The first actual documentation of Ann’s name is found in a 1760 lease where Ann and her husband, Edward Mercer, are leasing land in Frederick County, Virginia to their son, Moses Mercer. This land was located “under the mountain on the easternmost part of Back Creek.” Both Edward and Ann sign, so Ann was able to at least sign her name.
This is a picture of that land today.
This branch of the Mercer family was found in Back Creek Valley during the 18th and 19th centuries very near and adjacent to Babb’s Mountain.
Edward Mercer died in 1763, and he named his wife Ann in his will, in addition to his children.
I give and bequeath unto my son Edward Mercer the plantation whereon I now Live containing two hundred and nine Acres and also a survey adjoining thereto containing Ninety six Acres of Land to him his Heirs and assigns forever.
I also Will that my wife shall have the best Rooms in the new House now part built until my son Edward shall build her a compleat house on some part of the plantation at his proper cost which House shall be sixteen foot wide and Twenty foot Long. I also give to my wife Ann Mercer one third part of my parsonal Estate that may remain after the debts and Legacies mentioned are paid.
Lastly I constitute and ordain my well beloved wife Ann Mercer and my son Edward Mercer and Joseph Foset my sole Executors of this my Last Will and Testament revoking and declaring void all former wills and Testaments by me made and done in witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal.
It’s interesting that Edward stipulated that Ann received a new house. At that time, a house the size of 16X20, especially for only one person, was indeed a luxury. This also tells us that there were two houses involved, an older home and a new house, partly built. If Edward Jr. built the new house for his mother, there would be a third house too.
Of course, without more completely identifying the land and doing deed work, we would never be able to tell exactly which land was his and if any of the houses are still standing today. It’s certainly possible that at least one of them remains. There are a number of historic houses in the area.
Who was Edward Mercer’s wife, Ann?
A letter written by one Harrington to Wilmer Kerns on Oct. 27, 1993 states that Edward Mercer married Ann Croat, Croats (or Coats) in 1726, and he married second to Mary Gamble. However, we know that Edward was married to Ann when he died, based on his will, so this makes no sense. Another rumor bites the dust – at least the Mary Gamble portion.
Unfortunately, the Croat portion may be incorrect as well. We have no direct evidence and only scanty indirect evidence that isn’t particularly positive.
The indirect evidence consists of none of the descendants of Ann Mercer matching anyone with a Croat family line – except for people who have entered Ann Croat in their family tree. Even if Ann’s surname was Croat, we might still not have an autosomal DNA match for several reasons.
People from that line might not have tested or the line could have died out, at least the American part of the line. Europeans aren’t nearly as likely to DNA test as Americans. Or, maybe Croat descendants have tested, but we just just not have inherited any of the same DNA from our common ancestors, or not in sufficient quantity, nine generations later. So while DNA could potentially prove the Croat surname, it can never truly disprove it unless we discover a different surname to prove – and do.
Edward Mercer was born about 1704 or maybe slightly earlier. Edward and Ann were having children by about 1724, or shortly thereafter, so Ann was probably born about this same time or maybe just a couple years later. Aaron Mercer was her youngest child and was not of age in 1762 when Edward wrote his will, so Aaron was born after 1741. Aaron obtained his own land grant in 1774. This puts Aaron’s birth between 1741 and 1753, which puts Ann’s birth, if she was age 42 when she had her last child, at between 1699 and 1712. We know she was born before 1712, because she was having children by 1724, so Ann was likely born between 1699 and 1705.
Edward Mercer Jr. began selling land in 1786 when he sold land near Thomas Babb’s fence and in 1790 when he sold the land left to him my his father, which abutted Thomas Babb’s corner. This would be the land that his mother was supposed to have the house built upon, so this likely tells us that Ann was deceased by this time, although there is an Ann Mercer on the Southampton County tax list in 1791. Doubtful that this is her, at the other end of the state and at about 90 years of age, but then again, you never know – and the age fits. Ann, were she living, would have been about 90 in 1790, give or take a couple years.
Ann and Edward first appear in Frederick County in 1744. Most of their children would already have been born wherever they came from before Frederick County. Unfortunately, we don’t know where that was, although from the work done for the Edward Mercer article, it appears that this family was in Chester County, PA at least for a while, and before that possibly in New Castle or Marcus Hook, Delaware.
Rumor states that Edward Mercer immigrated in 1737, but this is very unlikely, unless Ann and children came with him.
