The History of New York State
Biographies, Part 35

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam

 

WILLIAM FESSENDEN MERRILL

In the last analysis, the term business really connotes service to humanity. Not all service to mankind may be called business, but business principle and methods play an important part in all worth-while service. Of course, the largest and fundamentally the most important service is the production and distraction of commodities that satisfy human needs. Little mental ability or exertion is required to satisfy the wants of primitive man--food, clothing, shelter; but the advance of civilization has not only vastly increased the number and complexity of man's needs, but in like proportion has multiplied the difficulties in supplying those needs in kind and manner available to the individuals who compose society. The solving of the problem thus arising offers exercise for the beat and most efficiently trained of mental ability. These facts were not widely recognized thirty years ago when William Fessenden Merrill, president and general manger of Remington-Rand Company, Incorporated, received his degree from his alma mater, and few college-trained men looked with favor upon the possibilities offered by a business career. Today, men with such training constitute a very large percentage of the important business executives of the country, and the proportion is constantly increasing. For seven consecutive generations in his lineage, member of the Merrill family had adopted and adorned the so-called learned professions; but William Fessenden Merrill saw with almost prophetic vision the trend of business and sensed the wonderful opportunities for honorable and most useful service in the business world. As will appear, subsequent development demonstrate that he made no mistake in his choice of a career which has been both his vocation and avocation.

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The Merrills and the Fessendens are among the oldest of New England families, and by marriage they are allied with other pioneer stocks, intrepid souls who, for the convictions braved the dangers of an unknown wilderness with its savage beasts and hardly less savage men to lay the foundation of anew society, equally of opportunity for all. Time has demonstrated the soundness of their ideas and ideals, the virility of which persists to the present day, giving character and color to all our institutions. Of such stock came the paternal grandfather of William Fessenden Merrill. Rev. James Henry Merrill, a native of Lyndeboro, New Hampshire, became a Congregational clergyman and preached most of his life in the old academic town of Andover, Massachusetts. He married Lucia Griswold, a representative of one of Connecticut's oldest and most notable families.

They were the parents of Rev. James Griswold Merrill, who was born in Montague, Massachusetts, August 20, 1840, and died in Mountain Lakes, New Jersey, December 22, 1920. He prepared for college at Phillips-Andover Academy, and was graduated from Amherst College in 1863, with the degree of Bachelor of Arts. He matriculated in Princeton Theological Seminary, the same year, but transferred the following year to Andover theological Seminary, from which he was graduated in 1866. In 1866 Shurtleff conferred the degree of Doctor of Divinity upon him, and he was similarly honored by his alma mater, in 1903. He began to preach in his first settled pastorate, Mound City, Kansas, in 1866, and was ordained to the ministry the following year. In 1868 he removed to Topeka in the same State, and after a year of service there he became superintendent of missions in Kansas, which was then on the frontier line. He continued in that work until 1872, when he became a pastor in Davenport, Iowa. There he remained for ten years, resigning to become pastor of the First Congregational Church of St. Louis. He was pastor of the Payson Memorial Church, Portland, Maine, from 1894 to 1899, and during the same period edited the "Christian Mirror."

In 1890, Dr. Merrill went to Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee, as acting president, and continued two years in that capacity. Two years later he was elected president of the University and remained in that office until 1908. He never lost interest, however, in the education of the colored race. He became convinced that no greater service could be done for these people than to educate members of their own race as preachers, teachers, physicians, lawyers, etc. In 1909, he went to Somerset, Massachusetts, as a pastor of the Congregational Church there and remained until 1913. In the latter year he accepted a pastorate in Lake Helen, Florida, where he remained until 1917; moving to Winter Park, Florida, where he made his home.

Dr. Merrill was the first clergyman of his denomination to make a regular practice of preaching short sermons to children as part of the Sunday morning service. He was the author of two volumes, "Children's Sermons," published in 1876, and 1878, also a book under the title, "From Servitude to Service.." He was also a contributor to the religious and secular press. In 1907, he served as first assistant moderator of the National Congregational Council in Cleveland, Ohio.

On October 11, 1866, Dr. Merrill married Louisa W. Boutwell, daughter of Samuel Boutwell, of Andover, Massachusetts. The Boutwell family dates back to an early period in the settlement of New England.

Such a lineage and environment go far in support of the theories of the eugenics. Much is expected of one possessing such a heritage, and William Fessenden Merrill has proven himself a worthy scion of illustrious forebears. By his own achievements he has enhanced the prestige of an honored family name. He was born, March 19, 1877, in Davenport, Iowa, son of Rev. Dr. James Griswold and Louisa W. (Boutwell) Merrill. After completing the usual public school courses, he prepared for college at Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts, and was graduated from Amherst College in 1899, with the degree of Bachelor of Arts.

