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Merriam

During the year 1849, Joel Bristol, the first settler of Noble Township, got the idea of founding a city that should be the hub around which the surrounding country should revolve. He reasoned that a town located there, if properly managed, could not help but wield a wide influence throughout northern Indiana.

In November 1849, he employed a surveyor and laid out Noblesville in the southwest quarter of the northwest quarter of Section 25 in Noble Township. There were 42 lots, each comprising a quarter of an acre. The lots were offered for sale but there were very few buyers. Maria Ryan bought lot 22 and Joseph Ryan opened a small combined grocery store and saloon. Jacob Marker bought lot 25 & 26 and Jonathan Miller bought lot 27.

A story was told that Mr. Bristol's association with horse thieves, (his saddle was found on a stolen horse when authorities were rounding up some thieves in Fort Wayne area), got him into trouble. He was to appear in court on a certain day, but rather than experience that publicity and possible conviction, he drank poison the night before and put an end to the proceedings. He died in April 1850. His estate was handled by George Sheldon and the remaining lots in the village were sold to about three buyers. David Keister was one of the buyers.

A brick and tile yard was started near the village prior to 1850. In the 1850 Census, Joe Winebrenner was listed as a shoemaker,James Lamon was a broom maker, and Alexander Forsha was a blacksmith.

In the summer of 1850, Phillip Zeigler made a visit to Noble County and the village. He stopped in Thorncreek Township, Whitley County, at his brother Joseph Zeigler's, where he met James Cunningham. James was cutting rail timber at that time for Joseph, and he told of cutting seven rail-cuts from one tree. Phillip came to the house of David Winebrenner, father of Rev. Peter Winebrenner, near Noblesville. On July 3, 1850, he preached his first sermon in the log school house near the Bristol hotel. In the fall of 1852, he moved to that neighborhood and for eighteen years, devoted part of his time laboring for that church. When he commenced, there were only twelve members and David Winebrenner was the main man among them. The church increased in number and when Rev. Zeigler resigned his charge, the church had a membership of about 160.

The first Post Office was established in September 1853. Since there was another town in Indiana with the name Noblesville, the name was changed to Merriam. James Cunningham became the first Postmaster. James was born on the Atlantic ocean April 19, 1824. He located in Noble County in 1842, and in 1850 married Mary Ann Nichols. Mary died in 18S6, and James gave up the job of Postmaster. David Keister took charge in December 1856.

In 1860, Christian Kinsey operated a tavern, Joseph Addis kept a grocery, William Hughes had a blacksmith shop, David Hughes was a cigar maker, Thomas Hughes and Elkanah Stewart were blacksmiths and Charles Davis was a shoemaker.  James H. Gregory was a commissioner of the southern district of Noble County at one time. He became Postmaster in May 1862 and continued until 1864 when David Keister once again took the job. It was some time during this period that Fred Bitting built a saw-mill which became one of the best in the county. Bitting sawed large quantities of black walnut timber which grew in abundance near the village. (In November 1872, the boiler of Bitting's steam saw-mill exploded and burst. A large fragment of the boiler was thrown a distance of 80 rods. Three or four men were hurt, one so seriously that his death was predicted. In September 1871, Mr. Bitting and his wife, Elizabeth, were drowned on Lake Michigan at Grand Haven. They were enroute home, coming by way of Grand Rapids, where the State Fair was in progress. Mrs. Bitting was carrying $1,700 in National bonds and both were carrying jewelry worth $1,000 which they had purchased for their daughters.)

In November 1867, Hiram Lindsey became Postmaster. Hiram was born March 8, 1826 in Knox County, Ohio. He came with his parents, Jacob and Sarah (Craven) Lindsey to Green Township in April 1839. After the death of his father in 1839, he had to assume the duties of the household. In 1855 he married Barbara Lock and they were parents of six children. In the year 1866, he had opened a store in Merriam where he sold goods until 1869, when he moved to a farm owned by Mr. Conkling. William Geiger then took over the job of Postmaster and held it until February 1871.

In 1870, there were two shoemaker's in Merriam, Elias Cullison and John Wilkins. Peter Hawk had a blacksmith shop, Fred Bittiner and Jacob Addis were operators of saw-mills, William Geiger had a grocery store, Owen Gandy was a Physician and Peter Winebrenner was the preacher at the Chapel Church.  Christopher Rivir, Jerry Wallace, W.F. Rawley, Cyrus Gnaga and Jasper Gandy were carpenters.

William F. Ravely became the Postmaster in September 1871. He owned land on North street east of the original plat of the town. Four new houses went up in the summer of 1874 and in August 1876, William Ravely was preparing to erect a new dwelling. In 1877, the Post Office was to be moved to the corner of Main and Walnut streets. William Ravely resigned and Adam Opperman took charge. In March. that year, Warren Blough became a resident of Merriam and opened a shoe shop. George Keister ran a hardware store.

