Elias Merriman, BiographyPorter County biographical sketches . . . .

Transcribed biography of Elias Merriman

ELIAS MERRIMAN. With the happy reflections consequent upon a well-spent life, Elias Merriman, of Porter county, Indiana, has in his sunset years opportunity to review the great changes which have come upon that neighborhood since he became a citizen therein, almost three-quarters of a century ago. Indiana, whose fair and smiling fields now invite the efforts of the husbandmen, with every promise of a bounteous reward, was then a rugged and unconquered region much of it a veritable wilderness where residence was accompanied with hazard and which bowed to the slow advance of civilization only after the stubborn resistance that the forces of Nature put forth.

In those days forests clothed the hills and a jungle of undergrowth the lowlands. The "hoop-pole country" was not a joking allusion but an actuality and the hardy pioneer had to put forth superhuman efforts not only to make but to maintain every step that was taken forward. The railroad was unheard of and the telephone undreamed of. The luxury of the mail service was almost as unknown as the luxury of the automobile, still half a century from its inception. Strong hands and courageous hearts won the wilderness and brought to submissiveness and usefulness the broad acres of the great commonwealth.

The hurrying host of the present day give only occasional heed to the past, for they knew it not intimately, but to Elias Merriman it is an open book, and his mind contains a wonderful history of Porter county, dating back to the earlier days. His reminiscences are most interesting and his friends never tire of the stories that he relates for their delectation.

Holmes county, Ohio, was the birthplace of Mr. Merriman, and January 30, 1835, his natal day. He was the second in a family of six children, five sons and one daughter, born to David and Mary Ann (Axe) Merriman. There are four of these still living -- Mr. Merriman; Levi, a resident of Boone Grove in Porter county, where he is engaged in farming; Virginia, the widow of John Culberson, of San Bernardino, California, and Noah, who has been following agriculture and also carpentry and joining at Marion, Ind.

The senior Merriman, father of the family just enumerated, was born in Pennsylvania, January 2, 1809, and died January 7, 1884, having rounded out the even three-quarters of a century the week before his death. He was a cabinet maker by trade, and came to Ohio when a young man, receiving his education in the primitive schools of that time. He was married in Ohio, and about 1840 came with his family in true pioneer style to Porter county, Indiana, the trip being made in a two-horse wagon. He followed his trade for a number of years, and after locating in Boone Grove took up agriculture. Mr. Merriman lost no time in becoming a landowner after he reached Indiana. Just east of Valparaiso he traded his horses and wagon for forty acres of land. Then he sold this land for $700 and purchased one hundred and sixty acres, paying therefore $3.25 an acre. This constituted his homestead until the time of his death. He was an old-line Whig and at the birth of the Republican party espoused its principles and followed them through the remainder of his life.

David Merriman is looked back to as a grand, good man, a devout Christian and a splendid type of American manhood. He, in company with William Dye, organized the Christian church near Boone Grove, the first services being held in a barn, then in a log school house and finally in the humble religious edifice which was erected for that exclusive purpose. In his home life he was revered with a sincerity which was an acknowledgement of his depth of character. His teachings will ever live in the hearts of his children. In his death the county lost one of its most valuable citizens. He traced his lineage back to old England, as while the colonies were still under British rule two brothers came from England and settled in the United States, one of them in Baltimore. From this branch of the family came the Merrimans who are considered in this sketch. The true spelling of the name is with the two" r's," and is so preserved by this family. The wife of David Merriman was a native of the Old Dominion. She was born in Virginia and was but a girl when she came to Ohio, and there was reared and married. Her father was a slave-holder in the old days. She was educated in the common schools and grew up as a member of the Christian church, being married in the latter. She had attained the ripe old age of eighty-one years and ten months when claimed by death.

Elias Merriman, the subject of this sketch, was about five years of age when he became a resident of Porter county, his original home being about sixteen feet square and constructed entirely of logs. Of equally primitive construction was the school house, which had the desks ranged around the walls. The benches were wooden slabs with pegs driven into them on a slant for legs. They had no backs and were uncomfortable to a degree. The school was maintained entirely by subscription. It was nothing uncommon to see a herd of deer flit past -- Mr. Merriman has seen as many as thirty in a single drove. There was also a great abundance of prairie chicken and the water fowl included huge flocks of wild ducks, brant and geese. His father cut the ripened grain with a sickle and Elias threshed it out on the barn floor with sturdy blows of his flail. There was not a railroad in the county and the produce was all hauled in wagons to Michigan City. Mr. Merriman remembers hauling pork to Michigan City and receiving $1.75 per 100 pounds. He remained with his parents until twenty-one, when he took up land for himself, and in that time broke up many acres of raw prairie with oxen, and also plowed with one ox, using a single-shovel plow to cultivate the corn. He, like other boys of the time, received only a rudimentary education in the crude schools of the time.

On March 20, 1856, he was married to Miss Eliza Dye, and their union was blessed with three children, a son and two daughters. America F. is a resident of Valparaiso, and is a practical farmer. He was educated in the Valparaiso high school and the Normal College, and successfully followed teaching in Porter county for a number of years. He married Miss May M. Quinn and has two living children, Hale and Hazel. Mr. Merriman is Republican in politics and his religious affiliation is with the Christian church. His farm is a fine sweep of 200 fertile acres. Arabella, the second child, is the wife of Delos Cornell, a resident of Valparaiso, who is a mechanic. Wilhelmina is at home with her father. She is the wife of Carroll Jewell, a salesman in Valparaiso, Indiana. Both of the girls were educated in the country and city schools and they and their husbands also are members of the Christian church.

William Dye, Sr., was born in the state of Maryland, on the 14th of January, 1805. At the age of two years he removed with his parents to Pennsylvania, where his father departed this life, and from thence he removed to Wayne county, Ohio. He was left an orphan at the age of ten years. He married Nancy Jones on October 5th, 1824, and to this union was born six children: Sophia, Mary Ann, Dewitt Clinton, Sarah, Eliza, and John. After his marriage he removed with his family to Porter county, Indiana, and resided at Boone Grove until his death. William Dye was called a wealthy man in those days. He entered land and came here when the Indians were the inhabitants of Porter county. William Dye and David Merriman were the first organizers of the Christian church at Boone Grove, Indiana. William Dye was killed in Porter county, Indiana, on Saturday, February 3, 1882, by being thrown from a load of hay. His dear wife was at that time seventy-five years of age and never survived the shock of her husband's death. He left eight children and thirteen grand children. He was a man of sterling qualities and industrious and temperate habits; the poor never went hungry from his door; and he was an affectionate husband, an indulgent father and a kind neighbor, and loved dearly by all his children and grandchildren. May he rest in peace.

Mother Merriman, the wife of our subject, was born in Wayne county, Ohio, September 30, 1833, and died October 22, 1909, aged seventy-six years. She was but three when she came with her parents to Porter county, and the rest of her life was spent within its precincts. Mr. and Mrs. Merriman were married in 1856, their resources being practically nil. Mrs. Merriman had taught school for a while at $1.25 a week and had saved up a little. In 1864, when the gold fever struck the northwest, particularly in Montana and Idaho, Mr. Merriman drove through with a four-horse team, the trip being of ninety-five days' duration.

He stayed there two years and was reasonably successful in his enterprise. He made fifteen round trips to that country and followed the gold mining business with enthusiasm. The net proceeds, however, he invested back home, adding to the eighty acres he had purchased from his father until with the heritage of his wife, as well, he had in conjunction with her 600 acres in Porter county. Mr. and Mrs. Merriman presented each of their children with a fine farm. Besides his nice residence at the corner of Michigan and Indiana avenues he has other city property and is a share holder in the Bell Telephone Company.

While Mr. Merriman was in Jefferson City, Jefferson county, Montana, he and John R. Lewis (the bachelor brother of Mr. Benjamin F. Lewis, president of the Lewis Publishing company of Chicago and New York), mined and bached together two or three years in their miner's quarters, and Mr. Merriman regarded John R. Lewis in that time as a true friend, chum and gentleman.

Starting with little of this world's goods many years ago Mr. Merriman has by industry and frugality attained a place where he can enjoy ease and comfort. Nothing ever acquired in this world, however, has been as dear to him as the companionship of his beloved wife, which was but recently severed by death after they had traveled life's pathway together for more than a half century. Mrs. Merriman was a dear and loving wife and a kind and affectionate mother. The sweetness of her nature was displayed in her church work, and the poor and needy never left her door with empty hands if their appeal had been sincere. Many times did she take her little ones by the hand and lead them to the Christian church, a mile and a half away, there to sow seeds of righteousness whose harvest is ever fruitful. When she departed this life the community mourned in unison, each seeming to esteem it as a personal loss.

Mr. Merriman cast his first vote for Fremont, and followed it with ballots for Lincoln, Garfield and Blaine. He is a member of the Christian church of Valparaiso and assisted in the erection of the present structure. His life has been clean and honorable and he and his family are esteemed as being among the leading residents of this city and county.

Source: Lewis Publishing Company. 1912. History of Porter County, Indiana: A Narrative Account of its Historical Progress, its People and its Principal Interests. Chicago, Illinois: Lewis Publishing Company. 881 p.
Page(s) in Source: 624-631

This biography has been transcribed exactly as it was originally published in the source. Please note that we do not provide photocopies or digital scans of biographies appearing on this website.

Biography transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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