Collection #33 in our Gray Historical Society research collection is entitled, simply, John Merrill Collection. The title alone does nothing to reveal the treasure within: about 35 small booklets, each capturing snippets in days long gone from Mr. Merrill’s life and times.
One could easily get lost in this set of diaries, each day with an entry of some small significance to the author. Here, quite randomly, are some of the musings captured within these volumes:
- December 18, 1855 – To Portland with two-horse load of potatoes. Reds 50 cts Chenangoes 60.
- April 2, 1869 – Hauled 2 loads of logs to mill – 5 W.H.M. hauled 2 I hauled back a load of plank for him. Ozias Gofff at work cutting off cordwood.
- August 2, 1872 – Mended fence, turned the remaining oats & went to the bridge. Got in the oats. Will Goff to help. Mass meeting at town hall eve’g. Clifford & Williams.
- May 27, 1876 – Brought potatoes out of the cellar. Cut bushes by W.H.M.’s line. To R. Cobb’s to get plow. Concert at T. Hall eve’g.
- October 12, 1885 – To Portland by rail. M. with me – on our way to Boston Dinner at Hayes’s supper at Fred’s. To Boston in the night by steamboat Tremont.
- November 24, 1888 – Choring, threshed a few beans, put tarred paper around trees & c. W.B. finished the large clothes press.
Reading even a small sampling from these volumes brings thoughts of a simpler time!
Though the gray archival box containing collection #33 is almost entirely filled with John Merrill’s diary collection, it seems there was room enough for one other interesting family heirloom: an autograph book! The inside cover reveals that it belonged to Julia Merrill Hunt. Within the pages are sentiments from her family, friends, students, and others who touched her life in some way.
Inscriptions were penned in the 1875-1880 time-frame and included some of the following authors:
- Mabel E. Libby
- Lena Kemp, Gray
- Mildred M. Blanchard, Cumberland Center
- M. Gracie Weeks, West Gray
- Addie Quint
- Susan Merrill
- Wm. H. Morse, Gray
- Frank F. Barton, Casco
- James H Deering, Portland
There was even a dried four-leaf clover tucked into the pages for good luck!