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Merrell, Ansel

Early Settler, Clockmaker

Birth: October 20, 1797, Waterbury, New Haven County, Connecticut
Death: March 4, 1873, Massillon, Stark County, Ohio
Burial: Massillon City Cemetery, Massillon, Stark County, Ohio

Ansel Merrell was the son of Elijah Thompkins and Chloe Scott Merell in Waterbury, Connecticut.  He came with his parents to Trumbull County in 1818.  Merrell married Margaret Any Comes (or Combs) on August 30, 1820.  Margaret Any Comes was born in Vienna in 1805, the daughter of Ebenezer Newell Comes and Mary Anne Humason.  One of the Merrell children, Lorriston G. Merrell, attended Vienna Academy and was later a minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church in Meadville, Pennsylvania. [1]

Merrell was a clockmaker in the local wooden works clocks industry.  According to court testimony by Merrell, he began working as a clockmaker in about 1822.  He purchased 3 acres for the site of his future clock factory in 1824 on what is currently known as Niles-Vienna Road near the center of Vienna.  His factory was the second largest manufactory of clocks in the Trumbull County wooden works clock industryArea clock factories typically used water from nearby streams a source of power to run the wheel cutting machines and turning lathes.  Since Merrell's factory was nowhere near a water source, horses or oxen were thought to be used to power them instead. 

The clocks produced at his factory were 30 hour movements and read "A. Merrell - Vienna" on the clock face.  The clocks were also supplied with printed instructions and a warranty. Merrell produced tall clocks and pillar scroll "patent" or shelf clocks.  His factory was known for its admirable quality of clocks and employee job stability.

According the 1830 census, four men aged 15-20 years and seven men aged 20-30 years worked at the clock factory.  Two women were reported on the census, aged 10-20 years, who may have been dial decorators.

In 1828, Merrell also operated a store at Vienna Center, at first with Ruel Miller, but on his own by the following year.  The store likely sold Merrell's clocks.

In the late 1820s his business was a financial success, but, like others in the industry at the time, it ended in 1831 when his brother Arad Merrell, Ambrose Hart (another clockmaker), and Martin C. Way assumed financial responsibility for the business.  Regardless, Merrell was still seized for debts for payment owed to Garry Lewis.  Merrell went to prison for his debts.  He escaped and was apprehended by Lambert W. Lewis and two of Lewis's employees.  Despite his financial woes, his clock factory was appraised three times higher than that of competitors Lambert W. Lewis, Wheeler Lewis (Warren), or Hart and Truesdale (Hartford) in 1832.  During a deposition in 1834, Merrell reported that he manufactured gears and other clock parts for about 30,000 clocks as a clockmaker.

Between 1833 and1836 Merrell sold his clock factory and land on Niles-Vienna Road.  He then moved to Bedford, Mercer County (now Lawrence County), Pennsylvania where his parents also moved.  He eventually returned to Ohio and died in Massillon.

For more information on the local wooden works clock industry, click here.

This Ansel Merrell clock was produced in Vienna, likely in the 1820s.
The clock, shown outside its case, was donated to the Society by the estate of Gary Landis.
The clock is located in the Vienna Township Hall.
Image contributed by Christine Novicky

This working Ansel Merrell clock is located in the Vienna Township Hall.
The clock was donated to the Society by the estate of Gary Landis.
Image contributed by Christine Novicky

Updated 9/30/2020

Sources
Entry adapted from Rogers, Rebecca M. Trumbull County Clock Industry, 1812-1825. Dayton, OH : Sterling Graphics, 1992. Updated and original footnotes included in The Cog Counter's Journal, No. 37, Summer 2015, pp. 33-57.
American Heritage, National Portal to Historic Collections, at http://www.americanheritage.com/.
Bulletin of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors. Volume 13.
Palmer, Brooks. A Treasury of American Clocks. New York: Macmillan, 1967.

[1] History of Crawford County, Pennsylvania: Containing a History of the County, its Townships, Towns, Villages, Schools, Churches, Industries, Etc.; Portraits of Early Settlers and Prominent Men; Biographies; History of Pennsylvania; Statistical and Miscellaneous Matters, Etc., Etc. (Chicago: Warner, Beers & Co., 1885), p. 899: "REV. L. G. MERRILL, pastor of the Meadville Circuit of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Meadville, was born near Vienna, Trumbull Co., Ohio, July 15, 1825, and is a son of Ansel and Any (Combs) Merrill, the father a native of Connecticut, the mother of Ohio, and both of English descent. The father was a wealthy clock manufacturer. Our subject is the fourth in a family of eleven children. He attended the academy at Vienna, Ohio, and Kingsville and Allegheny Colleges. Having chosen the ministry as his profession, his first charge was a South Oil City for one year as supply. He was then regularly appointed. He has preached at several places since, and as his labors have been blessed he has remained generally two years in a place. He was married in 1854 to Amanda A., daughter of F. A. Wilson; their surviving children are Luella, wife of W. A. Seyler; Alice, wife of George F. Sheets; Florence, Hattie and Laura. Politically, Mr. Merrill regards the prohibition issue as paramount. He is the owner of twenty-five acres of well-improved land in Mead Township, this county. Having been all his life a close student and a hard worker, he is now taking a year's vacation to recuperate his health."