Christian Clarence Merillat
By Kimberly Brassfield, MC ‘08
Christian Clarence Merillat was mayor of Monmouth, Illinois, from 1929 to 1931. Merillat was born on August 26, 1884 in Enterprise, Kansas, one of the nine children of Christian Merillat and Ursula Buhrer Merillat.He obtained a law degree from the University of Kansas. Merillat practiced law for a few years after passing the bar exam. In 1911, he married Ruth Laing in Russell, Kansas, and they settled in Winfield, Iowa, where he was “associated with his brother in the road supply business.” While living in there he was active in civic affairs even serving as mayor. In 1913, the Merillat’s had their first child, Margaret Ursula, with their second, Herbert C., being born in 1916. When World War I broke out he enlisted in the army, serving in the field artillery. He was commissioned a First Lieutenant and was discharged on December 17, 1918.
Immediately after the war he came to Monmouth. While in Monmouth his wife gave birth to a third child, Richard Frederic in 1922. When he first came to Monmouth, Merillat worked for the Western Boiler Pipe Company. In 1920 he formed the Merillat Road Supply Company which was located on 700 West Fourth Ave.
Later in his life, after the original location was destroyed by a fire, he moved the company to 708 West Third Ave. While C.C. Merillat was at the helm, the company grew to be the largest in the region, serving people in Illinois, Iowa and Missouri. Merillat Road Supply grew to also include C.C. Merillat Motor Sales, which sold Packards.
He was a key member of the Marion D Fletcher Post Number 136, American Legion, serving as its commander. He was also a member of the Monmouth Lodge No 397 Brotherhood of the Protective Order of the Elks, as well as serving as the President of the Monmouth Rotary Club. He was the commander of the Battery B, 123 Field Artillery, Illinois National Guard, when it was reorganized after WWI.
When Merillat was elected mayor, it was the first time the Republican Party had a complete ticket in the primary election polls. During his election campaign he was chosen as the chairman of the Committee on Vision. This Committee was supposed to decide the needs of Monmouth, and to try to bring Industry to Monmouth within five to ten years.
Merillat ran on the principle that a city should be run like a business. He said that he was good for the job because he had twelve years of business experience. In an advertisement during his campaign he stated,
“I have promised, if elected mayor, to give the city an efficient business administration: and I consider this the fundamental issue of this campaign. All other issues grow out of the un-business like methods and policies of the present administration”,
He also believed that the roads were in a bad condition and felt that the Union party was to blame for that. To him the Union party had not attempted to fix them. He felt that the then current administration played favorites and that should not be allowed.
On Election Day of 1929, Merillat won the election with a 463 vote plurality, defeating Mayor L.E. Murphy. Most of the Republican ticket won the election, with the exceptions being the alderman race for the second and third wards. The turnout was three hundred votes higher than the election four years previously with a total of 4,378 votes being cast. He won all wards but three for a total of ten wards. 
Shortly before he officially took office, Merillat gave a speech at the American Legion, speaking to his fellow veterans of World War I. He felt that the veterans of the war were not doing all that they could. He believed that he was not supported by his fellow veterans in his election campaign. During this speech he announced that he would not be seeking a public office again. He believed that it was an ex-servicemen’s duty to serve their town in some official capacity. Merillat was the first veteran of World War I to be elected mayor of Monmouth, and he was also one of the first to hold any sort of office in the country.
When Merillat presided over his first meeting of the city council, the room was filled with 400 citizens. Once he was sworn in as mayor, he suggested and asked for, a vote to move everyone into the circuit court room, the first time in city history. Some of his first acts were to abolish the position of police matron, to separate the combination of police chief and oil inspector and combine the offices of superintendent of water mains and oil inspector. He also fixed the salary of the Chief of Police at $1,800 a year and gave the superintendent of the waterworks plant a salary of $1,200 a year. At this meeting he supplied the city with some of his goals for his time as mayor to fix the roads and to punish bootleggers.
He knew that fixing the streets of Monmouth would cost more money than the city had, but he loaned the use of machinery from his company, Merillat Road Supply Company. In letting the city use his machinery, he agreed to pay the repairs; the only fees that the city incurred was the operating costs and hiring of operators. Loaning out the machinery helped him fulfill his campaign promises. The equipment was a five ton Monarch Tractor, Havelock maintainer and Austin-Western road grader. The street oiling program was more extensive than it had been in previous years.
On October 1929, the Stock Market crashed signaling the start of the Great Depression. During this time Merillat continued the improvements that he promised to make during his campaign for mayor. In early December Merillat declared that he had achieved all his campaign goals. In order for him to achieve said goals he had to first deal with some problems, one being that he inherited a city treasury already in debt. The city had already spent the money for 1929 and had spent $5,000 in tax money for the upcoming year. Another problem that Merillat had to overcome was opposition from politicians, lawyers and even some alderman who fought Merillat and his city council every step of the way. They fought him on issues such as city finances and the paving of East Broadway.
At a speech he gave on December 3, 1929, to the city council he chastised all the people who opposed him, “In all things they have failed utterly, but we have had to expend a lot of energy in fighting this element could have been spent to much better advantage in planning and carrying out improvements.” At this speech he also outlined a group of ten suggestions/ ideas that he would like to implement in Monmouth.
Merillat wanted a Zoning plan setting a minimum standard for building houses in Monmouth; he believed that it would keep property values high. He also wanted a provision for parking cars, disposing the old water plant entirely and to sell the old equipment off so the city could recoup some of the debt, plus refunding of the city’s indebtedness.  Merillat also wanted to put the Water department on a better business basis and to improve the water mains, repair the sewer system, repair and build sidewalks in Monmouth, extend the boulevard lighting system and an ordinance providing a reasonable and workable procedure for cutting weeds and maintenance.
