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Hon. Charles C. Merritt    

MERRITT, HON. CHARLES C. The first of Judge Merritt’s ancestors to immigrate to America was his grandfather, George Merritt, a native of England, who, in his younger days, settled near Hartford, Conn., about 1767 or 1768. He was thus placed in the center of a "rebellious" territory, and became, during his first ten years, thoroughly initiated into all the grand mysteries of American patriotism. He imbibed the sentiments of his adopted countrymen, and was one of the first to take up arms in defense of oppressed rights when the War of the Revolution burst like a storm cloud upon the devoted head of the "Rebel Americans." He bore an active part in that famous struggle. In times of peace he was a farmer. He was the father of five sons and two daughters. Thomas, the father of the subject of this sketch, was the youngest of these sons, and was born on the 1st day of November, 1790. He received a common school education in Hartford, and at the age of about twenty-one years removed to Chautauqua county, N.Y., near Forestville, by the way of Buffalo, at a time when the only tavern in that city was a double log house, and when there was no road to Forestville. He therefore found his way from Buffalo to his destination by the lake shore. He engaged in farming near Forestville until as late as 1850, when he removed to Deerfield township, Warren county, Pa. In 1864 he removed to Strawberry Point, Iowa, where he died on the 12th of November, 1874. He was a thorough-going Whig from the time he became a voter until the dissolution of that great party, and the organization of the Republican party. From that time until his death he voted with the Republicans. He was an out-spoken anti-slavery man.

At the age of twenty years he married Sally, daughter of Jeremiah Wright, of Chautauqua county, N.Y., who died in 1834, leaving a family of seven sons and three daughters. In 1836 Thomas Merritt married, for his second wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Samuel and Hepzibah Jewett, of Chautauqua county, by whom he had five sons and three daughters. She died in 1847.

Charles C. Merritt, the subject of this sketch, is the eldest son of Thomas and Elizabeth Merritt, and was born in the township of Hanover, near the village of Forestville, N.Y., on the 3d of April, 1837. He passed his boyhood, until his thirteenth year, at the place of his birth in attendance upon the common schools, and in 1850 accompanied his father’s family to Deerfield township, in this county. There he continued his attendance at school for six months each year, including several terms at the school at Tidioute, until he reached the age of twenty years. From 1857 to 1860 he engaged in farming and lumbering on his own account, and during the oil excitement, until 1862, he operated in oil. In August, 1862, he enlisted as a private in Company F, One Hundred and Forty-fifth Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers, from which he was promoted in the following January to the office of orderly sergeant, and was afterward commissioned captain. He was wounded at the first battle of Fredericksburg, and again at Gettysburg. He participated in the battles of Cold Harbor, Gettysburg, Fredericksburg, and Antietam. On the 16th of June, 1864, he was captured at Petersburg, from which time he was for ten months and seven days a prisoner at Andersonville and at Florence, S.C. He was exchanged in the latter part of March, 1865, after suffering the indescribable horrors of starvation and prison life, which could be sustained only by "muscles of iron and a heart of steel." Immediately after his exchange he returned to Warren county and engaged in farming and lumbering in Southwest township. This occupation he continued with uninterrupted success until the spring of 1886, when he began to operate in oil, in which he is still engaged.

Judge Merritt has ever taken a very active interest in politics, his sincerity and disinterestedness having been abundantly manifested by the part he bore in the war for the preservation of the Union. He is an uncompromising member of the Republican party. His fellow townsmen have honored him with repeated elections to nearly every office within their gift. He served fifteen years as justice of the peace, nine years as road commissioner, and nine years as school commissioner. In the fall of 1885 he ran for his first term in a county office, and was elected associate judge of the Court of Common Pleas for a term of five years, beginning with January 1, 1886. For this position he has been particularly well trained by his long experience as justice of the peace.

Judge Merritt is a member of the church of the United Brethren in Grand Valley, and has for twenty years been one of its trustees. He has ever been a liberal contributor to the support of all churches, believing that the influence of a sincere religion is the most elevating and ennobling that can be shed upon any community. He has not been sparing, either, in his practical aid to those who have been more unfortunate than himself; especially when he believes them to be deserving. One most remarkable fact should not be omitted, viz., that neither he nor any member of the Merritt family, within the memory of living man, have ever used intoxicating liquors in any form, and only one member, a boy, has used tobacco for a short time. This is remarkable in view of the general and respectable use of these intoxicants and narcotics, and undoubtedly explains, in part at least, the rugged health of the family. In the face of all these facts, Judge Merritt’s success is not in opposition to any natural law, but strictly in conformity to nature. It is the reward of continuous and well directed industry, probity, and intelligence. Moreover, Judge Merritt has never been known to desert a friend. This is one secret of his popularity and of his political success. He is prominent for the one fact that when he espouses the cause of a friend he "stays by him." He is at the same time fair toward his opponents, and consistent in his own position.

On the 17th day of July, 1857, Charles C. Merritt married Esther L., daughter of Robert and Lovisa Hunter, of Southwest township, who has blessed him with six children, all daughters, three of whom are living— Lovisa, wife of Robert Meabon, lives in Michigan; Lorinda, after attending the State Normal school at Edinboro, Pa.; and engaging with conspicuous success in teaching, now resides with her parents, as does Grace, the youngest.

Such are the salient particulars of a life crowned with virtue and culminating with a well-developed character. The mere dates are of little value; the achievements are worthy to be studied and emulated. The secret of success, of usefulness, is revealed in this brief sketch Judge Merritt has always been what Carlyle has called "an earnest man." This earnestness is what made him a good soldier, and a still better citizen in times of peace, and exemplifies the saying that "peace hath her victories no less renowned than war."

History of Warren County: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of some of its Prominent Men and Pioneers, J. S. Schenck, Syracuse, NY: D. Mason & Co., 1887.  More Warren County History Books  Search Hundreds of 1880s-1890s Pennsylvania County History Books for biographies and historical information on your ancestors.  View the book page images on line and print them out for your genealogy file!  Free Access to the old history books - plus birth & death records, census images and ALL other records at ancestry.com.

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