Phoebe Kellum was born on November 11, 1820, near Binghamton, New York. She married Jacob Mericle in 1841; they had four children before deciding to move west in 1849 because of Jacob Mericle's health. The family settled in Pleasant Valley Township, about six miles from what is now Fort Dodge. The area was completely wild, and their only neighbors were Indians. Mericle gave birth to the first white child born in Webster County. When Jacob Mericle proposed to the government that the white people of the area needed protection, two companies of soldiers were sent to establish Fort Clarke, which was later named Fort Dodge. Mericle died in her home in 1893 after having been sick for about six weeks.