GROTON — Nelson A. Merritt, president of F.L. Merritt Inc., made this statement at the signing May 16, 2008, of paperwork that created The Merritt Family Forest:
Our grandfather, Francis E. Merritt, who was born in Ledyard in 1835, bought the Fort Hill Farm in 1868. The son, Francis L. Merritt, was born shortly after the family moved in that year. Our grandmother, Abbie Crouch Merritt, and our mother, Althea Montgomery Merritt, loved the farm, especially the forest with its numerous deer and other animals.
While the land was generally used for grazing young cattle in its open spaces, other uses came up now and then. There were originally two or three houses there during colonial times, probably for tenant farmers. One of them was located above the inner brook and along the original road that ran from what is now Flanders Road through the woods to the farmhouse on the top of Fort Hill. Also along that road are the remains of an old grist mill. During the Civil War, ribs for wooden warships built at the Noank Shipyard came from the great limbs of oak trees and paneling for the cabins from red cedars that grew in abundance. During World War II a pasture lot of ten acres or so along Fishtown Road was plowed and turned into victory gardens for a score or more of Noank residents.
The farm and the Merritt generations were a part of Noank. Francis L. Merritt and his four sisters went to the old one-room school on the top of Brook Street hill before he met our mother Althea Montgomery. Their seven children went to the two-story school on Main Street.
It is wonderful that GOSA, with the assistance of the State of Connecticut, has found the way to preserve this forest primeval for all future generations and for all time.