Another rumor says that youngest child Aaron’s Revolutionary War pension papers state that he was born in Ireland. This would mean that his parents were still in Ireland between 1741 and 1753 which we know are the bracketing years of Aaron’s birth. We know that Edward was already in the court records in Frederick County in 1744, so this gives a brief window of 1741-1742 IF Aaron was actually born in Ireland.
I doubt this evidence seriously, especially in light of the fact that Aaron died in 1800, a full 18 years before the first Revolutionary War pensions were given for those veterans who were destitute.
Regular pensions weren’t awarded until 1832. The only way Aaron could have a Revolutionary War pension application is if his widow lived long enough to collect, and never remarried. Just to be safe, I checked www.fold3.com and found no Revolutionary War pension application for Aaron. If this actually does exist someplace, please send it in my direction. I’d be very grateful.
Aaron did receive a bounty land warrant for his Revolutionary War service , however, which may be how and why he migrated to Hamilton County, Ohio in the 1790s, building Mercer Station with his sons and sons-in-law at what became Cincinnati. I did not find bounty land application for Aaron at Fold3 either, but if it exists, his birth information might be included in that document.
Life in Frederick County
What was Ann’s life like in Frederick County, Virginia? She lived there for at least 20 years and probably 30 or 40. Ann lived here while the French and Indian War was escalating. Her husband, Edward, marched off in 1754 to Fort Necessity with General George Washington to participate in the Washington’s first defeat. What did Edward do? He did what every self-preserving Virginian would do under the circumstances. He turned tail and ran, with the rest of the Virginians, back to the fort, leaving the professional soldiers standing alone in an unprotected field to face the French and Indians. Then, the Virginia men broke into the liquor and got drunk. Probably not Edward’s proudest moment. But maybe Ann never knew. Maybe what happens in Fort Necessity stays in Fort Necessity. And it would have too, were it not for George Washington’s report describing the event. But the people of Frederick County would never have seen that report.
What was Ann doing while Edward was off chasing French and Indians? She was home defending the homestead if need be. She would have had 2 children who were adults, possibly two more who were of age, and several at home. She needed to do everything that had to be done with her husband present, except without her husband. If the family was lucky, they had two guns. One for Edward to take with him, and one for Ann to use at home. Edward’s estate showed “2 old guns” so perhaps this is exactly what happened. I’m betting Ann could shoot with the best of the men. Frontier women had to be able to take care of themselves – and their family. It was that or perish – and we know that Ann’s family did not perish.
Edward and Ann also owned land abutting the Indian trader, John VanMeter and his sons. It’s certainly possible that the friendly relations garnered by the VanMeter family, and the Tuscarora living on the land of neighbor James Crumley paved the way for these families to be left alone – although many of their neighbors up and down the valley were killed or kidnapped.
The brutality was unrelenting. George Washington reported that many families had abandoned their land and returned back east. He further said that there were no settlers beyond Winchester, that Winchester was now the edge of the frontier. That means that they could no longer defend anything further west, and the line of mountains that we see in these photos was indeed the edge of the frontier, where raids occurred daily and one’s property was very likely to be burned. Only the brave or crazy stayed, and maybe those who remained were some of each. Needless to say, the Mercer’s remained, but they may have had friends among the traders and Native people that helped pave the way.
Someone else writing about this timeframe also said that anyone who lived in this region has surely lost at least one family member. Unfortunately, there are no records, but I have to wonder what life was like for Ann, especially when Edward was gone to war.
The year 1763 brought another terror in the form of Pontiac’s War where Chief Pontiac tried and very nearly successfully eradicated European settlers to the seacoast. Once again, farms were abandoned and life was quite tentative. Most of Maryland along the eastern side of the mountains was abandoned. The Virginians weren’t quite as likely to leave – they didn’t in 1754. But as Quakers, they weren’t very likely to fight either. These attacks abated in 1765 when Pontiac was killed and the Indians realized their French cohorts were truly defeated.
If Ann lived long enough, she would also have lived to see the Revolutionary War which began another decade later, in 1776. In many ways, the Revolutionary War was the second or third act of the French and Indian War which culminated with a treaty relative to European settlement that was almost immediately broken, before the ink was even dry. The Proclamation Line of 1763 might as well not have existed, for all the good it did. This line was the boundary of which settlers were not to encroach. That lasted about half a day, if that long. It’s no wonder that the Native people were constantly furious with the Europeans and their broken promises. In this case, it appeared that this promise was never meant to be kept and only made to appease the Indians immediately. If that was the case, it was very short-sighted and caused an immense amount of grief on the frontier.
