Enterprise, April 18, 1924
Adelbert MERRILL, 78 years old the 8th of March, 1924, was nine years old when his father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. Alford MERRILL, left the state of New York in the fall of 1855 bound for a new home in the wilderness of central Michigan. The elder Merrill had previously bought a quarter section of land on Section 32, union twp., for which he paid the sum of $1200.00 or $1.25 an acre (in the margin is added: He bought the entire section of 640 acres for $1200.00). This was uncleared, approached by no road, excepting an occasional trail blazed by government surveyors.
The Merrills were accompanied on their pioneering trip by three other families from the east. They started for Isabella county from Detroit and came from Saginaw up the river in a large flat boat, spoken of as a “scow”. When the little party had passed what is now Midland, the river froze over and they were obliged to disembark and put up tents, with which they were provided, and make themselves as comfortable as possible beside the stream. Here they remained six weeks and one of the families decided to return to civilization and turned back. But the Horace and Leonard HANEY families kept on with the Merrills. While camped here they hired Indians to go to the nearest settlement and bring in some flour, which cost them $40.00 a barrel. They tapped trees and made some maple ‘sirup’ (note in margin: How did they tap trees & make ‘sirup’ in the winter?), and this with hulled corn (the standby of many a pioneer family) kept them from being hungry. In the meantime, the men folk manufactured some crude sleds onto which they loaded their goods and resumed their interrupted journey to their future homes.
They had to cut down trees and brush and haul their sleds, making a wearisome journey, especially for the women and children. Arriving at the Merrill land, all three families settled close together. They erected little log shanties, covered them with trough roofing, basswood blocks hollowed out and laid one over the other to form a water tight roofing which it did very nicely. Puncheon floors were made of white ash and fireplaces built in on which to cook and warm the room. The first two years the settlers were able to hire and Indian, John HINMAN, by name, to go out and get meat for them, and he would frequently bring in one or three deer in a day. So they did not suffer for lack of meat, which was dried and preserved in primative faction.
In the spring they made a little clearing among the trees and put in a few crops which grew and matured in fine shape . There were no farming implements except the most simple. A favorite mode of planting was to raise the sod with a hoe, drop in the seed, and let the sod fall back to cover it. Oats and wheat were covered by dragging branches over the ground after the seed had been thrown on and when harvested, the grain was threshed by beating the straw on a hard bit of ground, and cleaned of chaff by tossing into the air on a windy day.
The elder MERRILL was a shoemaker by trade in the east and he used at times to have a little shop and work at his trade at Gratiot Center (Ithaca). Adelbert was sometimes sent down to the center with a one-horse conveyance, called a jumper, to bring home groceries and other necessities for the home.
Hay for winter feeding was procured on marsh lands and it was the practice of the settlers to lay a foundation of saplings close together to pile the hay stacks on, removing the hay to feeding places as needed. On one of those hay-harvesting times, Newton MERRILL took a shotgun along hoping to get a deer on the marsh. He went in advance of the others in the party and when they reached the marsh they found him in a pitiful condition with one arm broken and the flesh hanging in ribbons from elbow to shoulder. He had set his gun on the foundation laid for the hay. They gun slipped through a crack, discharging the weapon into the boy’s arm. No doctor was to be had, so first aid was applied and at home the arm was set and home remedies applied, spikenard and angle worm oil (home manufactured) to loosen the muscles and limber up the elbow. The remedies were so successful that young Newton was one to enlist in the Civil War and died of yellow fever in a hospital at Henderson.
Another of the Merrill boys met with a terrible accident or two of them rather, which caused him total blindness, and he still lives without having had a glimpse of light since in his early teens. Stumbling against a dead branch of a tree caused the loss of the first eye and the other was put out by a pebble thrown by an Indian youth in a boyish scrap. A group of white boys fishing in the Chippewa near Isabella City engaged in a quarrel with some Indian boys on the opposite side of the river and one of a shower of pebbles struck young Adolphus MERRILL in his “good” eye, causing blindness.
Adelbert MERRILL still lives on a farm, part of the original quarter section bought by his father. Mr. Merrill is well and observed his 78th anniversary the 8th of last month.
At the time the Merrills came into the township, a HURSH family was living on what is now Washington street near High.
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