People settled in Oswego
County, NY largely due to the existence of water. They used the waterfalls
and rapids for free power to run water-wheels. They made livings
from Lake Ontario, Oneida Lake, the Oswego River and the Salmon River.
Then came the construction of the Erie and Oswego Canals creating more
opportunites. Even rainwater seeping through the limestone in the
pasturelands enriched the dairy industry with the ability to produce special
cheeses still in demand.
By 1825 when the Erie Canal brought
people and goods to Oswego County faster and cheaper. The canal,
which was conceived to improve transportation, also offered wonderful chances
to poor, uneducated men to get jobs which gave long term security for their
families. In 1845 there were 4,000 boats on the canal
operated by 25,000 men, women and children.
From 1820-1840 2,500,000 immigrants
arrived in the US from England alone. There were even larger numbers
of immigrants from Germany, Ireland, Italy, Austro-Hungary and Russia.
Census records reveal that most English immigrants stayed in New York State.
The British government did very little
to stop the English flow. They were happy to see the “idlers”
go. Idlers in this case usually meant debtors. Debts meant
jail in those times. Thus the English who came to America in this
period often were not after religious freedom, but were fleeing debtor’s
prisons. The Industrial Revolution displaced many traditional workers
in Europe. America, however, needed workers. Immigrants of
this time wrote letters home expressing amazement at the quanity
of food they ate, the jobs available, and the comforts they enjoyed.
It is possible that James Merton,
born 5 February 1814 in Sussex, England, heard about such a letter.
He wed a Sussex woman, Jane White, born 28 February 1817. By 1835/37
they had sailed to America and come up the Erie Canal stopping at Lysander,
Onondaga Co., NY where their son, John H. Merton was born on 10 October
The family came to Volney, Oswego
Co., NY for James to work on the canal as a boatman. They were enumerated
in the 1850 Volney census. Their older son John H. Merton apparently
was working and living away from home.
Murton [sic], James -36-boatman-England
The baby James E., born 6 April 1850,
died 2 June 1850. They also had a daughter who died young.
She was Minerva M. Merton, born 11 March 1846, who died 7 August 1846.
Their son, Charles, born 6 February 1843, died 28 November 1855.
He was buried in the Mount Pleasant Western Cemetery at Volney.
Murton [sic], Jane -33-wife-England
Murton [sic], Adaline -11-daughter-NY
Murton [sic], Albert -9-son-NY
Murton [sic[, Charles -7-son-NY
Murton [sic], Jane -3-daughter-NY
Murton [sic], James E -2 months-son-NY
Boatman in the Volney area worked
partially on the Oswego Canal as well as the Erie, but conditions were
much the same. Boatman performed various simple tasks, but worked
primarily with the horses and mules. An animal pulled the barge for
about 12 miles. Then the beast was changed for a fresh one.
Barns were maintained at 12 mile intervals along the canals. If the
animal slipped or fell into the canal, it drowned. There was no way
to hoist them out of the steep-sided canal.
There were two kinds of canal boats.
The faster packet boats carried only passengers. They were generally
owned by companies and the boatmen just tended the horses. The other
type of vessel carried freight. These barges were sometimes owned
by families who worked together on the boat. It was unclear if the
Mertons ran a freighter or just worked the horses.
The family must have enjoyed their
life along the canal. They remained at Volney. The 1870 Volney
census carried the following listing:
Murton [sic], James -55-farmer-England-$3800
This immigrant family had prospered.
James’ large family had also done well. His daughter Mary Eva Merton,
born 25 May 1855, never married, dying 3 January 1893. She was buried
at Mount Pleasant Western Cemetery, Volney.
Murton [sic], Jane -53-wife-England
Murton [sic], Mary -15-daughter-NY
In another household in the 1870
Volney census James’ son John was shown.
Murton [sic], John -38-boatman-NY-$6025
John had wed in 1859 Adeline Jewett.
According to Historian Churchill they had a third child not shown in this
Murton [sic], Adeline -29-wife-NY
Murton [sic], Libbie -8-daughter-NY
Murton [sic], Charles -3-son-NY
Daughter Sarah Jane Merton, born
18 December 1848, wed ca. 1866 George Ives, a local boy. They were
enumerated in the 1870 voleny census thusly:
Ives, George -29-farmer-NY-$1400
George and Jane also had a son Chester
E. Ives who died 10 August 1912. He was laid to rest at the Mount
Pleasant Western Cemetery, Volney. Jane died 7 August 1922, age 73.
She was buried in lot 5 at Mount Pleasant Western Cemetery, Volney.
Ives, Jane -21-wife-NY
Ives, George -2-son-NY
Ives, Addie -1-daughter-NY
Daughter Adaline E. Merton, born
24 August 1839, wed Nathan W. Locke, born 25 December 1842 in Jefferson
County, NY, between 1865/70. She became the mother of two Locke children.
Her daughter Nada E. Locke, born 25 July 1870, wed on 8 April 1888 David
Watson VanBuren, born 18 March 1865 in Volney. Nada had four VanBuren
Adaline E. (Merton) Locke died 31
May 1899 in Volney. She was buried at Mt. Adnah Cemetery in Fulton,
NY. Adaline’s death certificate listed the names of both of her parents
and their place of birth as Sussex, England. She died from paralysis
at age 59. Her daughter Nada E. (Locke) VanBuren died 13 August 1952
In the 1880 census John’s
family had removed to Fulton, NY. His mother Jane (White) Merton
had died on 29 January 1878. She was buried at Mount Pleasant Western
Cemetery, James gave up farming and lived with John who had gone into business
serving the boatmen and their passengers supplying them with groceries
Merten [sic], John H -43-canal
John’s store was located at the Basin
where he enjoyed a steady flow of customers. There were many grocery
stores like his along the canal. Father James died 4 December 1881,
age 67. He joined his wife in the Mount Pleasant Western Cemetery.