Apple Pie Ridge
The area of Frederick County where Ann and Edward Mercer settled was bountiful, a good farming area without too many rocks and with plentiful game and clean water.
The area received its name from the numerous apple trees in the area which still exist in abundance today.
Everyplace you look you find apple trees weighted heavily with fruit. Today, the area is a major exporter for apple juice, but it has always been an apple harvest area.
The ridge, ever-present and always in the distance marked the border and boundary for a long time. For the Native people, it marked the north/south path across this part of the continent, which became the Wagon Road and then contemporary interstate 81.
We’re fortunate that we are able to generally locate Ann and Edward Mercer’s land based on the proximity to both the Babb Family and James Crumley. Hannah Mercer, Ann’s daughter married William Crumley, the son of James Crumley, who also lived on Apple Pie Ridge Road. The photo above is taken on the land between Edward Mercer’s land and William Crumley’s land, near the border of Virginia and West Virginia, in northern Frederick County. The ridge however, runs the entire distance of the county, and much further. Winchester, Virginia is not called the gateway to the Shenandoah Valley for nothing.
I was recently able to take a driving tour of the area that would have encompassed Ann and Edward Mercer’s land in Frederick County.
On this map of Frederick County, the forested area to the right of and above Cedar Grove is Babb’s Mountain. To the right of Babb’s Mountain would have been Babb’s Great Meadow. Cattail Run is the eastern most portion of Back Creek. The road labeled 677 is known as “Old Baltimore Road” and it is the old way, literally, from the east coast. You can always tell which are the truly old roads by the age of the homes on the road.
Just slightly on north, we find White Hall and then just north, at the top of this screen shot, the James Crumley home on Apple Pie Ridge Road (just above the 739 sign) – about 3 miles today between the Mercer area and the James Crumley area.
Let’s take a driving tour and see what the area is like.
Babb’s Mountain and the Old Baltimore Road
Starting at Old Baltimore Road and Babb’s Mountain Road, the area looking towards Apple Pie Ridge is quite pleasant. People graze cattle, as Edward Mercer did. The could well have been the area called “Babb’s Great Meadow.”
Looking back toward Babb’s Mountain, which can be seen from anyplace within several miles proximity, we can clearly see the mountain and the lands at the base or “under the mountain” as the early deeds said.
This is the land of beautiful barns. Stunningly beautiful barns. The Mercer’s barn was surely much larger than their house. They were then and still are today.
And of course, this is the land of never-ending apple trees with the ever-present ridge in the background.
When a man died in Virginia in the 1700s, his estate inventory included everything in the household. The wife had to “buy back” whatever she wanted, AFTER his debts were settled, if anything was left, so the estate inventory was comprehensive.
Edward Mercer’s estate inventory would reflect Ann’s possessions too, although legally, she didn’t have any possessions except her dower right which was one third of the value of the land. Edward left Ann one third of his personal possessions, which would have included furniture, pots and pans and such. I’ve always wondered how the man though his wife would “make do” without two thirds of her things – meaning all of the tools she had been using before his death to take care of the family. Two thirds of the need didn’t disappear because he did. Some men just split everything between the children and omitted the wife entirely. Of course, I’m sure the wife wasn’t absolved of the work, just relieved of most of her tools to do that work.
Edward’s estate included apple cyder, of course, which tells us they had apple trees. Apple presses, similar to the one shown below, were used to extract the juice from the apples before it became cyder, or hard cyder.
Apples not made into cyder were boiled in large cauldrons and turned into apple butter which was used in place of butter.
Interestingly enough, a newly found cousin who grew up in Frederick County sent me this tidbit about local apple tradition:
“When I was a kid, the neighbors annually gathered and snitzed apples for cider on Friday, then all day Saturday would be cooking down apple butter. A high school classmate of mine lives near where you were in Virginia and they continue the ritual every year.”
Of course, I had to ask what snitzing apples was.
“Scnitz or Snitz is Pennsylvania “Dutch” for dried apple slices. We used it as a verb (to make snitz’s) as we sat around peeling, coring and slicing the apples. We didn’t dry them.. they went for apple butter. As a kid, my favorite part was the apple peeling machine. I was pretty happy over there cranking away watching the apple whirl around while the blade took the peeling off.”
Thank you so much cousin Tom for sharing a bit of our apple culture heritage.
