Merrill ancestors migrated to Covington County circa 1820

Published 2:25 am Saturday, August 4, 2018

It is a pleasure to share a review of the program presented by Mary Ann Merrill Moates Weber at last week’s meeting of the Covington Historical Society. She had prepared a power-point presentation of her family research and childhood memories. She mentioned that a major motivation was to compile these for the children of John Starke “Scotty” Merrill (1942-2018), notable Andalusia citizen, educator and businessman who passed away recently.

Mary Ann and Scotty descend from the pioneer Merrill ancestors who migrated to this area fairly early. It is believed that Benjamin Merrill who was born during the 1750s was the first of his clan to settle in Covington County. He and his wife, Rachael Lewis, were natives of North Carolina. It appears they came to the area before 1820 and first settled near Montezuma in the location that would later become Andalusia. He purchased considerable land and lived for a time in the present-day Heath community. Circa 1830, he moved to Leon which was in Covington County until 1866 at which time it fell into the new Crenshaw County.

Benjamin and Rachael were the parents of three known daughters: Holland, b. 1802, m. Jacob Merrill; Rachael, b. 1804, m. Samuel T. Jones; and Basheba, b. 1809, m. Daniel Carter. Holland’s husband, Jacob Merrill, was the son of Benjamin’s brother, Robert Merrill. Jacob and Holland settled near her parents in the Leon community where they purchased land and reared their children. They had previously migrated to Henry County, Ala., around 1820, but they came to Covington County soon afterwards when federal land was being offered for auction.

Jacob and Holland were the parents of the following children: Greenberry, b. 1821, d. 1857, m. (1) Hulda Handley (2) Elizabeth Atkinson Holley; Mary Jane, b. 1826, d. before 1876, m. Josiah Rhodes; Henry Martin, b. 1824, d. 1862, m. Martha Holley; Rufus R., b. 1828, d. young; Martha, b. 1830, d. after 1893, m. Samuel T. Smith; Rachael, b. 1833, d. after 1893, m. (1) Green B. Franklin (2) Wesley Richards; William Reid, b. 1839, d. 1870, m. Narcissa Smith; Thomas L., b. 1842, d. 1935, m. Margaret Cameron; and Rebecca, b. 1847, d. after 1893, m. Alfred Martin.

The oldest son, Greenberry Merrill, is the ancestor of Mary Anne Weber and is the line being featured today. He became a prominent citizen in the Leon community where he was appointed a Justice of the Peace for Beat Five in 1850. At that time, he had a large farm and owned six slaves to which he added three more by 1860. He then rendered service in the Confederate Army as a member of Company C, 27th Alabama Infantry Regiment. His service record is inscribed on his headstone at the Leon Cemetery. In 1864, his son, Thomas Merrill, was listed as a corporal in the Alabama Militia at 16 years of age.

Greenberry Merrill and his first wife, Hulda Handley, had a daughter, Mary Anne, b. 1845, m. James W. Pate. He and his second wife, Elizabeth Atkinson Holley, daughter of Eli Holley, were the parents of the following children: Thomas Hezekiah, b. 1848, m. Mary E. Brooks; Eli Reid, b. 1849, d. 1926, m. Nancy Elizabeth Shreves, Sarah Rebecca, b. 1852, d. 1885, m. Jacob Majors; Hulda Jane, b. 1854, d. 1926, m. Jackson Self; Samantha, b. 1856, d. 1898, m. George Majors; William Jacob, b. 1859, d. 1927, m. Rose Hayes; Elias Benjamin, b. 1861, d. 1896, m. Isabella Blaikie; and Martha Holland, b. 1863, d. 1953, m. Alexander Blaikie.

The sons as teenagers often floated logs down the Conecuh and Patsaliga Rivers to Pensacola, Fla. During those trips, they enjoyed floating past a huge rock on which a group of young ladies gathered to wave and giggle at the boys. Of course, the young men just had to put in for the night at this site. One of the young ladies, Nancy Shreve, caught the eye of one of the Merrill boys, Eli Reid Sr. They fell in love and were soon married. They settled in the Leon community and began their family.

