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Merrill Moores


  • Prominent lawyer, Indiana congressman and boyhood friend of Muir.
  • John Muir came to Indianapolis in 1866 because the city had many manufactories, while being surrounded by “one of the richest forests of deciduous hardwood trees on the continent” where he could botanize in his free time. With a letter of introduction to Catharine Merrill, one of the first women professors in America, from Professor James Butler, Muir approached the home of the distinguished Merrill family. The then ten-year old nephew of Catharine, Merrill Moores, answered the door. Merrill later wrote: "One beautiful evening ... a tall, sturdy man with blue eyes and a clear ruddy complexion as well as handsome hair and beard ... approached and asked if Mrs. Moores and Miss Merrill lived there. He had a marked Scotch accent and was obviously a working man, but was plainly and neatly dressed; and he at once impressed me as the handsomest man I had ever met."
  • In 1867, while working in a carriage parts factory in Indianapolis, Muir had an accident which temporarily blinded him. Catharine Merrill and her family helped him convalesce, and spent many hours reading to Muir as he recuperated from the eye injury. This eventually turned into a lifelong friendship between Muir and Catharine, her sisters Julia Merrill and Mrs. Graydon, and their children. Julia Merrill had three children: Merrill, Charles and Janet. After Muir's recovery, Merrill, at age 11, spent many weeks with Muir on a walking botanical excursion back to Muir’s family home in Portage, Wisconsin.
  • When telling the Merrills about his work at the carriage parts factory, he told them how he had invented a machine there that could “automatically make wooden hubs, spokes and felloes and assemble them into a fully completed wheel.” They asked if he had taken out a patent on his device. “No,” he replied, “all improvements and inventions should be the property of the human race. No inventor has the right to profit by an invention for which he deserves no credit. The idea of it was really inspired by the Almighty.” Merrill Moores later wrote “This machine was a success, and I am told that all wooden wheels to this day are made by machines following the plan on which Muir’s unpatented wheel-making machine was designed.”
  • Young Merrill, while staying at Muir's Wisconsin Farm, observed how John Muir's father constantly found fault with John. Muir's father "made no secret of his brief that the study of geology was blasphemous and was accustomed to rebuke John unceasingly.... And I regretted to discover that he regarded botany as almost as wicked as geology." but the two spent some wonderful time together botanizing, including finding a rare fern at the Wisconsin Dells near Kilburn.
  • Five years later, in 1872, Merrill, then age 16, spent the summer with Muir in Yosemite. Merrill's later unpublished manuscript strongly suggests that in that year Muir met famed British geologist John Tyndall, though no record by Muir recounts that event. Merrill also spent a week with Muir and Asa Gray, the Harvard botanist, exploring the Yosemite h high country. The same summer, Muir met other prominent scientists, including botanist John Torrey, and corresponded with geologist Louis Agassiz. Merrill also accompanied Muir and artist William Keith and two other artists on their first excursion together.
  • Graduate of Yale University (1978) and law school in Indiana (1880), practiced law in Indianapolis, Indiana. Served ten years as U.S. Representative (7th District, Indiana, Republican) in U.S. Congress beginning in 1915. As a congressman, Moores asked to assigned to the national parks committee, so he could carry on Muir’s work.
  • Interestingly, Merrill shared the same birth day as John Muir, April 21.
  • Sources: Biographical Directory of the United States Congress; Wolfe, Linnie Marsh, Son of the Wilderness: The Life of John Muir (Madison, University of Wisconsin Press, 1945, 1978), 99; Merrill, Samuel, “Personal Recollections of John Muir,” in Sierra Club Bulletin, XIII, 1, Feb., 1928, 24, excerpted in Gilliam, Ann, Voices for the Earth: A Treasury of the Sierra Club Bulletin 1893-1977 and reprinted in John Muir: His Life and Letters and Other Writings, ed. by Terry Gifford (The Mountaineers Books, 1996, pg. 892; John Muir in Indiana by Harold Wood (April 5, 2003) [PDF].

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