Another item in Edward’s estate that certainly wasn’t his was a loom. The loom would have been paired with the unbroken flax (flax that had not yet been shelled) which would have eventually been spun and woven. Interestingly enough, there is no spinning wheel, which makes me wonder why. Was Ann only a weaver and someone else did the spinning. A loom is no small item, which maybe is why Edward stipulated the size of Ann’s house to be built. Colonial Williamsburg includes a wonderful page on Weaving, Spinning and Dyeing practices of this timeframe.
This, along with casks of flax seeds tells us that one of the plants grown on the Mercer plantation was flax, used to spin linen threads which was then woven into cloth, then made into clothing. It’s no wonder that clothes were listed in estate inventories and most people only had one outfit – and that’s what they were buried in.
Cloth itself was quite valuable, not just within the home, but as a commodity. Thread and linen fabric was quite difficult to make and required several discrete steps after harvest including shelling, bleaching, drying, crimping, cleaning, combing or hackling and spinning. It was easier to spin linen if you added a bit of wool, hence linsey-woolsey. In spite of this, the average frontier home would produce about 62 yards of cloth per year. Of course this had to clothe everyone. A good piece of clothing would buy 20 acres or more.
Ironically, those women who wove that valuable cloth went barefoot in the summer – hence the saying, “barefoot and pregnant.”
Religion, in some cases, is guilt by association. That’s the way Quakers are. We know that Ann was a Quaker because Edward was a Quaker. We know Edward was a Quaker because he got thrown out of the Quaker church in 1759 for drinking to excess.
Ironic isn’t it that his estate had absolutely no liquor, nor still. Perhaps Edward was too friendly with his Quaker neighbor, James Crumley, who did indeed own a still. Edward’s daughter Hannah married James Crumley’s son, William. James and Edward would have been contemporaries. James died in 1764, about the same time that Edward died. They lived down the road from each other for the entire time they lived in Frederick County, and they attended the same church – well – up until Edward got the boot. There is a good possibility that they came to Frederick County together, because both men are first found there in 1744. During this time, there was a significant migration of Quakers from the Chester County, PA region – and Ann and Edward Mercer may have been among them.
If Ann was not a Quaker, Edward would have been thrown out of the church much sooner, for marrying outside the church. Therefore we know Ann was Quaker.
The Hopewell Friends Meeting House was established in Frederick County in 1734 and this is the church that both the Crumleys and Mercers would have attended.
Ann would certainly have attended this church from 1744 up until 1759 when Edward got himself removed from the church. How Ann reacted to this is unknown. She still had young children at home. Was Ann too embarrassed to attend church after Edward got into trouble? Was she painted with the same brush? Was she ostracized or unwelcome because of his behavior? Or did Ann just lift up her chin and attend, deciding that she could not control Edward but she was going to go to church with him or without him? Was that allowed once he had gotten himself in trouble? How did Edward’s actions affect Ann’s relationship within the church, officially and unofficially?
How did this episode affect Ann’s relationship with others in the community? How did if affect Edward’s relationship with Ann? Was she supportive of Edward or disgusted with him? Was she simply tolerant of his activities, or actively opposed? Did Edward truly have a drinking problem, or did he have a wild Saturday night? From the church statement, it appears that he is “drinking to excess” not just having an isolated binge or having too much fun at an apple snitzing. This is also the same church that overlooked the fact that James Crumley was distilling liquor and made him a vestryman in the Anglican church representing the Quaker interests.
Did Edward have a drinking problem by “Quaker standards” or did Edward truly have a drinking problem? I hope he was not mean to Ann or the children. Alcoholism seems to be such a continuing theme in my family.
How this affected the family has a direct impact on where Ann was buried. Was she still a Quaker at her death? Was she a practicing Quaker? Did her children bury her in the Quaker Cemetery or did they bury her beside Edward, who was surely NOT buried in the Quaker Cemetery?
This also makes me wonder where Ann’s son, John Mercer, was buried in 1748 when he died. Is he buried in the Hopewell Cemetery? This was before Edward Mercer got himself into trouble, so it’s likely that Ann and Edward’s son, John, is buried here. I surely wonder what caused the death of a young man. And I wonder if Ann is buried by John or by Edward. Ann outlived Edward by at least 23 years and possibly more. A lot can change in that time. Had she initially been very angry with him, that could have mellowed, especially after his death.
