Margaret (Truby) Irwin


MRS. MARGARET (TRUBY) IRWIN, of Freeport, Armstrong county, is the widow of John R. Irwin, a notably successful construction engineer, and a descendant of the Truby and Murphy families, whose connection with the early history of this section may well be a matter of pride to their posterity.

John Truby, Mrs. Irwin's paternal grandfather, was a son of Col. Christopher Truby. He married Magdalena Reymer, and we have the following record of their children: (1) Henry, a leading man of his day, was captain of a packet on the old canal, and Charles Dickens was once a passenger on his boat. He married Alvina Hill, daughter of Jacob Hill, a pioneer of this county who resided in the vicinity of Leechburg, and they had five children. (2) Simon married Elizabeth Hill, sister of his brother Henry's wife, and they had eight children. (3) William was the ancestor of Mrs. Irwin.

William Truby was a prominent citizen of Freeport, and well and favorably known all over Armstrong county. He built the first canal packet that plied between Freeport and Pittsburgh, the "John Karns," so named for one of his Freeport friends. It is said of William Truby that "if his heart had been gold he would have given it to the poor." For many years he served as a justice of the peace in Freeport, and as such benefited many in the community, sparing litigation whenever possible. He married Susan Murphy, of near Freeport, daughter of Capt. Samuel Murphy, who gave distinguished service to the Colonies during the Revolutionary war. Samuel Murphy married Elizabeth Powers, a beautiful woman, a native of Virginia and member of one of the oldest families of that State. She refused a title to marry Captain Murphy, who according to family tradition was a very homely man, but of noble character. They had a large family, namely: William, Thomas, Mary, James, Elizabeth, Margaret, Samuel, Benjamin, Nancy, Susan, John and George. Of this family Susan married William Truby. To William and Susan (Murphy) Truby were born ten children, of whom Mary Elizabeth died in childhood. James Henry, who resides at Clinton, Pa., married Mary Jane Ewing; they had no children. Nancy died in infancy. Margaret is mentioned more fully below. Julia married John G. Wolf, of Painesville, Ohio, and had eight children, six of who survived. William married Maria Patton and (second) Margaret McMillan, having two children by the first union and five by the second. Samuel J. died when four years old. George W. Died in infancy. Clarissa died in infancy. One child died unnamed.

Mrs. Susan (Murphy) Truby, the mother of this family, and her sister Margaret, who never married and lived to be ninety-nine years old, were real daughters of the Revolution, and the Pennsylvania Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution presented them gold spoons in recognition of the fact.

Margaret Truby, daughter of William and Susan (Murphy) Truby, was first married Dec. 29, 1859, to John Burns, a native of Wilmington, Del. He was killed at the battle of Fredericksburg, in December, 1862, while serving as a member of Company A, 121st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, in which command he had enlisted in Venango county. Mr. Burns came to Armstrong county in 1859 from Philadelphia. He was a cooper by trade, and became foreman in a barrel factory at Oil City, Pa. He was the father of two children, Susan Adelaide and William John, the former of whom is unmarried and resides with her mother at Freeport. The son, born April 29, 1863, several months after his father's untimely death, was killed Jan. 17, 1886, by an engine at Newark, Ohio, where he was chief of telegraphy. He was a man of unusual ability. He had married Louise Bingaman, of Myersdale, Pa., and they had one daughter, Margaret S., now the wife of Elliott Matthews, Huntsville, Ala., and mother of four children, John Irwin, Margaret S., Ada Burns and Frances Elliott.

On Sept. 16, 1869, Mrs. Burns became the wife of John R. Irwin, of Livermore, Pa., and they made their home at Freeport and Clinton. No children were born to this union, but Mr. and Mrs. Irwin adopted a son, Edwin Burns Irwin, who is now engaged in managing his mother's farm at Clinton, this county. He is married to Jessie I. Ayers, of Schenley, Pa., and they have two children, Margaret Truby and John R.

Eliphalet Irwin, of Westmoreland county, grandfather of John R. Irwin, had the following sons, all of whom became farmers in Indiana county, PA.: James, John, Joseph, Samuel, Marshall and Benjamin.

John Irwin, son of Eliphalet, married Catherine Banks.

John R. Irwin was a soldier in the Civil war, enlisting in an infantry company recruited at Saltsburg, Indiana county, which had the distinction of capturing Colonel Mosby. As superintendent of the western division of the Baltimore & Ohio railroad Mr. Irwin was regarded by railroad men as a genius in the line of construction work. His ambition led him to give up that connection to establish a company, the American Transportation Company, whose ore boats plied between Duluth and Painesville, Ohio. Two of the most noted vessels of this concern, the "Alex Nimick" and "John Harper," were in their day the largest ore boats afloat. Mr. Irwin was at the head of the company, and his associates were Harry Oliver and George E. Tener, of Pittsburgh, who writes thus of their association:

"I first became acquainted with Mr. Irwin in May, 1886, when he was sent to Painesville, Ohio, by Mr. Thomas M. King, president of the Pittsburgh & Western Railroad, Mr. Solon Humphries and John T. Terry, of New York. He was given charge of the construction work on the narrow gauge road from Youngstown (Ohio) to Lake Erie, Fairport, Ohio, being the lake terminal. The work was done with remarkable rapidity and thoroughness and was turned over completed the middle of August, two weeks ahead of the most sanguine expectations of the promoters.

"During the winter of 1886-87 Mr. Irwin was sent out by the Baltimore & Ohio Company to Newark, Ohio, and Chicago Junction, to raise a freight blockade, which he cleaned up in a most satisfactory manner, and in the following spring he took charge of the docks at Fairport Harbor for the various Pittsburgh interests represented there in the Consumers' Forwarding & Storage Company and the Pittsburgh & Northwestern Dock Company. This position he held until his death.

"During all these years I was most intimately associated with him and with his work on the railroad and dock management, and this association was most delightful in every respect. Never have I seen him faced up against a situation, no matter how hard and difficult, that he could not overcome, and through good and evil repute I always found him thoroughly business-like and reliable in every way, and with wonderful tact and ability in handling men and securing the best possible results, and always the same whole-souled, genial companion, no matter how hard or how strenuous the conditions might be.

"He was elected mayor of Painesville in 1894."

Mr. Irwin's personal character was as remarkable as his intellect. He was a man of generous nature, and his friend, Dr. Jessop, of Kittanning, speaks of him as one of the noblest men who ever lived. He died beloved by all Aug. 13, 1895. He took an active interest in the welfare of Painesville throughout the period of his residence there, and served as mayor of that place with his customary regard for his duty toward his fellow men. He was holding the office at the time of his death.

Mr. Irwin was a Scottish Rite Mason, member of the Knights Templars, a Shriner, and had attained the thirty-second degree, passing all the chairs. He was a member of the Episcopal Church, and his wife belongs to the church of that denomination at Freeport.

Source: Pages Pages 958-959, Armstrong County, Pa., Her People, Past and Present, J.H. Beers & Co., 1914
Transcribed November 1998 by Joyce Sherry for the Armstrong County Beers Project
Contributed for use by the Armstrong County Genealogy Project (

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