The biggest issue was systematic street improvement. He outlined nine improvements that he wanted to make. The first was paving the unpaved gaps of certain streets. Other changes to make were reducing the sharp corners at East First Avenue and South Sixth Street and West Archer Avenue and North C Street, widening South A Street from West Broadway to West Second Street, paving the less traveled sections, improving the streets on thinly populated blocks near city limits, resurfacing of streets where the base was solid, the surface was rough and traffic not too heavy and repaving other streets that are in bad condition, especially on state highways. The last two improvements that Merillat wanted to make was oiling every dirt street possible and regular maintenance of all dirt streets.
Before Merillat turned city council over to the next mayor, Earl McKinnon, he listed all the accomplishments of his term in office. The last year and a half of his term the council “cooperated harmoniously on every project.” Every ordinance passed in that same time frame was passed by a unanimous vote, with the exception being public improvement ordinances. He considered his term in office a success because “Any council that leaves the City a little better than it found it has succeeded…” During his term in office he added nine blocks of boulevard lights, twenty-five blocks of new pavement, over one hundred blocks of oiled streets and “a decided improvement of all dirt and cinder streets”. Merillat and his council paid off $43,500 worth of bonds and left the General Corporate fund approximately $20,000 better off than when he took office. When he took office in 1929 there was $12,650 worth of outstanding tax warrants, when he left office in 1931 there were no outstanding tax warrants. When he left office, the city was in debt $20,000.
After his term in office he lived a quiet existence. He was active in his social organizations, even serving on his church’s board of trustees. C. C. Merillat passed away in the East Moline State Hospital on December 1, 1950, after ten months there. Upon his passing he was listed as being in residence at 1057 East 1st Avenue, Monmouth. He was buried in Memorial Park Cemetery on December 4, 1950. After his death, ownership of Merillat Road Supply Company passed on to his youngest son Richard.
This biography was written in the fall 2006 historiography class of William Urban.
Campaign Advertisement, Monmouth Daily Review Atlas (19 March 1929), 6
C.C. Merillat, Former Mayor, Taken by Death,” Monmouth Daily Review Atlas (2 December 1950), 8.
“Committee on Vision Chosen” Monmouth Daily Review Atlas (14 March 1929) 3
“Crowd Welcomes New Mayor” Monmouth Daily Review Atlas (7 May, 1929), 1 & 6.
“Display Ad 62—No Title.”, Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1963), 13 November, 1938
“Mayor Gives Use of Tractor for City Streets”, Monmouth Daily Review Atlas (9 May, 1929), 3
“Mayor Outlines Building Plan”, Monmouth Daily Review Atlas (3 December, 1929), 1 &4.
“Merillat is winner over Mayor Murphy” Monmouth Daily Review Atlas (17 April, 1929), 1& 3.
“Merillat Said Monmouth is $20,000 Richer,” Monmouth Daily Review Atlas ( 5 May, 1931) 1,2.
New York Passenger Lists 1820-1957, AncestryLibrary.com
“The Republican Party Having for the first time Placed a Complete Ticket in the Field for City Offices Takes This Opportunity of Presenting its Candidates to the Voters of Monmouth” Monmouth Daily Review Atlas (13 March 1929), 7.
“Urges Veterans of the World War to Get Busy”, Monmouth Daily Review Atlas (3 May, 1929), 6.
 Enterprise, Kansas is located six miles from Abilene.
 Family Data Collection – Births, AncestryLibrary.com.
 “C.C.Merillat, Former Mayor, Taken by Death,” Monmouth Daily Review Atlas, 2 December 2006, 8.
 Winfield is located on the Southeastern border of Iowa, 15 minutes from Mt. Pleasant, Iowa.
 “C.C.Merillat, Former Mayor, Taken by Death,” Monmouth Daily Review Atlas, 2 December 2006, 8.
 “Display Ad 62—No Title.”, Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1963), 13 November, 1938.
 “C.C. Merillat, Former Mayor, Taken by Death,” Monmouth Daily Review Atlas, 2 December 1951, 8.
 “The Republican Party Having for the first time Placed a Complete Ticket in the Field for City Offices. Takes This Opportunity of Presenting its Candidates to the Voters of Monmouth” Monmouth Daily Review Atlas, 13 March 1929, 7.
 “Committee on Vision Chosen” Monmouth Daily Review Atlas, 14 March 1929, 3.
 Campaign Advertisement Monmouth Daily Review Atlas, 19 March 1929, 6.
 “Merillat is winner over Mayor Murphy” Monmouth Daily Review Atlas, 17 April, 1929, 1& 3.
 “Urges Veterans of the World War to Get Busy”, Monmouth Daily Review Atlas, 3 May, 1929, 6.
 “Crowd Welcomes New Mayor” Monmouth Daily Review Atlas, 7 May, 1929, 1 & 6.
 Ibid. The position of police matron was abolished largely because the duties were taken over by the Community Welfare Association.
 “Mayor Gives Use of Tractor for City Streets”, Monmouth Daily Review Atlas, 9 May, 1929, 3.
 “Mayor Outlines Building Plan”, Monmouth Daily Review Atlas, 3 December, 1929, 1 &4.
 Ibid. He wanted to charge the property owners for things that the city had to come out and fix on non-city property.
 “Merillat Said Monmouth is $20,000 Richer,” Monmouth Daily Review Atlas, ( 5 May, 1931) 1,2.
 Ibid. The General Corporate Fund is where most of the City’s activities are financed from.
 He passed away from Luetic Myocarditis due to Syphilis of the Central Nervous System. Luetic Myocarditis is an inflammation of the myocardium (a heart muscle) brought on by syphilis.