At the peak of his career, Mercer was selected by the Ohio Company of land speculators to represent their interests in London. The hated 1765 Stamp Act was enacted by Parliament while he was traveling. Not fully aware of sentiments at home, he accepted an appointment as Stamp Master for Virginia. He was overtaken by a mob and forced to resign when he returned to Virginia. Though the cheering crowd carried him out of the capitol in Williamsburg in celebration, Mercer soon left the colony for good.
The financial consequences of his exile eventually resulted in his mortgaging and then remortgaging his properties until he was ruined. He wrote to Washington, his cousin George Mason, and John Tayloe asking them to oversee the sale of his properties for him. The task fell to Washington. A large tract in what is now Clarke County was divided into lots by Francis Peyton and auctioned by Washington in 1774. Benjamin and Thomas Berry were among the bidders. Benjamin, who had more resources, acquired some prime riverfront land. Thomas acquired an inland lot but made up for it with the addition of a 20-acre island lot.
Less than two years later, the Frederick Committee of Safety chose Thomas to lead a new company of Provincial soldiers, which was then assigned to the 8th Virginia Regiment. He continued to lead his men until their enlistments expired at Valley Forge in April of 1778 and then returned home to lead what appears to have been a quiet life. He died in 1818.
Benjamin, the older brother, was the founder of Berryville—a town just north and west of the old Mercer property. Benjamin is better remembered because of his namesake town, but Thomas’s military service deserves to be remembered as well.
Read More: "Lost & Found: James Kay & Thomas Berry"
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is researching the history of the Revolutionary War's 8th Virginia Regiment. Its ten companies formed on the frontier, from the Cumberland Gap to Pittsburgh.
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