Merten [sic], Adeline -39-wife-NY
Merten [sic], Libbie A -18-daughter-NY
Merten [sic], Chas J -13-son-NY
Merten [sic], James -66-father-Eng
Tabbs, Carrie -43-sister-in-law-NY
Strong, Catherine -62-dressmaker-NY
In 1891 John became the president
of Fulton. Previously he had served as the town collector of taxes.
He enjoyed considerable respect from his fellow citizens and customers.
John’s son Charles J. Merton, born
ca. 1868, removed to Cleveland, Ohio by June 1893. In the 1910 Cleveland,
O. census he lived with his wife Fannie E., age 33, without children.
John’s brother Willian Albert Merton,
born 10 August 1841, wed Alice C. VanBuren, born 23 September 1842.
Alice was the daughter of Daviud VanBuren of Volney. On 14 April
1887 his will was recorded in Oswego County. He left to his daughter
Alice Merton the use of land “on the east end of said Sub no. 5 ...
to be held & owned by her, for the purposes of obtaining therefrom
her necessary firewood, and any rail timber she may desire to use on Sub
no.2 during her natural life, not exceeding forty years after the decease
or re-marriage of my said wife.”
Alice also received outright after
the death of her mother land in Sub no.2. This land could be passed
on to her children. This parcel was along River Road, some of the
choicest land in Oswego County to this day. River Road runs on both
sides of the Oswego River/Canal between Fulton and Oswego up on the bluffs
overlooking the barge traffic and all the boats in the channel. The
entire will is online at <rootsweb.com/~nyoswego>.
William and Alice were enumerated
in the 1920 Volney census. Called W. A., he was described as a 78
yesr-old farmer with his wife Alice, age 77. Living with them was
her nephew George VanBuren, age 48. He was also mentioned in the
will of his grandfather David VanBuren. Included in the household
were two boarders.
Family researchers indicate that
William and Alice had four children. They were the following:
1. Annie Merton b.
6 September 1866; m. George Church; d. 1 September 1944.
On 3 January 1930 in Fulton, NY William
Albert Merton died. In the census which followed soon after his death,
there was this enumeration at Volney.
2. James Merton b. 19 June 1868
3. Melvina Merton b. 1 September
1871 in Volney
4. Alice E. Merton b. 24 September
1876 in Volney
Merton, Alice C. -89-widow-NY
Alice had moved in with her daughter
Alice E. who had wed on 30 January 1902 Ware Wardle, born ca. 1879 in Granby,
NY. He was the son of P. Frank and Helen Ware. According to
the census, daughter Elsie sacked knives in a knife factory. Wardle
and George both worked as dairy farmers.
Ware, Wardle -57-son-in-law-NY
Ware, Alice E. -53-daughter-NY
Ware, Elsie M -19-granddaughter-NY
VanBuren, George D -59-nephew-NY
Wardle and Alice had two other children
living outside the house. Ethel, born ca. 1905, and Albert, born ca, 1907,
were their names, according to family sources.
William’s daughter Melvina Merton,
born 1 September 1871 in Volney, wed Fred D. Dutcher, born ca. 1873.
They were enumerated in the Milo, Yates Co., NY 1930 census.
Dutcher, Fred -57-none stated-NY
The Dutchers also had two other children.
They were Clara and Fred H. Dutcher. Melvina died 7 October 1941
in the Solders and Sailors Hospital at Penn Yan, NY. She was buried
in the Mount Adnah Cemetery in Fulton.
Dutcher, Melvina L -58-wife-NY
Dutcher, Erwin -10-son-NY
William’s son James A. Merton,
born 29 June 1868, wed in 1888 Cora Church, born 18 December 1873.
In the 1930 Volney census James A. was 62, a laborer in “a gun works.”
Cora was 56. They owned their own home valued at $4500. James
died 28 December 1956. They had one son, William Merton, born 13
December 1894. He married in 1914 Bertha Blake, born 23 January 1894.
They apparently moved around before settling in Falls Creek, PA.
They were enumerated in the 1930 census there. They had two children,
William A. Jr., age 12, born in Louisiana, and Sara E., age 8, born in
NY. This family paid $25 for rent per month. There are believed
to be living descendants.
Special thanks go to Michael O. VanBuren
<email@example.com> for sharing his research. His data included
unpublished sources. Insofar as possible his input was confirmed
in public records and published sources. Please direct questions
about sources not in the bibliography to him.
Churchill, John C. Landmarks
of Oswego County, New York. Syracuse: Mason, 1895.
Erie Canal - 175th Anniversary.
[26 September 2004].
Locke Indentures, Oswego County,
N.Y. Available [online]
]23 September 2004].
Mt. Pleasant Western Cemetery, Volney,
N.Y. Available [online] [24
U.S. Census Fulton, Oswego Co.,
U.S. Census Volney, Oswego Co.,
NY 1850, 1870, 1920 & 1930.
U.S. Census Milo, Yates co., NY
U.S. Census Cleveland, Cuyahoga,
U.S. Census Falls Creek, Clearfield
Co., PA 1930.
Will of David VanBuren, Volney,
N.Y. Available [online] http://www.rootsweb.com/~nyoswego/deeds/davidvanburen.html
[24 September 2004].
WorldConnect Project. Available
[23 September 2004].