James Milford Merrill, one of the nine children of Isaac Dimmock Merrill, a lumberman, and his wife Augusta McKinney, was born in Muskegon, Michigan, October 15, 1847. When he was four years of age, his parents removed to Bridgetown, at that time a small lumber camp some fifteen miles farther up the Muskegon River, and there his father built a shingle and clapboard mill and had his home on a high bluff overlooking the river. Every spring the Indians came in great numbers to tap the sugar maples. They had their camp about five miles from the town, and James used to play with the Indian children. From them and from the lumbermen he gained his knowledge of woodcraft which was to stand him in good stead when in later years he began to write of pioneer days.
James attended the school at Bridgetown, and between school hours worked in his father's store and spent his leisure in writing sketches for some of the New York story papers. He also attended the State Normal at Ypsilanti, Michigan, for one term in 1865. On June 13, 1874, he was married to Elizabeth Brown, and one child, Raymond (1877-1926), who later became a reporter on the Grand Rapids Herald and editor of the Soo Daily News and finally ran a store in Grant, Michigan, was born of this marriage.
About 1886, Merrill removed to Sparta, Michigan, where he was actively engaged in writing for various story papers and "libraries." His health failing, he bought some land near Bridgetown in 1895, put up a house, and started a fruit farm, living there in the summer and in Sparta in the winter. Later he sold his Sparta home and stayed on his growing fruit farm for a few years. After the death of Raymond's wife, Merrill sold his farm and he and his wife went to live with his son to help care for the latter's two-year-old child, Isobel. The son was married again after a few years, and Mr. and Mrs. Merrill went to Grandville, Michigan. After Mrs. Merrill's death, Mr. Merrill continued to live in Grandville with his sister Dora until his death in March, 1936. He was buried in the Grant Cemetery, beside his wife and son.
From 1880 on, Merrill wrote almost continuously for many years. The Weekly Novelist, then in Chicago, published many of his sketches and serials, and many of his detective and miscellaneous stories appeared in various Eastern papers. There were a dozen or more of his stories in The War Library of New York. With the author's name given as "Morris Redwing," Merrill's "Cloudwood" appeared as No. 21 of Brady's Champion Novels. After Brady's death this was purchased by Beadle and reprinted under Merrill's own name in four different editions, the first appearing in Frank Starr's American Novels in 1871. This was the only novel printed by Beadle under Merrill's own name, but under the name "Morris Redwing" there were three. Under the latter name, also, he wrote †eighteen stories for the Nickel Library as well as nine more under the name "Dayton Mulgrove". For the Michigan Tradesman, Grand Rapids, he wrote over the name "Old Timer," and elsewhere he used the name "Wendal Parrish."(†1) Among cloth-bound hooks, Merrill published "Forced Apart" (1896), "A Fair Prisoner" (1896), "His Mother's Letter" (1902), and "The American Sovereign" (1910).
REFERENCES: Who's Who in America, VIII, 1914-1915; Madge Goodrich, Bibliography of Michigan Authors, Richmond, Virginia, 1929, 96; Samuel Merrill, A Merrill Memorial, Cambridge, Mass., 1917-1928, II, 618; Chicago Ledger, XIV, April 28, 1886, with portrait; personal communications to me by Karl G. Merrill, Ralph Mellon and Mrs. Vernon Houldmg, nephews and niece of J. M. Merrill, and Mrs. W. S. Merrill, his sister-in-law. The pseudonym "Wendal Parrish" was told to me by Mr. H. V. Seabrook, the editor of the Grant Herald.
Starr's American Novels. No. 66
Pocket Novels. No. 58
Dime Novels. No. 631
Boy's Library (octavo). No. 246
Under the pen name "Morris Redwing" were published:
Dime Library. No. 312
Boy's Library (quarto). Nos. 34, 66
Boy's Library (octavo). Nos. 39, 86
Pocket Library. No. 386
|1||† J. M. Merrill, in a letter dated January 5, 1918, and now in my possession, wrote that he used the names Dayton Mulgrove, Morris Redwing, Will Winch, William T. Bartwick, Ed. Alden Wicks, and Lieut. Victor O. Endall.|