Dr. Moore, who had settled in Merriam some time prior to 1876, finished plastering and refitting his drug store. December 28, 1877, the Post Office was put in the drug store and Dr. Moore became the Postmaster. He held this office until June 11, 1885. His wife, Edith, was very ill and she died in October that year at the age of 30 years. Dr. Moore was left with a daughter, Mabel, who was six years old.

William Ravely resumed the office of Postmaster June 11, 1885. In 1888, he put up shelves in part of the office building and started a notions store in connection with the Post Office. He held the position until August 23, 1889, when Jefferson Garber became Postmaster. He ran a huxter wagon out of Merriam. One evening, when coming into town, the wheels came off his wagon and several dozen eggs were broken.

Jefferson Addis was the next Postmaster. He took office March 31, 1893. He was born in Monroe County, Ohio, December 5, 184O. He came with his parents to Noble County in 1850 and settled on a farm one half mile west of Merriam. He moved into town in 1868. He married Mary Wilkins November 13, 1862, and they were parents of ten children. He died in office Ju]y 8, l893, at the age of 52 years. About 800 people attended the funeral at the Chapel.

In March 1893, Silas Cook built a new house near his father's home in Merriam. Dr. Moore was in the process of erecting a very large new building. When it was finished it housed the drug store, Edward Hyre's dry goods business, and a hall where Dr. Moore installed seats and a stage where entertainments and dances were held. John T. Zinsmeister became Postmaster August 16, 1893 and served until May 2, 1894, when Allen Wysong took over. Allen kept the job until August 1894, when Freedom L. Gandy became Postmaster.

Back to Dr. Moore. . . He was married to Etta Denman of Covington, Indiana, January 1, 1888. On August 30, 1894, they became parents of a baby girl.  Then in 1897 he was appointed Postmaster again.  In August 1903, he went to California for his health.  He returned home that October, and died October 11, 1904.

Residents of Merriam listed on the 1900 Census were: Christopher Hawk - stone-mason, David Madden - blacksmith, Nancy Keister, Robert Martin, Oscar Wilkins, Ceorge Keister – hardware and saw-mill, John Baum, Omar Keister, Claude Jackson, grocer, Jerome Herron - meat market, Leafy Winebrenner, Dr. Nathan B. Moore, William Ravely, Irvin Haney – cider mill, Eliza Haney, A.T. McDaniel – grocer, Claude Ringenberg, Frederick Boyer, Nary E. Addis, Amanda Gnaga, C. Winebrenner David Keister and Harlen Egolf.

A.T. McDaniel, known as "Al Mac",built a store on the corner of Highway 33 and old state road 9 in the year 1902. The store got its original name "Uncle Sam Store" from a Hoosier claim that the original uncle Sam, bewhiskered symbol of the United States, is buried in the Merriam Chapel cemetery. This claim is disputed by Troy, New York, and the U.S. Congress agreed when in 1961 the Senate's Judiciary Subcommittee on Federal Charters, Holidays and Celebrations approved a bill introduced to make Troy the official burial place of uncle Sam. But there are plenty of hoosiers, particularly around Merriam, who will still argue the point. Andrew Keister operated the Uncle Sam store for some time, followed by Ora Gandy, Oscar Lindsey, Roy Rapp, Lynn Harlan, Albert Williams and Jim and Vesta Harlan. The store did a thriving business until it had to be removed to make room for new highway 9 which was built in the 1960's.

In 1902 Oscar Wilkins had purchased George Keister's saw-mill; Claude Jackson's store was headquarters for onion tools; a boxing school was held in Dr. Moore's hall every Friday evening; the Chapel Church announced plans to hold an Easter supper in Dr. Moore's hall (price of supper ten and twenty cents); F. Addis had a horse-shoe and repairing business; C.M. Wilkins (the genial blacksmith) was prepared to do blacksmithing, horse-shoeing, and general repairing; Clarence Scarlett was proprietor of a butcher shop; Joseph Lock was building an addition to his barber shop; the telephone lines in this section were being rapid]y completed with a new telephone switchboard located in McDaniel's store, and it was rumored that Claude Jackson would move his store down by Moore's drug store.

In December 1903, Al Mac installed a new candy case in his store and May 21, 1904 he became the new Postmaster.

In the ensuing years -- a dance was held at the Town Hall, Norm Cnaga was a jeweler in Merriam, A.J. Winebrenner was a blacksmith, George McNeal purchased a new electro gasoline lamp for his barber shop: Berton Herron had his saw-mill in readiness to build a new barn for Silas Cook, and on March 30, 1907, the Post Office department ordered that the Merriam Post Office was to be discontinued. The Merriam mail was to be sent to Albion, and the patrons were to be placed on a rural route.

You can read more about the Joseph Zeigler family on Follis Families in the United States web site.

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