Crawford county owes much to those men who came west of the Mississippi river when their principal fortune consisted of their strong arms and their indomitable will. By undaunted perseverance they carved out for themselves honorable names and a competence, becoming financially independent. Of this class of men is Henry Shirtcliff, now living retired at Denison.
He was born in Yorkshire, England, September 6, 1830, a son of Edward and Hannah (Makin) Shirtcliff, both natives of England. The father was educated for the Episcopal ministry, but did not take kindly to that calling, so he began clerking in his father's store and afterward became a successful merchant. He emigrated to America and settled at Lynnville, Morgan county, Illinois, where he engaged in general merchandising. He made a trip to England at the time of Queen Victoria's coronation and bought a stock of goods there, shipping it to this country. The boat to which it was transferred sank in the Mississippi river, the goods being recovered two weeks later in a badly damaged condition.
Mr. Shirtcliff made a fair start in life but died at the beginning of a useful career, in 1840, being then only thirty-six years old. His wife died about 1875, at the age of seventy-three years. She was a faithful member of the Methodist church.
Edward Shirtcliff, the paternal grandfather of our subject, was a native of England. He was also a dry-goods merchant and was the father of three children: Edward, Sarah and Jane.
The maternal grandfather, Richard Makin, was a shoe merchant, and his wife was Catharine Greenwood before her marriage. There was one son and several daughters in their family. The son died when a small boy and the daughters were Isabella, Elizabeth, Hannah, Harriet, Ann, and Rebecca.
There were four children in the family of Edward and Hannah Shirtcliff, namely: Frederick Edward, who is now living at Kilbourne, Mason county, Illinois; Henry, the subject of this review; Catharine, who became the wife of Fred Smithson and is now deceased; and Alfred, also deceased.
Henry Shirtcliff came with his parents to America when two years of age and grew to manhood near Jacksonville, in Morgan county, Illinois, receiving his education in private schools. He began his business career by working as a farm hand and later engaged in farming on his own account in Morgan county, also being identified with the live stock, milling, merchandising and butchering business. At thirty-five years of age, in 1865, he went to Minnesota and continued in that state for eight years, but believing that better opportunities were presented in Iowa, he came to Crawford county and in 1873 began cultivating a farm two miles north of Deloit, in Goodrich township. Three years later he removed to Vail, where he engaged in the live stock business for seventeen or eighteen years. In 1905 he retired, taking up his home at Denison with his daughter, Mrs, Ainsworth. He is the owner of a well improved farm of two hundred acres in Willow township.
On the 5th of December, 1851, Mr. Shirtcliff was united in marriage to Miss Frances Colley, who was born in Yorkshire, England, in 1827. Nine children came to bless this union: Edward, Fred, Fannie, Edith, Minnie, Alice, John, Charles and Katie. Edward, now engaged in the land business in Alberta county, Canada, married Miss Rose Nixon and they have two sons, Alfred and Henry. Fred is in charge of the home farm in Willow township. He married Miss Hattie Cady and they have two children, Frankie and Fred. Fannie married Rol Riley and became the mother of thirteen children, but she is now deceased. Edith married John Ainsworth, of Denison, a record of whom appears elsewhere in this work.
In 1906 Mr. Shirtcliff was called upon to mourn the loss of his beloved wife, whose many estimable qualities greatly endeared her to the entire community. She was a sincere member of the Episcopal church, but her husband has never been identified with any religious denomination.
Since 1865 he has been connected with the Masonic order, having been made a Master Mason at that time. Politically he affiliates with the republican party. He cast his first vote for John C. Fremont, "the Pathfinder," and has voted for every republican candidate for president since that time. He served as a member of the town board in Vail but has never aspired to political honors, preferring to devote his attention to his private affairs. Today he is recognized as one of the substantial citizens of the county and has the satisfaction of knowing that he has gained his position almost entirely through his own unremitting diligence. A thorough gentleman and a citizen who has assisted materially in advancing the general welfare, he well merits the respect and esteem in which he is held.
Source: History of Crawford County, Iowa. Vol. II. Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1911.