Eli Reid Merrill Sr. was married to Nancy Elizabeth Shreves, daughter of Thomas Shreves (1816-1896) and Eliza Ann Ratliff (b. 1822). They were the parents of the following children: Thomas Greenberry, b. 1871, d. 1956; Rufus Edward, b. 1872, d. 1956, m. Sarah Agnes Smith (1880-1964); William Robert, b. 1874, d. 1944, m. Josephine Thomas (1875-1966); Eli Reid Jr., b. 1879, d. 1958, m. (1) Zoa Ann Hogg (1878-1920) (2) Nannie Jones (1882-1962); Walter Clement, b. 1882, d. 1950, m. Mary Theodosia McLaney; Oliver Mansell, b. 1884, d. 1928; Lula Rebecca, b. 1889, d. 1913; Martha Clara, b. 1888, d. 1976, m. John Milton Truitt (1875-1965); John Calvin, b. 1891, d. 1975; and Flora Ethel, b. 1895, d. 1987, m. Preston Clifton Ford (1891-1969).

As the family grew, they moved to North Alabama near Hayden in Blount County where they raised crops and reared their 11 children. Later the family moved to Texas, but two of the sons, Eli Reid Jr. “E.R.” and Walter Clement “W.C.,” decided not to move with the family, but to come to Andalusia where they had some Shreves relatives, kin of their mother. The brothers held various jobs until 1907 when they became involved with operating the Andalusia Manufacturing Company.

Eli Reid Merrill Jr. was first married to Zoa Ann Hogg, daughter of Benjamin J. Hogg (1852-1910) and Francis Riley (b. 1853). They were the parents of the following children: Eli Ray, b. 1909, d. 1910; Augustus Reid, b. 1910, d. 1980, m. Ruby Lee Bray (1913-1976); Frances, b. 1911, d. 1991, m. Floyd Scarbrough; Mary Elizabeth, b. 1913, d. 1986, m. Hickman Holland Killham (1906-1967); Eli Benjamin, b. 1915, d. 1985, m. Mary Lena Gant (1920-2009); and Clara Mae, b. 1917, d. 2008, m. Oliver Lester Thagard (1917-1999). After Zoa’s death, Eli Reid Jr. was married to Nannie Jones with whom he had a daughter, Nancy, b. 1922, d. 1984.

The other brother, Walter Clement Merrill, fell in love with Mary Theodosia McLaney, and they were married circa 1910. They were the parents of the following children: Walter Clement Jr., b.&d. 1912; Henry Clement, b. 1913, d. 1998, m. Jessie Ruth Hudson; Robert Greenberry, b. 1915, d. 1947, single; and Walter Oliver, b. 1917, d. 1953, m. Mary Jim Hilson; and Joseph Melton, b. 1925, living, m. Gudren ?.

Since considerable genealogy for several generations of this Merrill family was located, the length of this narrative requires an additional story. In it, more personal family experiences as related by Mary Anne (Merrill) Weber to the historical society will be presented in next week’s column.

Sources for this story include and Mary Ann Weber’s family records. Anyone who might find an error in the above records is requested to contact this writer, Curtis Thomasson, at 20357 Blake Pruitt Road, Andalusia, AL 36420; 334-804-1442; or Email:



The event will occur at Cameron’s Chapel Methodist Church N 31 35.787

<3135787> W 086 21.207 <8621207>, Brantley, AL., 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Saturday, August,11, 2018.

All descendants of John Gray Barrow of Conecuh/Covington County, and his children (Gatsey Ann Barrow Dean, Jacob G. Barrow, David S. Barrow, Mary Barrow Foshee, Caroline Barrow Padgett, Sarah Jane Barrow Riley, James Madison Barrow, and John Julian Barrow) are encouraged to attend. Pot luck (bring a dish), gathering to discuss family history and the Barrow DNA project. Free tests will be available.

For more information on the family, see Lisa R. Franklin’s 1992 book,

“Tracking Your Covington County, Alabama Roots: The Barrow Family,” available as a free download at