The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild

Published 1:57 pm Tuesday, July 11, 2023

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Captain Benjamin Merrill

Regulators, Part II

By Linda H. Barnette

One of the most well-known and locally connected Regulators was Capt. Benjamin Merrill. He was born in Hopewell, N.J. in 1721, married Jemima Butler, and they were eventually the parents of 10 children. They moved to Rowan County in the late 1740s and helped establish the Jersey Settlement and Jersey Baptist Church. The people from Hopewell decided to leave and start a new life because of difficulties in purchasing land and some religious conflicts. The Jersey Baptist Church remains in Davidson County to this day. (Interestingly enough, my own Hartley ancestors settled in that same area later than the Merrill’s and were also members of Jersey Baptist Church).

Merrill bought property about 4 miles south of Lexington and about 2 miles from the church. Because he was by occupation a gunsmith, he bought land near a stream that afforded power for his work. According to Rowan Land Records, he bought several tracts of land, owning over 1,000 acres, making him a plantation owner.

Very early he and some friends and neighbors rebelled against the unfair taxes and practices of the royal governor and were members of the Rowan County Militia, of which Merrill was a Captain. Because of the actions of the Regulators, the name given to people who wanted fair taxes and fair treatment to everyone, Governor Tryon called out his own troops to help with the trouble.

On May 16, 1771, the Battle of Alamance Courthouse was fought between Tryon’s militia with over 1,400 men and the Regulators, numbering around 2,000. The Regulator forces met Tryon on the Great Alamance Creek near present-day Burlington. After a battle lasting only a couple of hours, the Regulators were crushed. Tryon lost 9 men, and 6 were wounded.  The Regulators also lost 9 men, but many more were wounded.

Tryon offered clemency to all but a few of the Regulators who would put down their arms, pay back taxes, and take an oath of allegiance to the royal authority. Prisoners were released as they did what he demanded; however, Benjamin Merrill and Abraham Creson were excluded from the pardon. Merrill and 5 others were convicted of High Treason.  Merrill was hanged in front of his wife and children. According to an article in the Boston Gazette on Aug. 12, 1771, “Merrill died in the most heroic manner…at peace with His Maker and in the cause of his oppressed countrymen.” As mentioned, 5 others were hanged that same day at Bethabara.

Many of the Regulators left the area after this, but we know that some of Benjamin Merrill’s family came to Davie County. Benjamin Smith Merrill settled in the Fork Community about 1840.  From him many others have descended. Some of my very best friends are Merrills and have a great sense of pride in their heritage.

Scholars do not all agree that the battle between Tryon and the Regulators was the first battle of the Revolutionary War, but it was definitely a stand against royal authority, tyranny, and injustice.

We all owe our freedom to every person who in our history has taken up arms against their oppressors.  Every soldier in every war has thus far secured our liberty.  May it ever be so. Captain Merrill was one such person.

One Bedroom Apartment

By Katie Bell

For one glorious year, I lived alone. As a graduate student, I probably couldn’t afford it, but I was a grown woman and who cares if I didn’t have furniture. I was going to make it work.

This was a special time in my life, as I took a leap of faith and moved to a new place. Although I was 1,000 miles away from my family and friends, I proceeded with clarity and optimism that I would make a home for myself.

I had no furniture and only an air mattress for a bed. But it was all mine. Quiet when I wanted it to be, and filled with my favorite music as loud as I wanted it to be.  Only myself to ask what was for dinner. No one else’s dirty dishes in the sink.  I could buy whatever groceries I chose and keep it as clean as I wanted.  I was “playing house” but in real life in my own apartment!

     Throughout the year, I filled my apartment with cheap furniture, favorite trinkets and new friends. I always look back at this time with a feeling of peace.  And now that most of that cheap furniture is gone, the memories remain – packing for a hiking trip, studying for exams, writing poetry, trying out watercolor painting.

     When I moved out of this apartment, I knew I would never live alone again.  I moved to live with some of my favorite friends, then with my future husband – and now with him, two daughters and a dog.

     I am proud of having this experience of living on my own. It was a gateway to adulthood for me – although sometimes it still feels like I am “playing house.”

Comes the Rainbow

Julie Terry Cartner

“I’m sorry. Your son is developing cataracts in both eyes, and he’ll need surgery to correct them.”

We weren’t strangers to surgery. Our son, born four months early, had already had heart valve surgery, cryosurgery to counteract retinopathy of prematurity, and release surgery on his legs to counteract the strain caused by cerebral palsy; so, another potential surgery should have been old hat to us. But surgery of any nature on our then eight-year-old-child caused our palms to sweat and heartbeats to accelerate. Another surgery? How much did this child have to go through? I was torn between raging anger and resignation. This was to be his life, and, by proxy, ours.

And so, cataract surgery was scheduled, first one, then two weeks later, the second. Eye drops, eye patches, and lots of tears and angst, but we got through it.

Then came, as Paul Harvey used to say, “the rest of the story.” After the surgeries and healing, we went back to the ophthalmologist for a checkup. We were expecting a fairly quick check, just to make sure his eyes had healed, but instead, the visit seemed longer and more intense than we had anticipated. Finally, what seemed like hours later, the doctor looked at us and grinned. He said, “While we were in there [doing the surgery], we tightened up a few things.” We looked at him in confusion.

Now smiling broadly, he explained. When our son went into surgery, he had limited vision. His vision number was so bad, it didn’t even fall into the 20/20, or 20/80 or even 20/200. His vision was -2800 in one eye and -2850 in the other. For all intents and purposes, he was legally blind. When he came out of cataract surgery, after they “tightened up a few things in there,” his vision was 20/40 in both eyes, almost perfect. In fact, his eyes were capable of 20/20, but his brain had no way to process perfect vision as it had never had the opportunity to recognize that.

What had seemed like one more trial in an extremely challenging life turned into one of the happiest moments in our lives. Where glasses in his infancy had opened the world up to our son somewhat, suddenly, compassionate, talented doctors had opened his world up to a far greater degree. What had almost brought me to my knees in grief for my child had become one of the greatest gifts we had ever received.

Sometimes, out of our darkest moments, come rays of light. Sometimes, out of the fiercest storm clouds, come arcs of color, transporting the world into the shimmering rays of a rainbow. Sometimes, out of the darkest of nights, come the gentle, silvery beams of a full moon.

We are not in charge. We are but stewards of the land and all the creatures within. How often do we need to hear that message?