MERRY, RALPH, businessman; b. 16 March 1753 in Lynn, Mass., son of Ralph Merry and Sarah Knower; d. 1825 at the Outlet (Magog), Lower Canada, and was buried there.
Ralph Merry’s grandfather, also named Ralph, left London aboard his own ship and settled at Lynn towards the end of the 17th century. Merry was living at Providence, R.I., in 1783, and then in 1792 moved to St Johnsbury, Vt. Like many Americans he found the prospect of land in Lower Canada interesting, particularly after Lieutenant Governor Alured Clarke’s proclamation in 1792 concerning land grants in the townships and the publicity given the matter in American newspapers. On 7 March 1797 Merry, who had substantial means, obtained for $4,000 a proxy from William Powell in order to negotiate the grant of half of Acton Township, for which Powell was authorized to do the survey. In addition Merry represented a group seeking grants in Hatley Township. These applications were rejected by the land committee of the Executive Council in 1802, despite several favourable testimonials.
In 1799 Merry settled with his wife, Sarah Sylvester, and their eight children in Bolton Township, at a place then known as the Outlet; in 1855 the village that had developed there took the name of Magog. In the summer of 1800 he bought several lots for 2,000 Spanish dollars from Nicholas Austin, the Bolton Township leader. Two years later he purchased a huge tract in the same township from his brother Jonathan, and then in 1804 further enlarged his estate by acquiring several properties in the adjacent Hatley Township. Austin had already put the rapids on the Magog to good use by building an improvised sawmill and a grist-mill, and Merry improved and ran them. From 1808 he was in partnership with his son John S. In 1809 he put an ironworks into operation, but the venture was not successful because the iron ore found in the region was of poor quality. A carpenter’s shop and a mill for carding and weaving wool proved more profitable. The first general store opened in 1820 with Merry’s financial backing, and from 1823 it served as a stage-stop for the mail between Montreal and Stanstead. The establishment became a landmark in the region.
Merry did, however, suffer a number of severe set-backs; since the township lands were granted undivided, the title deeds of subsequent purchasers remained uncertain. He had to endure various lawsuits, and 2,300 acres of his property were sold by the sheriff in 1816. Tragedy cast a shadow over his family life. In May 1799 his 10-year-old son Benjamin lost his way in the forest and despite all the searches undertaken was never found. Another son, Ralph, suffered for a long time from the effects of an accident that occurred when he was working in the sawmill, and Merry had to take him to Boston for treatment. Finally, his wife died suddenly at the age of 57 on 8 Aug. 1814.
Merry’s father had belonged to the Congregational Church, but Merry received Baptist ministers in his home, and one of them conducted his wife’s funeral service. In the absence of religious and educational institutions the family setting had to provide moral and intellectual instruction. From 1818 his son Ralph served as a teacher, and the first school was built in 1824 near the comfortable family home erected in 1814 which is still standing.
Merry died at the age of 72, after a full life that had earned him the esteem of his fellow citizens. As a good family man he had helped his children establish themselves. He passed his courage and spirit of initiative on to his descendants, who followed in his footsteps and contributed to the rise of trade and industry.
ANQ-M, CL1-2/3, 3 janv. 1817. PAC, RG 1, L3L: 5171, 5225, 65519, 69514, 69521, 69523. Stanstead County Hist. Soc., Colby-Curtis Museum (Beebe, Que.), Journals of Ralph Merry, IV. Quebec Gazette, 29 Aug. 1816, 18 Sept. 1817. Bouchette, Topographical description of L.C., 268. C. P. de Volpi and P. H. Scowen, The Eastern Townships, a pictorial record; historical prints and illustrations of the Eastern Townships of the province of Quebec, Canada (Montreal, 1962). The Eastern Townships gazetteer and general business directory . . . (St Johns [Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu], Que., 1867; repr. Sherbrooke, Que., 1967). Illustrated atlas of Eastern Townships. Vital records of Lynn, Massachusetts, to the end of the year 1849 . . . (2v., Salem, Mass., 1905–6). Boulianne, “Royal Instit. for the Advancement of Learning.” W. B. Bullock, Beautiful waters devoted to the Memphremagog region . . . ([2nd ed.], Newport, Vt., 1926). Caron, La colonisation de la prov. de Québec, 2: 310, 312, 351. Day, Hist. of Eastern Townships. B. F. Hubbard, Forests and clearings; the history of Stanstead County, province of Quebec, with sketches of more than five hundred families, ed. John Lawrence (Montreal, 1874; repr. 1963). A. W. et P. L. Ling, Souvenirs historiques (Magog, Qué., 1936). Alexandre Paradis, Histoire commerciale et industrielle de Magog, Qué. (Magog, 1951). H. B. Shufelt, Nicholas Austin the Quaker and the township of Bolton (Knowlton, Que., 1971). Stanstead County Historical Society centennial journal (2v., n.p., 1965–67). Cyrus Thomas, Contributions to the history of the Eastern Townships . . . (Montreal, 1866).