Here it may be well to direct the attention of the youthful reader to one of the important lessons that stands out in this narrative, namely, that a definite goal lies at the end of a definite road. False starts only lose valuable time. The man who expects to accomplish anything worth while must have a definite object, and that objective must be pursued intelligently and with steadfastness of purpose. Always a student by nature, young Merrill felt that thus far he had merely trained and equipped himself to study the real problems of life; that his real education was about to begin. He had already determined that the business world offered the broadest field for mental activity, the great-

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est opportunity for service and remuneration commensurate withal. Big business had then, at the beginning of the present century, hardly gotten into its stride; it might be said that it was merely "warming up." The question was: Where and how could one place himself so as to make the widest and most varied contacts with business life in all its important phases--buying, manufacturing, distribution, including advertising and personal salesmanship, accountancy and executive management--and this not only in one line of business, but in many or all lines? Equipped with such knowledge, a man would be a business engineer, or, as Mr. Merrill prefers to express it, an Industrialist, and that was the goal he set for himself.

At that time, modern business systems and labor-saving devices were in an embryonic stage. Library Bureau of Boston, which, as the name implies, had been organized as a library service business, had begun to apply the same methods to office practice and was the acknowledged leader in the business systems' field. So Mr. Merrill sought and found there his opportunity to step upon the lowest round of the ladder, the climbing of which meant incessant physical and mental labor--a price he thought not too dear to pay; and now that he has reached the top, he knows, what he began to suspect long ago, that to retain the place he has won, he must continue to pay the same price. He worked in every department of the business, mastering every practical and theoretical detail and remained identified with the organization until 1913. Such indefatigable and intelligently directed industry could not fail to attract attention, promotion from one position to another of increased responsibility came until he was called upon to serve as a director of the company during the last seven or eight years of his connection wit it, having filled the positions of merchandise manager, works manager, advertising manager, etc. At the time he severed his connection with what, perhaps, may be called his business alma mater, he was the company's Eastern manager.

Library Bureau transacted all its business directly with the consumer, and Mr. Merrill felt that there was one element lacking in his training--a knowledge of distribution through the dealer. He therefore next established a connection with the well-known manufacturers, Bird and Son, of East Walpole, Massachusetts, who have national dealer distribution. After a year with that concern, in order to broaden still further his knowledge and experience (and how many would have quit climbing long before this in contented complacency), Mr. Merrill became identified with the banking firm of Willett-Bears. This private banking organization controlled many manufacturing enterprises in New England, notable among the number, the American Felt Company, the Daniel Greene Felt Show Company, the Ames Plow Company, and the Woonsocket Machine and Press Company. Mr. Merrill was more interested in the mechanical companies and had charge of the buying, accounting and general research work for the entire combination, and he directly operated the manufacturing companies. Among them was the Framingham Machine Works, which was at that time engaged in the production of war materials, more particularly shells for the British Government. Mr. Merrill had direct charge of that work. Later the product went to the Russian Government.

In the fall of 1916, Mr. Merrill became identified with The Lamson Company of Boston as vice-president and general manager. The original product was cash carriers for stores, later bundle carriers were added, and still later industrial conveyors. Mr. Merrill made it his special task to develop this latter department of the business and met with marked success in his efforts. But the company was at a great disadvantage in being located in Boston, to which point all raw materials must be shipped from the West and from which the manufactured product must likewise be shipped to distant points. Mr. Merrill became president of the company in 1917, and in 1922 he brought about the removal of the business to Syracuse, this State, which was a better location both as a manufacturing and distributing center. He resigned in 1927, having raised the annual profits of the company during his regime from about $50,000 or $60,000 to $600,000. When he took hold of the business it was embarrassed both financially and physically, owing to the troubles of the subsidiary, the American Pneumatic Service Company, which had mail delivery franchises ina number of cities, the operation of which had been suspended by the Postmaster General. In 1923, Mr. Merrill became president of this company also, and had the satisfaction of bringing about the resumption of operation in both New York City and Boston.