One of my friends whose husband had been exceedingly difficult for her to deal with for many years was grieving her husband after his death. Talking to her before his death, I would have expected her to be the merry widow. I knew her well enough to ask her about the discrepancy, and she blessed me with these words of wisdom, “Honey, some of them are a lot easier to love after they are dead.” Touche!!!
Furthermore, Ann didn’t have to decide where she was going to be buried. That fell to her children.
Perhaps the earliest burials at Hopewell are found here, in the center, under this ancient tree who stands silent sentry. Perhaps Ann rests here. If trees could only talk.
Children and Descendants
Ann and Edward Mercer had seven children that lived to adulthood. Son John died before both Edward and Ann in 1748, in Frederick County, already an adult.
- Richard Mercer could have been the Richard who married a woman named Mary and lived in Berkeley County. John Mercer mentioned a brother Richard in his 1748 will that was filed in Winchester. It’s difficult to tell when Richard first appears in the records because there is an earlier Richard that is found with Edward Mercer as well.
- Elizabeth Mercer was born about (or after) 1724 and married by 1748 to William Heath who was born on Sept. 18, 1724. William was mentioned in the 1748 will of his brother-in-law, John Mercer.
- John Mercer was born circa 1727 and died in 1748, apparently unmarried. John lived in Frederick County, where his will is on file in the courthouse. His father, Edward Mercer, was named administrator for his estate.
- Moses Mercer was of age and leasing land from his father by 1760. Moses was born in 1732 and died in 1805, in Frederick County. Appraisers of Moses’ estate were Jacob Rinker, Richard Barrett, and Thomas Babb. Moses married Dinah Morrison, who was called Dianna in his will. She was born Dec. 24, 1729, and died in April 1810. After Moses’ death in 1804, Dinah received all moveable property during her natural life, plus one-third of profits from real estate. She wrote her will on April 10, 1810 and it was probated June 7, 1810. Witnesses were Aaron and John Mercer, and John Barnard. Her close friend, Abraham Lewis was named the executor. Moses and Dinah signed their names with an X “His mark” and “Her mark,” respectively.
- Hannah Mercer married William Crumley about 1763 and had died by 1774. Hannah was mentioned in the will of her brother John in 1748, and in the will of Elizabeth Morris in 1760. This begs the question of the identity of Elizabeth Morris? Might this be a clue to the identity of Hannah’s mother, Ann?
- Edward Mercer (Jr.) was given “the plantation where I now live – 209 acres plus adjoining 96 acre survey” by his father. Edward was born about 1744. His age was proven from a deposition given in the Augusta County Circuit Court. The name of his spouse is not known.
- Aaron Mercer, the youngest son, not of age in 1752 – served in Revolutionary War. On October 28, 1799 he obtained a Virginia Revolutionary War land grant in Ohio and moved to Ohio. Reportedly in his pension application (which is not at www.fold3.com as of 9-15-2015) he says he was born in Ireland. Aaron died on December 17, 1800 in Hamilton County, Ohio and is buried in the Old (Columbia) Baptist Graveyard. Given that there were no Revolutionary War pensions before 1818, there would have been no pension application by him, although if his wife, Elizabeth Carr, was still living, she could have applied in either 1818 as destitute or 1832/33 as a surviving veteran’s wife. She is reported to have died in 1820, so I’m quite suspicious of the claim that his Revolutionary War pension paperwork stated that he was born in Ireland.
Of these children, only two are females. Both Ruth and Hannah had daughters. These daughters would propagate the mitochondrial DNA of Ann Mercer. Woman give their mitochondrial DNA to both genders of their children, but it is only passed on by the females. Today, to see what Ann’s mitochondrial DNA looks like, we need to find someone who descends from Ann through all females to the current generation. The current generation can be male. From Ann’s mitochondrial DNA, we can look through a periscope back in time to see where her ancestors were from in the world – and we might be lucky enough to match a Croat female line. Could we be that lucky?
- Hannah Mercer married William Crumley and had daughter Ann who married Thomas Reese and had four daughters, Hannah, Nancy, Rachel and Sarah.
- Hannah Mercer Crumley also had daughter Catherine who married James Mooney and then John Eyre. She had daughters Catherine, Mary (Polly), Eliza, Hannah and Nancy. This family migrated to Fayette County, Ohio.
- Ann’s daughter Elizabeth Mercer married William Heath. Nothing further is known about this couple.
If you descend from these women, I’d love to hear from you and if you descend through all females to the current generation (you can be a male), there is a DNA scholarship waiting for you!