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Posted By: Nettie Mae (email)
Date: 12/28/2023 at 17:58:49

SOURCE: Biographical History and Portrait Gallery of Scott County, Iowa. American Biographical Publishing Company, H. C. Cooper, Jr., & Co. Proprietors. 1895

JAMES RENWICK was born in Blentyre, Lanarkshire, Scotland, April 6 , 1805, to William and Margaret (Drummond) Renwick, both natives of Scotland, as were their forefathers. The Renwick is an old border family, descended from Sir Patrick Renwick, a knight of a hundred spears, who followed David, Earl of Huntington, to the Holy Land in the Third Crusade. The spirit of his motto, “For true liberty,” characterized his descendants, who were known for their sturdy independence that brooked no interference with their religious or political opinions. All who bear the family name are justly proud of James Renwick, the last Scottish martyr condemned to death by James the Seventh of Scotland for his efforts to maintain the rights of the Scottish Church. He died on the scaffold February 17, 1688. Through his mother our subject was descended from the ducal house of Perth, being the great-great-grandson of James Drummond, who was attainted for his adherence to the royal house of Stuarts. Both his parents were of a sincere religious nature and highly moral, qualities which made him universally beloved. They desired that he should enter the ministry and his studies were directed to that end, until his sixteenth year, when he chose to fit himself for a mercantile life and entered the business house of an uncle in London, England. At the age of about twenty he returned to Glasgow, where, on July 12, 1826, he married Miss Elizabeth Lockerbie, an intelligent and refined woman of great strength of character, who was descended from staunch old border families, the Lockerbies, Carruthers and Kirkpatricks of Close beern, men whose swords and lives were consecrated to their king and country. Mr. Renwick spent a few happy years in Glasgow with his wife and their little child and then removed to Liverpool, where at one time he was in business with a Spanish gentleman, a Mr. Rule, a former Mayor of Madrid, who owned several vessels with which he conducted a carrying trade to Spanish ports. In Liverpool Mr. Renwick's children were born. In 1818 he sailed for the United States, the journey occupying six months and being ria New Orleans and up the Mississippi river to Davenport, Iowa, which thenceforward became his home. On the journey up the Mississippi a beautiful little daughter died of scarlet fever and was buried near Randolf, Tennessee. He reached his destination on March 1, 1819, and to the time of his death was closely identified with the prosperity and growth of his adopted city. In the early days of his residence here he made frequent trips up and down the Mississippi from New Orleans to St. Paul, buying and selling lumber, and was so impressed with the future prospects of the last named city that he seriously contemplated settling there.

In 1819 he and his son, the late William Renwick, under the firm name of Renwick & Son, established a wholesale forwarding and commission business, which was located at the foot of Brady Street, in a long, low brick building which Mr. Renwick named “The Bazaar," and where they carried on the first express agency established in Davenport. His knowledge of the lumber trade and the vast resources of the northern pineries determined him to engage in that line. He first leased a mill in the western part of the city, and in 1852 purchased from Mr. Antoine Le Claire a tract of land on the river bank and built the mill which is now — 1894 - owned by Messrs. Weyerhauser and Denkman. Mr. Renwick continued in active business till 1870, when he retired and his son assumed the management of the mill. The only public office he ever held was in 1868 when he was elected Mayor of Davenport by an almost unanimous vote. The office came to him unsolicited and unsought; and when the next year the best citizens of the city publicly petitioned him to serve a second term; while he appreciated their high regard for him , his sense of duty impelled him to decline. In early life he joined the Masonic order, but in his later days he took little interest in it . While interested in all current questions of the day, he took no active part in politics. He was an honored member of the Scott County Old Settlers' Society. He was a fond student of history and loved to read scientific works, and throughout his life found companionship with his books. He had many talents, any one of which would have made him noted had he chosen to cultivate it. He had a passion for music, and played on several instruments for his own amusement, and possessed a musical voice of unusual sweetness. He had also fine poetic tastes and in his leisure moments was accustomed to dash off verses of charming melody and sweetness, many of them in the Scottish dialect, which he loved so well. Many of these were published in the local papers and in the “Scottish American Journal.” He had a keen, active mind, with ready wit, a genial manner, and a fine sense of humor, which made him a most pleasing and entertaining companion. Seated in his library, where his friends loved best to find him, he was wont to quote, referring to his books, an old Scotch poet,

Wl' these, quo' he, on braes I crack a'kings.

The Bible was his favorite book in his latter days. When twelve years old he was baptized into the fellowship of the old Covenanter Church. During his life in Davenport he was an active member of the First Presbyterian Church. He had an intensely religious nature and loved to study the religious beliefs of peoples in all ages. He abhorred hypocrisy and bigotry and intolerance, and hated a lie. On July 26, 1876, was celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of Mr. and Mrs. Renwick's married life. Two years later, December 4, 1878, Mrs. Renwick died at the old home. In 1888, on January 12, their only son, William Renwick, died ; and three years later occurred the decease of their grandson, James Congdon, a young man of great promise, and son of their eldest daughter, Mrs. Elizabeth Congdon, who lives in Atlanta, Georgia. After the decease of his wife Mr. Renwick continued to reside on the old homestead with his two unmarried daughters, the Misses Margaret and Rebecca Renwick. Only two grandchildren survive. They are : William Goodwin Renwick, son of William Renwick, deceased, nine years old, and Miss Mary Congdon of Atlanta.

Mr. Renwick was a man of sensitive nature ; always careful of the feelings of others; generous, pure-hearted, fair-minded, upright and manly in all his dealings and intercourse with men ; a true friend and a devoted husband and father. After an illness of many months he passed away at his home, on January 15, 1894, in the eighty-ninth year of his age. And to almost the end he retained his interest in the progress of the world and the questions of the day.


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