Christopher Merkley

Christopher Merkley

Dundas, Hamilton Municipality, Ontario, Canada
Death 2 May 1893 (aged 84)
Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah, USA
Burial Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah, USA
Plot D-2-8
Memorial ID 40234216 · View Source
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Son of Jacob Merkley and Elizabeth Stata

Married Sarah Davis, 18 Feb 1828, Williamsburg, Dundas, Ontario

Son - Nelson Merkley

Married Xarissa Fairbank, 17 Jan 1858, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah

Children - Sarah Frances Merkley, Christopher Amos Merkley, Jacob Nathaniel Merkley, Alva Marion Merkley, Martha Elizabeth Merkley, Mary Jane Merkley, Sousa "Susie" Merkley, Lucy Merkley

Pioneers and Prominent Men of Utah, p. 1032

Missionary eight times. Assisted in building Nauvoo, Salt Lake, and Logan Temples. Indian war veteran.

Davis Bitton, Guide to Mormon Diaries and Autobiographies (1977), pg. 237

Biography of Christopher Merkley. Written by himself. (Salt Lake City: J.H. Parry, 1887), 46 pp. HDC [LDS Church Archives]

Born in Williamsburg, Dundas County, Upper Canada, 1808. Worked on farm until c. 1822. Apprentice shoemaker, c. 1822–25. Married Sarah Davis, 1828. Member of Methodist Episcopal Church, 1831–37. Converted to LDS Church by Phineas and Benjamin Wright. Baptized by John E. Page, 1837. Ordained elder. To Missouri, 1838. Mobbings. Detailed account of personal experiences in Missouri, fall of 1838. To Illinois. Settled at Lima. Mission to Canada, 1839–40. Baptized seventy-two. Moved to Nauvoo. Member of Legion. Mission to Canada, 1841–43. Wintered at Laport, Indiana, 1843–44. Preached. Mission to Michigan after one day in Nauvoo, 1844. Baptized forty-eight during second and third missions. Grief stricken at death of Smiths. ("I made up my mind to go home and leave the Gentiles to go to the devil their own way, because I felt they were not worthy of any better treatment from me. . . .") Endowments, 1845. Took Minerva Stowel as second wife, 1845. Efforts to recover stolen horses, 1845–46. Worked in Illinois, 1846–48. To Winter Quarters, 1848. Horses stolen by Indians. Crossed plains, 1849. Cattle stampedes. Sent son to California to work as miner, 1850.

Mission to Humboldt, 1853. Mission to Green River, 1853–54. Helped build Ft. Supply. Mission to Carson Valley, 1855, and again in 1856–57. Surveying in California. Called home to Utah, 1857. Married Xarissa Fairbanks, 1858. Opened store in Salt Lake City. Trip east, 1860–61. Learned ambrotype (kind of photographic process) business—earned $8,000 in four months. Visited Canada, 1864. Indian campaigns, 1860–70. Crippled in arms. Moved to St. Charles, 1874. Back to Salt Lake with part of family to protect business interests there, 1877. Mission to Canada, 1877–78. Mill at Bear Lake.

Colorfully written.

An Enduring Legacy, Volume Nine, p. 304

David Taylor or Nathan Davis built the first gristmill for grinding grain, and Martin Jacobson ran it. Later, Christopher Merkley traded property in Salt Lake for this gristmill in St. Charles. Prior to the building of the mill, grain was beaten with two sticks fastened together with leather or buckskin; the straw was thrown out and the grain gathered up. The first few years, grasshoppers destroyed most of the grain, so flour had to be brought from Cache Valley. Many people ground what little grain they had in coffee mills and made it into bread. They were too poor to buy flour. Food was quite scarce the first years, but they had plenty of pigweed greens, thistles and sego bulbs when spring came. Clabbered milk was a favorite dish.

An Enduring Legacy, Volume Eight, p. 363

I, Jacob Nathaniel Merkley, was born February 28, 1859, in Salt Lake City, Utah, the son of Christopher and Zarissa Fairbanks Merkley. I was the third child born to my parents, having a sister, Sarah Frances, and a twin brother, Christopher A, who was born fifteen minutes before me.

Christopher, my father, was born at Williamsburg, Canada, December 18, 1808. He was converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in his early manhood, and was baptized on July 27, 1837. On July 5, 1849, he started on his trek across the Plains toward Salt Lake City, and afar many hardships arrived there on October 3 of that year. His wife, Sarah, and his son Nelson had preceded him across the Plains and he was happily united with them upon his arrival.

He married my mother in Salt Lake City early in 1856, as a plural wife, and the ceremony was performed by President Brigham Young in his office. My mother was born in Michigan City, Indiana, October 28, 1838, and her parents were Amos Fairbanks and Martha Bartholomew. I have been unable to learn much about my mother's early life, but I do know that at a very early age she drove a four-team wagon the entire distance across the Plains.

