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Shelby County


1889 History Index

Biographical History of Shelby and Audubon Counties
History of Shelby County, Iowa



Irwin is a flourishing village in Jefferson Township. The plat, which is situated on sections 31 and 32, township 81, range 37, was filed for record June 6, 1881. It is on the banks of the Nishnabotna River, and is an important station on the Kirkman branch of the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad. It is fourteen miles northeast of Harlan, and in 1880 had a population of 250. It was named after E. W. Irwin, whose family were among the first people who settled in the northeastern part of the county. The place was first known as Tibbittsville.

The first to engage in business was E. J. Kimball & Son, who opened a general store in 1879, two years prior to the coming of the railroad, which was graded in 1880 and completed in 1881.

The first to deal in hardware was E. J. Trowbridge, in 1881. The stock passed through different hands, and at present belongs to E. M. Huntington.

The first to deal in furniture was W. Granger & Son, who commenced in the spring of 1882. Harmon & Bumphrey dealt in furniture in 1883 and 1884.

The first to deal in agricultural implements was J. H. Dudley, but the stock is now in the hands of E. M. Huntington, in connection with the hardware business.

The pioneer lumber dealers were Derrick Brothers & Lampson, who opened a yard in 1881. They sold to S. H. Bowman in 1883. In 1882 the Green Bay Lumber Company engaged in the sale of lumber, and in 1888 purchased the stock of Mr. Bowman, and are now the sole dealers.

The first grain buyer at Irwin was Louis Bechtell, who erected an elevator. Hancock & Company also built and elevator. The second dealer was N. B. Stevens & Co., whose elevator was destroyed by fire in 1884, and rebuilt. This, with the residence of Harry Irwin, which was burned in the fall of 1885, is the only property lost by fire in the village.

E. W. Hoyt built a hotel known as the "Ogden." This was the first hotel, and was among the first buildings erected. It is now called the Redmon House, and is managed by G. W. Redmon.

The first harness-maker in the village was E. A. Bigelow. At present this trade is represented by H. W. Muldoon.

The first man to wield the sledge and blow the glowing forge, as a blacksmith, was Charles Franks, who with Polling & McConnell are the present blacksmiths; the latter named also do wagon work.

The millinery business was first represented by Miss Mary Fogarty. At present it is in the hands of Miss Anna Cooper.

The Bank of Irwin was established in the fall of 1884. H. Humphrey is the cashier. The bank does a general loan and insurance business.

The first practicing physician was Dr. I. M. Harsh, who located in 1879. The present physicians of Irwin are Dr. S. H. Waters and Dr. W. S. Branson.

The first to deal in drugs was J. A. Harmon, who came in 1881, and still continues. Branson & Granger engaged in the drug trade in June, 1883, and are still in trade. Dr. Branson, of this firm, has practiced medicine since 1882.

Samuel Kimball started the first livery stable in 1882; it is now operated by Peter Will.


was established at this point in 1879, and first called Tibbettsville, in honor of William Tibbetts. The first postmaster was G. B. Thompson; then came D. S. Irwin, J. C. Piper, W. W. Gibbs, H. D. Lacey, E. J. Trowbridge and J. A. Harmon, the present incumbent, who took the office in 1886. It became a money-order office in August, 1882, the first order being granted to Thomas Bras, payable at Chicago, for the amount of $13.75. The full number of orders issued up to November 13, 1888, was 3,711.


The people of Irwin may well be proud of the record they have made in attempting to sustain schools and churches. The town being small, each denomination has found hard work to keep up their distinct organizations in religious affairs, but all have contributed as far as possible toward such work. The first school-house was built at an expense of $500, raised by private subscriptions. This served until 1884, when a public school-house was erected at an expense of about $3,700. It is a two-story frame structure, having four rooms, two of which are now in use. Two capable instructors are employed at present.

The religious societies of Irwin are the Campbellites, United Presbyterians and Methodists.

The Methodist Society belongs to the Kirkman Circuit, and was organized in 1881, with fourteen members. They have held services at private houses and in the Town Hall. Their present membership is about sixty-five. Rev. Fansett, who resides at Kirkman, preaches once in two weeks at Irwin.

The United Presbyterian Society was formed at an early day, but the organization was perfected in 1885, when a church edifice was erected at a cost of $1,800, which seats about 250 persons. The membership is about thirty. At present they have no regular pastor or services. It is a missionary point, having never made a call for a pastor on their own account. The society owns a neat parsonage, costing $800. The first who served as minister for this people was Rev. Turner, who remained a year and removed to Kansas.

The Campbellite Society was organized in 1886, with a membership of twenty-four. They now number about thirty. At this date (November, 1888), they have services once a month, the minister in charge at Exira preaching for them.


The place supports a Masonic, Odd Fellows, Legion of Honor and Grand Army Post.

Sidius Masonic Lodge, No. 444, was instituted in the autumn of 1883, with nineteen charter members. The first officers elected were: W. W. Gibbs, W. M.; Joel C. Woods, J. W.; G. L. Hall, S. W.; George Dunham, Secretary; M. Reynold, Treasurer. The lodge now numbers about thirty; they meet in a rented hall. The present officers are: P. J. Brant, W. M.; J. D. Blades, J. W.; W. S. Branson, S. W.; M. Reynolds, Treasurer, and O. L. Russell, Secretary.

Ellsworth Odd Fellows Lodge, No. 473, of Irwin, was instituted in March, 1883, with a membership of thirty-five, of whom the following were first officers: R. P. Roberts, N. G.; E. A. Bigelow, V. G.;p D. T. Quinn, Secretary; J. A. Harmon, Treasurer. The number at present is thirty. The society have a well-furnished hall of their own.

Botna Lodge, No. 137, of Legion of Honor, was formed in 1881, with a membership of eighteen. E. J. Trowbridge was the first president. At present (1888) A. S. Morey is president. The order now remains about the same in number as when organized.

J. R. Slack Grand Army Post, No. 136, was mustered in 1881, with a charter membership of twenty-six; it now numbers twenty-eight, in good standing. They lease a hall and own a dozen stands of arms. E. J. Trowbridge is the present commander.


The commercial interests of Irwin in November, 1888, were as follows:

T. N. Harord,general stock.
Paulsen & Steenhusen,general dealer.
H. R. Allen,general dealer.
E. M. Huntington,hardware and farm implements.
W. Granger & Son,furniture.
Branson & Granger,druggists.
J. A. Harmon,druggist.
Miss Anna Cooper,milliner.
Green Bay Lumber Company,lumber dealers.
H. W. Muldoon,harness-maker.
W. S. Branson,physician and surgeon.
S. H. Waters,physician and surgeon.
Polling & McConnell,blacksmiths.
Chas. Franks,blacksmith.
Peter Will,livery stable.
H. Humphrey,general insurance.
Bank of Irwin,H. Humphrey, cashier.
Frank Humphrey,barber shop.
D. S. Irwin,attorney at law.
Hancock & Co.,grain dealers.
N. B. Stevens,grain and lumber.
Redmon Hotel,G. W. Redmon, proprietor.
R. A. Owen,restaurant.

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Transcribed by Cheryl Siebrass, August, 2015 from "Biographical History of Shelby and Audubon Counties", Chicago: W. S. Dunbar & Co., 1889, pg. 277-279.

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