Arthur Jesse Merickel and the Merickel family
The subject of this article, Arthur Jesse Merickel, involves many people as he came from a large family and sired many children.
Arthur Jesse, or A.J. as he was commonly known, was born in Mapleton, Wis., on April 30, 1863, the second oldest in a family of 10 children. His parents were Jessie O. and Electa A. Merickel. The nine siblings were Watson Delano, Jennie, William, John, Mabel, Luella, Fred, George and Olive. However, the only ones we will deal with in this article are A.J. and Watson Delano, W.D., because they were business partners in many transactions.
In 1897, Arthur J. Merickel is listed as a passenger on a ship, The Breakwater, arriving at New Orleans from Belize. His occupation is listed as a "miller." In 1898, A.J. and his brother W.D. bought a mill at Eagle Bend. In 1900, A.J. and his siblings were all living at Eagle Bend with A.J. and W.D. listed as being in the milling, real estate and loan business.
I find the Merickel Brothers W.D. and A.J. mentioned in a 1903 Pioneer Journal when they, as bankers in Eagle Bend, have besides other large investments, bought the well-known Franklyn Flats in Minneapolis and paid $140,000. They were also building a $6,500 residence in Minneapolis. It doesn't say how they acquired the necessary capital.
In April 1907 with the purchase of the First National Bank (202 Jefferson South, 2009) from W.R. Baumbach, the paper stated that the Merickel Brothers were pretty strong financially, as aside from the $80,000 needed to carry through the bank deal, they owned a very valuable fruit farm at Riverside, Calif., an area where more naval oranges are raised than in any other locality in the world. With the purchase of the bank, A.J. also acquired possession of the Baumbach home known in 2009 as the Merickel Mansion. A year earlier they purchased the 80-acre fruit farm for upwards of $100,000 and not too long afterward platted all of it out except for eight acres. This adjoined the city of Riverside, Calif. In this transaction they also gained possession of a lumber yard and a residence in Long Beach which was occupied by W.D. W.D. was president of the First National, A.J. vice president and Warren E. Parker, cashier.
Later in April the Odd Fellow and United Workmen Lodges of Eagle Bend gave a farewell banquet to A.J. on his departure to Wadena. The newspaper reported that perhaps never before in the history of the town was the loss of a citizen more keenly or generally felt.
Later that year, with the Ideal Cold Storage Plant in bankruptcy, the Merickel brothers purchased it and renamed it the Minnesota and Dakota Produce Company. This was located at the east end of Colfax Avenue SE, along Union Creek, about where Line's Tree House is located in 2009. Unfortunately the building burned in 1908 and was never rebuilt.
Originally there was talk of W.D. moving back to Minnesota and taking an active part in the management of their affairs, but this did not happen.
In an appraisal of their abilities after the Storage Plant acquisition the newspaper stated, "In business deals, the Merickels do not move in the dark. They are successful men and are thoroughly competent to properly estimate the worth of a business proposition, and once acquired, to manage it successfully. Their record has been one of success, never failure, and that they will make the Wadena Cold storage one of the big institutions, not only of Wadena but of the northwest, is readily admitted by all who know the men."
However sometime later that year the Merickel Brothers gave a cash infusion to the Wadena Cracker Company, which needed operating capital, in the amount of $20,000. W.D. was elected president of the company and A.J. gained a seat on the board of directors. The high praises given the brothers and their shrewd business sense didn't play out too well in this particular instance as in 1915 the Cracker Company went bankrupt and was sold with A.J. Merickel the biggest loser in the deal. He gaining only the property to compensate for his losses, which for those days were substantial.
Again late in 1907, the Merickel brothers traded 400 acres of wild land in Todd County, for the Lakeview Hotel, a hotel of 40 rooms, which stood on a point in Leech Lake at Walker, a fine residence and some cash. In a comment to the Walker Pilot A.J. commented, "I like Walker better every time I come here."
In 1909 A.J. purchased the Hocking building, (the building next south of Borealis Books in 2009) fronting on Front Street (Jefferson) and L shaped to front on Bryant. He paid $3,500 for the property and felt that he got a good bargain, stating that he would probably install a brick and plate glass front in the near future.
Evidently the Merickel Orange Grove in California was expanded slightly because in 1910 the newspaper announced that Leonard Schaf, a local contractor, traded his home in Wadena (123 Aldrich SW) and his building on Jefferson (217-219 Jefferson South) (home of the Cozy Theatre new screens in 2009) for the orange grove, each being valued at $12,000, so no cash exchanged hands. Schaf stated that he also bought a residence lot adjoining the grove, planning to build there and move to California about July 1.
Disaster struck in 1911 when fire destroyed the property at 217-219 Jefferson, commonly known as the Eagle Block, with A.J. promptly announcing that the building would be rebuilt immediately.
Later that year A.J. announced that he had sold his stock in the Merchants National Bank of Sauk Centre, stating that he wished to center his interests in and around Wadena.
The paper also announced that the big Jackson touring car of A.J. came very near being destroyed by a fire around the carburetor. His son Harry and friends had taken the car up north to do some hunting. After a brief hunt they returned to the car to find it smoking and then in flames. Luckily they had a can of "Old Style" fire extinguisher in the car which quickly extinguished the flames.
A.J. went to Keota, Iowa later in the year to purchase a team of driving mares, closely matched, coming on 4 years old for about $2,000.
A brief news item in the Journal stated that A.J. Merickel gave his son Harry five shares of stock in the Wadena Manufacturing Company valued at $100 per share.
In the year 1912 the following: A.J. visited California and while there purchased 15 acres of land on which he stated he would plant a walnut grove.
Also he was listed as president of the Wadena Manufacturing Company, a successor to the Northfoss Planning mill, manufacturers of all types of wooden sash and doors and other wooden items.
He announced plans for building a brick building at the rear of the old Merchants National Bank for the J. M. Robb Plumbing Company. (Lot east of Larry's Pizza in 2009)
In 1913, the newspaper stated that A.J. Merickel, won third prize in the automobile parade at the County Fair and donated his winnings, $5 to the public library. Later that year A.J. and his brother John, from Winnipeg, Canada, returned to Wadena from California. A.J. reported that the walnut grove he planted a year or two previous, was coming on nicely.
In 1915, a change came in the holdings of the First National Bank. It was announced that Warren E. Parker had purchased the stock holdings of W.D. Merickel of Los Angeles, Calif., and became a vice president of the firm replacing W.D.
Also the announcement that W.D. and A.J. sold the First State Bank of New York Mills to the bank employees and another announcement in the same paper advertising registered Guernsey bulls and heifers -- see Merickel and Nelson at Eagle Bend or A.J. Merickel at Wadena.
A successful hunting trip was reported in a 1916 newspaper: "F. H. Bigelow, A.J. Merickel and Jos. Mettel returned from Lake Traverse Monday after one of the most successful duck hunting expeditions ever indulged in by local hunters. During the week or more spent there they bagged their limit every day while other parties were forced to content themselves with but a few.
"226 ducks were bagged by the three but inasmuch as the law does not permit each man to have more than 45 in his possession at one time friends were being entertained royally at duck dinners while they lasted. Their success has been the signal for departure of other parties for the same scene."
(This story of A.J. Merickel and the Merickel family will continue in an upcoming edition of the Pioneer Journal.)