Mysterious Martha


Identifying the widow of

Edward Beck III and Lovering Merritt

(St. Paul’s Parish, Kent County, Maryland)


Mark A. Merritt Ó 2001



In 1905, Johnston wrote Lovering Merritt’s wife as Martha [1].  Shortly thereafter, Mackenzie identified Martha as the widow of Edward Beck, of Kent County [2].  Later, Douglas Merritt’s seminal work on several MERRITT lines further identified Martha as the mother of Edward Beck [3].  By 1939, her identity remained forgotten when Burke’s mentioned her only as Martha [4].


This paper will set out the proof that has led me to identify her as Martha Davis, daughter of James Davis and Penelope Reed.


Her identification was accomplished in December 2000, in a series of emails between the author and Christos Christou, Jr., who has researched BECK exhaustively, and was responsible for locating much of the evidence critical to this proof.  I am extremely grateful for his assistance.



I.       Lovering Merritt was the son of Samuell Merritt and Phebe Millward


Samuell Merritt married Phebe Millward, daughter of Lovering Millward, 29 Nov 1708 in St. Paul’s Parish, Kent Co., MD [5].  When Samuell passed in 1724, his widow married John Gilbert [6].  Samuell Merritt’s estate was distributed 19 Sep 1724 by John Gilbert [7]:


Samuell Merritt    Liber 6.156    A    KE    £55.5.11    £19.7.5    19 Sep 1724

Payments to: Brooke, Holland & Addison, Esq., C. Hynson, Gideon Pearce, Thomas Reasin on account of estate of Edward Warner in hands of Samuell Merrett, James Willson, Jr. Ann Huddlestone, Francis Bodean, James Wyate, John Macnemarra, Henry Paremane, James Waggett, Charles Hynson.

Admin: John Gilbert.


John Gilbert died before 4 Mar 1729 when his estate inventory was filed by Phebe Gilbert, executrix [8].  While Gilbert’s will doesn’t mention his wife’s children by her first marriage, the distribution of his estate eight years later by Fibee Lee, wife of Arthur Lee, proves useful.  Here we note Phebe’s third marriage, as well her children by Samuell Merritt [9]:


Estate of John Gilbert 16.109   A   KE   £81.7.5   £22.1.10    4 Mar 1737


Payments to:

Ann Merritt, daughter of Samuel Meret (dead)

Lovering Meret, son of Samuel Meret (dead)

Henry Cully, Samuel Wallace, John Earle, Charles Hynson, Edward Calvert, Esq. John Gresham, John Gressham assinged from John Godfrey, Charles Hynson.


Mentions children John Gilbert, Thomas Gilbert, Mary Gilbert.

Exec: Fibee Lee, wife of Arthur Lee.


This provides the conclusive evidence for placing Lovering Merritt as the son of Samuell Merritt and Phebe Millward.



II.    Martha Merritt was the wife of Lovering Merritt


Lovering Merritt wrote his will in Sep 1776 and died before 16 Apr 1777, when it was proved.  In his will, he mentions his wife Martha, as well as his daughter Sarah, wife of George Vansant:


The will of Lovering Merritt of Kent County, Maryland [10]

Whereas I have given my son Samuel all the negroes now in his possession and employed on lands in Wolton (Worton), I now confirm to him in lieu of my personal estate.


My son Lovering all the lands I purchased of Gilbert Falconar and James Pearce as specified in their bond to me and the horse called Tryall and £35 current money at the rate of dollars at 7 sh and 6 pence.


Lands lying in Quaquir Neck (Quaker Neck) unto to my two daughters Martha and Mary.


My wife to get my riding chair and chair horse called Toby, over and above the 1/3 of my personal estate.


I give unto my dau. Sarah, wife of George Vansant, a negro girl named Bet which I lent her some time ago and £500 in lieu of my personal estate.


My negroes to be divided between my children Lovering, Martha, and Mary and my dear wife and the rest of my personal estate, after wife's 1/3, to son Lovering, and two daughters Martha and Mary.


Execs. my wife and my son Samuel. Witnesses George Nusbury, James Brown Dunn Jr., John Rolf Jr., Thomas B. Hands.



Martha Merritt gave bond for £2000 as executor 16 Apr 1777 [11].  The will demonstrates that Lovering owned lands in Quaker Neck and in nearby Worton, both in St. Paul’s Parish.