On January 1, 1928, Mr. Merrill went with the National City Company as an industrialist. This is one of the largest, best-known and most conservative banking companies engaged in the underwriting business. In looking after the interests of its investors, it proceeds on the theory

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that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." As industrialist for the National City company, it was Mr. Merrill's function to establish contacts with the corporations whose securities his company had underwritten and watch their financial condition. Among the properties that Mr. Merrill was assigned to examine was the Remington-Rank Company, Incorporated, a recent incorporation combining eight or ten of the leading concerns in the office appliance field, including the Remington Typewriter Company, Liberty Bureau, Kardex, The Rand Company, Index Visible, the Dalton Adding Machine, the Safe Cabinet Company, the Kalamazoo Loose-Leaf Ledger Company, the Baker-Vawter Company, and the Powers Accounting and Tabulating Machine Company. Some idea of the mammoth proportions of this organization may be gained from the following figures: The company employs 2.400 domestic salesmen and has two hundred and fifty selling offices. The total number of its employees is about 15,000 and its combined annual sales amount to about $60,000,000, including domestic and foreign business. So impressed were the directors of the Remington-Rank Company with the work of Mr. Merrill as a diagnostician that he was invited to become vice-president and general manager of the company. The offer was accepted, and Mr. Merrill assumed the responsibilities of this important office on June 1, 1928, and was made president in July of that year. Within the group of this company's executives are men capable of diagnosing every ailment in business methodizing and systems, and they are able to furnish from the wide rage of the company's products, as no other organization can, the precise remedy for any given trouble.

In his younger days Mr. Merrill was a member of Battery A Field Artillery, Massachusetts volunteer Militia. He has never been what is sometimes called a "joiner." At college he became a member of the Psi Upsilon fraternity, and he is also a member of the Transportation Club, and Amherst club, of New York City, and the following clubs in Syracuse: Century, University, Sedgewick, and Onondaga Golf and Country; and in Buffalo, of the Saturn Club and the Buffalo Athletic Club.

William Fessenden Merrill married Edith Blackburn Sheraton, of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and they have one son, Frederick Thayer.

Many factors have contributed to develop modern business to its present vast proportions, and the wonderful facility and celerity with which its operations are conducted. It is safe to say, however, that this expansion and momentum could not have been attained or be maintained were it not for such devices as have just been enumerated, which both save and facilitate labor and at the same time make for a higher standard of accuracy. In the beginning of this article it was proposed that the field of business offers opportunity for intellectual accomplishments as ample and more varied than any of the professions which formerly were the almost exclusive attraction of college-trained men; and it is believed the foregoing record justifies the writing here of "Q. E. D."

WARNER S. REXFORD

Surrogate of Chautauqua County, Warner S. Rexford built up an unusually successful reputation as barrister before elevation to this office. When the State law was passed in 1927 forbidding county judges and surrogates to continue in legal practice so long as they held their county positions, he chose between the two; and as surrogate has been of most valued service. He has made his career in Jamestown, here being numbered along the foremost citizens.

Mr. Rexford was born at Bemus Point, Chautauqua County, July 19, 1876, son of Thomas J. and Mary Jane (Shaw) Rexford, of whom the latter is since deceased, Thomas J. Rexford having engaged as farmer through long years. After he had completed his studies in district school, Mr. Rexford entered Sugar Grove Seminary, at Sugar Grove, Pennsylvania, and in order to complete the course there worked in spare time, graduating in 1901. Meanwhile he had set his intent desire on the law as a profession, and now entered the University of Michigan, teaching school first in order to secure the funds needed. For three years he studied there, then for three years more read the law in the offices of Pickard and Dean, Jamestown; and was admitted to the bar of new York November 30, 1908. Without delay he began to practice, and on October 2, 1912, was admitted to practice before the Federal courts. For three years, then, he practiced independently, entering into partnership with John G. Wicks, January 1, 1915. This partnership endured until 1927. He became surrogate in 1921, and has made a worthy record in this office. Gifted as a speaker, well known for the power of his oratory and logic, Mr. Rexford early took an interest in politics. It was during his college days in Michigan tat he took up political speaking. When

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Theodore Roosevelt was republican candidate for the Presidency in 1904 he made twenty-one speeches and secured for Mr. Roosevelt a large number of votes, simply through his eloquent conviction and decisiveness. He has been a Republican since majority. In 1908 he was engrossing clerk in the State Legislature, and served as assistant district attorney from January 1, 1914, to January 1, 1917. He was the chairman of the Blue Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons, and is affiliated with the Fraternal Order of Eagles, the Benevolent and protective Order of Elks, belongs to the County, State and American bar associations, is an associate of the Jamestown Bar Association, member of the Buffalo Lawyers' club and the Saturday Night Club.

Mr. Rexford married, August 27, 1906, May Jenner, of Midland, Michigan and their children are: Chester C., and Jeanette.

LOUIS M. PARTRIDGE

In the care of those who have departed this life until they shall have been laid to rest in the ground hallowed fro their reception, Louis M. Partridge, one of the leading morticians of Southwestern New York, who establishment of modern equipment and the last word in service is at Jamestown, in rendering highly appreciated service, his clientele being from among the discriminating public in his territory.

