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As It Was: Mark and Ada Merrill Travel with Animal Tent Show

For 20 years, until 1931, Mark and Ada Merrill had a traveling tent show that featured two bears, two Shetland ponies, sheep, monkeys and dogs.  They were a very enterprising couple.

Mark’s father owned Merrill Stables in Redding and the family’s large white family house stood on the corner of Pine and South streets.  Ada was born March 8, 1874.  She was 12 years older than Mark, her third or perhaps her fourth husband, but the couple remained married for more than 50 years.

Mark trained 13 dogs for the tent show, as well as sheep that performed much like bears.

At first they traveled by team and wagon, later by automobile.  They had two trucks, one that carried the animals in cages and the other the tents, equipment, and seats.  The show traveled four months a year through Northern California, Eastern Oregon and Nevada.  During the winter, Mark showed movies at the Redding Armory hall, where he was in charge from 1908-1911.

He also found time to work as the stage manager for a vaudeville theater in Redding.

Source: Satorius, Veronica. "Merrill's Animal Show." The Covered Wagon, Redding, Shasta Historical Society, 1994, pp. 26-28.

Gail Fiorini-Jenner is a writer and teacher. Her first novel "Across the Sweet Grass Hills", won the 2002 WILLA Literary Award. She co-authored four histories with Arcadia Publishing: Western Siskiyou County: Gold & Dreams, Images of the State of Jefferson, The State of Jefferson: Then & Now, which placed in the 2008 Next Generation Awards for Nonfiction and Postcards from the State of Jefferson.