Joseph Hansell Merrill

Joseph Hansell Merrill (1862-1925)

In 1913, Joseph Hansell Merrill served as one of the founding Trustees of South Georgia State Normal College, at Valdosta, GA. In 1922, the school became Georgia State Woman’s , Valdosta State College in 1950, and Valdosta State University in 1993.  Joseph Hansell Merrill was a law partner of Charles Paine Hansell, son of Judge Augustin H. Hansell who spent 50 years on the bench of the of Southern Circuit of Georgia.

Portrait of Joseph Hansell Merrill

Joseph Hansell Merrill, attorney at Thomasville, GA, was a founding Trustee of South Georgia State Normal College (now Valdosta State University).

 

National Cyclopedia of American Biography
pg 14

MERRILL, Joseph Hansell, lawyer, was born at Thomasville, Ga., October 12, 1862, son of Joseph Styles and Anne (Hall) Merrill. His earliest paternal American ancestor was Nathaniel Merrill, who came from England in 1633 and settled at Ipswich, Mass. His wife was Joanna Kinney, and from them the line of descent is traced through their son Abel and his wife Priscilla Chase; their son Abel and his wife Abigail M. Stevens; their son Abel and his first wife Ruth Kellog; their son Stevens and his wife Mary Noyes; their son Joseph and his wife Sarah Capp, to their son Lemuel Merrill and his wife Eliza Barker, who were the grandparents of Joseph Hansell Merrill. Joseph Styles Merrill, father of our subject and a graduate of Oglethorpe University, was farmer, merchant, and ordinary of Thomas county, Ga. Joseph Hansell Merrill received his preliminary education at Fletcher Institute, Thomasville, where he won a scholarship to the State University. He was graduated at the University of Georgia with distinction in 1880. He studied law at Thomasville under Arthur Patten; was admitted to the bar of Georgia in 1884, and in that year began the practice of his profession at Thomasville as a partner of his preceptor under the firm style of Patten & Merrill, which relation continued three years. During 1887-99 he was the partner of Chas. P. Hansell, under the firm style of Hansell & Merrill. From 1899 to 1915 he practised alone. Since 1915 he has been of the firm of Merrill & Grantham, with Charles Pinckney Grantham. He represents various corporations including railroad companies, and other business interests, largely by yearly contracts, and is rated an authority on land titles, devoting much of his time to this work as a specialty. He was referee in bankruptcy during 1904-08, and judge of the superior courts of the Southern circuit of Georgia in 1910. Of thirteen cases tried by him taken to the Supreme court, eleven were affirmed; two reversed. He has never sought political office, and only accepted the offices above mentioned at the earnest request of the appointing power. His service on the bench elicited much favorable comment from the press. He was called an ideal presiding officer, whose rulings were characterized by sound legal knowledge and understanding, and excellent judgment. Aside from his professional activities he is president of the Thomasville Real Estate & Improvement Co.; vice-president and attorney Citizens Banking & Trust Co., and a director in various other commercial, industrial or financial institutions. He is one of the three Georgia members of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, 1912-19; member of its executive and legislative committees, and is frequently called on to preside over its deliberations in committee of the whole, and he is Georgia member of the general council American Bar Association; past president (1908-09) Georgia State Bar Association, and president of Thomas County Bar Association, past president Thomasville Public Library Association, and Thomasville Young Men’s Christian Association. Politically he is a Democrat, and he is a communicant of the Episcopal church, and has taught a Bible class for thirty years. He was a speaker in various drives for war work during 1917-18 in Georgia and Florida, and he was alumnus orator at the University of Georgia commencement in 1902. A paper by him for the Georgia Bar Association in 1901, “The Book in the Lawyer’s Library,” was widely published and attracted much favorable comment from members of the bar throughout the country. He finds his chief recreation in golf and horseback riding. He was married (1) at Thomasville, Ga., Dec. 30, 1885, to Mattie C., daughter of John G. Pittman, a real estate operator of Thomasville; She died in 1888, and he was married (2) at Thomasville, Nov. 12, 1890, to Blanche, daughter of Hiram R. Tarwater, a merchant of Louisville, Ky. He has one surviving child of the second marriage; Katherine, now Mrs. John Pasco, Monticello, Fla.

Hamilton Sharpe and Lafayette

When General Lafayette, hero of the American Revolution, returned to Georgia in 1825 great crowds thronged to Savannah for his arrival. Among those who gathered to greet the great man was Hamilton Sharpe,  pioneer settler of Lowndes County, GA.

Marquis de Lafayette, from Memoirs of General La Fayette, published 1825.

Marquis de Lafayette, from Memoirs of General La Fayette, published 1825.

