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Nimrod Kerrick
McLean County, Illinois

REVEREND NIMROD KERRICK was born October 16, 1808, in Loudon county, Virginia. He was the first born of Thomas and Phoebe Kerrick. He died in Bloomington, Illinois, December 13, 1897, having completed two months of his ninetieth year. His death resulted from injuries received three months before by falling upon the brick pavement, as he was walking from his own to the house of one of his sons, near by. Up to the day of this accident he was in good health, having comfortable use of all of his faculties. Free from bodily pains, clear and vigorous in mind, he enjoyed the society of his family and friends and books through all his declining years.

Mr. Kerrick's boyhood was spent on a Virginia farm. Until he was sixteen years old he had attended school but a few months, all told. From eleven to sixteen he had but three weeks of schooling; this was a source of regret to him all his life. He had a strong natural thirst for knowledge from early youth. Having learned to read well while a small boy, he read again and again such few books as were within his reach; some of these he read so often that he knew them almost as well as if he had himself written them. Probably few men have lived who knew the Bible as well as Mr. Kerrick; he could repeat from memory, with astonishing accuracy, a large part of it. Mr. Kerrick's most remarkable memory and his long life together made him a real connecting link between the earlier and modern times of our country.

He well remembered General LaFayette's visit to the United States in 1824. The general was in Leesburg, not more than ten or twelve miles away, but young Nimrod could do just as good a day's work on the farm that day, and he was left to do it while the older ones went to greet the hero. In the fall of 1824 Mr. Kerrick moved with his parents to Muskingum county, Ohio, traveling overland in a wagon. He often spoke of meeting on this trip with General Jackson, near Wheeling, Virginia, who was going to Washington to make his contest in the House of Representatives for the presidency, the election having been indecisive.

Mr. Kerrick could describe minutely the general's dress, his carriage, the number of his horses and attendants, the exact order of travel, etc. Hearing him relate the circumstances of this meeting one could almost see the great Tennesseean and his outfit. ("My mother was a comely woman, still young, and the general bowed graciously to her as he passed.") The Kerricks were not for Jackson for president, but that "gracious bow" to the "comely mother" palliated Jackson politics to a sensible degree; one could still see it after seventy years, as Mr. Kerrick related the incident.

The family remained in Ohio but two years, then pushed on to southeastern Indiana, which region became their permanent home. The first settlement was made in Franklin county, but later, lands were taken and a final settlement made in Decatur county. At about twenty years of age Mr. Kerrick had the only severe, or dangerous sickness of his long life; recovering from this, but not yet strong, he took a school to teach, and thus accidentally discovered his talent which was for teaching. About this time he met Thomas O'Brien, a noted Irish school master, who had received a liberal education in the old world. Mr. Kerrick became O'Brien's pupil and later his assistant; the two became fast friends and inseparable companions.

The meeting with Thomas O'Brien was most fortunate for Mr. Kerrick. It is difficult to conceive how his great desire for learning and education could have been gratified in that time but for this meeting. O'Brien patiently and faithfully imparted while the younger man eagerly absorbed the culture and learning that the former had acquired under more favorable conditions in Europe. For twenty years Mr. Kerrick was a school master; he was eminently successful. Near Blooming Grove, Franklin county, enterprising farmers and villagers built a substantial brick house for his school, and here he taught ten consecutive years. He was able to carry his pupils far beyond the schools of his time and region. In mathematics he took pupils as far as trigonometry and surveying, and many of them became practical surveyors. His name became, and is to-day, a household word in all that region.

It is probably not outside the truth to say that the character of no man, high or low, was so deeply impressed upon the people of the White Water Valley as the character of Nimrod Kerrick. Many of the men and women of that rapidly growing population received all the schooling they ever had from Mr. Kerrick, and many more received the larger part of their schooling from him. His unusual attainments and his pronounced instincts for teaching. afforded the young people of the country opportunities that were not common in that time. Among Mr. Kerrick's other attainments he wrote a beautiful, plain, uniform "hand." The writer of this sketch has received letters written within two or three years past, by a man who was a pupil of Mr. Kerrick in that brick school house, and it would require an expert to tell that writing now from Mr. Kerrick's. This incident is mentioned to illustrate the powerful influence of a true teacher and how that influence is perpetuated. Happily for the great company of young men and young women who came under his influence as a teacher, Mr. Kerrick's influence was always for good.

He was a man of singularly pure character. Through all his long journey of life he walked uprightly, worked righteousness, and spoke the truth in his heart. Although born in a slave state, Mr. Kerrick cherished from boyhood a hearty dislike for that slavery. He was a Republican in politics a total abstainer from every kind of strong drink. He was of medium height and weight in physical form a model, muscular, agile, possessing wonderful physical endurance. He was a profoundly grateful man for the blessings of life satisfied and thankful always for simple food and plain clothing, but the best of anything was never too good, in his estimation, for his family. All men, high and low, rich and poor, were men and brethren to him; he had equal good will for all of them; he respected men as men, not according to class or condition. He was strangely oblivious to distinctions among men; he had but one purpose toward them all, which was to do them good, and he approached them all, whether of high or of low degree, in the same respectful and interested spirit.

Mr. Kerrick was a member and a minister of the Methodist Episcopal church. He was first licensed to preach in 1848. In 1858 he entered the southeastern Indiana conference. His first circuit had nineteen appointments; he met and preached at all of these at least once a month. His last appointment was Liberty, Union county. At the close of his ministry there, he moved to Woodford county, Illinois, and thereafter his occupation was farming, the same to which he was used when a boy.

This move and change of occupation was made in the interest, wholly, of his family. Without doubt his own inclination would have led him to continue in professional life; but he had now three good-sized boys, and for them he wisely judged that the farm would offer better opportunities than the town for a right start in life. No preference or wish of his own could stand for a moment against what he considered to be for the interest of his family. While on the farm, Mr. Kerrick still continued to preach often. He was sought for to supply vacancies occasioned by sickness or absence of regular pastors. He was a Methodist, but not a sectarian. He frequently preached for other denominations, and always heartily enjoyed attending the preaching services of any Christian denomination. He preached many funerals, especially of soldiers of the war for the Union. By younger ministers he was greatly revered and beloved, and he was often able to help them, which gave him the highest pleasure.

Mr. Kerrick was married May 4, 1839, at Fairfield, Franklin county, Indiana, to Miss Mary Masters. Miss Masters was a native of Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, but removed when a young woman with her parents to Indiana. Five children were born to the pair, two daughters and three sons; the eldest daughter, and the eldest of the family, Mrs. Cyrus Mull, resides in Manilla, Rush county, Indiana. The second daughter, Mrs. W. H. Bracken, resides in Brookville, Franklin county. The oldest son, William M., was killed in battle, he fell in the desperate charge of the Union forces upon the Confederate works at Vicksburg. May 22, 1863. He was barely nineteen years old when he was killed. The second son, Leonidas H., and the youngest, Thomas C. , reside in Bloomington, Illinois.

Mr. Kerrick's last years were spent in Bloomington. Mrs. Kerrick survives, and still maintains the home in which Mr. Kerrick died. At the advanced age of eighty-three years, she possesses remarkable health and strength. Her well-known and exceptionally strong mental characteristics remain to her unimpaired. We have given herein a brief and very imperfect account of a remarkable life; a life, it is true, not distinguished by deeds which startle or which bring renown; but a long, faithful, unselfish life, full of labors for the enlightenment and uplifting of mankind; a life that touched many other lives, and always to do them good never to do them harm.

[The Biographical record of McLean County, Illinois - S.J. Clarke Publishing Company - (1899)]


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