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Manuscripts by Subject - Family / Local History - #11296

Title: Dorothea Louise Huttner Merrill
Dates: 1912-ca. 1990

Collection Number: MSS 11296

Quantity: .25 foot

Abstract: Consists of the personal papers of Dorothea Louise Huttner Merrill (Flaxton, Burke County, N.D.), including correspondence, materials from Flaxton High School, certificates, and photographs.

Provenance: The Dorothea Louise Huttner Merrill papers were donated to the State Historical Society of North Dakota by Dorothea's nephew Sidney F. Huttner on May 14, 2016. 

Property rights: The State Historical Society of North Dakota owns the property rights to the collection.

Copyrights: Copyrights to materials in this collection remain with the donor, publisher, author, or author's heirs.  Researchers should consult the 1976 Copyright Act, Public Law 94-553, Title 17, U.S. Code and an archivist at this repository if clarification of copyright requirements is needed.  Permission to use any radio or television broadcast portions of the collection must be sought from the creator.

Access: This collection is open under the rules and regulations of the State Historical Society of North Dakota.

Citation: Researchers are requested to cite the collection title, collection number, and the State Historical Society of North Dakota in all footnote and bibliographic references.

Researched and written by Dorothea's nephew Sidney F. Huttner

Amelia Huttner (1874-1933) moved from Minnesota to Flaxton, County, North Dakota, in 1900
with two of her younger brothers, one of them my grandfather, Franz William ("Frank") Huttner (1877- 1966), with other brothers following over the next several years. Amelia successfully completed a homestead claim, and later moved to Saskatchewan, about 50 miles north of Flaxton, where she completed a second claim. Frank remained in Flaxton, completing his own homestead claim, and married Wilhelmina Emma Kruger (1889- 1954) of Conger, Minnesota, in 1910. Their first child, Hazel Amelia, was born 5 August 1911, followed by a second daughter, Dorothea Louise on 9 September 1912. My father Fredrick William ("Fred") Huttner (1914-2002), their third child, was delayed 18 months and born on 31 March 1914. Two more sons followed in due course, Everett Franklin (1920-1960) and Herbert Rudolph (1923-1961). All survived to adulthood, although the two younger sons had relatively short lives.

Frank's homestead was about two miles east and a mile north of Flaxton, and his farmstead grew steadily through the teens and early 1920s. Hazel and Dorothea attended elementary school in Flaxton, placed in the same class because of their closeness in age and the fact that it allowed them to walk the mile and a half to and from town together. Both graduated from Flaxton High School in 1930. Neither were one of the two honor students in their class of 11.

Frank's farm floundered in the 1930s, and he finally lost the farm in Soil Bank transactions. Hazel married Gerhard Peterson, who managed the grain elevator in Flaxton. My father joined the Civilian Conservation Corps and was sent to north central Arkansas; his wages were remitted to his home and went quite a long way in keeping the family fed during the Depression. It is not clear what Dorothea contributed- as the only daughter at home there were doubtless many roles in running the home and farm, though it is possible she was someway "in service" to a family in town better resourced to ride out the Depression.

In 1935, however, she entered the Grand Forks, North Dakota, Victorian School of Beauty School [sic], a corporate member of the American Associated Beauty Culture Schools Illinois, headed by Emily O. Reed, and on August 20, 1936, "having completed in a satisfactory manner the prescribed course of study in Manicuring, Permanent Waving, Marcel & Finger Weaving, Facial Massage, Scalp Treatment, and Hair Drying," she was awarded her certificate. She seems to have been a good student, and on February 13, 1937, Reed wrote to offer Dorothea a job in the "Cut-Rate Shop" she was opening, offering "per W[eek] from $1.50 up Operative to work as follows half on regular work 35% on Permanent Waves." Dorothea apparently declined the offer but kept the letter, and the envelope it was mailed in, until her death. She returned to Flaxton in the fall of 1936, certainly lived in town, and perhaps worked in a beauty parlor (or free-lanced). The 1940 Census contains this entry: "Milo Merrill, 42 (born 1898 Minnesota; retail grocery store); Mabel Merrill, 43; Milo Merrill Jr., 15; Wesley Merrill, 8; John Merrill, 6; [illegible: Adolph, 5?]; Dorothea Huttner, 27 (lodger). The North Dakota marriage index records a marriage between Milo Merrill and Mabel [Deborah] Keefe on 1 April 1922, and the 1925 North Dakota census, a record for Mare E. [i.e., Mary E.], M. K. Merrill, and a child age one, born in 1924. This seems likely a garbled record for Mabel Keefe Merrill, living with her mother-in-law, presumably with her child (Mary's grandchild) Milo C. Merrill Jr.

Merrill's father was Charles A. Merrill (1857-1923), born in New York state, while his wife Mary E., was born in Ireland. He built a general store in Flaxton, with hotel rooms above it, around 1904, and it was likely this operation owned or managed by his son, born in 1898 and noted in both the 1910 and 1920 Censuses as living with his parents in Flaxton; in 1920 they are joined by a grandson [name illegible] age 4.5 [Milo seems to have had no siblings and in 1917-1918 would have been a scant 19-20 years old himself, old enough to beget a son who perhaps died shortly after 1920? Or this may simply be an error). At some time, perhaps 1937-1940, Dorothea engaged in an affair with Milo ( 1898-1961 ), a scandal no doubt in Flaxton town, talked about sparingly and in hushed tones by the family forever after. No divorce is recorded for Milo and Mabel in Burke County (or elsewhere in North Dakota). Dorothea decamped to Seattle after 1940, perhaps with (or following) her younger brother Everett (1920-1960), who had graduated from high school in 1937 and established himself in Seattle as an insurance agent before
marrying in 1945. Dorothea initially worked for the Longview Fibre Company, Longview, Washington. It also seems that Milo volunteered or was drafted for service in World War II. I've not been able to trace a divorce from Mabel or a marriage to Dorothea.

From April or May 1945 through early 1946 Dorothea was on the staff of the University of Washington Applied Physics Laboratory, a Navy affiliated program that apparently played a significant role in developing supersonic rockets and deployment of the first atomic bombs, including the Bikini Island tests. Most issues of a run of the Lab's newsletter, the "Lab Oratory," she kept had "Huttner" written in the upper left comer of the first page (indicating copies were routed to staff members individually). The issue for December 1945 reports she was showing an engagement ring from her "one and only ... returned from the wars," and an elusive mention in the July 1946 issue indicates she had married Milo not long before in Los Angeles, and they were managing the Milner Hotel there. A report in January 1947 says she"& her husband are still in the hotel business in Los Angeles & have built it up to the point where they can be particular about their guests."

By or before 1950, however, she was managing, with Milo, the Claremont Hotel in Seattle, then (1955 or after by family legend) a related hotel in Minneapolis. By 1960 the couple had returned to Hollywood to manage the Hollywood Center Motel on 6720 Sunset Boulevard near Vine. This was a former ranch, with main house and some outbuildings retained, with units of various kinds built at various times around the perimeter. When Milo died in 1961 (from cancer: both he and Dorothea were very heavy smokers from early in their lives), Dorothea carried on, becoming an active member of the local chapter of the Delphian Society (which promoted the education of women), overseeing a goodly number of scenes that were shot on the Motel grounds and in its rooms appeared in movies and on television, rubbing shoulders from time to time with Hollywood hoi polloi. She retired in the late 1970s to Spokane (to be near her brother, my father). She lived independently in an apartment complex near downtown until the last year or two of her life when she moved to assisted living (my parents’ small house did not offer room to take her in, and they could not deal with her chain-smoking; she had difficulty but succeeded in finding two small facilities that provided meals and limited care when needed and admitted smokers). She died 11 July 1997, age 85.

She had named my parents her executors and before their own deaths in 2000 and 2002, they urged me to review the roughly three document boxes of papers and photographs she had left. The papers were largely receipts and minor financial records of no lasting interest or value, but I took away documents, letters, and photographs plus seven oil paintings: she briefly took lessons around 1966 and created these "persistent memories" from her childhood. They are surprisingly good and quite evocative of life in North Dakota around 1920. There's a flock of sheep gathered around a hay stack; cats being fed direct from the cow; her father's stone smoke house for curing sausages, a harvest scene, and a view of her and her sister as youngsters, walking across the endless prairie their mile and a half mile to school. When this suite was finished, she hung it about her apartment and never painted again.


Box 1:
1 Baptism certificate, 1912. In German. Completed with ink inscription by Pastor [R.G.] Messerli of the German Lutheran Church [located near Northgate, North Dakota].

