September 22, 1997
A settler whose monument was a mountain
By Oscar Roloff
It was 1936 when Ed Opstad, a teacher, sought to obtain an appropriate grave marker for Josiah Merritt, an early day settler who was buried in a local cemetery. Opstad and a colleague asked if school pupils wanted to donate pennies and nickels to the goal. Gladly they did. They loved local history and lore.
A few years back I'd gotten hold of Ed, a retired school superintendent, who is now proud of his past venture. It is a bronze monument which is affixed to a large rock. The marker reads, "Josiah Merritt. Our mountain is his monument. Valley resident." Ed had taken me to the grave and monument.
In 1958, Merritt left his wife and three small kids in Ohio and headed for the California gold fields to make it rich, but he struck out. He then high-tailed it to the north and arrived in Fall City. Here he obtained 400 acres of land, built a log home and began raising hogs.
As years passed, by shank's mare, ox and canoe he traveled to Seattle where he sold bacon to residents. Because of a bad left foot, Merritt walked on the side of his foot. Made it difficult to walk correctly.
Merritt was an outstanding fiddler and was constantly called on to play at various local dances and festivities.
Alas! Local Indians and Merritt had trouble getting along. He had to watch them very closely. From time to time his possessions were missing. He'd see the Indians as they walked away with whatever they wanted. Once he was hit on the head by one Indian, and it bothered him for years. After 23 years Merritt decided to return home to his family in Ohio. During his stay out west, not once did he return home or even write a letter to his wife.
In Ohio, friends of his wife encouraged her to forget about her long time absent husband and find someone else. However, she stuck by him.
Upon returning home, Merritt found his children grown up, strangers to him. He did persuade his wife to return westward with him to Fall City. She found the loneliness unbearable and returned home. Enough is enough, she sighed.
One day Merritt became ill. Lying down on the damp floor, he ignored his pain. The next morning, neighbors found him dead. Josiah Merritt, sported a long white beard and resembled everyone's grandpa. As a fiddler at dances, he was outstanding and much beloved by dancers and observers.