E. G. Partridge, father of Louis M Partridge, was born in Jamestown, where he spent his entire life. He was engaged in the furniture business and the undertaking profession, retiring from the former many years before his death, and making the latter his entire means of service to the community for the rest of his days. He founded the establishment in 1872, having been one of the first in that region to adopt the use of modern embalming methods. For many years he carried on the undertaking department in connection with his furniture business, and before his passing, which occurred in 1924, he received his son into the business, which thereafter was known as E. G. Partridge, & son. He stood high in his profession and was a member of the Chautauqua County Embalmers' Association. His fraternal connections were the Mount Moriah Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons; Ismalia Temple, Ancient Arabic Order, Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, and Jamestown Consistory of the Scottish Rite. He was a member of the Congregational Church of Jamestown, and on all sides was held in deep respect for his integrity and high purpose of life. He married (first) Althea Merrill, and by this marriage there were born three sons: George H., Albert G., and Louis M., of the latter, see further. He married (second) Florence Clement, and by this marriage there is a daughter, Genevieve.

Louis M. Partridge, son of E. G. and Althea (Merrill) Partridge, was born in Jamestown, in whose schools he received his academic education. He early determined to assist his father in the morticians' profession, and to that end he took the course in the Renouard School of Embalming, from which he was graduated. Having been received into partnership with his father, he continued in that association until the death of his parent and the founder in 1924. Since that time the establishment has been carried on by the son under his own name.

His management of the establishment has been significant for the rapid strides in advance which it and his practice have made. In 1928 he brought about the completion of a funeral home, or mortuary, wherein he had installed the modern furnishings, equipment and accommodations that go to make the most approved means of service to which he as devoted his attention and qualifications. Within this funeral home are a chapel for the holding of services for the departed and where the bereaved have seclusion, rest rooms and display rooms. The vehicular equipment is of the latest approved type also, and everything about the establishment is in harmony with the good taste and the atmosphere that should pervade a well-ordered funeral home. On all sides, Mr. Partridge is esteemed to be in the front rank of his profession. He is a member of the National Funeral Directors' Association, and the New York State Association of Funeral Directors. His fraternal affiliations are of high standing, including all branches of the Masonic Order, through the thirty-second degree Scottish Rite. His social organizations are the Prendergast Club, Moon Brook Club and sportsman's Club.

Louis M. Partridge married Lulu Shearman, of Jamestown, and they are the parents of three daughters: !. Althea M. 2. Catherine. And 3. Margaret. The family residence is on East Seventh Street, Jamestown.

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WILLIAM H. MORSE

For eighteen years, William H. Morse has held the position of probation officer at Amsterdam, New York. He is the son of William Thornton and Cleora (Morse) Morse. His father was well known as a farmer near Verona, New York, and was also engaged in shipping grain from Buffalo to New York City. His earliest American ancestor on his mother's side was Samuel Morse, a direct ancestor of Samuel Morse, the inventor of the telegraph.

William H. Morse was born in Higginsville, New York, on November 24, 1872. He was educated in the public schools of Verona and Higginsville, and also at Camden, New York. His first work was on the farm wit his father and then after reaching manhood, he was enticed to city life and leaving the farm, he engaged in the laundry business in Amsterdam where he remained for twelve years, and where he was foreman for the empire Laundry eight years, and for four years he was engaged with another leading laundry in Amsterdam. At the end of that time, he was appointed probation officer and has, since October 9, 1911, filled that position. He has had the responsibility of about one hundred cases all the time, and finds that all who are privileged to be put on probation are not so easy to handle as is often considered the case. Mr. Morse finds, in his own district, an inclination to not want to work, and as it is his part to see that they are kept occupied, he has a rather difficult position. However, any man who has kept the post so long as he, must of necessity be one of good judgment, fairness and friendliness. His continuous service is proof of his fitness for the place. He has never held a military position of any kind, but has been active in aiding the Liberty Loan Drives and the Red Cross. He is a member of Welcome Lodge, No. 829, Free and Accepted Masons and of the Emanuel Presbyterian Church.

At Amsterdam, New York, February 10, 1898, William h. Morse, married Emma Coburn from Canada. The name Coburn was originally Cockburn, and Mrs. Morse is connected with the Hollenbeck family of Albany, New York. She is the daughter of George and Emma Coburn. Mr. and Mrs. Morse have two children: 1. Cleora May, born July 16, 1901, now Mrs. Gollet. 2. Helen Amanda, born in October, 1904, now Mrs. Wilcox.

 

The History of New York State, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1927

This book is owned by Pam Rietsch and is a part of the Mardos Memorial Library

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

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