Alice Merrill was born in Fillmore, Utah, on 2 January 1868 and was the fourth of fourteen children born to Clarence and Bathsheba Smith Merrill. She began schooling at the old rock schoolhouse in Fillmore, but at the age of nine went to Salt Lake City to live with her recently widowed grandmother, Bathsheba Bigler (Mrs. George A.) Smith. After completing grade school, she attended the University of Deseret where she was graduated in 1887 with a degree in pedagogy. She was especially interested in art, art education, literature, and writing.
She married George H. Horne, a Salt Lake City banker, and subsequently bore six children: Mary, Lyman, Virginia, George H. Jr., who died in infancy, Zorah, and Albert. George Horne died in 1934.
She first taught school in Fillmore, and while George was on a mission for the LDS Church to the southern states, she was a teacher at Washington School in Salt Lake City, and she continued as an educator during the ensuing years.