Merrill Nickerson Isely

Merrill married Mildred in 1920. Here is information about their family.

In 1973, Mildred wrote the following about Merrill.

Merrill was born Auguest 4, 1894 on the farm of his paternal grandfather, Christian H. Isely, near Fairview, Kansas. He was the son of Frances Elizabeth Nickerson and William Henry Isely. He was proud of his English and Pilgrim ancestry on his Mother's side, as well as the Swiss on his Father's side. His father, William Henry Isely, was the first Dean of Fairmount College in Wichita, Kansas, one of the early Congregational institutions of learning. Fairmont College was latter renamed Wichita State University.

After graduation from the Wichita High School in 1912 and Fairmount College in 1916 Magne Cum Laude, he spent one year at Oberlin University in the Theological Seminary. He taught one year then was drafted into the USA Army in World War I. He was in Officers Training Camp when the Armistis came 6 months later. He then went to Yale Divinity School getting a Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1920. There is a 10 Box collection of Merrill Isely's Papers in the Divinity Library Special Collections at the Yale University Library.

In June 1920 he was married to Mildred Myers. Four days later he was ordained and they were commissioned as missionaries of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions with the Congregational Church. They sailed to Istanbul, Turkey (called Constantinople at that time) in October, where they had one year of language study. Then they went to Aintab (later renamed Gaziantep) for an educational assignment. The last 25 years of his service he was the Business Manager of the Mission Hospital in Gaziantep. Their entire service was in this station. Their three children (Mary Frances, William Henry II, and Caroline Elise) were born there.

Merrill's unwavering support of missions began in his youth with the Student Volunteer Movement and grew to maturity in his 42 years of mission work and continued up to his death with his interest and active support of missions during his retirement. He had a great zest for life which was shown by his activities. Those especially dear to his heart were three. First, the work with the Turkish Adult Blind - to help them to help themselves. In appreclation of this service the city of Gaziantep named a street, "Isely Boulevard" for him. Second, reforestration of the bare hillsides of Turkey grazed by the sheep and goats. Duluk Baba Hill north of Gaziantep is now a living memorial, a forest of high pines, an outcome of his push in the Tree Club for reforestration. The Ministry of Forests named a hill for him in this area. Thirdly, nurturing a group of young men in the ways of Christian Love.

Wherever Merrill went he would strike up a conversation with a stranger showing his curiosity, warmth and interest in people. His ability to put himself in "others shoes" especially helped him to understand the Turkish People, be they governors, bankers, clerks, students, or villagers,

In the social issues of the day, Merrill often stood for the forgotten cause in his burning zeal for Truth and Justice; seeing things with the eyes of the younger generation. He loved nature and would capture a sunset with his camera. He kept a bird count and grew flowers - especially African Vlolets. His tender side which he hid was sensed by those very close to him.

Merrill suffered an acute coronary heart attack in February of 1973. He died 11 days later on March 7, 1973. He was buried in the Fairburn Cemetery in Kansas.

Here are photos of Merrill.

Merrill at 9 weeks.

Merrill as a toddler on a rocking horse.

Merrill as a boy.

Merrill at age 24.

Merrill at age 34.

Merrill at age 45.

Merrill in 1961 at age 67 upon returning from Turkey.

Click here to return to the Home Page of the Isely Information Project.