Visiting the Merritts
A walk through Loyalist House
is a trip back in time

Mum's relaxation was to slip off into the living room and sing hymns while playing the organ. I loved to listen to her and particularly enjoyed "In the Garden" and "Shall We Gather at the River." Her hands hardly touched the keys, but pumping the bellows was a labour of love.

On a visit to Loyalist House on Union Street, curator Steve McNeil was giving me a guided tour when he stopped at the piano and played a few notes. He pushed a lever and pumped the bellows and, suddenly, I was home again listening to Mum's organ music. This piano-organ was made in Boston. It seems there is only one other like it in the world in working condition.

Continuing the tour, Mr. McNeil stopped at the fireplaces to show me beautiful fire screens inlaid with embroidery. They were used to keep the heat of the fire from the faces of the ladies. Having pale skin was the style in that era.

In the front hall, under the winding staircase, are curved doors, which appear to be part of the paneling. Actually they opened for the servants to use to get from the back hall to the front hall.

I saw a tea caddy that had been kept locked to prevent the misuse of the very expensive tea leaves.

Next, Mr. McNeil pointed out a very interesting trunk. The outside was covered with deer hide and the inside was lined with 1830 newspapers from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

The four poster mahogany bed was not a Merritt House original. It was made for the visit of the Prince of Wales to Saint John in the 1860s. Carved feather plumes decorate the posters.

My favourite spot was the children's room. I was admiring the chest of drawers when Mr. McNeil stepped over the protective rope and tipped the top up to reveal a commode chair. You might say it was a camouflaged potty chair.

The wooden blocks were something any child would dream of owning. You could make castles or forts. The Merritt children were playing with Lego before it was invented.

The handles had been sawn off a stretcher that was used in the War of 1812 and this served as a bed for the nanny. The other servants slept in the rooms in the attic.

I was most interested in visiting the library. On the shelves, were many personal prayer books with endearing messages written on the fly leaf. "Biographical Sketches of Loyalists of the American Revolution" by Lorenzo Sabine, published in 1864, really looked interesting. I would have liked to have had the time to browse this book as well as "Millidge Ancestors." There were other books on philosophy, religion and literature.

I walked into the kitchen and my gaze fell upon one particular artifact. Gee! I had never seen anything that looked like this! What could it be? It was a wooden sole set on an iron pedestal. Imagine my surprise to find it was a patten. The ladies strapped them on their boots when they were out for a stroll. The pattens kept those polished high-tops from sinking into the mud.

On the back door is a detailed Merritt family tree compiled by Doreen Hamilton.

Thomas and Amy Merritt emigrated to Saint John with their family from Rye, New York. Thomas was a United Empire Loyalist, forced to leave his home because he had signed the protest against the Rebellion in 1775. He left behind one son killed while serving in the Loyalist army. Another son, Thomas, went to Ontario. It was the third son, David, who built Loyalist House.

According to family tradition, David Merritt took seven years to build the house for himself and his family of seven. It was completed in 1817.

In number 18 of the New Brunswick Historical Society collections, Edith Magee gives a detailed account of the Merritt family in an article titled "The People who Lived in the House on the Hill."

As I walked through Loyalist House, I felt as though I had taken a step back in time and was a guest visiting this family.

Ruby Cusack is a genealogy buff living in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. Readers are invited to send their New Brunswick genealogical queries to Ruby at When E-Mailing please put Yesteryear Families in the Subject line. Please include in the query, your name and postal address as someone reading the newspaper, may have information to share with you but not have access to E-mail. Queries should be no more than 45 words in length.

New and Used Genealogical and Historical books of New Brunswick for sale.

Return to Index
 Return to   Home of RubyCusack dot com