WILLIAM C. MERRILL, of the firm of Merrill & Chase, who are the leading dry-goods merchants of the village of Brighton, and one of the oldest houses in this part of the State, is a gentleman whose biography we are pleased to present to our readers. This firm has existed under the firm name for nearly thirty years and prior to that time our subject was engaged in the business on his own account for one year and for one year also under the firm name of Crandall & Merrill. Mr. Merrill is a thorough business man as also his partner and their business association has grown into a close and warm friendship.
Mr. Merrill came to Brighton in 1857, and in the spring of that year he established a grocery store under the firm name of Merrill & Bean. Later he introduced a drug department and managed this business for some time, and then under the same title did business in the line of merchandise. M. Merrill has been closely associated with everything of interest in Brighton since before the village was incorporated and he has been identified with the business interests of the place for many years. He has also been helpful and active in political matters and was one of the first members of the village board of trustees.
Previous to his coming to this county, our subject had been a resident of California, having gone there in the spring of 1852, from New York, his native State, traveling by the water route through the Straits of Magellan and around Cape Horn, landing there in the fall of the year after a six month's voyage. The vessel was a propeller and made many stops on the South American Continent and Mexico, including San Juan, Valparaiso, Talqua-Calsawana and other points. At the last named place they met with a terrible storm that nearly caused the loss of the vessel, and later they continued the journey having barely escaped the "yellow jack" at Rio Janeiro, one of their stopping places.
After landing on the Western Slope our subject turned his attention to the gold mines, working first at Murphy's Camp and spent the last year of the three years he was in the golden State at volcano, a mining town. After the varied experiences known only to the miner of those times, he finally in 1855, returned East by the way of the Isthmus of Panama to New York City and returned to his old home in Franklin County, N.Y., where he first saw the light in Malone, May 4, 1828. He came of good Huguenot stock, who left their native country, France, and came to England at the time of the persecutions and later in Colonial times emigrated to the New World with the Hartford Colony. There the first two brothers of this family, Abraham and Isaac Merrill (whose name in France was spelled Merl) made their home. The family divided and subdivided and is now to be found in almost every State in the Union. Some of them were soldiers in the Revolutionary War.
The grandfather of our subject was of the second or third generation from the two original brothers. His name was Paul Merrill. He was originally a carpenter but he reasoned as he pounded away with his tools that he was making something while he worked, but that if he were a farmer his work would go on while he slept, so he changed his occupation. He lived to be over ninety years old. His son Enoch, the father of our subject, is supposed to be a native of New Hampshire, and was reared in that state. He was united in marriage with Miss Betsey Bean who came of an old New England family of good stock and was born and reared in New Hampshire.
After marriage Enoch Merrill and his young wife came to New York State in the early days of Franklin County, when it was all wild woods, and there they hewed out of the timber a pleasant home and a fine farm. They lived for years in the log house which they erected, and cultivated a large farm, and there they both died, Mr. Merrill in 1854, being sixty-four years old, and his wife five years later, having attained about the same age. They were earnest and devout members of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
Three sons and four daughters formed the family of this worthy and enterprising couple upon the old homestead, and they have all lived to establish homes of their own, and to reflect credit upon their parents. Their home training made of them worthy citizens and industrious and good men and women. They were taught practical home duties and the care of the farm and were given a good education. Our subject was a teacher before coming West and was at the time of his emigration a single man, but somewhat later he went back to bring to his new home the "girl he left behind him."
The marriage of William C. Merrill and Harriet A. Smith took place in Franklin County, N.Y., in 1859. They were both reared in that county and she was also a teacher in her girlhood days. She is the daughter of Giles W. and Sallie (Blanchard) Smith. Mrs. Smith is now living with a sister in New York City and has reached the limit of three score years and ten. Mr. Smith died some years ago while living in Minnesota at the age of seventy years. He was a Democrat in his political views.
Our subject and his wife have been prominent figures in both social and church circles in Brighton. Mrs. Merrill being connected with the Methodist Church. Mr. Merrill is a member of the Blue Lodge No. 249, at Brighton. He is a Democrat in his political views as was his father before him, and belongs to the old Jacksonian school. Three children still live of the number born to this worthy couple. Herbert F. now lives at Phoenix, Ariz., and is engaged in mining interests. He took to wife Ione Winton; Almedia is at home and is the local editor of the Brighton Times, for her brother Frank whose biography will be found elsewhere in this RECORD. They have all been educated in the schools of Brighton and the daughter is a graduate of the Jacksonville Female College.