Museum of Northwest Colorado: Colorado born Merlin Gearhart
October 16, 2015
Merlin D. Gearhart was born in Elbert in 1907. His parents ran a feed store in that rural town. In 1930, just at the start of the Depression, Merlin married Lillian Melburn, who also had been born in Elbert. During the hard years of the Depression the couple worked at Montgomery Wards in Denver.
Towards the end of those tough years, Merlin was able to open an automobile repair garage, doing most of the work on the cars himself. When the war hit, Merlin went overseas as a civilian with the PNAB force. He was wounded and returned home within a year.
In 1946, Merlin and Lillian began looking for an automobile dealership to run. In those first post-war years, new cars were still hard to come by, but finally in 1947, they received word that the Dodge-Plymouth agency in Craig was available.
It didn't take the couple long to settle into the small Craig community. Lillian joined the Business and Professional Women's' Club, and the Anita Chapter 41 Order of the Eastern Star. Merlin was a member of the Lions Club, the Chamber of Commerce and was a Master Mason. Merlin spent his spare time fishing for trout.
Though they had a competent help working in their shop, Merlin could often be found working on the cars in the repair shop. In 1956, when cartoonist Chet Klock came to Craig to write his series on local Craig businessmen, Merlin's dealership was flourishing. Unfortunately on a cold January day, the dealership was destroyed by fire.
Not feeling like they had the energy to rebuild, the Gearharts moved back to the Denver area six months later. Lillian died in 1976, and Merlin continued to live in the area until his death in Woodland Park in 1993.
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Craig's business history has been documented through various ways, and the Museum of Northwest Colorado, located in downtown Craig, works diligently to save as much of our local history as possible. There are numerous exhibits in the museum featuring local people and local businesses that have been instrumental in the development of our area. Be sure to include a visit to the museum this fall and enjoy the free admission and wonderful displays. For more information call 970-824-6360.