'I can raise anything; from peanuts to presidents.'
After eight centuries in England, and thirty three years before the Statue of Liberty would light the way, William and Sarah Marriott set sail from the metropole of the British Empire to the frontier of the New World. Arriving with little but each other, they settled in Brimfield, Illinois and welcomed their first child, John Thomas Marriott I, on March 6th 1855. John became motherless, and an only child, twelve months later when Sarah suffered maternal death during her second pregnancy.
In his twenties, and with dreams of Texas, John set out to make his mark. After a stint of work in Iowa, he married Mary Louise Rice, great-granddaughter of United States Congressman & Major General William Montgomery and sister of Colonel James Montgomery Rice and Captain John Hopkins Rice, on May 29th 1879. The following year, John and Mary found themselves among the first pioneers of the Wild West settlement Wakefield, Nebraska. On August 17th 1881, on what would become the Northeast corner of 2nd and Main Street, John erected Marriott Mercantile, the first store and third building in Wakefield, by hand. In October, he became the first Postmaster and the following Spring built the Wakefield Presbyterian Church, which has gathered its congregation every Sunday since.
Over the next forty two years, Marriott Mercantile expanded from farm and garden "Seeds That Grow!" to groceries, lands loans and insurance, conveyance, collections, brokerage and notary services, and a millinery led by Mary. By the end of his life, Marriott Mercantile controlled 20% of the commercial real estate in Wakefield and a cattle farm on the outskirt. In 1907, John helped bring Wakefield into the electric age. On the Board of Education, he introduced formal academics to the township and as Justice of the Peace, created laws for a new contraption folks were calling a horseless carriage. A century on, his impact and tales continue to be shared: