WILLARD MERRIAM. - One of the alert, progressive and public spirited business men who have contributed materially to the civic and industrial advancement of Kansas City is Willard Merriam, who is here an active and influential factor in business circles, as a member of the well known firm of Merriam, Ellis & Benton, engaged in the real estate and insurance business. He has done much to exploit and foster the interests of Kansas City and Wyandotte county and has been concerned with operations of broad scope and importance. He is an interested principal in a number of business enterprises aside from that conducted by the firm mentioned, and be stands sponsor for advanced civic ideals and progressive policies.
Mr. Merriam claims the Badger state as the place of his nativity, but the major portion of his life has been passed within the borders of Kansas. He was born at Berlin, Green Lake county, Wisconsin, on the 20th of January, 1864, and is a son of Horace and Eliza (Wright) Merriam, both of whom were born and reared in the state of Vermont, the respective families having been founded in New England in the Colonial epoch of our national history and both being of stanch English origin. Soon after their marriage the parents came to the west and established their home in Berlin, Wisconsin, where the father engaged in the practice of law and where he served as collector of internal revenue under the administration of President Lincoln. In 1876 he removed with his family to Trinidad, Colorado, where he remained four years and where he served as attorney for the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad. In 1880 he removed to Kansas City, Missouri, where he engaged in the fire insurance business, to which he devoted his attention during the remainder of his active career. He died in that city in 1898, at the age of seventy-six years, and his wife died in 1896 in Kansas City, Missouri. He was a stalwart Republican and was a man of strong individuality and fine intellectual talents, the while his sterling attributes of character gained to him the inviolable confidence and esteem of his fellow men.
Willard Merriam is indebted to the public schools of Wisconsin, Colorado and Kansas City, Missouri, for his early educational discipline, and in the meanwhile he gained practical business experience when still a mere boy. He was twelve years of age at the time of the family removal from Wisconsin to Colorado and was sixteen years old when the home was established in Kansas City, Missouri. When but eleven years of age he secured employment as messenger boy in a banking institution at Trinidad, Colorado, and his exceptional business acumen gained him promotion to the office of assistant cashier when he was but fourteen years of age. In 1880 he accompanied his parents on their removal to Kansas City, Missouri, where he was connected with various banking houses within the interval from that time until 1887, and he then became associated with his father in the fire insurance business, with which he was thus connected until 1890, when he came to Kansas City, Kansas, and established himself in the real estate and insurance business, with which he has since been actively and successfully identified and in connection with which he has handled a large amount of valuable realty, besides bringing about many improvements in the way of building, etc. The firm of which he is a member is one of the most important of the kind in this section of the state and it controls a large and prosperous business in both the departments of real estate and insurance. Mr. Merriam has also made judicious investments in connection with various successful industrial and commercial enterprises in his home city, and is know[sik] as one of the most progressive, liberal and public spirited citizens of the metropolis of Wyandotte county. He has served as president of the Kansas City Mercantile Club and he takes a vital interest in all enterprises that tend to advance the material and civic prosperity of his city and county.
Though entirely free from office seeking proclivities, Mr. Merriam is found arrayed as a stalwart supporter of the cause of the Republican party, and both he and his wife hold membership in the Christian Science church. He is affiliated with the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks and with the Knights of Pythias.
Mr. Merriam's first marriage was to Bessie Burtner, a daughter of Reuben Burtner, a native of Pennsylvania, she died in 1888, after becoming the mother of two children, Edith and Harriet.
In the year 1890 was solemnized the marriage of Mr. Merriam to Miss Anna Peacock, daughter of James Peacock, a representative business man of the city of Chicago, and the two children of this union are Wallace and Helen.
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