Samuel Merrill (Indiana)

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Samuel Merrill (October 29, 1792 – August 24, 1855) was an early leading citizen of the U.S. state of Indiana.

Biography[edit]

A $1 bank note from the Bank of Indiana featuring a portrait of Merrill (left)

Samuel was born in 1792 in Peacham, Vermont, the second son of Jesse and Priscilla Merrill. He attended Dartmouth College for one year before moving to Pennsylvania to study law with his older brother James.[1] In 1816 he moved to Vevay, Indiana. He was soon elected to the Indiana General Assembly, where he served three consecutive terms as the representative of Switzerland County. Samuel married Lydia Jane Anderson in 1818 and had 10 children, including Catharine Merrill. On Dec. 20, 1819 he was appointed to be the State Treasurer of Indiana following the resignation of Daniel C. Lane. Merrill was elected to the position in 1822 and continued to hold the position through reelection until February 10, 1834, when he was succeeded by Nathan B. Palmer.[2][3]

As treasurer, Merrill oversaw transfer of the capitol from Corydon to Indianapolis, an arduous task. When the move took place it was an eleven day journey by horseback from Corydon to the new capitol. To complicate matters, no road existed and a path for the wagons had to be cut through the dense forests during the winter trip as the long caravan moved north. The caravan was necessarily large, it contained the state treasury, state library, state records, the furniture of the General Assembly, Supreme Court, and Execute Offices, along with a whole host of other implements to aid the caravan on its long journey. Ultimately, it took over a month to relocate the government to the capitol.[4]

In 1824 he moved to Indianapolis. He was an early president of the Temperance Society, a manager of the State Colonization Society, a trustee of Wabash College, active in the Second Presbyterian Church, and the second President of the Indiana Historical Society (from 1835–48).

In 1834 the State Bank of Indiana was founded and the General Assembly choose Samuel Merrill to be its first President. Following his appointed at the bank, he resigned his position of state treasurer. "His honesty and splendid record made him a man to inspire confidence in the bank," wrote the Indianapolis News in a July 15, 1911 historical feature. President Merrill visited all thirteen branches twice each year, traveling on horseback. He would personally examine the branches' accounts and ledgers, and was said to be able to run over columns of figures with machine-like rapidity and accuracy. The One Dollar Bill issued by the Bank featured his picture on the front.[3][5] As president he visited each branch of the bank twice annually and reviewed all their books.[6]

Merrill was also an outspoken abolitionist. He was frequently targeted by the pro-slavery elements in the state for slander. On one occasion, a pro-slavery man entered the Indianapolis branch of the Bank of Indiana and challenged Merrill to a fight. On three different occasions, Merrill defeated pro-slavery men in fist fights.[7]

From 1844 to 1848 Samuel served as president of the Madison & Indianapolis Railroad, a company created by James Lanier following the collapse of the state's internal improvement programs. The company was able to salvage one of the railroad project and it became a lucrative business, being one of the first rail lines in the state. He was able to speed up production, and more track was laid in his first two years as president than had been in the previous ten years of public management. In 1850 he bought one of the four bookstores in Indianapolis and started a book publishing firm. Over the years this firm became known as Merrill, Meigs, and Company, followed by the Bowen-Merrill Company, and finally the Bobbs-Merrill Company. In 1849 he married Elizabeth Young following the death of his first wife. Samuel Merrill died in 1855 in Indianapolis, at the age of 62 overseeing the merger of his publishing and book store businesses.[3]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Carmony, p. 53
  2. ^ Funk, 210
  3. ^ a b c Carmony, p. 56
  4. ^ Dunn, pp. 367–370
  5. ^ Dunn, p. 412
  6. ^ Carmony, p. 57
  7. ^ Carmony, p. 58

Sources[edit]