from Past and Present of Mahaska County, Iowa by Manoah Hedge The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co. 1906
Nature seems to have intended that man should enjoy a season of rest in his later years. In youth he possesses the vigor and energy which bring him hope and promise and which enable him to put forth earnest effort and effective labor in the business world. Later these same qualities are guided by more mature judgment and experience and therefore prove more resultant factors in business life, and then in the evening of one's days when one's powers are somewhat diminished the individual should have accumulated a competence enabling him to put aside the more arduous cares and responsibilities. Such has been the career of John W. Irwin, who is now living retired in New Sharon after many years' active connection with agricultural pursuits. He was born in Richland county, Ohio, November 11, 1830. His father, Jared Irwin, was a native of Pennsylvania, born in 1802, while his death occurred in Richland county, Ohio, in 1838, at the comparatively early age of thirty-six years. For several years he engaged in teaching school and at the time of his demise was clerk of the court of common pleas. He wedded Miss Mary Bund, a native of Richland county, Ohio, who died four years previous to her husband's death, and later Mr. Irwin married again. By the first union there were three children: John W.; Jared, who went to California in 1850 and died there in 1864; and one who died in infancy. By the second marriage there was one child, Mary J.. the wife of J. E. Ritter, who died in Mansfield, Ohio. John W. Irwin was only four years old at the time of his mother's death and after four years his father passed away. A sister of his father was appointed guardian for him and his brother. He was sent to the common schools and later spent two years as a student in Vermilion College, now an auxiliary of Wooster University in Ohio, pursuing there a classical course. At the age of eighteen years he entered business life as an apprentice at the printer's trade but not meeting with the success in that work that he had anticipated he decided to learn the jeweler's trade, at which he served a three-years' apprenticeship. He afterward worked in that line at different places to perfect his knowledge of the trade-a custom which was called "tramping" and which was common at that time with all trades people. In 1855 he arrived in Oskaloosa, Iowa, where he established a jewelry store where the courthouse now stands, and as it was the custom of the merchants to plant trees in front of their places of business Mr. Irwin did so and there is now a fine tree standing in the courthouse yard which was set out by him. While engaged in business in Oskaloosa Mr. Irwin was married, on the 19th of April, 1860, to Miss Mary E. Forby, who was born in Albany, New York, December 16, 1836, and was a daughter of George and Elizabeth (Heiny) Forby, the former a native of England and the latter of Albany, New York. In 1855 Mr. and Mrs. Forby came to Iowa, settling in Lincoln township, Poweshiek county, making their home upon a farm until called to their final rest. After his marriage Mr. Irwin continued in the jewelry business until he enlisted for service in the army. He took his wife to her parents in Poweshiek county in September, 1863, at Grinnell, Iowa, joined Company C of the Fourteenth Iowa Infantry as a private. He was with that regiment until the battle of Shiloh, when the members of the company became scattered and later Mr. Irwin did detached duty until honorably discharged on the 13th of May, 1865. He was offered a commission but did not accept. He was never wounded nor taken prisoner but became ill with pneumonia during the service and his health was impaired through the hardships and rigors of the war, so that the country now grants him a pension of $12 per month, which is indeed but a slight remuneration for the sacrifice which he made for the Union cause. When the war was over Mr. Irwin located in Lincoln township, Poweshiek county, where he purchased eighty acres of wild land. He built the first dwelling on the farm and at once began to turn the sod and in course of time harrowed and planted his fields and eventually gathered good crops. He afterward bought one hundred and twenty acres additional and made his home continuously upon his farm until 1893, when he removed to New Sharon, where he has since resided, having a beautiful home on West Market street. In all of his farm work he was enterprising and energetic and his careful management and keen discrimination in his business affairs brought him a gratifying competence that now enables him to live retired. Unto Mr. and Mrs. Irwin have been born five children, of whom four are living: Elizabeth, now the wife of James H. Allen, a resident of Union Mills; Jared, who died at the age of seventeen years; William A., a hardware merchant of Red Oak, Iowa; George F., who is living in Pittsburg, Kansas; and Gaylord, a resident of Lincoln, Nebraska. With the exception of the last named all of the children who have reached mature years are now married and have families. Both Mr. and Mrs. Irwin hold membership in the Presbyterian church and have a large circle of warm friends in New Sharon and in the locality where they have so long made their home. In politics he has always been a democrat, advocating free trade and at the same time being a believer in "sound money." He served on the school board and while living on the farm filled the different township offices, discharging his duties with promptness and fidelity. He also served for four years and two months as postmaster of New Sharon under Grover Cleveland, for one year was a member of the village council and has been secretary of the Mahaska County Agricultural Association. He is a well posted man, reading broadly, and he keeps in touch with the trend of modern thought and with the world's progress. His rest has been well earned and is richly deserved, and in the evening of his days he is now surrounded by many of the comforts and luxuries which go to make life worth the living.
Past and Present of Mahaska County, Iowa
Mahaska County, Iowa Genealogy