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Mercer Girls Links

March 10, 2000
Peri's Genealogy Home Page
Meet Peri, the Mercer Girls researcher, and learn a little about her family history.
The Voyage West
The story of the Mercer Girls trip from Massachusetts to Washington Territory
Lowell Papers 1864
Lowell, Massachusetts newspapers announce the arrival of Asa Mercer in their city with the purpose of procuring female teachers to go to Washington Territory.
Asa Mercer's letter to the New York Times
This letter was written to the skeptics who questioned Mercers reasons for taking young ladies to Wasnington Territory
Annie May Adams
She hadn't intended on going to Washington Territory.
Josie & Georgia Pearson
They made the trip to Washington Territory with their father
Sarah Elizabeth Cheney
She was a teacher and artist
Sara Jane Gallagher
The daughter of Irish Immigrants January 1, 2000 w/new photo
Mary Elizabeth "Lizzie" Ordway
Lizzie was very prominent in the beginnings of the educational system of the state.
Antoinette Josephine Baker
She taught school in her home an grew flowers for her neighbors.
Catherine Clement Stevens
Catherine and her family moved north to live in Victoria,Canada.
Catherine Stickney
Catherine married a prominent Seattle pioneer, but died young.
Asa Shinn Mercer
He brought the Girls to Washington Territory
Aurelia "Lillie" Coffin
A Mercer Girl who moved to California and wound up in Illinois
Lowell Dailey Courier, March 1864
Read a copy of the article in the Lowell paper describing the departure of Mercer and his group of girls.

Descendants Reception 1998
Descendants of the Mercer Girls meet in Seattle to celebrate the arrival of their ancestors 134 years earlier.
Descendants Photo Album
A collection of photos of descendants of these early pioneers of Seattle.
A List of Fiction Books about Mercer Girls
Brides on TV
TV series of the 1960's portray Mercer's Girls.
Awards given to this site
Check-out the awards that have been given to the Mercer Girls research story.
HistoryLink
HistoryLink offers a growing collection of biographies, narratives, profiles, images, facts and chronologies relating to Seattle and King County's history. The site includes both educational features and searchable databases.
Washington Research Links
Great Links for doing Washington State Research

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They Called Them the
"Mercer Girls"

Washington Territory's Cargo of Brides

Some of you may recall the popular television series of 1968-70 called "Here Come The Brides". It stared Robert Brown, David Soul and teenage heart throb Bobby Sherman. It was the story of the Bolt brothers, who owned a logging operation in the new settlement of Seattle, Washington Territory. The story was set in the mid 1860s at a time when Seattle was young and there were plenty of men in the new frontier town but few women. Jason Bolt, the oldest brother (played by Robert Brown), had a plan to bring single ladies from the east out west to marry the single men. Few people realize that this series was based on a true story.

There weren't any Bolt brothers in the early days of Seattle, but there The Mercer brothers. One of them was a young man named Asa Shinn Mercer. He was the president of the newly established University in Seattle and the youngest brother of Thomas Mercer, one of Seattle's first settlers. Asa, a single man himself, took up the task of making two trips to the east to recruit ladies to come to Washington Territory.

Over the last several years I have been on a quest to document the lives of these courageous young ladies who, on the first trip, left their homes and families, in a well established city, to travel to a settlement that still had dirt streets and oil lamps. In Seattle they are fondly remembered as "The Mercer Girls". I want to point out that this is an on-going research project and the facts are true to the best of my knowledge. I have spent many hours looking for primary sources to verify the information I have posted on these pages. I have searched birth, marriage and death records, census, journals, newspapers, land records, probate records, local history books and had interviews with descendants. There are still some gaps, but I hope to fill those in as my research progresses. My goal is to someday publish the story of their lives. I hope you enjoy this sneak peak at some of what I have discovered.

Early Spring 1864, Lowell, Massachusetts

It had only been a few weeks since Asa Shinn Mercer, the newly elected president of the University in Seattle, had stood at a podium in the Unitarian Church in Lowell and told how Seattle, in Washington Territory, was a fast growing town and was in need of teachers and ladies of quality. The city had more than doubled in the years since the first families had landed across the bay at Alki and the University had been opened just the year before. Mercer explained that as the community grew there were more children of school age but few to teach them. To those willing to go west with him, Mercer made promises of honorable work in the schools and good wages This was a welcome idea to many in attendance since the war had caused the loss of jobs and left families without men to support them.

Before the war Lowell had been a flourishing mill town, but now with no cotton coming from the southern states, most of the mills had shut their doors. What few jobs that were left had been taken by the men that, for one reason or another, had not gone off to fight in the war. Many families had lost their men in the fighting and the women were struggling, as best as they could, to support themselves and their children. For the young ladies of marrying age the prospects of finding a husband in Lowell looked very dim. Mr. Mercer had come to Lowell to invite ladies to go west with him to a place where jobs and men were abundant. The cost of the trip, Mercer explained, would be $250.00. They would travel west by ship to Aspinwall, Panama then by train to Panama, City and by ship again to San Francisco and then to Seattle. All by the best of accommodations. The people of Seattle had agreed to put the ladies up in their homes and welcome them into the community, while finding them jobs in the various schools. (Read Mercer's letter to the New York Times)

As the meeting adjourned that evening you could hear the excitement in the conversations of those leaving. Many were interested in going west with Mercer but only a small number of ladies could come up with the $250.00 needed to make the trip. So it was on a cold, blustery afternoon in March of the year 1864, that eight ladies boarded a train in Lowell that would take them to a ship waiting in a New York harbor. There they would be joined by two ladies from Pepperell, Massachusetts and another from Boston. Their eyes were filled with tears as they said good-bye to family and friends but their hearts were full of excitement. For this was the beginning of a journey that was to lead them to a new life out west in a place called Washington Territory.

The eight ladies and one gentleman, under the charge of Asa Shinn Mercer who left Lowell, Massachusetts by train that afternoon were;

Antoinette Josephine Baker, age 25.

Ann Murphy, age (age unknown)

Sarah Cheney, age 22

Elizabeth (Lizzie) Ordway, the oldest at age 35

Aurelia Coffin, age 20

Josephine (Josie) Pearson, age 19

Sara Jane Gallagher, age 19

Georgianna (Georgia) Pearson, age 15

Josie and Georgia were accompanied by their father, Daniel Pearson who had been ill for a time and felt that the change of climate might be good for his health. He was to leave behind in Lowell his wife, Susan, son, Daniel and youngest daughter Flora. They would join him two years later with the second Mercer expedition.

Joining the group in New York were two ladies and one man from Pepperell, Massachusetts (a small town near Lowell);

Catherine Stickney, age 28

Katherine Stevens, age 21 and Katherine's father Rodolphus Stevens.

And from Boston there was;

Annie May Adams, age 16 who intended to stay in San Francisco but later decided to journey on to Seattle.

To continue with the Mercer Maids on their journey visit The Voyage West

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Copyright 1997-2000 by Peri Muhich. All rights reserved. This site may be linked freely but please do not duplicated in any fashion without my permission. Copying, retransmission or unauthorized reuse of this work not only violates federal copyright law, punishable by civil and criminal sanctions, but is outright theft. Please don't do it.

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