How we came to purchase our home.

WPA Photo

A Works Progress Administration photo offers a glimpse of our home's past.

Reproduction Windsor Chair

Finally, a dining room set.

No Power, No Heat.

Our first snow storm and it's aftermath, October, 2011.

Lead Poisoning

Updates to our son's lead levels.

Bit By Bit

My wife's blog on being pregnant, giving birth and raising our first child with all the complications, hardships and joys that life throws our way.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Old Money

In Home History - Part II, an article from a book titled Biographical Sketches of the Graduates of Yale College by Franklin Bowditch, referenced Mr. Merriam's estate having a value of ₤1324. This was listed in the Reverend's Will (though I have yet to find it). Now who can tell me how much ₤1324 is worth? Anyone, anyone....?

As of this post, $2,085.04 equals that amount if the conversion happened now. In the 18th century, the pound went much further than it did today, inflation and cost of living have decreased the value over the past couple of centuries. As an example, Yale College's tuition in the middle of the 18th century was 5 Shillings per quarter (1748 - 1749). Likewise, annual cost for tuition was 20 Shillings a year, or ₤1. Room and board were not charged, yet a sweeping fee for the room was (sounds like an Ally Bank Commercial, sorry, couldn't resist). From several classmates' biographies, the annual salary for a pastor was between ₤50 and ₤70 a year (depending on decade and town). So what does all that equate to in today's inflated dollar?

The University of Michigan sponsored a student's research on this topic creating a website to make conversions from the old British pound of 1750 to the 2003 equivalent in US dollars. See the website here.

From the University of Michigan's site, the equivalent value in 2003 dollars is as follows:

Yale College's annual tuition was $204.04. As a reference, in 2003, the actual tuition was $27,130 a year.

A pastor's salary was between $10,200 to $14,300.

The value of Mr. Merriam's estate: $270,152.51.

Interesting, since our home cost us $275,000, accounting for his other assets, perhaps we paid too much... hmmm.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Home History - Part II

Update:  See Home History - Part III for the latest information.

After my wife's jaunt to the government offices of our town (see Home History - Part I), I had a list of owners through the 1840's which was when our town became incorporated. Going back further was difficult at that time with the records being in a different township and also the handwriting and legal jargon make deciphering the documents worse.  Due to the recent arrival of our newborn son, making subsequent visits are not possible. Searching online is the only resource that I can use for the time being.

Referencing back to Part I, in detail now, my wife wrote out a paragraph of the property description as listed in a contract from April 15, 1842.
I, Hannah Merriam, of Wethesfield in the County of Hartford for the consideration of the love and affection which I have and entertain for my daughter, Hannah Merriam of said do grant and confirm unto the said Hannah, my daughter, one equal half of my home lot and all buildings theron standing in common with my son, Burrage:  Said lot containing two acres be the (illegible) more or less and is bounded northerly by land of William Web, easterly and south only by highway, westerly by land of Jason Boardman - Reserving to myself the use and improvement of the said desirable (illegible) during my natural life.
1842's listed seller was a Hannah Merriam. A Google.com search for the surname and my town brought up the inventory of burials in the local historic cemetery. Looking through the list I came across an interesting find. A reverend presiding over the local church, who's tomb's inscription read:

This Monument 
is Sacred to the Memory of the
Rev'd Burrage Merriam
Pastor of the Church 
of Christ in Stepney
who departed this Life
Nov 30 A.D. 1776
in the 38th year of his age
and 12th of his Ministry.

Ready & Active in Service
Through a Series of Bodily
Distresses Endured to the End.

Remembering my wife being annoyed that she couldn't decipher the earliest records of the Merriam family, getting confused with multiples of the same name appearing in the records, I recalled that there were two Hannah Merriam's from the above description of 1842. I began researching the genealogy of the Merriam family to see if I can organize this confusion of multiple names. Luckily for me, an author by the name of Charles Henry Pope has already done so in great detail. I eagerly read through the pages of Mr. Pope's 1906 book titled Merriam Genealogy in England and America and came to this entry (page 84, descendant number 67):

I then looked up Asahel, being the only surviving male child of Burrage (page 122, descendant number 146):

Both Asahel and his father, Burrage, married women named Hannah!  But that did not get me to the 1840's so I continued to follow the family line.  The only offspring producing child of Asahel's six was Edmund, the youngest.  Here is his entry (page 194, descendant 330):

After this point, the home is no longer in the ownership of the Merriam family.  I organized the names into a family tree for ease of understanding:

This tree proves that there were two women, both with the name of Hannah, of the Merriam family, living in my town in the 1840's, the good Reverend's daughter-in-law and granddaughter.  Which matches the tax records found by my wife.

