1839: Samuel Merry to Ebenezer Merry

The following letter was written by 27 year old Samuel Merry (1811-1883), the son of Ebenezer Merry (1773-1846) and Charlotte Adams (1780-1879) of Milan, Erie county, Ohio. Adding a second brief letter on the same sheet was James Bradford Pier (1813-1888) who was married to Lucy Merry (1814-1897)—the younger sister of Samuel.

James Bradford Pier was the son of Dr. Ira and Sarah A. (Bradford) Pier of Circleville, Ohio. He came to Texas in 1835 with his wife Lucy (Merry) and settled near the site of the early Texas town of Travis, in Austin County. James B. Pier was a merchant and druggist in Velasco, Texas, prior to moving to Travis. Pier served as a member of the Texas Army during the war for independence. He was detailed as a rear guard at the camp opposite Harrisburg during the Battle of San Jacinto. In later years, he was a farmer, stock raiser, teacher, and merchant. He served as Justice of the Peace of Austin County and was the first postmaster of the Travis community. The State of Texas erected a monument to his memory at the intersection of Travis Street or old SH 36 and Nelsonville Road, in Austin County.

Samuel’s hometown, Milan, Ohio (1846)


Caddo Parish, Louisiana
January 11, 1839

Dear Parents,

It is little more than a month since I wrote home. That was at this place. We heard such bad news about the Indians we left our wagon here at Old Mr. Blount’s and one horse as we traded horses, as I mentioned in my last letter, and Robert & myself took the two gray horses and rode them into Texas. We stopped to Nacogdoches at Doct. [James Harper] Starr’s 1—a brother of Hiram Starr that went to the Seminary in Milan last winter with R. O. Pier. He invited us to stay with him all night. We accepted of the invitation. We was treated very kindly & we got information of him for the rest of our rout. We had a first rate time in getting there and you must guess at the times we had when we arrived. We stayed there long enough to keep Christmas with them. Then J. B. P[ier] & myself started for our wagons.

We arrived here last Saturday. I had some business up to Cross Lake with our old friend McAlister about 25 miles from here & from there I went to Shreveport. I had some cash to collect from our horse trade & I had the pleasure of staying with our Mr. Poulice—that youngster who kept the Eagle Tavern in Milan. He is at that business in Shreveport. He sent his compliments to you all.

Tomorrow morning we calculate to start again for Travis. I don’t know whether we shall get through or not. We have had very bad news today. I am afraid it is too true. When we left Mr. Blount’s—Robert & myself, Gen. [Thomas Jefferson] Rusk 2 had gone up to fight the Indians & Mexicans up on the three forks of the Trinity or Trinidad River where they expected they had imbedded. That was about 5 weeks ago & the first news we heard from them was 10 or 12 days ago. There was two Negroes & a Mexican & one American came in to Nacogdoches that the Indians had taken prisoner & they stated that there was an Army [with]in about two days march of them. The Mexicans & Indian Chiefs were holding a council when these prisoners got away. I can’t think of much more news to write—only if that is the case, that Rusk is wiped out [and] the [area] about Nacogdoches is gone. They swear they will have Nacogdoches or die in the attempt.

I forgot to mention that I am in good health and all the rest of the friends here. I shall write again when I get to Travis if we have good luck to get there. You must not be any concerned for mails are very uncertain in this country. Give my love to all. Yours for ever, — Samuel Merry

[to] Ebenezer & C. Merry

We shall go the lower rout & I think there won’t be no danger.

[another hand]

James Bradford Pier, ca. 1875

Caddo Parish
January 12th 1838 [1839]

Dear Parents & friends,

After so long a time we had the pleasure of seeing Brother Samuel & Robert at my house in [Travis] Texas. We was happy to hear of your good health & doing well & further our pleasure at seeing our long expected friends. The boys Robert & Samuel got this far with their wagon & heard such bad news concerning the Indians, they left the wagon here and rode two of the horses to Texas where I live 300 miles from here. Samuel & me came back after the wagon. We calculate to start in the morning for home.

We have just heard that our Texas Army commanded by General Rusk has been cut off by the Indians. If so, we will see the devil. We have 300 miles of Indian country to go through. I merely write a few lines to get Samuel [free postage. I will give you a full detail when I get home, if we are lucky enough to get there.

My love to you all, my friends that I can spare, from my wife & child who God, I hope, will protect. Yours forever, — J. B. Pier

[to] Alexander & Mary McClure

You are remembered by your friends as well as others.

1 James Harper Starr (1809-1890), physician, Republic of Texas treasurer, land agent, banker, and Confederate official, son of James and Persia (Shaw) Starr, was born at New Hartford, Connecticut, on December 18, 1809. The Starr family originally migrated from England in the early seventeenth century. Starr’s immediate family moved to Franklin County, Ohio, in 1815, and the elder Starr died in 1824. At fifteen, J. H. Starr permanently injured his knee. He attended an academy in Worthington, Ohio, taught school near Columbus, taught himself medicine, and in 1830 became a member of the first class of the Reformed Medical Society of the United States of America, located in Worthington. He moved to Georgia in 1832 and practiced medicine at McDonough and later at Pleasant Grove. He and his wife, the former Harriet J. Johnson (daughter of Samuel Johnson), moved to Nacogdoches, Texas, on January 17, 1837, with other Georgians.

2 Thomas Jefferson Rusk (1803-1857) was an early political and military leader of the Republic of Texas, serving as its first Secretary of War as well as a general at the Battle of San Jacinto. He was later a U. S. Politician and served as a Senator from Texas from 1846 until his suicide in 1857.

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