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The Merwin Family, Hillside Cemetery, Edwards County, Kansas

The Merwin family consisted of the father, Hugh, his wife, Adelia, and three children. They were living in Chicago at the time of the Chicago Fire and were part of the 100,000 people who were left homeless. Without organizations like the Red Cross or Salvation Army to help, the families were penniless.

Hugh Merwin was born in Canada in 1838. Adelia Lees was born in 1843 in Wisconsin. Her parents were both born in England and Adelia was their first child born in the United States. Hugh and Adelia were married in 1865 in Wisconsin. Shortly thereafter, the family moved to Chicago, Illinois where their first three children were born.

Pvt. Hugh Merwin served for three years in Co. C 37th IL Infantry. One part of the Homestead Act allowed each soldier to deduct the number of years that he served from the five-year residency requirement. Hugh came to Edwards County in 1873 and filed a soldier’s claim three miles north of Petersburg (the first name for Kinsley). He built a sod house and returned to Illinois to bring his family out west. Their youngest child, Minnie, was born in the soddie.

Hugh and another pioneer borrowed money, a wagon, a horse and headed to Missouri to buy cattle. Hugh died on this trip and was buried in Missouri (I was unable to find his burial site). Unable to pay for the original 160-acre farm, the family was left homeless again. However, Adelia was still a soldier’s widow, so she qualified for another claim.

Adelia kept the family together. She died in 1928 and is buried in Hillside Cemetery with her four children and their families.

The Kansas, U.S. Enrollment of Civil War Veterans for Hugh P. Merwin records that “Mr. Merwin died in the I. Ter (Indian Territory) but Kinsley Edwards Co was his home”

The rest of the story: Adelia’s grandson, Paul, passed away one day after an operation for appendicitis. He was seven years old.

Note: The Great Chicago Fire occurred October 8-10, 1871. It destroyed roughly 3.3 square miles of Chicago; killed approximately 300 people; and left more than 100,000 residents homeless.

Personal Note: A collection of my stories from Ford County is available for purchase on Amazon. You can type in either Mary S. Schartz or If Headstones Could Talk. It has been my pleasure to share these stories with you. You can read other stories at

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