This is the tombstone of John Francis Merkle, located in row 7 of Zion Lutheran Cemetery, Chattanooga, Mercer County, Ohio. The marker is inscribed:
Feb 2, 1870
July 27, 1895
John Merkle was the son of Joseph and Lucinda (Kentner) Merkle, born in Wapakoneta, Auglaize County, Ohio. 
There are conflicting records concerning John’s date of birth. His Auglaize County birth record indicates he was born 13 December 1869.  That would appear to be the most reliable record, but the 1870 census, taken only months after his birth, indicates he was five months old and born in February 1870.  Finally, his tombstone is inscribed with 2 February 1870 as his birth date. Note that John’s parents were still living when he passed away and likely purchased his cemetery marker.
In 1870 the Joseph Merkle family was living in Wapakoneta, Auglaize County. At that time John was living with his parents and three sisters. 
The Merkle family moved to neighboring Mercer County by 1880. They resided in Chattanooga where John’s father worked as a blacksmith and his sister Mary taught school. 
The Merkle family attended Zion Lutheran Church when they lived in Chattanooga. John’s mother Lucinda was confirmed as an adult at Zion in 1885 and several of John’s siblings were baptized, confirmed, and married there.
John was the victim of a fatal accident on 27 July 1895 in Chicago. The following newspaper report tells of his misfortune:
Drowned in the Calumet
J.S. Merkle, 35 years old [sic], of No. 104 East Ninety-Second street, a well-known carpenter and contractor of South Chicago, was drowned in the Calumet River between Ninety-Ninth and One Hundredth streets last evening. His body was not recovered. Merkle went out in a boat alone for a row. A short time after the boat was found floating in the river bottom up and Merkle could not be found. 
This newspaper account gives his ages as 35, which appears to be an error. I believe he was 25 when he drowned. I do not know if John’s body was ever recovered but Zion Chatt’s records indicate that he was buried on the 30th. The church record verifies the above information–that John Francis Merkle, son of Joseph and Lucinda, drowned on 27 July 1895 in the Chicago River when his sailboat capsized. It also indicates that he was survived by his parents and siblings.
John’s parents and several of his siblings are also buried in Zion Chatt’s Cemetery.
 Ohio, County Births, 1841-2003,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/VN7R-R3Q : accessed 18 May 2014), Joseph Merkle in entry for John Merkle, 13 Dec 1869; citing Vol. 1 p. 25, item 83, Wapakoneta, Auglaize, Ohio; FHL microfilm 959200.
 1870 U.S. Census, Wapakoneta, Auglaize County, Ohio, p. 36 (penned), dwelling 304, family 298, Joseph Merkley; digital image by subscription, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 18 May 2014); from FHL film 552671, from NARA film M593, roll 1172.
 1880 U.S. Census, Liberty, Mercer County, Ohio, ED 188, p. 2 (penned), dwelling 13, family 14, Joseph Markrle; digital image by subscription, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 18 May 2014); from FHL microfilm 1255048, from NARA microfilm T9, roll 1048.
 “Drowned in the Calumet,” The Inter Ocean, Chicago, Illinois, 28 July 1895, p.2; digital image by subscription, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 18 May 2014).