Autograph book, probably used as a memory book at the end of Dorothy Huttner's last year of elementary school and used again at the end of her later high school years. Some comments suggest adolescent events and attitudes of the time, ca. 1926-1930

Diploma certifying completion of "the Course of Study prescribed for the Common Schools of the State of North Dakota," issued by the Burke County Superintendent (Mary E. Stannard), with her embossed seal and signature as well as that of teacher Viola Trilby Jensen, January 11, 1927

Commencement Exercises Program, Flaxton High School and folder of art deco design for collecting class and faculty signatures and quotes. The program is tucked under the front flap with an undated, with a teacher inscription on the verso, photograph of 13 heavily coated children, varying ages, standing outside a [school?]. DLH and sister Hazel may be two of the three older girls in the back row, May 29, 1930

Diploma, Victorian School of Beauty Culture, Grand Forks (N.D.), Emily O. Reed, supervisor, "For having completed in a satisfactory manner the prescribed course of study in Manicuring,Permanent Waving, Marrel & Finger Weaving, Facial Massage, Scalp Treatment, and Hair Dying," August 20, 1936

Letter from Emily O. Reed, Victorian School of Beauty, to Dorothy Huttner, offering job as hair dresser with soon-to-be-opened Cut-Rate Shop, February 13, 1937

Directory, Civilian Conservation Corps, 2765th Company, Camp Tassel Springs, Calico Rock (Ark.), ca. 1935. About 215 men comprised this Company, mainly drawn from northwest North Dakota, many from Burke County (N.D.), and it constructed trails, roads, and rustic buildings in a forested area of north central Arkansas.

2 Photographs 11296-00001 - 11296-00026           


11296-00001       Portrait of Hazel and Dorothea Louise Huttner, ca. 1914 postcard
11296-00002       Portrait of Hazel and Dorothea Louise Huttner, ca. 1915 postcard
11296-00003       Portrait of Hazel, Dorothea Louise and Fred Huttner, ca. 1917 postcard
11296-00004       Portrait of Hazel and Dorothea Louise Huttner, ca. 1918 postcard
11296-00005       Portrait of Hazel and Dorothea Louise Huttner, ca. 1930
11296-00006       Dorothea Louise, Milo Merrill, and unknown man in Merrill's general store, Flaxton (N.D.), ca. 1940
11296-00007       Hazel and Dorothea Louise Huttner Flaxton High School graduation composite, ca. 1930                
11296-00008       Meeting of the Los Angeles Delphian Society (organized to promote the education of women), Dorothea Louise Huttner Merrill  is seated with the officers, third from left, ca. 1965
11296-00009       Jack Lemmon with Dorothea Louise Huttner Merrill, ca. 1970
11296-00010       Dorothea Louise Huttner Merrill, probably taken in her Spokane apartment, ca. 1980
11296-00011       Portrait of Dorothea Louise Huttner Merrill, ca. 1990
11296-00012       Group of students outside school, ca. 1935
11296-00013       Dorothea Huttner and Milo Merrill with Milo's grandchildren, ca. 1950
11296-00014       Dorothea Huttner and Milo Merrill with Milo's sons John and Wes, ca. 1965
11296-00015       Milo Merrill in office, Seattle (Wash.), ca. 1950
11296-00016       Dorothea Louise Huttner Merrill in office, Seattle (Wash.), ca. 1950
11296-00017       Milo Merrill outside Claremont Hotel, Seattle (Wash.), ca. 1950
11296-00018       Dorothea Louise Huttner Merrill outside Claremont Hotel, Seattle (Wash.), ca. 1950
11296-00019       Frank W. Huttner, Seattle (Wash.), ca. 1945
11296-00020       Wilamina (Minnie) Huttner, Seattle (Wash.), ca. 1945
11296-00021       Wilamina (Minnie) and Frank Huttner with Dorothea Louise Huttner Merrill, Seattle (Wash.), ca. 1945
11296-00022       Wilamina (Minnie) Huttner with Dorothea Louise Huttner Merrill, Seattle (Wash.), ca. 1945
11296-00023       Frank Huttner with Dorothea Louise Huttner Merrill, Seattle (Wash.), ca. 1945
11296-00024       Wilamina (Minnie) and Frank Huttner, Seattle (Wash.), ca. 1945
11296-00025       Milo Merrill, Seattle (Wash.), ca. 1945
11296-00026       Possibly Milo Merrill's father, Seattle (Wash.), ca. 1945

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