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Epes William Merchant (1804-1887)

Epes W. Merchant

Epes W. Merchant was born in Gloucester, May 22, 1804. He was the eldest of ten children born to Epes Merchant and Sally R. (Thomas) Merchant. Epes W., like most of the Cape Ann boys of that period, was practically engaged in the fisheries until his majority, when he became a partner in his father's business under the firm-name of Epes Merchant & Son. For many years he was one of the principal fish buyers, and his business reputation and mercantile integrity were of the highest order. His knowledge and judgment was often appealed to by the younger masters, and his kind encouragement and sound advice were often the foundation of successful business for many. Mr. Merchant was elected a director of the old Gloucester Bank, now the Gloucester National, in 1848, and became its president in 1871, which office he held until he died. He was also a trustee of the Cape Ann Savings Bank, director of the Gloucester Fishermen's and Widows' and Orphans' Association, and president of the Oak Grove Cemetery Association. Mr. Merchant was a thorough American, believing politically in the principles of protection to American industry, and development as embodied in the Whig and Republican parties. He was liberal in his religious views, being a constant attendant at the Independent Christian Church (Universalist). His life was consistent, patriotic, full of kind deeds and loyalty to his best convictions. Mr. Merchant was married, December 21, 1825, to Miss Sally Ellery Ryerson, who survives him.

taken from: History of Essex County, Massachusetts: with Biographical Sketches, Volume 2, Part 1 pg 1352 -- edited by Duane Hamilton Hurd

Epes W. Merchant died on June 14, 1887 at the age of 83 years and 24 days. In addition to the activities noted in the excerpt above, Epes also participated in other organizations. He served upon the Town Hall building committee in 1869, and was a member of the Board of Aldermen in 1874. He also served as captain under the old militia law. He was a man of methodical habits, conservative views, of generous instincts and unimpeachable integrity." He became a member of the Essex Agrcultural Society in 1872.

Additional information about Epes W. Merchant comes from notes complied by George E. Merchant, the first family historian, about the Merchants of Cape Ann.

By the time Epes W. was in his teens he had attained the height of a fisherman's ambition, a skippership. It was said of him that no smarter skipper trod the quarter deck than he. When he came of age, Epes W. chose to leave the life of skipper, and while working with his father as part of Epes Merchant and Son (their wharf was eventually home to Sylvanus Smith & Co.), became known as one of the principle fish buyers and fish producers. A writer of the time (not identified by GEM) stated "His (Epes W.) reputation and mercantile integrity was of the highest order. His knowledge and judgment was often appealed to by the younger masters, and his kind encouragement and sound advice were often the foundations of successful business for many."

Epes W. Merchant died at his residence, 26 Pleasant St. He and his wife, Sarah Ellery Ryerson had no children. His wife's obituary did note that they had an adopted daughter, Sarah E. Ellery.

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From the House af Jabez -- Chronicles of the Merchant-Marchant Family by Frank R. Merchant

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