26 December 2012

Cyrus Merriam's secret.

I have found that along with all the research and analysis that goes along with genealogy, there is a certain amount that is also owed to fate.  A chance meeting or a record that one just happens upon whilst looking for something completely different.  Case in point.  A little over a month ago, I was attending the dedication of the Island Mound State Historic Site located just outside of Butler, MO.  I was working the table for the Bates County Museum when I struck up a conversation with a woman who was wearing a National Parks jacket.  She explained that she was with the National Park Service and that she specifically worked with National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. Then came my AHA moment!  I explained to her that I had once read a snippet that had said my ancestor, Cyrus Merriam, was part of the Underground Railroad in Ohio.  That was it.  It was just a little blurb stating that much.  She said she would look into it and get back to me if she found anything.

Cyrus Merriam was born in Rutland, VT on 14 July 1793  to David and Phoebe (Foster) Merriam.1 He settled near Putnam, OH around 1814 at the age of 21.2  He married Catherine Hulda Tupper on 24 Oct 18253 by which he had six children. Cyrus was by all means a prosperous man.  He owned land and bred sheep and cattle. By 1870 he had $30,000 worth of real estate and had hired a domestic servant by the name of Ellen Shipley.4 He and his wife belonged to the Putnam Presbyterian Church in which he was an incorporator5. The Putnam Presbyterian Church was incorporated in 1835 and it's first pastor was William Beecher who was the brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe.6 The congregation of this church was highly involved in the abolitionist movement.  Frederick Douglas gave an anti-slavery speech here in 1852.  Here was a clue as to Cyrus' leaning in the abolitionist movement.
Cyrus's death is recorded in the death records held by the Putnam Presbyterian church.  He died  4 Nov. 1873 and was interred in  Woodlawn Cemetery in Zanesville, Muskingum Co., OH.7

So back to my story.  A few days after speaking with Deanda she sent me some information that she found in the Wilbur H Siebert Collection held by the Ohio State Historical Society.  In these papers, a Cyrus Mariam is listed as being a conductor on the Underground Railroad that ran from Putnam to Zanesville, Ohio.  She also sent me an excerpt of the reminiscences of Thomas L. Gray who was very involved in the Underground Railroad in Deavertown, OH. Gray's reminiscences first appeared in the Tribune published in New Lexington, Ohio beginning in 1885. In it he mentions helping a couple of slaves, Isaac and Anderson,  that once belonged to Mary Ann McDonald of Virginia to Cyrus Mariam's (sic) a distance of fourteen miles!  They eventually made it and Gray said, " I felt easy for their safety, for I know the man in whose care I had left them,"

   I've ofter wondered if Issac and Anderson made it to safety.  Did they leave descendants and if so would it be possible to track them down?  I would love to meet them and hear their stories.  I'm also left with a deep admiration for my ancestor and his family for the sacrifices that they made for what they believed was right.  Cyrus had a lot to lose.  A prosperous farm, good standing in the community, his freedom. Good on you Cyrus. Good on you!

Underground Railroad

Thomas H Gray page 1
Underground Railroad
Thomas H Gray page 2

A very special thank you to Deanda Johnson of the National Parks Service.  Her generosity and help will always be appreciated!

Network to Freedom:

Putnam, Ohio Historic District

1. "Vermont, Vital Records, 1760-1954," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/XFKZ-8HH : accessed 25 Dec 2012), Cyrus Merriam, 1793.
2.  J. F. Everhart, A. A. Graham, History of Muskingum County Ohio, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of  Prominent Men and Pioneers (Columbus, OH,: J. F. Everhart & Co., 1882), 392
3. Charles Henry Pope, Merriam Genealogy in England and America including the "Genealogical Memoranda" of Charles Pierce Merriam, the Collections of James Sheldon Merriam, Etc., (Boston, MA, Charles H. Pope, 1906), 259
4.Cyrus Merriam household , 1870 U.S. census, Muskingum County, Ohio, population schedule, Springfield township,  Putnam post office, page 25, dwelling 192, family 202, NARA microfilm publication M593, FHL microfilm 552750.
5. Everhart, Graham, History of Muskingum County OH, 182
6. Everhart, Graham, History of Muskingum County, OH,  181
 7. Record of Deaths in Putnam Presbyterian Church online<http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~ohmuskin/muskfootprints/putnamch.html> Merriam data downloaded 24 December 2012

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