Historically speaking

Was Merry house haunted?

The Merry house in Negaunee is pictured. (Photo courtesy of the Negaunee Historical Society)

NEGAUNEE — It isn’t certain if Captain Henry Merry built this house with his own money or if the Jackson Iron Company built it for his use.

The latter is most likely true because the house was included in the general mining property when it was sold. We’re certain that Captain Merry had it built for his own use and pleasure. Captain Merry was born in Oxfordshire, England on Feb. 3, 1830 and came to the United States in 1851.

He spent three years in Cleveland, a short time in Marquette, and came to Negaunee in 1858. He married his wife Sarah in England, and they had five children. Harry, Thomas, Eva, and George. Eva and George died young. They adopted a daughter, Minnie, who later married and lived in Palmer. Harry, was educated in Negaunee, and became associated with the Jackson Iron Company, and as an agent for the McComber Mining Company. Mrs. Merry died and Henry remarried while he was in Negaunee. Captain Merry took complete charge of the

Jackson Mine and for many years he was Negaunee’s most powerful man. Merry Street, which is now in Old Town was named after him. When the Merry house was built in 1863, it was not as large as it later became. The house was built on a little knoll and was surrounded by maples and Lombardy poplars.

It was a frame structure, with the popular perpendicular boards with batten. The original house had a square tower on the west end with a squat tower roof. The entrance driveway to the house was from the location of the company barn, called Barn Street, later named Cleveland Street.

A zigzag row of wooden fences enclosed the house and the original house was painted a light color. When Merry Street was laid out a stone wall was built to retain the lawn.

Capt. Merry had extensive remodeling done to the house in 1882 and had it greatly enlarged. The west end of the house remained the same, but a large addition was made on the east side.

Mansard roofs were in style so a definite Mansard roof was added to the tower, and a long low porch ran across the south side of the house. The house contained several rooms with high ceilings and fireplaces. Round Victorian arches connected three living rooms which when open made a large ballroom. A graceful, beautiful somewhat narrow and steep circular stairway connected the first and second floors. A smaller stairway led upstairs to a square room in the tower with four round

windows from which a panoramic view could be had of the mine and the whole town. High in the tower was a trap door to a small square flat roof. In 1867, the Jackson Iron Company was sold to Captain Sam Mitchell and associates. The Merry family left Negaunee and returned to Virginia. The Merry house stood empty for many years and became known as the “haunted house.”

A movement was started to convert it into a hospital but that fell through. After the turn of the century the Cleveland Cliffs Iron Company acquired the house and converted it into multiple apartments.

The house continued to fall into disrepair and the porches were torn off and in 1957 it was entirely torn down. A popular rumor still exists that a tunnel extended from the Merry house to the Jackson Mine, for Captain Merry. It seems that this would have been a great expense for a company in a tight financial situation.

In the year 2000, a visitor to Negaunee said she lived in the Merry house apartments for a short time, and she said that there was a steel door in the basement, and often wondered where it went?


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