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Catharine Merrill


Catharine Merrill Portrait from the Man Shakespeare and Other Essays, 1902
  • Indiana teacher and author, one of the first woman professors in America.
  • Serving as a nurse in the field and in other war work during the Civil War, she was recruited after the war by Indiana Governor Oliver P. Morton to write a history of Indiana's soldiers in the conflict. Her resulting book,The Soldier of Indiana in the War for the Union (2 vol, 1866, 1869) has been ranked as the most comprehensive history of Indiana's part in the Civil War.
  • Revered by three generations of Indianapolis students, Merrill first operated a private school from the family home. In 1869 she became a professor at North Western Christian University (now Butler University) as the Demia Butler chair of English Literature, where she served until l885. She was the second female to become a professor in the United States and taught at the University for 14 years. After that she returned to private teaching.
  • John Muir met Catharine Merrill when he first lived in Indianapolis, introduced by Professor J.D. Butler, one of Muir's professors at the University of Wisconsin. He called Merrill's gifts "rare," credited her with being a "builder of character" and observed that to know her "was a liberal education." Catharine's nephew, Merrill Moores, also became a friend of Muir's and traveled with him on botanizing expeditions in the Midwest and Yosemite.
  • John Muir wrote a moving tribute to Catharine Merrill, "Words from an Old Friend," which was published in The Man Shakespeare and other Essays By Catharine Merrill With Impressions And Reminiscences Of The Author By Melville B. Anderson, And With Some Words of Appreciation From John Muir, (Indianapolis, The Bowen-Merrill Company, 1902), p. 32 et seq.

  • John Muir wrote a letter dated July 12, 1871 to Catharine Merrill, reporting that "Last Sabbath I read one of the most magnificent of God's own mountain manuscripts..." and told of his discovery of clear traces of glaciation from a long-dead glacier. See Catharine Merrill: Life and Letters Collected and Arranged by Katharine Merrill Graydon (Greenfield, Indiana: The Mitchell Company, 1934).

  • John Muir wrote another remarkable letter to Catharine Merrill from Yosemite Valley on June 9, 1872 (image of the letter available from the Indiana Digital Image Library; text available here in Badè's Life and Letters of John Muir; ) in which he expressed his disagreement with Merrill on some subjects, contrasting her spiritual beliefs with his own: "You say that good men are 'nearer to the heart of God than are woods and fields, rocks and waters.' Such distinctions and measurements seem strange to me. Rocks and waters, etc., are words of God and so are men. We all flow from one fountain Soul. All are expressions of one Love. God does not appear, and flow out, only from narrow chinks and round bored wells here and there in favored races and places, but He flows in grand undivided currents, shoreless and boundless over creeds and forms and all kinds of civilizations and peoples and beasts, saturating all and fountainizing all. "
Portrait from The Man Shakespeare (1902)

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