Merritt B. Lum
Morris Co. Up


Biographical and Genealogical History of Morris County New Jersey. Illustrated. Vol. II., Lewis Publishing Company, New York and Chicago, 1899.

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As the progress or prosperity of a nation is the result of the aggregate endeavor of its individual citizens, so the history of a nation, in either a general or restricted sense, is the record of the aggregate achievements of its people. Biography thus becomes the very foundation upon which must rest all general history. The importance of making permanent record of the life of men who are worthy of such distinction can not be overestimated. The mere acquisition of wealth is, in itself, a fact scarcely deserving of mention by the historian. It is in the distribution of wealth that its power for good or evil lies. The individual who, even through private enterprise, applies his abilities and acquisitions to the betterment of mankind is a public benefactor, and is deserving of all praise. The subject of this review is one of the representative citizens of Morris county, has labored indefatigably for the promotion of its best interests and has had a potent influence upon its progress in many directions, being clearly entitled to distinct representation in this compilation.

A native son of the attractive village of which he is still an honored resident, Merritt B. LUM was born in Chatham, Morris county, New Jersey, on the 28th of January, 1851, being the son of Harvey M. and Phebe (BRUEN) LUM, each a representative of old and prominent families of the state, the father having been for many years a well known and successful carpenter and builder of Chatham. Our subject completed his more purely theoretical education in a select school of high grade, in Chatham, after which he began the active duties of life by serving an apprenticeship at the carpenter's trade, under the careful and efficient direction of his honored father. Becoming himself a capable workman in due course of time, he engaged in business upon his own responsibility, and has ever since been conspicuously identified with the building interests of the county, having been for many years recognized as the leading contractor and builder of this section of Morris county.

Among the more prominent buildings which he has erected may be mentioned the Fairview Hotel, at Chatham; the Congregational church at Stanley; the Stanley Felt Mills; paddock stables for Edward KELLY, of Morristown; and many of the beautiful homes of Chatham. Mr. LUM is firm in his convictions and adheres strictly to the principles which represent the true ethics of life, ---principles broad in their humanitarianism, but rigid in their application. He has made it a rule never to give a note and to always meet his obligations when due, and when the fact is taken into consideration that his annual business-operations reach an average aggregate of about thirty thousand dollars this fact is the more significant. That his success in life has not made him unmindful of others has been shown in countless ways. He has long made it a portion of his business policy to extend financial loans to worthy persons in an individual way, and many men who were otherwise prevented from securing homes have been effectually aided by Mr. LUM, who has built houses for them and taken his pay on the installment plan. His kindness and charity are such that he never presses a creditor who is unfortunate or unable to promptly meet his obligations. This is the sort of aid which the true man wishes to extend and to receive, for the one is not giving indiscriminately and the other finds his dignity in no degree compromised or infringed.

Mr. LUM's pronounced energy and public spirit have naturally brought him forward as the incumbent of positions of trust and responsibility, and his character is such that he has gained and retained the respect and confidence of all who know him. He is now serving his sixth term on the board of chosen freeholders of Morris county, having for the past three years been director of the board, in which connection he was chosen over a strong and able opponent. A stanch advocate of the good roads, and realizing how great a benefit correct provisions in this line are to any section, he introduced a bill for the macadarnizing of roads throughout the county, and though at the start only two other members of the board were in sympathy with and accorded support to the measure, he made a vigorous fight for the same, and by his cogent arguments and firm stand eventually secured the passage of the bill, and the fine roads of the county will stand in evidence of his wise judgment, which all are willing to concede as such since the improvements have been made. For six years Mr. LUM served on the township committee, and his efforts as an official in this line were equally enterprising and efficacious. In his political affiliations he is a stalwart adherent of the Republican party, in the support of whose cause he has long been actively arrayed.

Fraternally Mr. LUM is identified with the North Jersey Council, No. 1181, Royal Arcanum, of which he is past regent. He was one of the organizers and is a prominent member of the Chatham Fish & Game Protective Association, whose beautiful club house was erected by him. He is president of the Madison Land Improvement Company, and in many other ways is identified with enterprises which have bearing upon the stable prosperity of the county. His religious views are those of the Presbyterian church, of which he is a member.

On the 17th of September, 1873, Mr. LUM was united in marriage to Miss Sarah E. GENUNG, a daughter of William L. GENUNG. She was born in Afton, Morris county, and her death occurred in 1886. Shortly after this bereavement came to Mr. LUM he made an extended trip through the west, visiting every city of importance and also Alaska, where he visited Sitka, Juneau, Douglas and Chilkoot, his sojourn being protracted over a period of seven months. In 1888 he consummated a second marriage, being then united to Miss Valeria BEST, a daughter of Seymour BEST, of Hudson, New York.

This biography was scanned and contributed by Catherine Smith DeMayo.


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