Born July 3, 1793 ; Died July 6, 1862, Aged 69 Years
If, in thy wanderings o’er this beauteous earth,
….A solemn thought should contemplate the doom
Of minds inheriting intrinsic worth,
….Go mark the spot where Merritt lies entombed !
An active life, the path he sought aright
….For his adopted country ;—through each change
He watched its progress with intense delight ;
….His mind capacious took extensive range.
A wilderness around his boyish days,
….When first he strolled through woods so dense so green ;
He lived to see vast schemes matured, and gazed
….With pride and admiration o’er the scene.
The Lakes’ bold shores, the angry waters stayed,
….Were altered in their course by one great plan ;
After comingling opened wide a trade
….And commerce vast to high-aspiring man.
Still incomplete to meet his restless eye,
….Which ever beamed with generous emotion,
He soared beyond a bright Canadian sky
….To carry on our commerce o’er the ocean.
But Death, that intervenes to mar our hopes,
….Cut short his measures for the country’s weal ;
A funeral dirge at last, in moving tropes,
….Proclaimed at large what all survivors feel.
The loss of one so useful in his day,
….A chasm left that none can e’er supply ;
The mourners walk abroad, and wend their way
….Each to respective homes, to heave a sigh,
Exclaiming, “Truly, wonderful is death !—
….A silent monitor to each from birth—
A power that robs the human race of breath,
….And levels giant minds to mother earth.”
Many men of talent still that path pursue,
….Which our departed friend so wisely loved ;
Walk in his footsteps, with the self-same view ;
….And ultimately rest — rewarded above.
July 13, 1862
Source: St. Catharines Constitutional, July 17, 1862.
Many thanks to historian Dennis Gannon for bringing this poem to the NFPP curator’s attention.
William Hamilton Merritt had many ties to Niagara Falls: he served with the 2nd Lincoln Militia during the War of 1812, stationed at Chippawa; was the driving force behind the Welland Canal, which followed Chippawa Creek part of the way; and was a driving force behind the construction of the first suspension bridge across the Niagara River.
Read about George Coventry here.
Coventry was a long-time employee and friend of Merritt.