ALEXANDER ANDREW? MERRELL was born June 23, 1832 in Lincoln County, Tennessee, and died February 18, 1906 in Irene, Hill County, Texas.  He is buried at Salem Irene Cemetery, Irene, Hill County, Texas. He married (1) MARTHA GLASSON September 08, 1853 probably in Union Parish, Louisiana. She died about 1856. He married (2) SARA ELIZABETH BLACK November 29, 1857 in Jasper, Jasper County, Texas, daughter of JONATHAN BLACK and MELANIA (WHEATON). She was born September 28, 1841 in Hempstead County, Arkansas, and died August 18, 1935 in Irene, Hill County, Texas.  She is buried at Salem Irene Cemetery, Irene, Hill County, Texas.



"R.B. Spencer bought lots and opened a lumber yard in 1905-1955. Managers were D.W. Shivers, J.O. Shafer, J. Merrell, G. Westbrook, J.C. Miller and J.D. Cochran."

Other Merrell businesses in Irene during the late 1800s and into the 1900s included: Merrell-Shirley corn mill and gin, Ben Merrell drug goods, barber shop owned by Ben Merrell and Bruce Merrell, the Hawkins and Merrell Gin and the Irene Grain Company owned by Hawkins, Greer and Merrell."


According to Talluah Luck (Edwin Merrell's daughter - Edwin's father was Chesley Elmer Merrell - grandson of Alexander and Sarah Black Merrell), she has found among some family records evidence to suggest that Alexander Merrell was married initially to Martha Glasson/Glesson, probably in Tennessee or Alabama). They had one son, Chesley, but it is apparent that both Martha and their son Chesley must have died prior to Alexander's arrival in Texas.



She was called Grandma Merrell by the family.  Sarah was born in Hempstead County, Arkansas on September 28, 1841. She was the daughter of Jonathan Black and Melinda (Whetton) Black. In 1842, they moved to Sevier County, Arkansas. In 1849, the family moved to Texas and settled in Jasper County. Sarah was the youngest of eight children and the last survivor. There were four brothers and three sisters.

Sarah married Alexander Merrell on November 29, 1857 and she and Mr. Merrell moved to Hill County in 1870 where they settled just below the Salem Church.  Grandma professed religion at home around the family alter in prayer, then joined the church at 15 in Jasper County. This was at a time of a three week camp meeting. The Methodist minister was Billy Sansom whom she joined under. The Baptist minister was Wen, the Presbyterian minister was Goble. During that time thirty were baptized. Brother Sansom was the father of Wesley Sansom, who became pastor of the Salem Church 43 years ago. Grandmother Merrell was a charter memory of the Salem Irene Methodist Church, organized in 1873 in a little log cabin house that is now known as the Salem Cemetery. Grandfather Merrell professed religion in the town of Jasper in 1860.

Grandmother lived through two wars. After the Civil War, she paid $5.00 for one ounce of quinine, $15.00 for a sack of flour and 25 cents for a calico dress.

Grandmother Merrell went to a boarding school in Woodville, Jasper County, Texas.  She is enumerated on the Jasper County, Texas census of October 15, 1850. Their family is #168. Her father Jonathan is listed as a farmer. She is annotated as having been enrolled in school the prior year (1849). Her age at time of 1850 census is listed as being 9.



"The greatest and sweetest word in all earthly tongues is Mother. The first word a baby lisps and the last unspoken thought of old age and death is that same word, Mother. Men have conquered the land, the sea and the air; they have reared towers into space; bridged chasms of unknown depth and width, sailed from pole to pole; they have brought the fire of heaven, electricity, under control and given us many wonderful inventions; but still, so long as the world remains, woman's contribution to the world is the greatest and most wonderful gift of all. Away over in the eastern boundary of Hill County, near the prosperous town of Irene, on a big black waxy farm of over 300 acres, lives a little lady of 83 years who is truly entitled to be called one of the Queens of earth. Her name is Mrs. Sarah Eliza Black Merrill.

Mrs. Merrill is one of the most interesting and wonderful women we have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Though 83 years of age, her feet are fleet of motion, she is steady of poise and her mind is as clear and seemingly as active as one of forty or fifty years. Her face is always smiling as she talks. Her voice is medium low and clear as a bell. One just knows that in the years gone she has been one of the chief singers in those grand old hymns that lifted men's souls. She is a woman of small statue but great and decisive ideals. There is no middle course in her book of life. Things are either right or wrong and she keeps to the right. But we would not have you think her intolerant. Oh, no. There was never a more loveable person. It is a great pleasure to be in her company. In her home of eight airy rooms, built in 1872, she welcomes her numerous friends. It is a gathering place for both young and old.

