John J. Gerlach, plains pioneer, the younger son of Franz Joseph and Mary (Gilmartin) Gerlach, was born at Virden, McCoupin County, Illinois, in 1865. He moved to the Texas Panhandle in the fall of 1883 and worked for various ranches. In November 1884 he erected a dugout in Hemphill County on Horse Creek, about four miles northwest of its juncture with the Canadian River. After his brother George Gerlach joined him there in 1885, they opened their Road Ranch and Store, which they moved to Clear Creek and then to Canadian after the Panhandle and Santa Fe Railway built through in 1887. Gerlach was elected first Hemphill county treasurer and managed the mercantile store at Canadian, which evolved through several partnerships, until 1893, when he made the run into the Cherokee Strip of Oklahoma. He helped establish the town of Woodward, Oklahoma, and opened the Gerlach-Hopkins Mercantile there with his partner, J. H. (Hoos) Hopkins. Gerlach's sister Capitola later joined him there. The firm operated until 1928, when the Gerlachs sold out. On January 14, 1894, Gerlach married Margaret Moody, daughter of PO Ranch owner Robert Moody. They became the parents of three children. Gerlach served as treasurer of Woodward County and was a member of the state banking board. During World War I he served on the county council of defense, the coal commission for settling difficulties of the Oklahoma miners, and the food commission under Herbert Hoover. He died on December 16, 1931.