William A. Merlau, one of Hancock county's representative citizens and owner of one of it most beautiful and well-kept farms is a native of Hancock county, born in Sugar Creek township o March 6, 1867, a son of Conrad and Elizabeth (Meier) Merlau. Conrad Merlau was born in Germany, January 16, 1837, a son of Henry Merlau. For further details of the history of the Merlau family, the reader is referred to the sketch of Henry Merlau found elsewhere within these covers.
Conrad Merlau was a boy of nine years when he was brought by his parents to this country and he spent the remainder of his youth on the family farm in Sugar Creek township, one and one-half miles west of New Palestine. When twenty-six years of age he was united in marriage with Elizabeth Meier, born on the old Meier homestead in Sugar Creek township, November 26, 1842, a daughter of Anton and Ann Elizabeth (Grim) Meier. There were eight children in the Meier family, all of whom are deceased with the exception of Catherine, Christina and Ellen.
After marriage, Conrad Merlau farmed the family homestead for a year and then purchased a farm of forty acres located about three and one-half miles northeast of New Palestine. There he made his home until about the year 1871, when he disposed of that farm and bought one hundred and sixty acres in Buck Creek township, about two miles northeast of the town of Gem, and there he has since continued to reside. He suffered the loss of his wife on July 19, 1902, and Mrs. Merlau is remembered as a most excellent woman. She was the mother of eleven children, two of whom died in infancy. Eddie died at the age of nine years and those who grew to maturity were William A., the immediate subject of this sketch; Annie, George, Fred, Rose, Julia, Emma and Edna. Conrad Merlau is a devout member of the German Lutheran church and throughout his majority has supported the Democratic party.
William A. Merlau was a small boy of four or five years when his parents moved to Buck Creek township and there he attended the old Brown school house remaining at his books until sixteen years of age. He then turned to farming, assisting his father in the work of the home place until about twenty-four years of age, when he married. On November 8, 1891, he was united in marriage with Mary C. Miller, born on the Miller homestead in Sugar Creek township, November 26, 1867, a daughter of Frederick and Christine (Roesner) Miller. Frederick Miller was born on November 3, 1833, in Wietersheim, Minden Prenzen, Germany, and was brought to this country at the age of two years by his parents. They settled in Sugar Creek township, Hancock county, where the elder Miller entered land from the government, about three miles northwest of New Palestine. On that farm Frederick Miller grew to manhood, marrying Christine Roesner, October 2, 1859. She was born in Sugar Creek township on her father's farm, April 23, 1840, and became the mother of ten children, namely: Emma, died on February 2, 1862; William, died on September 13, 1864; Clarence, died on February 4, 1886, at the age of twenty-one years; Mary C., wife of William A. Merlau; Louis W., died on August 17, 1894, at the age of twenty-four years; Annie, born on July 26, 1872; Christina, born on August 21, 1874; Emily, died on September 10, 1887; Frederick J., died on May 21, 1879, and Harry, born on December 27, 1882.
After marriage, William A. Merlau rented his grandfather Merlau's farm for three years and then moved to the old Miller home place, where he lived for five years. During the last year of his residence there, he bought fifty acres, a part of the old McNamee farm, located two miles north of New Palestine, and in 1900 took up his residence there. Shortly afterward he bought the forty acres adjoining on the south, making ninety acres in all. The first piece of land purchased has only a three-room house and a log stable and he paid fifty-three dollars per acre, but had to give seventy-five dollars for the last tract he bought. There were about twenty acres of the land cleared and ready for cultivation and Mr. Merlau set about putting it all in proper shape. The first spring he lived there he erected a barn forty-two by seventy feet and in 1906 he built his present beautiful modern residence of fourteen rooms, which is considered one of the finest homes in Sugar Creek township. In addition to this, Mr. Merlau has erected a double corn-crib and tool-shed and other buildings. During the years the ground has been entirely cleared, the land tiled and all brought up to a high state of cultivation. Mr. Merlau usually has from twenty to thirty acres put to corn, making the usual yield for this section, and has the same number of acres in small grains. He feeds out an average of one hundred hogs annually, these being of the Duroc-Jersey breed, and he keeps for his own use usually ten head of cattle, with six to eight horses for assisting in the farm work, the latter being a good grade of draft stock. Mr. Merlau says he owes his financial success to the hogs which he sells, which are fattened on the corn raised on his own place.
Mr. and Mrs. Merlau have two children: Elmer, born on February 24, 1894, and Freda, born on March 13, 1897. Mr. Merlau and his family are members of the German Lutheran church and in politics he supports the Democratic party. He is a captain of the Horse Thief Detective Association and interested in all enterprises intended to advance the interests of those of the community. Mr. Merlau has passed his entire life in this locality and it is said that no higher tribute can be paid a man than an honorable and long continued residence in one place. This being true, he is eminently entitled to the respect and esteem in which he is held by all who have the pleasure of his acquaintance.
Transcribed from History of Hancock County, Indiana, Its People, Industries and Institutions by George J. Richman, B. L., Federal Publishing Co., Indianapolis, Indiana, 1916. Pages 858-860.
Submitted by Sylvia (Rose) Duda, Laingsburg, MI September 12, 2001.
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