Sarah Eliza Black was born Sept. 28th, 1841, at Old Washington in Hempstead County, Arkansas, a child of Johnathan and Melania Wheaton Black. When she was only eight years of age, her mother died, and an older sister had her care. She was the youngest of eight children. Sarah Eliza attended private school and later was sent to boarding school at Woodville. Of the eight children, only five of them lived to be grown. Mrs. Merrill is the only one living. In 1849, the father moved with his children to Texas and settled in Jasper County. Here in November 1857 Sarah Eliza was happily married to Alex Merrill. They reared a family of noble men and women; 12 children and 3 grandchildren, to be grown. Eleven of Mrs. Merrill's children are living today, filling worthy stations in life, an honor to their right rearing and ancestry. The children are: E.R. Merrill, Hubbard City; J.A. Merrill, J.E. and W.W. Merrill (twins) Irene; Mrs. M.J. Davis; Mrs. S.J. Northern, Irene; Mrs. T.L. Shirley, Emmett; Mrs. A.A. Shirley, Penelope; Mrs. J.A. Reed, Irene and twin girls Mesdames W.B. Merrill and O.O. Dale of Irene. Mr. and Mrs. Dale reside with Mrs. Merrill. Mr. and Mrs. W.B. Northern died and Mrs. Merrill reared the 3 Northern children to be grown and married. The boy, Allen Northern, was killed in a gin accident several years ago. This makes 15 children that Mrs. Merrill reared. When we think of all this, we wonder at the sweet smile she wears. It would seem to most people that the capers of that many children would run the average woman wild. Her forehead would be one of solid pain of prize winning wrinkles.

But as we say, Mother Merrill wears a smile. We have the idea she has always worn that smile. At any rate, it is a smile one loves to see. It is cheerful and comforting. It makes one ashamed to be cross. Her children all have families of their own. The family in numbers are as follows: 11 children, 45 grandchildren and 52 great grandchildren. Last year on her birthday, they took her by surprise and had a fine old fashioned picnic at her home. A family of 112. 112 of the finest and best people in the land. A family who own their own farms and homes, serve God every day in the year and live energetic, worthwhile lives. That is something to be proud of. No wonder this little woman feels every inch a queen. And when you sit down on her cool porch in a big comfortable chair and listen to the tales of those old days that held so much of happiness and sorrow, and work and play, of heartbreaking disappointments and hard earned successes, you forget the present entirely.

Mrs. Merrill has not walked along the rosy path of life. In the days when her children were small, she knew the task of spinning and weaving every garment that went upon their backs, the bed and table linen. Her home is filled with fine specimens of gloriously beautiful bedspreads, etc. In this collection of relics is a wonderful coverlet made by her mother (and father). They were young and the husband wanted to help. So he drew off the patterns she embroidered so beautifully. And the story goes that there was a little fuss. Mrs. Black wanted the spread to be all white. Mr. Black wanted the turkeys to be red. So in the design there are two trees and two sets of turkeys, one is embroidered in white and the other is done in bright red. The coverlet is almost solid in patterns of embroidery, sweetgum balls, pine burrs, ivy in clusters, oak leaves, etc. It is surely a beautiful piece of work and is over 100 years old. Other relics of special mention are a fine old brandy chest, a small toy hatchet over 125 years old, a barrel whiskey bottle 65 years old, fine old pieces of lace, furniture, etc. It is a place where one never gets their stay out there are so many things and stories of interest. Many of these are funny stories, for instance, the following: When Mrs. Merrill was 53 years old, she had a dentist come out and remove all her teeth. By and by, as the months rolled around, he came back with a nice pretty new set. He tried them in and looked worried on examination, he exclaimed: "Didn't I pull all your teeth out?" "Of course you did," she said. "Well," replied the dentist, "you have got another tooth, and at your age!" Mrs. Merrill did not have her tooth removed. She has it yet and is proud of it.

When Mr. and Mrs. Alex Merrill drove up to that first little log cabin at old Salem in 1870, Mrs. Merrill did not want to unload. It was an untrailed wilderness of grass and longhorned wild cattle. At night, the wolves and coyotes made the night hideous, and prowling Indians still kept the settlers uneasy. When it rained, that little cabin only had one dry place in it, and under this she placed her children's bed. For the first 6 years, her health was very poor, and she still has a vivid memory of wading through the waist high grass to mile the cows. She must have been a frail little person, and one can easily imagine that she was afraid of what she might any day meet in the grass.

