Emil Merscheid – North Platte Floral

Written By: nppladmin - Jan• 13•22
Originally published on Facebook November 5, 2021.

Welcome back to our Friday edition of Facebook Friday North Platte History. Today we are going to feature: Emil Merscheid, owner of North Platte Floral.

Emil Merscheid was born in Winkel am Rhein, Germany on November 29, 1886 to Friedrich Merscheid, a fruit farmer, and Barbara (Lorenz). He was the eldest child of six children, and the only boy. Emil attended Elementary School until the age of fourteen, completing the eighth grade. He then stayed at home throughout his teenage years and helped the family in the vineyards they owned.

At the age of eighteen he was taken to the German Army Service for two years. After that he went into the agriculture business, as he like to work among plants and flowers. He went to the city of Wiesbaden, Germany and attended one of the foremost horticultural schools on the Rhine River. Emil specialized in hybridizing the cyclamen blossoms and produced many different variations.

Emil was also a great reader of books. He was fascinated by the history of the United States and read all the books he could on the Wild West; and books about Buffalo Bill were his favorites.

In 1913, he bought a ticket to America. He arrived in Ellis Island and after getting out of quarantine he made his first purchase in America. He bought a New York newspaper. Looking for employment he searched the “want ads”. He found a wanted advertisement for a grower in a greenhouse, owned by the Pabst Blue Ribbon Brewery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He called Mr. and Mrs. Pabst, finding out they both were German also. They hired him and he bought a ticket to Milwaukee. Once he got to Milwaukee he discovered the Pabst’s also didn’t speak fluent English either; and conversing in German with them was much easier.

The Pabst greenhouse wasn’t very large and they only grew plants and flowers for their own use. Every morning, Mrs. Pabst would tell Emil just what flowers and colors she wanted to use through the home in decorations and for entertainment. This job gave Emil much pleasure, as well as experience in arranging bouquets and center pieces.

After one year of working for them, Emil decided move further west. He bought a Florist Review magazine and saw an advertisement for a grower in North Platte, Nebraska, for the Charles Pass Greenhouse. With his love for anything Buffalo Bill, Emil knew that he needed to go to North Platte. So, he corresponded with Mr. Pass, and he moved to North Platte in 1915. Emil Merscheid worked at the Pass Greenhouse from 1915 to 1917.

Emil made many friends while working for Charlie Pass. One friend was Henry Waltemath, who owned a local saloon. Every evening, after dinner, he would stop in for a beer and a chat with Mr. Waltemath. Both being German, they enjoyed the visits immensely. After having one beer, Emil would leave the saloon and stroll to the North Platte Public Library (Carnegie library, now the North Platte Area Children’s Museum) to read and study English.

Emil was also a friend of Ray Langford, president of the First National Bank, where Emil had put his money into a savings account for future traveling expenses. Emil confided in Langford about his plans to move west as soon as he had enough money.

In January of 1917, Emil was in Waltemath’s saloon and told him about his plans to leave and go west. Waltemath told him that North Platte needed another greenhouse and he would help Emil build one if he wanted to. Emil then went to Langford and found out that Langford was also supportive of him staying and opening his own greenhouse business. So, then, Emil needed to find a lot suitable for a greenhouse. After scouting around North Platte, he found a block for sale on West 12th Street (Rodeo Road), right across the street from the cemetery for $500. <See the business greenhouse photograph and advertisement for North Platte Floral-May 11, 1917>

The North Platte Semi-Weekly Tribune announced on February 6, 1917 that Merscheid had bought block 1 of the Bellevue Addition, opposite the cemetery entrance and would engage in truck gardening, growing flowers and shrubs and bedding plants of all kinds and also handle nursery stock, and perennial plants. He would also take orders in advance for cut flowers for Easter and Memorial Day.

Merscheid spent many days cleaning up the lot and removing trash. After that was done and the frost was out of the ground he contacted Mr. Waltemath and ordered ten hot-bed frames with glass covers. By March of 1917 he was ready to start his first garden vegetable plants.

The first summer he planted many flower seeds and sold a lot of flowers. He made enough money that first summer to start looking for a greenhouse to buy. A greenhouse was necessary to winter-over his plants and start seeds. Emil found one he liked, and it was a bargain at $3,000. It measured 30 feet by 100 feet and included a boiler. He told Waltemath to order it and by the end of October he had it up and in good working condition. He slept in the boiler room, keeping it fired up and going to keep his plants alive. That also saved him the cost of lodging.

Living across the road from the cemetery, he started noticing the lack of care for the cemetery. He met with the Chamber of Commerce to discuss how the cemetery should be a place of beauty and not one of disgrace. He partnered up with William Maloney; and the city helped with getting trees and shrubs planted. Maloney was also in favor of having city water piped in, so that trees and shrubs could be watered. Not only did Emil help improve the cemetery, but he also donated much of his money, his labors, and plants to the cause.

Before long his business grew and he needed more greenhouse space. Emil added onto the south of his big greenhouse that measured ten by 100 feet. That is where he started growing chrysanthemums and carnations and his beloved cyclamen plants.

In 1919 Emil met Helen Carolyn Scharmann and they were engaged in 1920. In September of 1920 Emil started building a new house. It was finished in June of 1921. Emil and Helen were married in the First Evangelical Lutheran Church on June 22, 1921. After seven years of marriage and no children, they decided to adopt a baby. A family doctor recommended a six-day old baby girl that needed parents. They adopted the baby, named her Eva June Merscheid, and she brought much happiness to the couple.

As time went on, the business grew, more greenhouses were needed. So Emil build two more greenhouses, each measuring ten feet wide by one hundred feet long.

In 1934, President Franklin Roosevelt wanted a “Shelter Belt” planted, reaching through the middle states from Texas to Canada. Merscheid’s reputation of growing trees from seed was well known and they contacted him to see if he was interested. He was. The government gave him a contract for 13 acres to grow the seedlings on. As Emil did not have that much land left at his nursery business, so, he rented thirteen acres from his father in law’s farm, eight miles west of North Platte. The soil at the farm was tested and proved to be good, so the seedlings were planted and they grew them by the thousands that summer.

So distinguished was his work as florist and horticulturist that he was elected to prominent offices in professional groups, including: the Society of American Florists, the Mountain and Plains States Florists Society, the American Association of Nurserymen, and the Florist Telegraph Delivery Association. His particular contribution to his profession was his origination of the Weeping Chinese Elm, gaining for him nationwide recognition.

A year later in 1935 he got the contract for seeding the slope on the reservoir that was being built south of Sutherland. During the seeding of the slope he contracted double pneumonia and died two weeks after starting the planting. Emil died on September 3, 1935, and was buried in the North Platte cemetery on October 3, 1935, with full Masonic honors. It was called one of the biggest funerals ever held in North Platte, as friends from all over Lincoln County came to his service. Emil Merscheid was 48 years old.

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