Merrill History

Experience Merrill's rich history and heritage. Merrill was originally a logging town named Jenny Bull Falls. The area was first inhabited by the Chippewa Indians and by 1843 a trading post was constructed near the town; John Feely was the first settler. Within four years a dam, 500 feet long and nine feet high, built by Andrew Warren, was constructed over the Wisconsin River. Warren then established the first sawmill powered by the dam, and other sawmills followed. In 1870, T.B. Scott purchased Warren’s mill and the mill soon became increasingly successful; however in 1899 the mill burned down.

In 1854, a meeting of residents organized the town of Jenny and voted $1,000 to build a school, which was constructed behind the Lincoln House in present downtown Merrill. It was not until 1874 that Lincoln County was created with Jenny (Merrill) as the County seat. The population of Lincoln County in 1875 was 895, with Lincoln County extending north to the Michigan border. In 1880, the population of Lincoln County had increased to 2,011, with 822 being residents of present day Merrill. In 1885, Lincoln County was divided and the northern portion became Oneida County. Between 1880 and 1885 the population of Lincoln County more than doubled, as did the population of Merrill.

Prior to 1881 Jenny Bull Falls had been shortened to just Jenny. In 1881, the Town of Jenny was legally changed to Merrill and was incorporated as a city. The name was changed in honor of S.S. Merrill, the general manager of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul, and Pacific Railroad.

Shortly after the adaptation of the name Merrill, during the 1880s and 1890s, a number of significant events occurred. In 1881, the Wisconsin Telephone company began operation with twenty phones in service. Then in 1883 the first City Council met where T.B. Scott was named the first mayor. By 1885 the population had risen to 7,000, approximately three thousand less than Merrill's population today. The railroad and passenger depot, a hub of social activity through the lumber industry's boom years and after, became a community youth center. By 1900, the timber industry was in decline and the community was compelled to diversify its economy. Given its logging, sawmill and woodworking history, Merrill continues with some businesses in the door and window industry.

Today Merrill is home to Church Mutual Insurance Company, Weinbrenner Shoe Company, Agra Industries, Merrill Manufacturing, Lincoln Wood Products and other firms.
For current census data on the City of Merrill, click here.