Thomas Rodman Merritt
Thomas Rodman Merritt was born on October 17th, 1824 in Mayville, New York to parents Honourable William Hamilton Merritt (1973-1862) and Catharine Rodman Prendergast Merritt (1793-1862.) It is believed that Thomas was born in the home of his maternal grandparents. Thomas had 5 siblings; Thomas Prendergast Merritt (1816-1819); an infant sister (d.1818); Jedediah Prendergast Merritt (1820-1900); William Hamilton Merritt Jr. (2nd) (1822-1860); and Catharine Merritt (1829-1830).
Thomas was educated at Upper Canada College in Toronto between 1837-38. In 1838 he moved to St. Catharines where he studied at Grantham Academy until 1839. Also in 1839, Thomas began to work at a store in St. Catharines for Henry Mittleberger. By 1841 he was working at a wholesale firm called “Badenhurst, Turnbill and Co.” in Montreal. By 1843 Thomas had returned to St. Catharines where he formed a general store business with a partner; James Rea Benson. Soon they expanded their business to include milling flour. Merritt managed two mills that sat on the Welland Canal as well as being responsible for the financial end of the partnership. Because their business was booming and the second Welland Canal was being built, Merritt and Benson hired Louis Shickluna, a local ship builder, to build them two schooners called “Shickluna” and “Welland”.
Unfortunately as a result of the Crimean War, the price of wheat rose to $2.25 a bushel and then there was a large price crash. This caused the millers business to fail. In 1869 Merritt sold his milling and shipping businesses to the firm “Norris and Neelon”.
Merritt continued other businesses including joining his father to reorganize the Niagara District Bank. Thomas served as vice-president until 1875 when the bank merged with the Imperial Bank of Canada. Thomas remained vice-president of the new corporation and in 1902 became president. In 1860 he served as chairman and managing director of the Canadian board of the Welland Railway which had been promoted by his father William Hamilton Merritt. He was also a director and president of the Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge Company and was president of the Security, Loan and Savings Company. He also worked with the St. Catharines Gas Light Company and the Welland Canal Loan Company.
Thomas served as town councillor for St. Thomas’s Ward from 1857-1859. In 1868 he was appointed to the Senate.
Thomas was Anglican and took part in the founding of Bishop Ridley College.
Thomas was the first owner of the home “Rodman Hall” constructed in 1853 near the junction of Twelve Mile Creek and the second Welland Canal. The home is now owned by Brock University and is used as an art gallery.
Thomas Rodman Merritt was married to Mary Benson (1829-1908) in 1853.
He died in 1906.
This series is written and compiled by Alicia Floyd, Collections Technician – Archival at the St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canals Centre