The Morrill of the Story

Duane Whitehead (l) and George Morrill, after coming back from their jaunt in the Bennett cemetery,

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Thanks to Janice Morrill, we found Samuel on the family tree. George was able to fill in some missing information.

Plan your trip to Historical House

By Sharon Lakey, Director
With travelling an expensive item these days, it pays to preplan your adventures. That’s what George Morrill of Saxtons River, Vermont, did this month. I received a call from Duane Whitehead, an antique bookseller in Bellows Falls, who had struck up a conversation with Mr. Morrill when he visited his bookshop. Duane followed up with phone calls to the Historical House, and that’s how we get to the Morrill of this story.
He explained that George, who is 90 years old, wanted to see the cemetery where William Morrill, a Revolutionary War soldier, was buried. He also wanted to stop by Historical House and learn what we might know and be able to share with him about the Morrills. Wanting to help make the long trip valuable to him, I began to do some searching.         
Those who know Danville history, recognize the Morrill name as one well-connected with the town. When my husband and I arrived here 30+ years ago, we associated it with Nate Morrill, a tall, white-haired gentleman, who passed in 1990. Both he and his wife, Janice, were active in town affairs. Janice has been kind enough to share some of her family’s history and photos with Historical House, and I immediately thought she might be a resource.
The name Morrill is connected with places, too, especially in North Danville. If one looks at the index in our history book, Village in the Hills, there are 20 entries under that name as well as map entries on both the Wallings and Beers Atlas. The former Morrill schoolhouse is located on the Bruce Badger Memorial highway between Danville and North Danville. It is in the hollow on the left, just before you cross the bridge. The next two roads to the left are associated with the Morrills; the first is named Morrill Road and the second is McDowell, which will lead you to the Old North Church. Morrills had farms in that area.
The first thing I did was check a wonderful website I inadvertently discovered. For those of you who use the web, the address is: http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~vtcbarne/danville.htm  This site is amazing. Included in the information there is a complete cemetery listing. I found a William Morrill there, who is buried in Pope Cemetery in North Danville. Unfortunately, the time period for him as a Revolutionary War soldier did not match up.
Questioning why, I was off to the Town Clerk’s office to check their records. For those readers who have not seen the Town Clerk’s historical records room, it is well worth the trip. What a wonderful job our community has done in keeping historical records! Looking in the births file, I found no William, but was astounded at the number of Morrill cards that were filed there. Sharon Daniell, Assistant Town Clerk, also showed me a book entitled The War of Rebellion, which contains the names of all Vermonters who served in that war. A quick glance through that book let me know that one would need to know the company someone served in to find the listing. It would take more time than I had to give.
The next morning, I called Janice to see if she might be willing to meet with George. She responded with a yes and said she would bring some of her information with her. Now, all that was left for me to do was take a look at the Pope cemetery. I have been by there but never with the intention of stopping to walk through it. Janice directed me to take the second left after the bridge and told me I would “run right into it.”
It was a lovely afternoon to walk that serene place. I saw many Morrill stones, but only one with the name of William. He died at 16 years of age. That young man wasn’t the one George was looking for, but the quiet, fall day and the engraved stone made me stop and wonder. What kind of life did this young man have? Why did he die at 16? I wondered how it affected his family. Cemeteries no longer seem sad places to me; in fact, they are lovely and restful.
I called Duane, and he shyly admitted the name George was searching for was Samuel. Now, that was a horse of a different color! I was sure I had seen Samuel listed. Back to Village in the Hills index—no Samuel. Back to the cemetery listing—a Samuel is buried in the Pope and it fit the right time period. Back to the War of the Rebellion book (on that same web address I mentioned)–no Samuel. Well, at least we had one hit and Janice was going to share her history as well.
George and Duane arrived right on time and Janice shortly after. The most interesting and useful piece of information she brought was a genealogy tree, a blueprint-type document rolled up in a tube. She spread it out on the table, and we hovered over the tree headed by ABRAHAM MORRILL; it states under the heading, “Came to New England cir. 1632, first to Cambridge, thence to Salisbury, Mass. M. daughter of Hon. Robert Clements of Haverhill, Mass.” She and Nate had retrieved the blueprint from his father’s brother, who lived in California. There, in blue and white, was Samuel’s name. Under it is written: “Danville, VT. b. 1741 at Sallisbury d. 1845. Was Revolutionary Soldier. m. Rachel Hoyt.”
He brought with him two books of fiction he has written, inscribing them to the Historical Society. Also in hand was a copy of a thick lineage book he had found in a bookshop in Salt Lake City entitled Morrill Kindred in America, Volume Two that traces the descendants of Abraham Morrill of Salisbury through his three sons to 1931.
Janice shared some of the farm photos she brought, and then offered to travel to St. Johnsbury to copy the blueprint for both George and Historical House. Duane and George were off to the Pope cemetery while I copied the important information of his lineage from the book. When they returned, the two were full of fresh air and excitement of visiting not only the Pope Cemetery but also the Bennett. I was shocked, because in bold letters under that cemetery listing on the website is written: “Access to the cemetery requires walking uphill across the field. Please do not attempt to walk to this cemetery if you are not physically fit.”
Ninety-year-old George looked perfectly fine. Before they left for southern Vermont, we sat for a few minutes and once again looked at the blueprint. We were pointing out one person and another on the chart, and I was making notes in the margin to capture where George’s information filled gaps. Then George sighed and said, “We’re all related anyway.”
True, but wasn’t that a lark!
This article was first published in the October, 2010, issue the North Star Monthly         
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