In many respects, the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783) was a civil war. One group, the Patriots, bolstered by France and Spain, fought to secure the independence of an American Republic from British control. Another group, the Loyalists, aided by the British Navy and Army, fought to preserve American ties to the British Crown. A third and sizeable segment of American society sought to avoid taking a side and just survive the War with their person and property intact.
The Merritt family immigrated from England to America in 1662 and settled in Wethersfield, Connecticut. In 1673, the Merritts purchased a large plot of land in Rye, Westchester County, New York. Upon the outbreak of the American Revolution, Thomas Merritt IV and many of his sons became active advocates for the British. This activism lead to the destruction of their home by Patriots in 1784 which drove them to leave the newly formed United States for the British colony of New Brunswick. Upon arrival in Parrtown (later named Saint John), Thomas Merritt IV and his sons, David Daniel, Nehemiah, and Thomas V, began a dry goods business. In 1810, having built up a large wealth from the family business, David Daniel Merritt constructed the home we know today. Construction was completed in 1817. 5 generations of the Merritt family lived in the home before it was sold to the New Brunswick Historical Society in 1958. In 1961, it was opened as a house museum and many of the featured artefacts belonged to the Merritt family as they lived here. Loyalist House remains one of Saint John’s only buildings from the time that has never been structurally altered.