Abigail Ann Merwin
- Written by Milford Hall of Fame committee
Milford's female Paul Revere
Born Abigail Ann Beach in 1752, died in 1834 at age 82. She was a descendant of Milford's founding families (Platt, and Baldwin, her ancestor, Thomas Beach, arrived in 1652 in Milford). Daughter of Landa and Abigail Beach. Her father who lived to be 97, fought in both the French and Indian war and the American Revolution during which he may have crossed the Delaware with George Washington. Her mother lived to be 96, both parents having longevity remarkable for their time.
Abigail married into another Milford founding family when, on February 18, 1773, she married Miles Merwin, son of Miles Merwin and Mary Tibbals. She settled in at the family farm at Point Beach. Her home, extensively rebuilt over the ensuing centuries, still stands on the hill on Pond Point Avenue. It was from this vantage point that she spied a British ship landing raiders at Point Beach on August 25, 1777.
The British essentially controlled Long Island Sound from bases in largely loyalist Long Island. Seaborne raiders confiscated cattle, pigs and other farm animals, burned crops, property, homes and even towns along the shore. Pond Point and Point Beach area farmers, fearing these raids, had removed their cattle to a dell known to this day as the Calf Pen Meadow.
On that August morning, the HMS Swan anchored about a mile off the point and a raiding party rowed ashore. Abigail Merwin saw them coming, according to some, as she hung clothes out to dry. That day she became a revolutionary war heroine along the likes of Paul Revere. She hitched her wagon and with her 21 month old baby Daniel under her arm, raced into town banging on a copper pot to raise the alarm.
Milford legend has it that the swift response of the local Militia caused the British to beat a hasty retreat. Diarist John Downs reported “Cloudy & rain, I at the farm, Alarm & Training at Town.” Similarly, the Captain's log of the “Swan” reads: “At 4 AM came too(sic) Sm. Br. in 7 fs. [fathoms] water, Milford Church NWBW 2 Miles off shore 1 Mile. Sent boats on Shore Mand & Armd [manned and armed (sic)] to bring of[f] some cattle … At 7 the boats Returned … got no Cattle.”
Neither contemporaneous account states a battle ensued and it is likely neither side came into sight of the other, at least not while both were on land. Nevertheless, because of the actions of one young mother, the militia of Milford was alerted and prepared to defend their homes. Unlike Stratford, Fairfield and New Haven itself, Milford never suffered devastation at the hands of the British.