The career of the subject of this review has been varied and interesting,
and the history of Marion county will be more interesting if a record of his
activities and achievements are given prominence, and a tribute to his worth
and high character as a business man, a public-spirited and enterprising,
broad-minded citizen, for although he is yet a young man he has shown by his
persistency and eminently worthy career what can be accomplished by the
young man who has thrift, energy, tact, force of character and honesty of
purpose, and representing as he does one of the best and most highly
esteemed families of the country, whose ancestors did so much in the pioneer
days to prepare the country for the enjoyment and success of succeeding
generations. Mr. Merz is peculiarly entitled to proper mention in this work
along with other leading and honorable citizens of Marion county.
Wilfred W. Merz, the popular and efficient agent of the Chicago & Eastern Illinois Railroad Company, also of the Wells, Fargo & Company Express, at Salem, Marion county, was born at this place February 13, 1872, being the eldest child of Nicholas Merz, who is a member of the Council of Aldermen of the city of Salem, and an influential and highly respected citizen who has lived in Salem practically all his life. Nicholas Merz's parents were born in Germany and migrated to America in early life, and soon established comfortable homes in the new world and lived to a ripe old age.
The mother of our subject was known in her maidenhood as Elizabeth A. Smith. She was born at Decatur, Illinois, and died at Huey, Illinois.
Sarah S. Ritchie, the maternal grandmother of our subject, is a native of Giles county, Virginia, born March 22, 1828, and at present resides near Shattuc, Illinois, in her eightieth year. Her first husband was John H. Smith, who was born September 1, 1831, at Chillicothe, Ohio, and died at Metropolis, Illinois, October 2, 1888. He was the father of nine children (the mother of our subject being the eldest), only one of whom is living, John Lewis Smith, of Carlyle, Illinois.
Nicholas Merz by his first wife is the father of five children, of whom four are living in 1908, and whose births occurred in the following order: Wilfred W., our subject; Nellie, the wife of Richard Ellington, of St. Louis; John L., living in Chicago; Nona died in Chicago, July 8, 1905; Orval Nicholas living in Salem, Illinois. To Nicholas Merz and his second wife one child was born, Mabel, who is living with her parents in Salem.
These children received a fairly good education and are comfortably located, each giving promise of successful careers.
Wilfred W. Merz was reared in Salem, having attended the city schools where he applied himself in a most assiduous manner, outstripping many less ambitious plodders until he graduated from the high school as salutarian with the class of 1900, having made an excellent record for scholarship.
After leaving school Mr. Merz farmed on his father's place for two years, making agriculture a success. He then left the farm and accepted a clerkship with the mercantile firm of Cutler & Hays in Salem in whose employ he remained for one and one-half years, giving entire satisfaction as a salesman and by reason of his adaptability for this line of work and his courteous treatment of customers did much to increase the firm's popularity and trade.
In 1893 Mr. Merz entered the railroad business with the Baltimore & Ohio, and was assistant agent at Salem during 1893 and 1894. On January 16, 1895, he was appointed agent for the Chicago, Paducah & Memphis Railroad Company at Kell, Illinois. This road later passed into the control of the Chicago & Eastern Illinois in 1907, and after about eight months of acceptable service at Kell, Mr. Merz was promoted to the position of agent at Salem for the Chicago & Eastern Illinois road, and he has since been their faithful employee at this important post, with the exception of five months as agent at Tuscola, Illinois, from January to June 1904, and as assistant cashier of the Salem State Bank from October 1904, to October 1905, which position he held with honor and resigned the same to re-enter the railroad service. He is regarded by the company as one of the most conscientious and reliable agents in their service. Since the division was established at Salem in 1905, this office has become one of the most important along the company's line.
Mr. Merz was happily married August 24, 1897, to Nettie Kell, daughter of J. M. Kell and wife, a well known family of old Foxville. Mrs. Merz is a representative of one of the oldest families of Marion county, and one of a family of nine children, seven of whom are yet living, Maudie and Robert dying in infancy. Her father and mother are still living at the time of this writing, the mother being one of ten sisters all of whom are living in 1908, a most remarkable record. Her father, John M. Kell, was a soldier in the Union ranks during the war between the states and was one of a family of twelve children, one of his brothers being killed in the last skirmish of the Civil war after a service of three years. Mrs. Merz's grandfather, on her maternal side, was Robert Wham, a well-to-do pioneer of Marion county who rendered distinguished services as a soldier in the Mexican war. He had a brother, French L., who died in Andersonville prison. Mr. Wham passed away January 10, 1905, at a very old age.
Mr. and Mrs. Merz are the parents of three bright and interesting children who have added cheer to the cozy, modern and nicely furnished home which is so graciously presided over with rare dignity and grace by the subject's wife, the names of their children being as follows: Robert W., born July 6, 1898; Helen Louise, born February 6, 1900; Gladys Roberta, born June 6, 1902. The fact that the birth of these children all occurred on the sixth of the month is a singular coincidence.
Mr. and Mrs. Merz own their own beautiful home on East Main street. Both are members of the Cumberland Presbyterian church, and are known as among the best members of the congregation with which they have always been popular. The subject has spent his entire life in Salem where he is well and favorably known, having gained and retained undivided respect of all as a result of his sober, industrious and honorable career. He is always to be found on the right side of all questions looking to the betterment of his community and may well be said to represent Marion county's best citizenship in every particular.
Extracted 10 Jul 2017 by Norma Hass from 1909 Biographical and Reminiscent History of Richland, Clay and Marion Counties, Illinois, pages 121-123.