St. Alban the Martyr

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Memorial Tiles: Thomas Merritt

MERRITT, Thomas: 1759 - 1842

Thomas Merritt was the son of Thomas Merritt and Amy Purdy. Thomas senior remained loyal to the crown at the time of the American Revolution and moved his family to New York in 1778. They evacuated from New York in 1783 and settled in New Brunswick where Thomas senior remained along with two of his sons, David Daniel and Nehemiah. Thomas senior died in 1821 in St. Johns, New Brunswick.

Thomas Merritt junior, who was born 1759 in Bedford, New York is memorialized in the first tile to the left of the entrance to the church. He joined the Loyalist army in New York in 1778, first as a cornet in Emmerich’s Chasseurs and later transferring to the Queen’s Rangers under John Graves Simcoe. Merritt spent the war fighting in the southern colonies. He married Mary Hamilton in Charleston, South Carolina in 1781. Thomas and his young bride followed the Queen’s Rangers north to New York in 1782 and the following year, along with other members of the Merritt family, left for New Brunswick. When Sir John Graves Simcoe was appointed Lieutenant Governor and established the new government of Upper Canada at Niagara-on-the Lake, Thomas resettled there with other veterans of the Queen’s Rangers. Thomas also acquired town lots in present-day St. Catharines and received appointments as Deputy Surveyor of the King’s Woods and later as Sheriff of Niagara.

At the outbreak of the War of 1812, Thomas was appointed major commandant of a troop of militia cavalry named the Niagara Light Dragoons. After the battle of Queenston Heights, Merritt was a pallbearer at the funeral of the great General Isaac Brock. Thomas’ son, William Hamilton Merritt, also served in the militia in the War of 1812.

Thomas and Mary had six children, one son and five daughters, and their descendants played a large role in the formation of St. Catharines. Their son, William Hamilton Merritt, who was born in Bedford, New York in 1793 (when his parents traveled back to the state after initially going to New Brunswick and before relocating to Niagara) promoted and arranged for the construction of the first Welland Canal.(1)

Thomas Merritt died May 12, 1842 in St. Catharines.


1. “Merritt, Thomas,” Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, Vol. VII.