Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

John Merryman (1824-1881)
MSA SC 3520-1543

Biography:

John Merryman was born at "Hereford Farm" in Baltimore County on August 9, 1824, the son of Nicholas Rogers and Ann Marie (Gott) Merryman.  He was educated in the business world beginning in 1839 as an employee in Richard Norris' hardware store in Baltimore City.  A year later he moved to Guayama, Puerto Rico, to work for his uncle, Samuel N. Gott, in his counting room.  Merryman returned to Maryland in 1842 to manage a number of farms belonging to his uncle John Merryman.  It was at this time that Merryman became involved in the raising and breeding of Hereford cattle with stock which he imported from England.

In 1865 he branched out into the fertilizer business by establishing John Merryman & Co. of Baltimore City, fertilizer dealers.  Merryman's interest in cattle and farming remained constant throughout his life.  He was a lifetime member of the U.S. Agricultural Society and the National Agricultural Association.  He exhibited his cattle at numerous national fairs and won countless prizes and a widespread reputation for his stock.  He was also a member of the Maryland State Agricultural Society, serving as vice-president from 1852-1857 and president from 1857 to 1861.  This organization later became the Maryland State Agricultural and Mechanical Association, and John Merryman served as president from 1877 to 1881.

Prior to the Civil War, John Merryman was a 3rd lieutenant in the Baltimore County Troops.  By 1861 he was a 1st lieutenant in the Baltimore County Horse Guards.  Under orders from Governor Hicks, he aided in the destruction of several bridges north of Baltimore to prevent troops from Pennsylvania from marching through Baltimore and inciting riots.  On May 25, 1861, Merryman was arrested by U.S. troops, indicted for treason, and confined in Fort McHenry.  Through his lawyers Merryman petitioned Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney for a writ of habeas corpus.  The writ was disobeyed by General Cadwallader, the arresting officer, under orders from President Lincoln even though Taney cited Cadwallader for contempt.  It was then that Taney, who had traveled to Baltimore to hear the case, ordered that Merryman was "improperly held" and had him released. Merryman was never tried for treason.  Taney, in a "test between that which personified law on the one side and that which represented the sudden and unlimited development of military force on the other," vindicated the writ of habeas corpus.

Merryman, a democrat, served as president of the Board of County Commissioners, Baltimore County, in 1857.  He was State Treasurer from 1870 to 1872 and served in the House of Delegates from Baltimore County from 1874 to 1876.

In 1844, John Merryman married Ann Louisa, daughter of Elijah Bosley Gittings.  John and Ann Louisa had eleven children:  Nicholas Bosley, John Jr., Elijah Gittings, David Buchanan, William Duvall, James McKenney, Roger B.T., Ann Gott, Bettie M., Louisa Gittings, and Laura Fendall.  The family resided on their farm, "Hayfields," in Baltimore County, and attended Sherwood Protestant Episcopal Church in Baltimore County where John Merryman served as register, treasurer, and vestryman over the years.  Merryman also owned a pew in St. Paul's Church, Baltimore City, at his death.

John Merryman died November 15, 1881, and it is interesting that his biographers noted that he believed "the most important class of workers is the farmer, who subdues the earth, and makes it fulfill its highest mission, of supporting man and developing his marvelous powers of mind and body."

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