by Ann Angel Eberhardt
In the 1950s while I was growing up in Sharpsville, “Wade D. Mertz & Son” was the well-known name of a store where my dad bought lumber and other building needs.
Today, some 60-plus years later, Wade D. Mertz Towers is an 8-story senior housing apartment building on South Mercer Avenue, built in 1976 on the grounds of the former Deeter Elementary School.
Who was Wade D. Mertz? As evidenced by an article in the 1924 “Sharpsville’s Golden Anniversary” Supplement to The Sharon Telegraph, the Mertz name has been known in Sharpsville for more than 100 years! And Wade D. Mertz contributed even more than a building supplies store to the history of our small town. Check out his story below as it appeared in the “Golden Anniversary Supplement,” as the store was remembered by my brother, and as it comes together through a bit of genealogical research.
Wade D. Mertz, Contractor, Is Active in All Civic Affairs; Was Formerly Burgess
Is Also Interested in Other Lines to Boost Sharpsville
Wade D. Mertz, Sharpsville’s leading contractor, a former burgess and once head of the Improvement Association, is one of the community’s most prominent citizens and has long been interested in the town’s progress.
In his late ‘teens, he learned the carpenter trade and worked for several years as a builder.
He was elected burgess of Sharpsville in 1914 and served a two-year term. For two years he was president of the Sharpsville improvement association. With the organization of the Sharpsville Motor Club a few months ago, Mertz was named a member of the board of governors and is highly interested in the affairs of the organization.
In politics he is a staunch Democrat and has long been interested in the affairs of his party, local, county and state.
Fraternally he is a member of the Odd Fellows and Elks.
As a contractor and dealer in builders’ supplies, he has been highly successful, having one of the largest yards in this locality.
Wade D. Mertz & Son: A Fond Memory
Patrick Angel (SHS 1960-1964) submitted the following story, recalling the kindly help he received as a 10-year-old from a Wade D. Mertz & Son employee. Since then he’s often wondered whether that accommodating employee was actually Wade D. Mertz or his son.
In 1960, while studying arithmetic in the sixth grade at Pebly Elementary, Mr. McQuarter (we called him “Mr. McTwoBits”) assigned us a project to somehow visualize 1 cubic foot. He gave us a hint: We could complete our assignment with paper or clay or wood.
I went to the lumber yard on Fourth and Main streets, told the gentleman who was in charge of the store about my assignment, and asked if he could saw a piece of wood for me that was 1 foot wide, 1 foot long and 1 foot high. I made the request without thinking that there might be a price to pay for such a request. The man told me to come back the next day after school.
I returned the next afternoon to find that the nice man had sawed out 12 pieces of wood that were exactly 1 foot square and 1 inch thick. (Now, as an adult, I realize that he took a 1-inch-thick x 12-inch-wide x 12-foot- long board and sawed it into 12 equal pieces.) On the counter in the store, he demonstrated for me that when the 12 pieces were stacked on top of each other, it made a block of wood that was exactly 1 cubic foot in volume.
Then the man asked in a gentle voice for me to guess the number of cubic inches that were contained in the cubic foot of wood that he had cut for me. When I guessed incorrectly several times, he turned over one of the 12 pieces that he had cut to reveal 144 one-inch squares neatly drawn with a pencil on the surface. He said that each little square represented 1 cubic inch. He showed me how to calculate the number of cubic inches in the single piece of wood by multiplying the number of cubic inches on two sides (12 x 12 = 144). Then he showed me how to calculate the number of cubic inches in all 12 pieces stacked on each other to form the 1-cubic-foot block (144 x 12 = 1728).
He did not mention a charge or ask for a payment. He simply put the 12 pieces of wood in a large paper bag for me, patted me on the head and sent me off to school with my math assignment completed and a lesson so well learned that when I went off to college to study forestry I had no problem visualizing the difference between a lumber man’s “board foot” versus a mathematician’s “cubic foot.”— Patrick Angel, London, KY.
Wade D. Mertz: Family Background
Wade D. Mertz was born on December 7, 1878, to Henry Mertz, a carpenter, and Emaline (Emma) Mertz. At the time of his birth, he had four sisters ranging in age from eight to 17 (Frances, Cora, Naoma, and Austy A.). A younger brother, Norman H., was born c. 1881. The family lived on Seventh Street where Mertz appears to have lived the rest of his life.
At age 22, Mertz was listed in the 1900 U.S. Census as a “laborer, blast furnace,” but by the time he married Minnie Florence Godward in October 1909, he was a contractor, an occupation more closely related to his father’s carpentry work. (Minnie, born in Lowellville, PA, in 1877, was living in Sharpsville and working as a clerk when she married Mertz.)
In approximately 1914, the couple had a son, Robert Henry Mertz. As of 1917-1918, Mertz’s lumber supply business was located on Fourth Street.
Four years before the Sharon Telegraph article above, the United States Census of 1920 shows that Wade Mertz, a contractor/builder, continued to live on Seventh Street in Sharpsville, along with Minnie, Robert and his widowed mother, Emma, age 79.
By the time Wade D. Mertz registered for service in World War II in 1942, his business, “Wade D. Mertz & Son” was located at 432 Main Street. The “son” was Robert who, with his wife, Elizabeth Stuart Bradshaw Mertz (1914-1991), also lived on Seventh Street.
Wade D. Mertz died in November 1971 at age 93. His son Robert Mertz died in 1992. Whether through politics or their commercial enterprise, both father and son have left a long legacy of service to Sharpsville, Pennsylvania.
Wade D. Mertz and his business have been mentioned in other Small Town Memories blogs. “Dr. Bailey’s Sharpsville 1920s, Part II” recreates Pete Joyce’s talk describing 1920s Sharpsville in honor of Dr. Nelson Bailey’s arrival in town at that time. Among the thriving businesses at the time, Joyce mentions that “Wade Mertz was doing some building and selling coal and feed, etc.” In the 1954 description of a fire that destroyed Welch House on Main Street, “Mertz lumber yard” is named as a neighboring building. The Deeter Elementary School blog refers to (and has an image of) Mertz Towers, which replaced the school building in 1976.
(NOTE: If you have memories of Wade D. Mertz or the Wade D. Mertz & Son lumber yard, please share them with us. Enter them in the Comments box below or send them — and any photos — to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
— Ann Angel Eberhardt (SHS 1958), Goodyear, AZ
and Patrick Angel (SHS 1960-1964, London, KY
“Sharpsville’s Golden Anniversary.” Supplement to the Sharon (PA) Telegraph, June 7, 1924. Courtesy of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society. Internet resource.
U.S. Censuses 1880, 1900, 1920, 1930, 1940. Databases with images, FamilySearch.org. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration. Internet resource.
U.S. Social Security Death Index, U.S. WWI Draft Registration Card, Marriage License dockets, 1885-1905, U.S. WWII Draft Registration Card, 1942, and FamilySearch Pedigree Tree. Databases with images, FamilySearch.org. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration. Internet resource.
Several updates have been made to past blogs on “Small Town Memories.” Asterisks (*) indicate changes made to the following stories: “Main Street Memories,” “Angel’s Casino: The Early Years,” and “The Reluctant Politician.” Also, two stray Comments have been added to “ARCHIVE: Comments” under “About (Introduction).”