While searching, I also found more information on Rev. Merriam.  Author Franklin Bowditch made a multi-volume collection of graduates of Yale University which he published in 1896.  In his book titled Biographical Sketches of the Graduates of Yale College, Volume II, May, 1745 to May, 1763, Burrage Merriam is listed as:

All this leads me to believe the following (pending further research through probate records): 

Reverend Burrage Merriam graduated from Yale College (University) in 1762, and took up a position as Pastor at the Congregational Church of Stepney Parish on February 27, 1765, after the initial pastor passed away.  In the same year, he married Hannah Rice.  Sometime between February and September of 1765, he had our home built for his new family (perhaps starting in the spring when the ground is softer).  Upon his death in 1776 (assuming a flu-like illness which may have also taken his second born) the home passed to his wife, Hannah.  Their surviving son, Asahel Merriam, went on to marry Hannah Robbins and had six children.  Of whom, one was named Hannah.  Asahel passed away in 1808, and his mother later passed in 1816.  Asahel's wife, Hannah Merriam (Robbins) is the most likely heir who lived here with her children until her death in 1845.  Her daughter, Hannah Merriam (the 3rd?) continued living in the home until she (or her estate) sold it to James Warner in 1863 or thereabouts.  From then on, the Warner family owned the property until 1965, when it was sold to an "outsider" (reference Part I).

The next step is to find the Reverend's deed (if possible) and his will.  Then those documents proving the passing of the home down the Merriam line.  Once we have these events confirmed, the story's beginning has, well, a beginning.

Part III can be followed here.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Old Photos

Reading other's blogs with black and white photographs of their homes from yesteryear I find myself both eager and jealous.  I have been looking for photos of this home for restoration purposes and also for pure curiosity.

A fellow blogger (the Enos Kellogg House) found a photo of his home from the WPA program (of the Great Depression).  The program was designed to give work to those unemployed by having them go out and document historic structures (see inserted example).  I searched for mine, finding only a description, but no photos.  Click here for the WPA program's listings of historic structures.

As for my home's description, it has a "Small 'porch.' Some 18th century raised paneling.  Smoke oven in attic.  Original hearthstone.  Condition - Fair."

I am quite disheartened that there are no photos of my home.  Our town's archives don't have any nor does the Historical Society.  The only persons that I can think of that would have photos would be those who lived here.  As such, I am considering using social media to find relatives of the prior owners, hoping that family photographs may lead me to a path of discovery.

This may not work with random people having the same last name who are thinking that some odd-ball is stalking them. I hope not. Instead, I'd hope for something along the lines of, "No, sorry, not my family" or better yet, "Sure! Here you go!"

I'll post back any findings, but chances are that most people will find my requests bordering on harassment or invasion of privacy.  We'll see.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Crab Apple Tree

We have a rather old crab apple tree that had a rustic feel to it.  The picture above shows the tree to the right of our cat, Oliver, taken in October of 2011.  The trunk is gnarled slightly with three different main branches from the roots.  It was quite nice in the beginning.

It's been several months since our damaging winter event back in October (see the post here).  When the storm hit, the weight of the wet snow combined with the leaves forced the long branches to bow.  The three main branches split creating an open cavity for rot to fester within.

A tree "expert" came by and said that in it's current split condition, the tree may survive for a few more years, but that would be it.  We had hopes.  I trimmed all the branches that were touching the ground now due to that split.  The weight loss helped the crab apple bounce back to life.

Then, after winter finished, spring was in full force.  Though the leaves did come back, the weight of the leaves began to lower the branches again.  Several strong storms later and the tree looked horrible.  Now, towards the end of spring, the crab apples have begun to grow.  Now this is really putting a strain on this once grand crab apple tree.  The trunk separated even more so.  The branches that were no longer touching the ground when I lopped off the "dead" weight are now resting on the ground.  It's come to that time to say good bye.

Here is how this tree looks as of June 2012:

The split at the base:

And the handy dandy lopper that will act as executioner...

I love having a surplus of firewood!