Biography of Hon. Merritt W. Harmon
Buchanan County, IA Biographies





Hon. Merritt W. Harmon, lawyer and lawmaker, who has been prominently connected with public affairs in Buchanan county not only as a member of the bar and as representative of his district in the state senate but also in connection with business affairs which have to do with the substantial upbuilding and progress of the community, was born in Seneca county, Ohio, June 25, 1844, a son of Merritt and Minerva (Walker) Harmon. The father's birth occurred in Vermont, March 25, 1797, and the mother was born in Warsaw, New York, March 30, 1810. In early manhood Merritt Harmon, Sr., went to western New York; but afterward returned to Vermont to attend college and when twenty eight or thirty years of age he entered the ministry of the Presbyterian church. Going again to the Empire state, he was there married and afterward removed to Seneca county, Ohio, where he continued in the work of the ministry. He preached until ninety four years of age. About 1848 he removed to Lansing, Michigan, where he resided until February, 1855, when he brought his family to Iowa, residing at Cascade, Dubuque county, until 1856. He was afterward located at Hopkinton, Delaware county, where he spent his remaining days, his death occurring in April, 1892, while his wife survived until June, 1895. During the latter part of the War of 1812 he was on active military duty with the Vermont state troops and his father was a captain in the army.

Merritt W. Harmon of this review was the third in order of birth in a family of five children. He first attended school in Michigan and afterward continued his education in Dubuque county, Iowa. Still later he attended the Hopkinton (Ia.) College, which was established in the fall of 1859. Mr Harmon was among its first students, spending two years there, or until the spring off 1862. In July of that year he joined the Twenty first Iowa Infantry as a private and was made sergeant of Company K. He lacked but two days of serving three years and although he was often in the thickest of the fight and was exposed to all kinds of dangers and hardships he was never wounded nor was he confined in the hospital by illness. He participated in the siege of Vicksburg. in 1863 and in the siege of Mobile in 1864-5. He was mustered out at Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on the 15th of July of the latter year and returned to Iowa with a most creditable military record, having proven his valor and loyalty on many a southern battlefield. Soon afterward he again went to the south in the employ of the Mobile & Ohio Railroad Company, spending one year in Mobile, Alabama.

On the 18th of November, 1866, Mr. Harmon arrived in Buchanan county, Iowa, and for two years thereafter engaged in teaching school. He then became deputy postmaster of Independence, in 1868, which position he filled for two years, and was admitted to the bar in November, 1869. He entered upon the practice of law in Independence, forming a partnership with Colonel Jed Lake on the 11th of July, 1870. For more than a third of a century this partnership was continued and was terminated only in the death of Mr. Lake on the 11th of June, 1914. They engaged in the general practice of law and the firm sustained a most enviable reputation. In his practice Mr. Harmon prepares his cases with great thoroughness and care and seems ever ready for not only attack but also for defense. His ability is manifest in his clear and cogent reasoning, in his logical deductions and in his correct application of legal principles. It is a well recognized fact that the lawyer is more often called to public office than any other class of men and the reason for this is obvious, for the preparation which qualified him for the bar also prepares him in large measure for other duties, enabling him readily to analyze and understand a situation. It was but natural, therefore, that Mr. Harmon was called to public office, being elected a member of the state senate in 1875, in which connection he did able service in safeguarding and promoting the best interests of the commonwealth. He was on the ways and means committee for eight years, Governor Larrabee being chairman, and was chairman of the judiciary and military committees. He was also on the committee on penitentiaries and other minor committees. He has filled various local offices, including that of member of the school board for ten years and has been a member of the public library board for thirty years or more.

Aside from his practice Mr. Harmon is a director of the First National Bank of Independence and at different times has been connected with other business affairs, but hags severed his connection therewith in order to concentrate his efforts upon his law practice.

On the 24th of December, 1872, Mr. Harmon was married to Miss Maria Carter, a native of Ohio, as were her parents, Samuel G. and Mary (Honk) Carter, who came to Iowa about 1861, settling in Buchanan county, where her father followed the occupation of farming and spent his entire life, removing to Independence upon retiring from farm life. To Mr. and Mrs. Harmon have been born two children: Ray C., an electrical and mechanical engineer residing in Des Moines; and Jessamine, at home.

In Masonry Mr. Harmon has taken the degrees of the lodge, chapter and council. He belongs to E. C. Little Post, No. 54, G. A. R., and thus maintains pleasant relations with his old army comrades. He is a member of the Presbyterian church and guides his life by its principles. He owns considerable city property in Independence and this is the tangible evidence of a well spent life, in which devotion to his profession and careful management of other business affairs have brought their merited reward. His record is that of a man who has ever been faultless in honor, fearless in conduct and stainless in reputation.

From:
History of Bachanan County, Iowa
And its People
By Harry Church and Katharyn J. Chappell
Vol II
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co.
Chicago 1914


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