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
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.
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