Know Your Neighbours ~ Special Edition Pt 1: The Merritt Family

Merritt Family Coat of Arms
Merritt Family Coat of Arms


The Merritt name is one of the most prominent and recognizable in St. Catharines’ history. It is a well-known fact that Honourable William Hamilton Merritt “Father of Canadian Transportation” was the famed founder of the Welland Canal that runs through St. Catharines. However, as with all families, the Merritt name goes back decades.

Over the next few weeks we will be sharing with you a series of “Know Your Neighbours” posts that focus on the history of the Merritt Family. Please note that research on the history of the Merritt family is a work in progress and the family tree is continuously sprouting new leaves, so there may be some changes over time.

Merritt Family Tree

This week we will begin with Thomas Merritt IV:

Thomas Merritt IV

Thomas Merritt IV was born in April 1729, the eldest of seven sons. His family lived in Long Island Sound, New York in a homestead dubbed “Mile Square.” Mile Square was on King Street on a piece of land granted to his ancestors for the work they had done surveying West Chester County.

Later it is found that Thomas was raised on his father’s farm between Bedford and Long Island. At an early age Thomas was orphaned and was left to care for his younger siblings.

Thomas had served as a Captain of Militia during the American  Revolutionary War. He narrowly escaped death at the hands of the Revolutionaries.

In 1782, after serving in the war, Thomas settled in St. John, New Brunswick where he married Amy Purdy (1736-1783). Amy Purdy was the daughter of Captain Purdy who had served in the French War. Together they had 7 children:

Thomas Merritt V (1759-1842): Father of Honourable William Hamilton Merritt (1793-1862)

Shubael Merritt (b. January 4, 1763): Murdered by revolutionaries after the U.S. Revolutionary War

David Daniel Merritt (b. November 21, 1764, d. June 14, 1829): Served in the Loyalist Army. Followed his father to settle in New Brunswick.

John Merritt (b.1766, d.1795): Settled in St. John, New Brunswick.

William Merritt (b.1772, d.1849)

Phoebe Lyons (b.1768, d.1846)

After fighting in the Battle of Lexington, Thomas Merritt had been captured on April 19th, 1775, however he managed to escape and fled to New York (which was still British at the time) with two of his sons; Thomas V and Shubael.

Eventually Thomas led his family to St. John, New Brunswick where they settled. It is believed that Thomas Merritt IV and his family were the first Merritt’s to settle in Canada. Merritt and his wife had many grandchildren, one of whom was Honourable William Hamilton Merritt – eventually brainchild behind the Welland Canal.

Thomas Merritt IV died in 1821.

This series is written and compiled by Alicia Floyd, Collections Technician – Archival at the St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canals Centre


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