The following will must be the will of Lovering’s widow, because it mentions the same children, particularly Sarah, now married to Eli Bostick (Bostwick) with a child named Lovering Vansant:


The will of Martha Merritt of Kent County, Maryland [12]

To Mary Dudley my dau. wife of Joshua Dudley of Queen Anns Co my clock.


To my grandchildren Edward Beck and Nancy children of my son Edward Beck 1/3 of remainder.


To my granddau. Mary Everitt dau. of Hales Everitt and Priscilla his wife 1/3 part.


To Lovering Vansant and Mary Bostick children of my dau. Sarah Bostick wife of Eli Bostick 1/3 part.


Estate to be given to the children when they are of age, 16 for girls and 20 for boys.


My negro girl Sal be set free at 20. My negro man Ben and my negro woman Sarah wife of said Ben and their two youngest children to be set free.


Execs. my son Edward Beck, Hales Everitt, Eli Bostick. Witnesses Daniel McCurtin, Bartus Wilkins, Bartus Wilkins Jr.


Written Apr. 25, 1789 Proved Feb 25, 1790 p. 258



I renounce all claim to administration Edward Beck Q.N.

I renounce all claim to administration, Hales Everitt. Written Feb 25, 1790



These two wills taken together provide irrefutable evidence that these two individuals were married, and had children Samuel, Lovering, Mary, Martha, and Sarah Merritt. 


It also demonstrates that Martha had a son, Edward Beck, and a daughter, Priscilla, by a previous relationship(s) with [UNK] Beck. 



III. Edward Beck III and his relationship to Martha Davis


Edward Beck, Jr. was born 19 Nov 1684 in Kent Co., MD to John Beck and Mary Hoover.  He was known as “Junior” to distinguish him from his uncle, Edward Beck, who m. Ann Queeney [13].


Edward Beck, Jr. married Mary Neeves by 4 Apr 1710 [14], and wrote his will 15 Apr 1740, which was proved 23 Aug 1740 [15]:


Will of Edward Beck of St. Paul's Parish

Names son John and to get Beck's Addition and 54 acres  of Neeves Choice;

to granddau. Elizabeth dau. of son Alexander, 50 acres the other part of Neeves Choice;

unto the son and daughter of my sons Edward Beck deceased and Martha his wife 12 lbs each;

to Elizabeth dau. of my son Alexander and his wife Susanna and their unborn child 12 lbs. 



This document shows that Edward Beck, Jr. had a son named Edward Beck who died before 15 Apr 1740, and that his son Edward Beck had a son and daughter by a wife named Martha.


I write the son of Edward Beck, Jr. (1684-1740) as “Edward Beck III” so that he is not confused with the many other men named Edward Beck.  However, he was most certainly known to his contemporaries as Edward Beck, Jr.


Edward Beck III’s children were named in a deed dated 22 Mar 1744/5 specifying that they were to be paid at age 16 for girls and 21 for boys [16].  There were four children in all, and they included Priscilla Beck and Edward Beck, who I write as Edward Beck IV.


Barnes and Wright identify Edward Beck III as the same man who was found guilty of having children out of wedlock in 1731 and 1732 [17], [18]:


At August Court, 1731, Edward Beck, Jr., St. Paul's Parish, planter, was found guilty of committing fornication on 10 Oct 1730 with Elizabeth Maxwell and begetting a bastard child.  He was fined 30 s.


At March Court 1732, Edward Beck, Jr. of St. Paul's Parish, planter, was found guilty of committing fornication on June 10 1732 with Martha Davis and begetting a bastard child.  He was fined 30 s. 


To summarize, the above records positively identify Edward Beck III as the father of a child with Martha Davis in 1732.  They also show that he had four children, and that two of them were named Priscilla Beck and Edward Beck.


Combined with the will of Martha Merritt, showing her children of a prior relationship as Edward Beck and Priscilla, it is clear that we must conclude that the widow of Edward Beck III and Lovering Merritt was Martha Davis.


We are left with the task of placing this Martha Davis.



IV. A Martha Merritt was next of kin to Philip Davis in 1768


James Davis married Penelope Reed 27 Jan 1709 in St. Paul's Parish, Kent Co., MD [19].  He died by 16 Nov 1724 when his estate was appraised.  The inventory was filed 31 Jan 1724/5 [20].


James Davis and Penelope Reed had two children: Martha Davis, born 1 Aug 1710 and Philip Davis, born 23 Jan 171? [21]. 


These records place this particular Martha Davis in the same place and time as Edward Beck III, planter, of St. Paul’s Parish, who was born 25 Dec 1710 [22].