During the four years of the Civil War, they saw no flour. Now and then a peddler came from Louisiana with sugar, brown, heavy sugar, not refined. Mr. Merrill had a broken arm and was not sent to the army, but was detailed to manage a plantation. Slaves did the work. These were hard years for Mrs. Merrill who did the cooking, sewing, spinning, weaving, entertained company, and helped care for sick neighbors, etc. She says she was the mother of 10 children before she got a sewing machine.

The 18th of the month has been an unlucky one in the Merrill family. Mr. Merrill's father died on the 18th of January, in Louisiana. His mother on the 18th of November 1870 and Mr. Alex Merrill passed away on the 18th of February 1906. Since 1871, Mrs. Merrill has resided upon her present beautiful farm. In fine fir trees set out by her oldest daughter, Mrs. M.J. Davis, of Irene, the birds sing as sweetly now as many years ago. There is a peace and quiet dignity that proclaim it a place of comfort and rest. Mrs. Merrill attends meetings in her community. In June, at the annual Old Salem picnic and cemetery cleaning and beautifying, Mrs. Merrill had a happy time. On a certain bench were 3 women who have passed many milestones on time's roadway, Mrs. Osborne who is past 90, Mrs. Merrill 83 and Mrs. Gist who is past 70. Someone passed them and commented gaily upon their laughter when one of them replied: "We girls are having a nice time."

In our conversation with Mrs. Merrill one evening, the point of conversation veered to the age-old question, "Do you wish you could live your life over again?" Mrs. Merrill hesitated before answering but a guest of hers, Mr. W.H. Dale, an old pioneer of this region and father of Mrs. Merrill's youngest daughter's husband, O.O. Dale, spoke and said, "Yes, I beg our pardon for entering into that conversation, but I do wish that I could go back 50 years ago and attend just one more of those happy old time meetings at Old Salem, where the men sat on one side of the house and the women on the other, where Christians sat near the front and the sinners in the rear, and where the whole congregation sang. Back to the days when the ministers of God preached the Bible, of Christ and Him crucified, when the Spirit of God came down into men's hearts and caused them to shout with joy." There was no question of this man's sincerity. He is 72. There were tears in his eyes as he finished and in the eyes of Mrs. Merrill was the shadow of sadness as she thought of those good old days of her youth. But she did not say that she wished them back again. She is a great reader of the best literature. That is the reason she can better understand the ways of the world today. She knows that every generation is a notch above the other, just like branches of a tree and each points higher towards the sun. But Mrs. Merrill does not waste any time over theology and kindred subjects. Her religion is something real and soul satisfying. She lives a busy, useful and consecrated life. She obeys the golden rule and is loved by the many whom she has helped in sickness or in health. Many are those whom she has comforted with kindly deeds and words. She has practiced her religion. She is not afraid to die, but is perfectly content to live and keep on serving in every way. Every child of hers is a Christian, living, helpful, honest lives, a blessing to their state and an honor to their parents.

It is an honor and a great pleasure to know Mrs. Merrill. Her life is an inspiration to the women of today who with far less burdens of responsibility than she sometimes shirk duty. She claims no honor for the great and noble things of her life. She accepts it quietly as her duty, well performed. But we women of a younger generation can but revere and praise one who has proven herself so unselfish, has borne so many trials and overcome so many temptations along life's pathway. Such women deserve our praises and respect - our grandmothers and grandfathers. If they could only have known in the days of their hardships, the love and appreciation that would one day be theirs. And today, as they walk so slowly and less frequently among us, why do we not show them more respectful consideration and love? We leave them to take so much for granted. It takes so short a time to speak a few words, yet, we seldom give the thought words, and some never have the thought.

Mrs. Merrill is loved and knows it. It is as natural to love Mrs. Merrill as it is to stick your nose in the heart of a lily. There are people whose personality invites, others dispel confidence. Mrs. Merrill's is a wining personality, ever strong but ever tender. Tightly she has woven the meshes of love and kindness about her loved ones so that from her eldest son and daughter to the tiniest great grandchild, they all love to please her. And in all the community, for mile and miles where she is known, is a kingdom of true and tried friends who love and appreciate Mrs. Merrill.

May she live many more years and may each day bring some special happy pleasure to her."







(Left to right - Melania Josephine, Sarah Jane, Ida, Viola Octavine, Susan Cynthia Ella Nora, Emma and Lemma)



L.L. Kight 2002