With Kansas City becoming the focal point of trade, communication, and transportation and with a population of over 75,000, railroad executives saw a need for a large, well-planned amusement park and purchased 40 acres in Merriam because of the country atmosphere and quick means of transportation. The park was completed in 1880 and, as an added touch, former President Grant was asked to dedicate the park.
The Merriam Park was indeed a grand amusement. Costing 25 cents to enter, the park attracted more than 20,000 visitors per day. In years following, one of the park superintendents, George Kessler, went on to plan the park and boulevard system of Kansas City. Much of the beauty of present-day Kansas City reflects the influence of this ingenious man, a young engineer from Germany. By the turn of the century, Kansas City had constructed its own amusements and Merriam Park closed, however Hocker Grove, named after its founder RW Hocker, was another important amusement development within Merriam. Running along the trolley line, Hocker Grove existed from 1907-1919 and contained a picnic ground, baseball field, and pavilion.
Merriam became the biggest town in Northeast Kansas around 1930. Four grocery stores, two hardware stores, four gas stations, three drug stores, two dry goods stores, three restaurants, a bank, two garages, two barber shops, a beauty shop, two feed and coal yards, two taverns, a lumber yard, chicken hatchery, two realty businesses, a dry cleaning store, insurance agency, two churches, and a grade school all called Merriam home during this time.