“Arriving in Savannah on March 19, 1825, the sixty-seven-year-old Lafayette disembarked from his steamboat to a salute from the Chatham Artillery and the cheers of the crowd. The most poignant moments of his stay in Savannah came when he laid the cornerstones for monuments honoring two other Revolutionary War heroes, Count Casimir Pulaski and General Nathanael Greene.”  – New Georgia Encyclopedia

Hamilton W. Sharpe was just a boy when Lafayette visited Savannah, but his memory of the occasion lasted a lifetime. Sharpe grew up in Tatnall County, but when “a young man hardly in his twenties, had come down from Tatnall County over the Coffee Road, and decided to locate near the home of Hon. Sion Hall at whose home the first court in Lowndes [county] was held a few months afterwards.  So young Sharpe built a small store building out of logs near the Sharpe home; that was in 1826. 

Sharpe’s Store, on the Coffee Road, was the first commercial establishment  in Lowndes County, and became an early post office for the area.  Sharpe was active in politics, and served as a captain of local militia in the Indian Wars.  In religion, Hamilton W. Sharpe was a Methodist. He conducted a large bible class at old Bethlehem Church in Lowndes County, and was a friend and neighbor of Reverend Robert H. Howren. He was a trustee of the Fletcher Institute, of Thomasville, GA.  In his later years he was an innkeeper at Quitman, GA.

Hamilton Wynn Sharpe

Hamilton Wynn Sharpe

In 1886, Hamilton W. Sharpe wrote of his memories of Lafayette in a letter to the editor of the Savannah Morning News (reprinted in the Oct 6, 1886 edition of the Waycross Headlight.)   Sharpe refers to his guests at  the Sharpe House as “inmates” and goes on to reminisce about the weather, his father’s business in Savannah, the Planters Hotel, and the people and places he knew in Savannah:

1886-oct-6-hamilton-w-sharpe

     Editor Morning News:  It has just been remarked by one of our inmates: “How awfully warm it is!”  This remark induced a peep at the themometer-not quite 90 deg.  This does not indicate very warm weather for the middle of September, but I notice that there is no rustling among the leaves on the  trees. Every thing is as “still as the breeze;” not even a shaking, and therefore I conclude that it is owning not so much to the intensity of the heat as the lack of wind, for I do not remember to have seen so little wind in the month of September so far.
      While I confess a deep sympathy for the citizens of our neighboring city of Charleston in all her unparalleled sufferings I am grateful, too, that your city, the emporium of the State of Georgia, has suffered less.
      The writer, though now 80 years of age, has a very distinct recollection of Savannah when but a little boy.  Along with his father, time and again, he visited the city to obtain many of the necessaries and luxuries of life. These were the days of small things to Savannah, compared to her present grand improvements.  Then the principal business of the city was done around the market square and north to the river.  The wholesale houses were principally from Nos. 1 to 8 Gibbons’ buildings, and there was no such thing as the Pulaski House, or the Marshall or Screven House.  The Planters’ Hotel was at that time the hotel of the city.
       Sometimes I have a very distinct recollection of the men with whom my father traded at the time – such men as Gildon, Edward Coppee and others – and the late Thomas Holcombe was a boy about my own age and size.
       Your stately printing and publishing hous was not there to adorn the cornner of Bay and Whitaker streets, nor was there any other important public buildings save the old Exchange.
       It was there the writer happening to be in the city, pressed himself along with the crowd, when the procession was formed in the long room of the Exchange to look upon the venerable features of Gen. Lafayette and shake his hand.  I have always been proud of the occasion and the act.  The next day the corner stone of the Greene and Pulaski monument in Johnson Square was laid.  Gen. Lafayette was the Grand Master of the occasion, and the following words were sung, to wit:

“And around thy brow will twine
The tender leaf of green which grew
In days of Auld Lange Syne.”

      And the wreath in the hands of one of Savannah’s beautiful daughters was fittingly and gracefully twined around the head of the venerable man whose name will ever be dear to Americans.
          The words were sung to the tune, “Auld Lang Syne.”
         Should you ever wander as far as Quitman inquire for Tranquil Hall or the Sharpe House, and you will find the house persided over by two old people who will be glad to see the editor of the Morning News, and will treat him kindly. Our prayer is that both your city and your sister City by the Sea will be relieved for the future of any further shaking up.

H. W. S.

Additional notes:

  • Charles Gildon was a Savannah, Georgia storekeeper. He is referenced in early Savannah newspapers between 1805 and 1855. Gildon’s shop was located on Lot 6, Digby Tything, Decker Ward which faced Ellis Square from 1815-1823.
  • Edward Coppee was a physician and merchant of Savannah, operating businesses at a number of locations in the city.
  • Thomas Holcombe (1815-1885) was a wholesale grocer of Savannah, and served as Mayor of the city during the civil war.

Related Posts: