Levi Merriman, BiographyPorter County biographical sketches . . . .

Transcribed biography of Levi Merriman

LEVI MERRIMAN. A pioneer citizen in the true sense of the word was the late Levi Merriman of Porter township, one of the few survivors of that primitive period when men contended with the strength of their hands against the stubborn difficulties of the wilderness, before machinery and organized civilization had begun the wonderful transformations which characterized the last century. Probably no living citizen of the county has witnessed with his own eyes more of this remarkable development than was seen by Mr. Merriman.

He was born in Holmes county, Ohio, March 27, 1837, and was the third in a family of six, five sons and one daughter, whose parents were David and Mary Ann (Axe) Merriman. When Levi Merriman was a child of four years the family left the Buckeye state and started to the newer country of northwestern Indiana. The journey was made in pioneer style, by means of wagons, over the old-time roads and trails that wound through virgin forests and across swamps, until they arrived in Porter county, where they made settlement in Center township, east of Valparaiso, the first home being on a tract of forty acres with a log-cabin dwelling.

From this time forward for many years Levi Merriman lived amidst and took part in the activities of a pioneer environment. As a boy he attended one of the log-cabin schools which are known to the present youthful generation only by legend or history. The one in which he received the instruction of the "three R's" was the Dye school, located in the southeastern part of the township. This log building was thirty feet square, with a large east-iron stove in the center, slab benches supported by pegs, and -- in lieu of desks -- a wide board inclined on pins and running around a part of the wall. Levi Merriman and his mates learned to write with goosequill pens, fashioned by the teacher's penknife. The school was supported by subscription among the families of the neighborhood.

As soon as he became old enough Mr. Merriman took his share in the arduous toil of that period. In the cutting of grain he has swung the old-fashioned cradle from morn to night, and has cut as high as five acres of oats in a single day. He was accustomed in those early days to threshing grain by the use of the flail and the first threshing machine that came to his knowledge was known as a traveling threshing machine. In his breaking up of prairie sod he used the primitive ox-team.

Mr. Merriman's recollections of those pioneer experiences also include glimpses of the red man roaming through the forests, before his final establishment in the west; deer and wolves, too, were plentiful at that period in northern Indiana. Valparaiso, when Levi Merriman was young, contained a population of about two hundred persons and the court-house yard in those days was covered with hazel-brush. He thus witnessed all the successive changes which have brought about a city of nine thousand people, with paved streets and electric cars and lights. The introduction to this region of the railroad, the telegraph and telephone and other modern inventions made a vivid impression on his memory. The first railroad he ever saw was a track of wooden stringers with strap-iron rails. Before railroad transportation became common Mr. Merriman was accustomed to seeing wheat hauled to Michigan City or LaPorte and sold there for fifty cents a bushel. He used to ride to the church services held in the log schoolhouse of his neighborhood, the mode of transportation being the old-fashioned ox-team. The few recreations permitted him in those days included the quaint diversions of apple-bees, log-rolling, spelling bees and similar social affairs unknown in the modern era of sport.

At twenty-four years of age Mr. Merriman was united in marriage to Miss Hannah Price, daughter of Dr. Andrew Price, a successful physician of Porter county and Hebron, Indiana. The following obituary we quote:

"Mary Hannah Merriman (nee Price), daughter of Dr. Andrew Price, was born September 16, 1841, in Centerville, Montgomery county, Ohio. She came to Boone Grove in 1843. She died October 4, 1889, aged forty-eight years and eighteen days.

"She was married to Levi Merriman on December 18, 1861. To them were born two daughters, Estella and Viola, who with their father and four of her brothers survive her.

"She has been an active member of the Boone Grove Christian church, with which she united March 10, 1864, during the pastorate of Elder L. Shortridge. She has endeavored to live a Christian life, consistent with the dictates of a pure heart and the example taught her in childhood days by her father, who was a devoted and conscientious Christian. During her long continued illness she was never heard to murmur or complain against her affliction, but her prayer was that it might be His will to spare her a few more years to her family.

"Everything that a loving and devoted husband, children and brother could do was done for her, and eminent medical skill was employed, but to no purpose. God had marked her for his own and unto Him she has gone. 'Blessed be those who die in the Lord.'"

Mrs. Merriman's devout life and beautiful character were constant influences for good in her own family, and the kindly offices of her life were often felt in the community where she was known and beloved. Her husband and children, in appreciation of her companionship and love, have caused a beautiful monument to mark her last resting-place in Boone Grove cemetery.

On December 21, 1892, Mr. Merriman was married to Mrs. Jane (Spafford) House. Her birth-place and date were Wayne county, Ohio, February 12, 1836, and her parents were Chester and Margaret (Henry) Spafford. When Jane Spafford was six years of age she was brought by her family to Porter county, Indiana, where they made their subsequent home. She too has known all the conditions of pioneer life. The old log-cabin school was her means of early education and she used the spinning-wheel and also did the weaving of materials for the family clothing. Mrs. Merriman is a member of the Christian church.

Mr. Merriman's career as an agricultural citizen was a long and successful one. The first land he acquired was forty acres now included in the beautiful homestead in Porter township. He incurred a debt for a part of the purchase price. The land was a part of the Merriman homestead, but at that time had few improvements. Levi Merriman grubbed out young timber, hauled rails for building fences, and cleared the land until finally he was out of debt and on the fair way to prosperity. He was long considered one of the prosperous and substantial farmer residents of the township, and he accumulated an estate of one hundred and fifteen acres, with a comfortable home and not a dollar of debt against it.

Mr. Merriman, who cast his first presidential vote for the martyred Lincoln, was all his life a steady and faithful supporter of the Republican party. Being a firm believer in universal education, he was actively interested in the welfare of the public schools. A member of the Christian church he helped with his own labor in the erection of the first church ever built in his community; he furthermore contributed financially to the building of the present church of his denomination at Boone Grove. In his home Mr. Merriman was ever a kindly, generous man and in his community he always stood for the things most essential to the best social welfare and material progress.

Mr. Merriman had passed his seventy-fifth year when his earthly activities ceased. Until the last two years he had been in good health and had at no time been in really feeble health. On Saturday, July 6, he had made a trip from his home to the city of Valparaiso, had consulted his physician and returned home, complaining of considerable discomfort. He retired early to bed and his wife, awaking at an early hour of the night, heard faint sounds of labored breathing and the next moment found that his spirit had passed. His death called forth many expressions of deep regard and strong friendship. The Valparaiso Evening Messenger refers to his demise as that of a highly esteemed citizen of the county, and in the obituary published by the Vidette of the same city he was thus characterized -- "He was a worthy man, honest and upright in all his dealings with men, was devoted in his religion, and he was never known to make an enemy." For such a record it is worth while to have lived seventy-five years.

The family of the deceased Mr. Merriman is represented by Mrs. Jane Merriman, referred to above; by Mrs. J. B. Woods, nee Estella Merriman, a student of the Valparaiso high school and also a student in the Valparaiso Normal, a former successful teacher in the schools of Porter and Morgan townships, and now a resident of Boone Grove, where her husband is a dry goods merchant; and by Miss Viola Woods, whose education was similar to that of her sister, and whose literary, social and religious activities in the community are of no little value in the Boone Grove church and the locality of her residence. There were also four brothers and one sister but only two of the brothers are living, Elias of Valparaiso, and Noah of Marion, Indiana, and the sister, Virginia, a resident of California. These and other relatives, besides a large number of friends, remember with affection and unmarred appreciation the fine old pioneer whose life covered three quarters of a century and whose record holds an honored position in the history of his 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: 552-557

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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