James Davis’ son, Philip Davis, wrote his will 28 Oct 1767, mentioning a Martha Davis, but that was his daughter [23].  The key information was recorded when his estate was appraised 10 Feb 1768 and distributed 25 Mar 1768 [24]:

Philip Davis  97.158  KE   £263.12.11  10 Feb 1768  25 Mar 1768

Appraisers:  Solomon Semans, Alexander Baird

Creditors: William Semans, James McLachlan

Next of Kin: Martha Merritt, James Burgin

Executrix:  Ann Davis


This record shows that a Martha Merritt signed as next-of-kin to Philip Davis, son of James Davis and Penelope Reed, in 1768. 


I can only identify three potential candidates for this Martha Merritt:


#1. Martha [UNK] was the first wife of William Merritt (1726-1793).  She died ca 1776.  These individuals are known to have lived at Ivingo, within sight of St. Stephen’s Church in Shrewsbury [25], and not in Quaker Neck, where these particular DAVIS, BECK and MERRITT families lived.


#2. William Merritt’s mother, Martha Burgan, was the wife of Thomas Merritt.  While I don’t have a death date for her, it is unlikely that she was a signatory of an estate distribution in 1768; she was possibly deceased by this time.  Thomas Merritt died in 1733, so his widow may well have remarried and would not be using the name Martha Merritt in 1768.  Once more, these individuals lived in St. Stephen’s Parish and were not local to the St. Paul’s Parish area.


#3. The only other candidate that the author can locate is the deceased’s sister, Martha Davis.  The same Martha Davis who had two children with Edward Beck III had been having children with Lovering Merritt since 1737, and was known as Martha Merritt in 1768.


Of the three plausible Martha Merritts, the one with the most obvious relationship (sister) and the one who was closest, geographically, is the only individual who conforms to all available evidence:  Martha (Davis) Merritt.


In summary, the evidence shows that Martha Davis, daughter of James Davis and Penelope Reed, was the widow of Edward Beck III and Lovering Merritt.



V.    The Children of Martha Davis by Edward Beck III and Lovering Merritt


The following are the known children of Martha Davis and Edward Beck III:


I write Edward Beck IV as born ca 1732 based on the court record, and died after 25 Feb 1790 when he was executor of his mother’s estate.  I have not found evidence of his wife’s name, but his children Nancy Beck and Edward Beck are mentioned in his mother’s will.


I am searching for the descendants of Nancy Beck and Edward Beck IV.


I write Priscilla Beck as born before 1736, as her first son by Lovering Merritt was born ca 1737.  As Priscilla’s grandfather’s will mentions her mother as the “wife” of his son, it is possible that Martha married Edward Beck III between 1732-1736 and that Priscilla was a “legitimate” child.  It is also possible that he merely referred to her as his son’s wife, and that they were never married.  No marriage record has been found.  Priscilla Beck married Hales Everitt, as evidenced from her mother’s will.


Priscilla Beck and Hales Everitt are known to have had three children, Mary Everitt born 29 May 1773, Joseph Everitt born 20 Dec 1775, and Ann Everitt born 11 Dec 1778.  They likely resided in Chester Parish.


Samuel Merritt is said to have been born 1739 [26], which conforms with other evidence.  This is the Samuel Merritt who married Sarah Miller, daughter of Arthur Miller, and it is via this connection to the Miller family that the Merritt family came into control of Godlington Manor on Quaker Neck. 


I will treat this Samuel, his descendants and the Godlington Manor land records in a future article, and show how Barnes and Wright erred in their treatment of the Arthur Millers out of Michael Miller, Sr., Gent.


Lovering Merritt is said to have been born 1739 [27].  He never married, wrote his will 30 Dec 1780 and died before 14 Feb 1785 when his estate was proved.  He left his estate to his sister, Mary [28].


Sarah Merritt is said to have been born 1741 [29].  There is also an LDS record placing her as the daughter of Lovering Merritt and Phebe Millward, which is impossible, as Lovering was Phebe’s son.  Both her parents’ wills demonstrate that Sarah was married to George Vansant, whose estate was valued on 24 Apr 1775 (and signed by Samuel Merritt as next-of-kin, demonstrating that this was the correct George Vansant) [30].  I write this marriage as occurring before 1774, giving Sarah time to have her son, Lovering Vansant, before her husband’s death.


I will treat this marriage, and place this George Vansant in another article where I shall refute another researcher’s position that Sarah Merritt was the mother of  George Washington Vinsant, born 1780 in Kent County. Maryland; died 1843 in Jacksboro, TN.  She was not.


Sarah Merritt married second, Eli Bostick (Bostwick) after Sep 1776, as evidenced by the mention of this marriage in her mother’s 1789 will and the fact that her father did not mention it in his will of Sep 1776.


I am searching for descendants of Lovering Vansant, and Sarah and Eli Bostwick.


Mary Merritt is said to have been born 1743 [31].  Her mother’s will describes her marriage to Joshua Dudley, of Queen Anne’s Co., MD.  I believe him to be the same Joshua Dudley who appears in the 1783 Tax Assessment of QA as the owner of Sarah’s Portion on Kent Island.  I will discuss this land and its descent from the Winchester, Marsh and Dudley families in another article. 


I am searching for Mary and Joshua’s descendants.


Martha Merritt is said to have been born 1743 [32] as well.  There is also an LDS record placing her as the daughter (born 1745) of Lovering Merritt and Phebe Millward, which is impossible, as Lovering was Phebe’s son.  Martha Merritt married Charles Ricketts [33].  We can infer that Martha was married after Sep 1776, because her father failed to mention the marriage in his will of that date (but did mention her sister Sarah’s marriage in the same document). 


I am searching for Martha and Charles Ricketts’ descendants.


[1] Society of Colonial Wars in the State of Maryland, Pedigree of Paymaster William Alfred Merritt and Dr. Simon Wickes Merritt, Plate I, Ed: Christopher Johnston, MA, MD, PhD. (Baltimore: 1905), p.67


[2] Colonial Families of the United States of America, Vol I., George Norbury Mackenzie (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1907), p. 373


[3] Revised Merritt Records: Samuel Merritt of St. Pauls, Md. First Four Generations, compiled by Douglas Merritt (Rhinebeck, New York: 1916)


[4] Burke's Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry in North America (London, England: 1939), p.2824


[5] St. Paul’s Parish Records as cited in Maryland Eastern Shore Vital Records, Vols. 1-4, Vol. 1, F. Edward Wright (Familyline Publications, Westminster, MD, 1982), p.28


[6] Administrator's bond of estate of Samuel Merritt by John Gilbert and Phebe, his wife, in £200 {Testamentary Proceedings, 25,141}


[7] MWB: Maryland Will Book, Liber 6.156


[8] MINV: Maryland Inventories, 15:488


[9] PCA: Maryland Prerogative Court Abstracts, Vols. 1-38, V.L. Skinner, Jr. (Family Line Publications, Westminster, Maryland) Vol. 21, 1737-1744, Liber 16.109


[10] Christos Christou, Jr. cites: {p.2}


[11] Douglas Merritt cites: {Admin Bonds 6-17}


[12] Christos Christou, Jr. cites: {p.258}


[13] Beck genealogy attributed to a combination of information compiled by Christos Christou, Jr. and Elizabeth Burns.


[14] Maryland State Archives Marriage References cites: {INAC 31:55}


[15] Christou cites {MWB 22} p.243


[16] Christou cites DB JS #20 p. 164f


[17] Colonial Families of Eastern Shore, Robert W. Barnes and F. Edward Wright (Westminster, Maryland:  Family Line Publications, 1996) Vol. 1, p.30 cites: S.{KECR JS#WK:227}


[18] Ibid., p.30 cites: S.{KECR JS#WK:350}


[19] Ibid., p.73 cites: {KESP}


[20] Ibid., p.73 cites: {MINV 10:302}


[21] Ibid., p.73 cites: {KESP}


[22] Ibid., Vol. 1, p.30


[23] MWB, 36:154


[24] PCA, 1766-1769, Liber 97.158, p.75


[25] DAR article proving William Merritt’s Revolutionary War service, Mary Elizabeth Appleby Abel (Church Hill, Maryland: 1994)


[26] Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter-Day-Saints, IGI


[27] Ibid.


[28] Douglas Merritt cites {7,80}


[29] Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter-Day-Saints, IGI


[30] Colonial Families of Eastern Shore, Robert W. Barnes and F. Edward Wright (Westminster, Maryland:  Family Line Publications, 1996) Vol. 1, p.336 cites: {MINV 122:68}


[31] Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter-Day-Saints, IGI


[32] Ibid.


[33] Maryland State Archives, Marriage References, cites {Abstracts of Deeds, KE, 1:153}