Aldrich History Project

Chapter LII

Colonel John Irvin

IRVIN, COLONEL JOHN.  A correct and intelligent narrative of the events of the business career of John Irvin cannot be stated without referring, in a greater or less degree, to the persons who laid the foundation for that business, and which has been continued and extended by him; and inasmuch as his early experience and education in that direction was transmitted from father to son, it is eminently proper that the earliest years of that business and its extent should be reviewed in this connection.

The pioneer ancestor of this family that became a resident of Clearfield county was William Irvin, a native of Ireland, but before settling in this region was a resident of Penn's Valley, Centre county. The exact time of his coming here cannot be definitely fixed at this time. His first purchase of land (three hundred and thirty acres) was made on the 2d day of November, in the year 1811, and it is quite probable that he permanently located here soon after that purchase was made. His children were:  John, William, Jr., Alexander, Matthew, David, Jared, James, Margaret, and Mary.

John Irvin, father of our subject, and the oldest of these children, seems to have been his father's chief assistant and advisor.  The land referred to above as being acquired by William Irvin, was situated on the West Branch River at or very near Curwensville.  One of their first business ventures was the construction of a dam across the river, that sufficient water-power might be obtained. This work was performed during the year 1819.  The land was William Irvin's, the funds, also, for its prosecution were his; but the work was mainly performed under direction of John Irvin.  It may here be stated as a fact, that it was the first dam constructed on the river from its head to tide­water.  The dam being finished, a mill was, in due time, erected.  William Irvin maintained and conducted this mill and its consequent business until February, 1828, when it was sold to his sons, John and William, Jr.  The father died during the latter part of the year 1830, or in the early part of the year 1831.  John was chosen to settle the estate.

John Irvin was born in the year 1796.  As before remarked, he was the chief adviser and assistant to his father, and had, during the father's life, the charge of his business.  About the time that the mill was completed, and its financial success became an assured fact, he started a mercantile business on the hill, a short distance from the river; still later he bought lands just northeast of the town, from George F. Curwen, upon which he built a store and distillery.  In 1830 John Irvin purchased from his brother, William, his interest in the mill property, and became sole proprietor of the entire business.  He was an energetic, thorough and competent person in the transaction of every branch of business.  He acquired considerable real estate and lumbered extensively; he also ran large quantities of coal and grain down the river to the markets.  

Mr. Irvin married Eliza Lee, daughter of Jacob Lee, of Cheste township, but formerly a resident of Centre county.  Of this marriage seven children were born, viz: Martha, who married Dr. H. P. Thompson; William, who died in 1872; John, who died in infancy; John (the second), Jared F., James A., and Annie M.  John Irvin, the father of this family, died in October, 1848.  His widow still lives, at the advanced age of nearly eighty-four years. 

John Irvin, the second child so named, of the sons and daughters of John and Eliza Irvin, was born on the 8th day of March, in the year 1836, at Curwensville.  At the time of his father's death he was but twelve years of age.  He attended the common schools in season, and spent the remainder of his time in the store as clerk for his mother, who continued the business after the death of her husband.  In the spring of 1854, William and John Irvin were given, by their mother, an interest in the business, the firm thereafter being known under the style of E. Irvin & Sons.  This relation was maintained until the year 1859, when John Irvin purchased the entire business, and conducted it about one year, when, in 1860, he took as a partner, his brother, Jared F. Irvin.  They managed the business until the latter part of the summer 1862, when John, the senior partner, entered the army.  Jared continued the business thereafter in his own name, but eventually closed the store. 

John Irvin enlisted in Company B, One Hundred and Forty-ninth Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, and was mustered into service August 26, 1862.  He was elected captain, and received his commission as such, at Harrisburg.  He served with the company continuously, and was promoted to major March 23, 1863, in place of Major Speer, who was discharged for disability.  At the battle of Gettysburg, July 1, 1863, he was wounded by the bursting of a shell, and was taken to the hospital.  While there the hospital fell into the hands of the Confederate soldiers, so he was a prisoner for a time; but the enemy soon evacuated the place, leaving the inmates undisturbed.  Soon after Major Irvin rejoined his regiment.  On February 10, 1864, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-colonel, and, later, April 22, 1865, was again advanced to colonel, commanding the regiment.  He further served until mustered out by special order, August 4, 1865. 

It is said of Colonel John Irvin that he was a good commanding officer; that his bravery was undoubted; that he never flinched in time of danger, and that he never ordered his command to any position in which he was not willing to lead them.

After returning from the service Colonel Irvin (for by this deserved title has he ever since been known) resumed his former business as merchant, at Curwensville.  In 1874 his brothers, Jared F. and James, entered the firm as partners, since which, with a brief intermission in 1880, they have continued in the mercantile, milling, and lumbering business under the name and style of John Irvin & Brothers.

Source: Pages 701-702, History of Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, edited by Lewis Cass Aldrich, Syracuse, NY:   D. Mason & Co., Publishers, 1887.
Transcribed January 2011 by Alice J. Gayley for the Clearfield County Aldrich Project
Published 2011 by the Clearfield County Genealogy Project

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