I spent the early years of my life at Salt Lake City, and there I received my schooling, like all the other children of the community. I learned to care for horses and cattle at an early age, and herded them in the nearby pastures and hillsides. In my youth, my brother Chris and I would often go to the nearby mountains and gather segos, which were used as food, and were considered quite a luxury. Of course there were times when we would like to play, and the Hot Springs lake was quite a gathering place for old and young to enjoy their recreation. One day while we were swimming, a soldier watching the fun said, "If those Mormon people can bathe in the water, I can too," whereupon he took off his clothes and jumped into the main spring, burning himself severely.

I recall an incident in my childhood that still is vivid in my mind. At one time my father found some Indians helping themselves to some peaches that were ripening in the orchard, and he had to "box their ears" to drive them away. Another time, during the winter, my brothers and I were having fun throwing snowballs, and some Indians were passing by at the time. We quickly made more snowballs and began throwing them at the Indians. Perhaps we would have been in serious trouble had we not been stopped by an Indian interpreter, who told us that the Indians were very angry.

My father had had some serious accidents with his arms, leaving him so crippled that he could not do any hard manual labor. We were taught very early in life to take responsibilities that really belonged to men. At nine years of age I loaded hay, cared for cattle and horses and did numerous other chores. My father was very fond of horses and had quite a band of them. When they were driven into the corral, all the children climbed onto the high pole fence to watch the excitement, as no one else in the vicinity had so many horses. I remember one of our neighbors who bought two white mules, and when they were harnessed to the wagon, all his children wanted to drive, and there were a lot of youngsters because this man had several families, so it would take some time for each to get his turn.

My father was a very handy person at several different occupations, which had an influence on our lives, too, and taught us that any kind of honest labor was good. President Brigham Young often called on my father, and each time he came to our home, we felt it a privilege to shake his hand.

In 1874, my father sold some property in Salt Lake and bought a mill and other property in Bear Lake County. He moved his family there and remained for a short time before he returned to Salt Lake. He took his wife Sarah and son Nelson back with him, but his wife Zarissa and her family, consisting of eight children (three sets of twins and two single births) remained in Bear Lake to make their home. The first wife, Sarah, having just the one child, helped to care for this family of small children of Zarissa. They all grew to love her because she was so kind to them. She and my mother lived in harmony.

My mother was a very kind and generous woman, and no one ever passed her door seeking food or shelter but what they were cared for. In those early days means of travel were slow, and people would become tired and hungry before their journey's end. They always found a haven of rest at my mother's place. This was not always the case in some homes, for I recall an incident where I had to make a rather long trip, and late one night, tired and hungry, I stopped at a house and was refused hospitality; the man would spare neither food nor shelter for me or my horses, although I still had ten miles to go. Not so long after that this same man came to our home late one night. He was also tired and hungry, and when I recognized him, I said, "You refused me shelter not so very long ago, and I should let you go on, but I have always made it a practice never to turn anyone away from my door who is in need," so he was permitted to stay. I am glad to say, however, men of this character were the exception, and people generally were glad to share with each other.

When my father went back to Salt Lake, my brothers and I were left to take care of the ranch, and all of us, with the help of our good mother, managed to keep going. Many, many times I have driven thirteen miles, with my mother accompanying me, to go to Sunday School, our conveyance being a heavy wagon with no springs except the big spring seat where Mother and I sat.

I remember one especially cold winter. The feed became so scarce that we fed everything we could find, even the straw which covered the sheds, to our large herd of cattle and our horses, but by careful handling we saved them, although corn had to be shipped a long distance in order for the people to save their animals. Once during this time I remember befriending a man who pleaded for feed for his horses, and although we didn't have sufficient for our own stock, I felt I had to help my neighbor. Once again, seven men and their teams went to Montpelier to get corn and on their way back to their homes, they stopped at the Merkley ranch, unhitching their teams and feeding them from our very scant supply. The next morning, Sunday, they got up ready to go and they were asked to breakfast. They said they were anxious to be on their way as they wanted to go to Sunday School, which surely exhibited their faith in the gospel. After they left, my brother Chris and I went, each in a different direction, to drop some of the corn left us, making a trail for the hungry cattle to pick it up. In some way, all our stock managed to get enough to eat to survive that hard winter.

Once when Father came to see us he asked how many animals we had, and I said, "I don't know." He said, "Well, how do you know how many are gone then?" So I replied, "I can just look them over and tell if any are missing." I had learned through my observation, and through handling and caring for livestock, to know whether any were not mine, or whether any of my own were missing.

My father had always come to the ranch for his share of the crops, but there came a time, as the boys grew into manhood, when we all had to have a share in the proceeds of the farm, as we wished to begin making homes for ourselves. My father divided some property at St. Charles for us boys. Chris was given a third, Al was given a third and I had a third. There was also a gristmill in the transaction, and it was understood that whoever ran the mill would be responsible to take care of Mother's needs. For some time my brother Chris ran the mill and Al and I ran the ranch, then my brother Al decided to go to Canada and he took most of the cattle with him.



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  • Added: 3 Aug 2009
  • Find a Grave Memorial 40234216
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Christopher Merkley (18 Dec 1808–2 May 1893), Find a Grave Memorial no. 40234216, citing Salt Lake City Cemetery, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah, USA ; Maintained by SMSmith (contributor 46491005) .