​Generation 1

Denis, whose surname evolved from Morrough to Manross, is first recorded in the small

coastal village of Falmouth, Maine in 1675, although he was there earlier.  The village had a

great natural harbor and appeared to present an excellent opportunity for the young Irish

fisherman who was looking for a new life in America.

As delightful as the natural harbor may have been, it was a very rugged place to live.  There

were only forty families who resided in Falmouth.  The village had suffered through fierce

winters and there were  periodic unprovoked lethal raids from the Abenaki Indians.  At the

time, the province of Maine had a total population of only one thousand.  Falmouth's early

years were marked by extreme violence as it lay on a border between Europeans and Indians,

and between the British and French who both wanted  to control North America.  The battle

between the British and French continued for another hundred years and the American settlers

were the victims.  Falmouth was the northernmost settlement on the North American continent

until 1713.

In 1673 Denis married Jane Penley, the oldest daughter of Sampson Penley.  He was one of

the original  landowners in Falmouth and Cape Elizabeth, Maine and arrived in the 1650's.  

Sampson and his wife Rachel were originally from Devon, England.  He was both a fisherman

and a jailer and owned many acres of prime land, including half interest in House Island, that

is today a private island in Portland Harbor.

In 1675 Denis and Sampson were among those who signed a petition requesting better

protection from the Indians.  The petition was presented to the government which was

based in Boston, MA.  The petition requested that the commanders who were appointed to

train soldiers to defend Falmouth be changed.  In 1676 the First Indian War took place which

resulted in several deaths  and the residents abandoned the town.  After a peace treaty was

signed in 1678 the residents returned.

​Upon his return Denis was busy raising a family, working as a fisherman, and living in

Purpooduck, which was across the Casco river from Falmouth.  They lived on the fifty acres

of beach front property owned by his father in law, Sampson Penley, and later owned by Denis.

 The property is  today the popular Willard Beach near Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse on

Purpooduck Point.  Four  children were born to Denis and Jane in Falmouth between 1675-1688;

Hezekiah, Rachel, Daniel and Denis Jr.

Denis was also very active in acquiring and selling property.  In 1684 he was awarded, from

George Munjoy's estate, fifty acres along Ware Creek which runs from the Back Cove to the

Casco River.   Denis also owned three acres on Queen St. (now Congress St.) and Pearl St.

which was four blocks  from the location of the newly built Fort Loyal along the Casco River.  

In 1685 Denis claimed fifty  acres as a Deed of Gift of Thomas Brackett.  Denis then sold 60

acres in Purpooduck, in 1686.

In 1690, in Quebec Canada, the French and the Indians conspired to launch three major

attacks on  residents in Maine with the goal of driving out all British settlements.  Between

four and five hundred French soldiers and Indians attacked the small village of Falmouth.  

The residents on the north side of Casco River fled to Fort Loyal. The fighting was very intense.

Denis, and others who resided in Purpooduck, could see that the attack was overwhelming

and there was no hope of making it alive to Fort Loyal.  They put their families in their fishing

boats and sailed South to Wells, Maine which was also under attack.  Denis continued on to

Dorchester which became Boston MA.  He had saved his family and was ready to try to embark

on a new life in Massachusetts.  

Meanwhile the battle at Fort Loyal raged for five days.  Most of the men in the fort were killed

or  wounded and all the homes of all the settlers had been burned.  The settlers were finally

forced to raise a flag of truce to request a parley in order to surrender.  They demanded to know

if there were any French among them, and if they would give the settlers quarter.  The attackers

answered in the affirmative that they were, indeed, French.  The settlers asked a second time to

receive quarter for their men, women and children and that they would have the freedom to

march to the next English town.  The French officer held up his hand and swore to God that they

would be given  quarter.  As soon as the French and Indians had the settlers in their custody,

they were cruelly murdered.  Only three survived and were taken as prisoners to Canada.

Denis, Jane and their family settled in Dorchester, MA and later in Milton, MA.  They had two

sons in Massachusetts, Richard, and our Nehemiah.  Denis Jr., Richard, and Nehemiah were

all baptized in the First church of Dorchester in 1697.

Denis remained active in real estate and sold 40 acres in Milton.  In 1710 he sold another

twenty acres in Milton.  In 1711 Denis Jr. sold the fifty acres near Ware Creek in Falmouth,

Maine that Denis Sr. had been awarded in 1685.  In the deed Denis Jr. points out that he is the

true owner by a Deed of Gift from his father Denis Sr.  He was required to use the proceeds to

purchase property for his parents in  Farmington CT.  It is believed that Denis never lived in

Farmington.  In July 1713 Denis and Jane sold nine acres near the Back Cove and Ware Creek

in Falmouth, Maine.

On January 25, 1714 the elder Denis died while on a horseback trip.  The accidental death of

Denis appeared in the Boston newspaper.

"Denis Meroh, an aged and infirm man passed by Captain Billings in the afternoon, traveling

towards Connecticut.  Tis supposed he designed a path that failed him.  He wandered in the

woods, his horse left him, and came to a house belonging to Wrentham (Massachusetts).  The

man who took the horse  brought him to Captain Billings who knew him to be Mero's horse,

upon which Captain Billings, his family and some of his Wrentham neighbors went out, search

the woods, and found him dead in the evening."

Perhaps Denis was trying to travel to Farmington to see the land his son had purchased for him.

 If so,  it was a trip that was over 100 miles by horseback in the middle of Winter.    In 1734 Denis Jr.

sold the right to the elder's undivided land in Falmouth ME.

Denis, the first Manross in America