Marshall County

MERIDAN, Johann Joseph

Johann Joseph MERDIAN, deceased, was a man of marked individuality, and a pioneer of Marshall county. He was born on the Rhine in Bavaria, Germany, November 18, 1811, where his boyhood and youth were spent, and where at the age of sixteen he commenced learning the wagon maker’s trade, serving a regular apprenticeship and mastering the business in all its details. In 1836 he crossed the ocean, landing in New York, where he again took up his trade, at which he worked until coming west.

While yet residing in New York city, Mr. MERDIAN formed the acquaintance of Miss Mary Ursulla BURGEN, and on the 24th of January, 1838, they were united in marriage. She is a native of Lothringen, France, born February 9, 1822. Some five years after their marriage they came to Marshall county, stopping at the old landing about one mile below the present village of Henry. Two children had been born to them at this time, and Mr. MERDIAN thought that in this new and rapidly growing country he could the better provide for his family. However, he was greatly discouraged on his arrival from the fact that he could find nothing to do, and had not the capital with which to set himself up in business. In consequence of this feeling he determined to return to New York to work at his trade.

A new difficulty now confronted him. He had not the means with which to defray the expenses of the return trip of the family, and therefore determined on leaving his wife and children until he could save enough with which to send for them. A short time after his arrival in New York he met his wife’s brother, who, after hearing his story, kindly loaned him five hundred dollars. With that sum of money in his pocket he hurried back to join his family with a far lighter heart than when he sorrowfully left them a few weeks previously.

With a portion of the five hundred dollars so providently secured, Mr. MERDIAN purchased forty acres of land, which became the nucleus for the large landed possession which he owned at the time of his death. With zeal and energy, he commenced the improvement of his place, and in addition to his farming operations he worked at his trade, carrying on a shop on his farm. After fifty years’ use one or two of his wagons are still seen in Marshall county.

As fast as his means would permit, Mr. MERDIAN purchased other tracts of land until he owned over thirteen hundred acres, about four hundred of which was in his home farm, and included one hundred and sixty acres two miles north of Henry, two farms of eighty and one hundred acres each in Whitefield township, one hundred and sixty acres in Minonk, and one hundred and thirty acres near the home place. He was a thorough and practical farmer, confining himself to no special department of farm work. While raising from fifty to sixty head of cattle and some other stock, he devoted himself largely to raising grain. Success crowned his efforts, and at the time of his death his estate was valued at over seventy-five thousand dollars.

To Mr. and Mrs. MERDIAN thirteen children were born, three dying in infancy, and one, Christina, at the age of nine years. The living are Joseph, of Henry, Illinois; Mary, widow of Marcus REISER, of Henry; Clara, wife of Fred WOLF, of Mt. Palatine, Putnam county; George, of Vancouver, Washington; Peter, of Henry township; Conrad, who is engaged in farming near the old homestead; John, of Minonk, Illinois; Bernard, on the home farm, and Henry, of Whitefield township. All of the children are well settled in life.

One of the most enjoyable occasions in the life of Mr. and Mrs. MERDIAN was the celebration of their golden wedding in 1888. In addition to their own family many relatives and friends were present to shower their congratulations upon them as they reached the fiftieth milestone in their wedded life. Forty-five of the fifty years were spent in Marshall county, and the old settlers from far and near responded to the invitation to the wedding feast. Incidents of pioneer days were related, stories were told of gray-haired men and women, who were boys and girls, young men and young women, when Mr. and Mrs. MERDIAN first came to the county and determined here to abide. Toils and privations were experienced by each alike, but the pleasures and joys of the early days more than counterbalanced them, and as story after story was told the hearty laugh rang out, and each felt that now their lines were fallen in pleasant places.

Politically Mr. MERDIAN was a life-long democrat, and while caring nothing for public office, took an active interest in political affairs, and kept well posted in the current political events of the day. Religiously he was a faithful and consistent member of the Catholic church, of which body his wife has been a life member, and both were well grounded in the faith. On coming to Marshall county, he joined a few persons of like faith, and meetings were held from time to time in private houses, when the services of a priest were secured. In the building of the German Catholic church at Henry, he was a liberal contributor, and took a very active interest in its erection. When completed he and his estimable wife felt indeed that they now had a church home, where they could meet for the worship of the Almighty God and His blessed Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Age was now creeping on, the strong man of 1843 began to weaken, and on the 8th of March, 1893, he quietly surrendered his spirit to the God who gave it, and entered upon his reward. The funeral services, which were largely attended, were conducted by Rev. Father BAAK. While living quietly and peacefully among his fellow-citizens, his life work affords a useful lesson to the rising generation in showing the possibilities that may be attained by the poorest in this favored land. His estate, estimated at over seventy-five thousand dollars, was divided according to the terms of his will, his beloved wife being the executrix.

Extracted May 2011 by Norma Hass from The Biographical Record of Bureau, Marshall and Putnam Counties, Illinois, 1896.

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