elijah A., 16; Zadock, 13; and Senora, 11. She was born in South Carolina and the three children in Alabama.

Susan E. Marchant shows up in Covington County in 1856 at which time she purchased 77.25 acres of land, which was canceled in the Red Level Township. This would have been in the vicinity of the land purchased by Richard Marchant in 1855.

Richard Marchant was not enumerated in Covington County until the 1860 census, but he bought three tracts of government land in 1855: 40.71, 40.75 and 40.87 acres in the Pigeon Creek Township. He was a farmer and cultivated what he could of this land.

Richard Merchant’s family is enumerated in the Red Level Township in the 1860 census. He was listed as a farmer at 52 years of age, and his wife, Mary, at 51 years. They had the following children in their home: Charlotte, 21; Martha, 18; James D., 14; William J., 10; and Mary Ballard, 4.

During the War Between the States, there were at least two Merchant men who served in the Confederate Army. Mercer Merchant was 33 years of age and served as a private in Company A, Covington County Reserves (First Class), but he was later discharged by the medical board. William Merchant was 16 years of age and served in the same Company A. This is probably the William Marchant who homesteaded 81.49 acres next to Richard’s land in the Pigeon Creek Township.

It appears that Richard and his family were the generation who changed the spelling of the name from Marchant to Merchant. The early records of Covington County show the Marchant name, but the later censuses use the Merchant spelling. Also, in the 1860 census, there are a few black families using the Merchant name, which suggests they may have been slaves to some of the earlier Merchants.

In the 1870 census, the household in the Red Level community that should be Richard’s does not give his first name. The listed only shows Merchant as head of the household, and he was shown at 70 years of age. Mary was 68 years old, and they had the following with them: Charlotte, 30; Martha, 26; M. Ballard, 16; Henry, 6; Mack, 3; W., 16; John, 21; Happy, 21; and Mary, 8 months. This enumeration is sketchy and does not clearly identify all in the household.

In the 1880 census, Richard and family, are residing in the Westover Township. He is shown at 74 years of age, and Mary at 73 years. With them were Marsha (? Martha), 37, daughter; William, 12, grandson; and Henry, 5 months, grandson. William and Henry are probably sons of Marsha.

By the 1900 census, there were two Merchant households in the county. Jasper Merchant, a farmer, was 39 years of age, and his wife, Sarah, was 35. They were residing in Beat 19 and the George Precinct. They had the following children with them: Richard, 12; Julia, 7; Messa (male), 5; Jessa or Jasper, 3; and James, 2.

The second household was that of Jack T. or H. Merchant who appears to have been listed as John in his father, Richard’s, home in 1870. In that census, John was 21 with wife, Happy, who was 21. Other records indicate this wife, Happy, was Happy Ann Ealum, daughter of  J. John and Harriet E. (Gorum) Ealum of the Red Level area. It is believed this couple moved to Jackson County, Florida, but at some point, Happy died, and Jack had returned to Covington County by 1900. He had in his home the following: Lizzie, daughter, 30; Andrew, 23; Rosa, 16; John, 8; Daniel, 4; and Calvin, 3.

By 1920, there was only one Merchant family residing in Covington County. Patrick H., a blacksmith for a turpentine company, was living in the Carolina community. He was 37 years of age, and his wife, Minnie was 27. They had the following four children with them: Berton, 8; Katie (Bernice ?), 6; Hazel, 4; and Heflin, 2. They were still here living in Andalusia in 1930 with two additional children: James, 8; and Junia, 5.

It is not known if there are any Merchant descendants residing in the area at present. There is no listing in the county telephone directory, but there could still be a few with unlisted numbers or who are wearing other names.

Census records were the primary source for this writing. Land sales information was taken from Wyley Ward’s book, Original Land Grants and Sales in Covington County, Alabama.

Anyone who might have additional information on this family or corrections to any of the above data is requested to contact this writer, Curtis Thomasson, at 20357 Blake Pruitt Road, Andalusia, AL 36420; call 334-222-6467; or e-mail: