Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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MERRITT, William, navigator, born in England about 1640; died in 1708. He arrived in New York about 1671 in command of a ship, and afterward became a merchant. He was made lieutenant of Stephen Cortlandt's company in March, 1681, elected a member of the common council in 1684, and commissioned quartermaster in July of the latter year. From 1679 till 1682, in 1685, 1687, and again in 1691, he, with others, farmed the excise. In 1687 ha served as alderman, and in May; 1689, he was appointed one of a committee to provide materials for the fortification of the city. During the occupation of the gubernatorial office by Jacob Leisler, Alderman Merritt and his son. John, were arrested by that official apparently for having received at his house "five armed strangers." During his confinement of twenty-one days Merritt used every effort to obtain permission to visit his dying grandchild, but the request was not granted. He was again alderman from 1690 till 1695, and served as a member of the general assembly in 1691. He was commissioned major in Governor Benjamin Fletcher's expedition, and reached Schenectady, New York, with the city detachment, 18 February, 1693. He was appointed justice in New York city, 12 May, 1694, and served as mayor from the end of that year till 1698. On 19 March, 1695, he and other members of the Church of England petitioned for leave to buy land whereon to erect a church, and he was one of those that had charge of the building of Trinity church. He and other "managers of the building," oil 16 July, 1696, asked that "the money collected for ransoming Christian slaves be paid over to them, as some of said Christians are dead, and others have escaped." Merritt and his son were the first vestrymen of Trinity, having been chosen in 1697. hi 1700 he was commissioned colonel of Abraham De Peyster's regiment. About this time he removed to Orange county, New York, where he was registered in 1702 as a justice. The last recorded event in his history is that he returned to his original vocation, as he was appointed pilot of her majesty's ship "Lowe-staffe" on 24 April, 1706.
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