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
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