Working Up North and Marriage to Emma, 1900-1912

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Map showing the location of Thompsonville, MichoganBill McNitt must have had a fairly decent education for this era because he obtained a clerical position with the Grand Rapids & Indiana Railway fairly soon after finishing school.  In various records over the years his job title appears as clerk, chief clerk, account clerk, and freight agent.

The Grand Rapids and Indiana Railway was a north-south road, running from Cincinnati through Indiana to western Michigan and up through Grand Rapids and Cadillac to Mackinaw City at the tip of the state's lower peninsula (and by rail ferry across to the upper peninsula).  Fairly early in his career, Bill was sent north to Thompsonville in Benzie County (the maps at the right shows the location of Benzie County and the location of Thompsonville within Benzie County). 

Thompsonville was an important stop at that time as it was served by both the GR&I and the Ann Arbor Railroad (running from Toledo, Ohio to Frankfort, Michigan, with train ferry service across Lake Michigan to Wisconsin).  Once the lumbering boom passed in Michigan, the GR&I Railway began promoting tourism as a way to build passenger traffic.  Some promotional materials even referred to this railway as "The Fishing Line" hoping to lure anglers to travel up north.  Bill grew up in the city of Grand Rapids, but presumably his time living in northern Michigan began or strengthened his love of hunting and fishing (an interest he shared with many of his fellow GR&I colleagues). 

Map showing the routes of the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railway     Grand Rapids and Indiana Railway promotional brochure
A map of the GR&I rail lines and a promotional brochure

Bill McNitt at age 20  Bill McNitt at age 20 
Bill around the age 19, ca. 1902

It was while working at Thompsonville that Bill met and courted Emma Merrill, daughter of Roando Merrill and Mary (Woodin) Merrill.  In the 1850s and 1860s, Roando and Mary had moved as young children from New York and Pennsylvania respectively to farms near Mount Pleasant, in the central part of Michigan's lower peninsula.  Upon reaching adulthood, Roando and Mary married and moved several counties northwest, buying a farm in a rural area of Missaukee County between Manton and Lake City.  By 1900, however, he had given up farming and was living in Wexford County working as a lumberjack.  Within a few more years he gave that up to open a store at Thompsonville selling dishes and other home goods.

Roando Merrill  Mary Woodin Merrill  Newspaper ad for Roando Merrill's store
Roando Merrill, Mary (Woodin) Merrill, and a newspaper ad for Roando's store

Roando and Mary Merrill had four children - Myrna born in 1879 in Isabella County and Emma (1882), Elmer (1885), and Leena (1891), all born at the Missaukee County farm.  It was Emma, the middle of the three girls, who caught the eye of Bill McNitt.  They married on December 20, 1902 in Grand Rapids and then lived at Thompsonville.

Birth record for Emma Merrill
Birth record for Emma

Marriage record for Bill McNitt and Emma Merrill
Marriage record for Bill and Emma

Only a few weeks after the wedding, Emma's mother Mary died suddenly on January 23, 1903, at the age of 43.  Her doctor attributed her death to apoplexy (a cerebral hemorrhage or stroke). 

Emma gave birth to two sons while she and Bill lived in Thompsonville - Walter Roando McNitt (named after both grandfathers) born in 1903 and Glenn Elmer McNitt, born in 1906.  By 1910 the family had moved north to McKinley Township in Emmet County (near Pellston).  Bill had given up his job with the railroad and become the proprietor of a pool room.  Emma's father (now working as a traveling salesman) and sisters were still living in Benzie County. 

Emma Merrill McNitt with sons Walter and Glenn  Map showing the location of McKinley Township
Emma with sons Walter and Glenn, 1906; map showing where the family lived in 1910

The McNitt family in the 1910 census
The McNitt family in the 1910 census

Emma Merrill at a family gathering
Emma (lower left) at a family gathering, ca. 1912