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James D. Irish


Posted By: Fran Hunt, Volunteer
Date: 10/3/2001 at 12:35:14

From the Portrait and Biographical Album of Jefferson and Van Buren Counties – 1890
James D. Irish is numbered among the early settlers of Van Buren County, and is a respected citizen of Keosauqua. Not only in this county, but in other counties he has lived the life of a pioneer and could we give a complete record of his career it would constitute a story of thrilling interest. He was born in Licking County, Ohio, on November 10, 1825, and is a son of James M. Irish, whose ancestors emigrated from Holland to America during colonial days. His mother, whose maiden name was Elizabeth Dibble, was a native of Connecticut and the two young people with their respective families removed to Rensselaer County New York, when they became acquainted and were married. The year 1816 witnessed their emigration to the wilds of Licking County Ohio, where they resided for eleven years. Having a taste for pioneer pursuits and being by nature ably fitted for the hardships of frontier life, Mr. Irish, in 1827, resumed his westward journey and located in Madison County, in the Territory of Indiana. That region was then thought to be almost beyond the borders of civilization. In fact, the Irish family was one of three first families to locate within the county, two other gentlemen by the names of Makepeace and Allen, with their wives and children, having settled in the community about the same time. Time passed on and the county became more thickly inhabited but it was many years before the comforts and luxuries of the East found their way to those far western homes. Many hardships and difficulties were endured, including the arduous task of developing a farm from the hitherto unbroken land. Mr. Irish was a man of more that ordinary ability, and his labors in behalf of the building up of the county should be remembered with gratitude by its residents of today. He aided not a little in its advancement and progress and was the founder of several of its early enterprises, having built the first saw and grist mills, and also erected and operated the first woolen mills in Madison County. He was quite eccentric also. His bank consisted of barrels of grain stored away in his chamber, in which he deposited his surplus cash. He would not loan money, preferring rather to give it away, yet he was generous and open hearted and his peculiarities added rather a charm than a drawback to his character. His death occurred at the age of eight four years while he was visiting in Texas. His wife, who war reared a Missionary Baptist and was a sincere Christian lady, died in Indiana in the eighty-third year of her age.
A family consisting of thirteen children, nine of whom lived to be adults, was born unto this worthy couple. Samuel, the eldest, died in Madison County Indiana; Elizabeth, married Cromwell wheeler and both are now deceased; Hannah became the wife of Alfred Makepeace, the marriage ceremony, the first in Madison County, Indiana, being performed by Mr. Allen, before mentioned, who had been a Justice of the Peace in Ohio and claimed that his jurisdiction reached into the Territory of Indiana. Clarissa A., the next younger, became the wife of Joseph G.S. Hayward, of Richland County Wisconsin; William C. died in Madison County Indiana, at the age of twenty-eight years; C.W. is supposed to have been killed during the War of the Rebellion; Maria A. wedded Garrett McAllister and both died in Madison County Indiana; James D. whose name heads this sketch, is the next in order of birth; Alvira is the wife of Captain T.W. Richmond, a soldier of the late war now residing in Scotland County Missouri.
As will be seen, James D. Irish is the only member of the family residing in Van Buren County. His boyhood days were passed in Indiana amid the wild scenes of pioneer life and in the log schoolhouse with its puncheon floor and slab seats he acquired his education. An aperture made in the logs and covered with oiled paper served to let in the light and a huge fireplace occupied almost the entire end of the building. While the scholars were engaged in recitation or the preparation of their lessons, which, by the way, they studied aloud, the teacher would employ his hands in making split brooms or ax helves, while his brain as intent on the progress of his pupils and their conduct. Mr. Irish remained at home assisting his father in the labors of the farm until twenty-four years of age when he was married and sought a home of his own. On February 18, 1849, he was joined in wedlock with Miss Orlena J. Antrim, who was born in Champaign County Ohio, August 7, 1830. Four children graced their union—Florence A., now the widow of George H. Brickley; Elizabeth M. Widow of William L. Tyson; Alonzo W. of Oklahoma; and Samuel E. an attorney of law of Keosauqua.
In June 1853, Mr. Irish accompanied by his family came to Van Buren County, and after a short stay in Keosauqua, went to Milton, where he built the first mill in that township. The following year he sold out to the Miller Brothers, and in 1856, company with Judge Mayne, he erected a sawmill four miles below Keosauqua but the same year sold his interest to his partner and returned to Milton, repurchased a half interest in the mill property in that place. Early in 1859, his wife died and he again married, his present wife being Cecilia Dahlburg, daughter of Peter and Ingar Nelson Dahlburg, who were natives of Sweden. Many enterprises have occupied the attention of Mr. Irish in Van Buren County. In 1861, he removed to Keosauqua where he embarked in the grocery business and in 1863 he settled upon a farm, engaging in its cultivation for four years when he returned to the county seat, having made a contract to carry mail between that place and Memphis Missouri. Twelve years he spent in that manner, when in March 1876, he removed to his present home where he has since resided. By his second marriage there are four children—Curtis F., a court reporter of Des Moines Iowa; H. Walter who also is a court reporter and stands at the head of his profession in the State; J. Sherman, assistant bookkeeper and stenographer of the Des Moines Buggy Company and Charles T. who is employed as a carriage trimmer in Des Moines.
Mr. Irish is a Republican in politics and entertains strong prohibitions sentiments. Both he and his wife are earnest workers in the cause of temperance and Mrs. Irish is a charter member of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and was the first President of the county organization. She is interested in any form of temperance or social purity work, together with all other branches of Christian, philanthropic and reformatory measures. In his social relations Mr. Irish is an Odd Fellow. During the early days of his manhood he became identified with that organization as a member of the Pendleton Lodge, of Indian, and since coming west, he has held membership in Keosauqua Lodge No. 3 I.O.O.F. His wife has been initiated into the Rebecca degree of that order and was honored with the position of N.G. Both are members of the Methodist Episcopal Church and throughout the city and surrounding country where they have so long made their home, they are known as upright and honorable people, worthy of the high regard of all with whom they come in contact.
I am not related and I am posting this biography for those who may find this person in their family history.


Van Buren Biographies maintained by Rich Lowe.
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