Here's a history from "Merrillan Centennial" by
Jean Anderson, 1970:
The West Wisconsin Railroad was built through this portion of
Jackson County in the fall of 1869. Leander Merrill sent his
brother Benjamin to Hudson, where the railroad offices were then
located, in an effort to convince the railroad to change their
road bed enough to include the present site of Merrillan.
According to stories handed down by the Merrill family, the
railroad officials agreed to change their route to include
Merrill's future town for the consideration of $75,000, which
Leander promptly paid to the company. Trains on the West
Wisconsin Railroad did not make stops at Merrillan at this time
and passengers either got off the trains at Wright's Mill (about
5 miles south) or at Humbird and then walked to Merrillan.
When the Green Bay & Lake Pepin Railroad planned to build
their road through Jackson County, L.G. Merrill donated many
acres of land to the company so they would change their plans
from connecting with the West Wisconsin at Wright's to
connecting with that railroad in Merrillan. The Green Bay &
Lake Pepin Road reached Merrillan on December 22, 1872, and the
first train arrived here the following week with a Mr. Garvin as
engineer. The telegraph line on the railroad was completed in
January 1873. A crude shack was converted into a Union Depot and
both the West Wisconsin and Green Bay railroad began passenger
service here. The first depot agent was J.A. Maynard.
Merrillan's growth was very rapid after receiving passenger
In the spring of 1873, George Hiles of Dexterville took the
contract to do the grading on the Green Bay & Lake Pepin
Railroad from Merrillan to the Mississippi River and work began
in mid May. During the summer of 1873 the Green Bay Railroad
erected the Blair House, sometimes referred to as the Railroad
House. This large 40 room hotel was located northwest of the
junction of the two railroads on the site where a tavern sits
today. A. Putman a former Black River Falls resident was the
proprietor of the hotel and he was assisted by a Mr. Libby.
A lawsuit involving the title to a disputed 40 acres of land
(known as the Railroad 40) almost in the center of Merrillan,
involving the Green Bay Railroad, was tried in the fall of 1880.
The litigation over this property had been a serious drawback in
the growth of the town. L.G. Merrill had donated this portion of
land to the Green Bay Railroad Company in order to persuade them
to locate their route to cross the West Wisconsin at this
point..(This was finally added to the Village Plat and is known
as the D.M. Kelley Addition.)
On October 9, 1884, the Union freight depot burned. This was
located at the junction of the Omaha and Green Bay and Minnesota
roads. It was only a 'shack' and the citizens of Merrillan were
not sorry to see it burn, as they hoped the two railroad
companies would build a depot that would be a credit to the
village. H.Weldon McGee, president of the Green Bay &
Western in 1970 states, 'The original freight depot was built by
the GB&M RR in 1884 and was rebuilt by the Omaha at joint
expense by both carriers in 1885 after the original had burned.
The original passenger depot, a 14 x 28 frame building with a 10
x 22 foot lean-to, was built by the G.B.&M.R.R. Co. in 1880
and converted into a car inspectors house in 1916. In 1886 a new
depot was built by the Omaha at joint expense and has been so
owned ever since.