J. S. D. Mercer

Submitted to the West Virginia Biographies Project by:
Valerie Crook
September 19, 1999

The History of West Virginia, Old and New
Published 1923, The American Historical Society, Inc.,
Chicago and New York, Volume III,
pg. 250-251
Hancock County

J. S. D. MERCER, sheriff of Hancock County, occupies his
present position because of his fearlessness as an officer,
his executive talents, and his courteous and pleasing per-
sonality. This is his second occupancy of the office, prior
to becoming the incumbent of which he had filled other
posts, and his entire record from the time that he started
out to make his own way in the world has been one of stead-
fast effort, marked industry and conscientious performance
of the duties of public and private life.

Sheriff Mercer was born in Grant District, in the north
end of Hancock County, on Mercer’s Run, where his great-
great-grandfather, William Mercer, had settled about 1800,
upon his arrival from Washington County, Pennsylvania.
One of his ancestors was General Mercer, a noted officer of
the Revolutionary war. The father of J. S. D. Mercer was
Robert Mercer, a school teacher in Hancock County for
some years, and later engaged in the furniture and under-
taking business at Hookstown, Pennsylvania, where he was
taken sick. Then he removed to Hancock County where he
died at the early age of thirty-five years. Robert Mercer
married Sarah Elizabeth Allison, a daughter of Jonathan
Allison, Jr., a descendant of James Allison, one of the ear-
liest settlers of the north end of Hancock County, the old
home being on a fork of Tomlin’s Run. There were two
children who reached maturity: J. S. D.; and J. W. F.,
a blacksmith of Chester, West Virginia.

J. S. D. Mercer was five years of age when his father
died, and he was taken into the home of his maternal grand-
father, Jonathan Allison, a large land owner. He attended
the public schools and was reared on the original Allison
homestead, where he remained until twenty-one years of
age, then learning the carpenter’s trade, at which .he worked
for about fourteen years, mainly at East Liverpool, Ohio.
His first public office was that of town clerk of Chester, in
which he served for one term, being then elected mayor
of Chester, an office in which he acted with excellent execu-
tive ability for two terms. When he left that office he was
chosen county assessor, and served one term, and in 1912
was first elected sheriff of Hancock County, and was the
incumbent of that office for four years. During the four
years that followed the expiration of his term he was
engaged in business successfully as a building contractor,
but again in 1920 re-entered public life when he was elected
sheriff as the nominee of the republican party. He ran
far ahead of his ticket. Sheriff Mercer devotes his entire
time to the duties of his office, and is one of the best offi-
cials the county has known. He requires only one deputy,
this being his son, M. D. Mercer, and the affairs of the
office are taken care of in an efficient and expeditious man-
ner, much to the satisfaction of the people of the county.
Sheriff Mercer is courageous in action, prompt and ener-
getic, and possesses more than the average detective ability,
which has assisted him in making the county a law-abiding
community. He has the support of all good citizens.

Sheriff Mercer married Miss Martha B. Allison, of the
same stock of Allisons from which he descends, her mother
being a Pugh of Pughtown. Five children have been born
to them: James Raymond, D. D. S., who is engaged in the
practice of dentistry at Akron, Ohio; Merwyn D., his
father’s deputy in the sheriff’s office; Thelma Elizabeth, a
teacher in the public schools of New Cumberland; and
Martha E. and Mary L., who graduated from the high school
at New Cumberland as members of the class of 1922. The
family was reared in the faith of the Methodist Episcopal
Church, to which Sheriff Mercer belonged until recently,
when he transferred his membership to the Presbyterian
Church at New Cumberland. As a fraternalist he belongs
to the Knights of Pythias; the Independent Order of Odd
Fellows, in which he has passed through the chairs and at
one tune sat in the Grand Lodge; and the Junior Order
United American Mechanics, in which he has also passed
through the chairs.