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Delaware County, Iowa


 Biography Directory

Hon. Rodney W. Tirrill

Soldier, Financier, Legislator, Philanthropist



     One of the best known and most highly esteemed citizens of Delaware county is Hon. Rodney W. Tirrill, of Manchester, pioneer, Civil War veteran, financier, legislator, public-spirited citizen and philanthropist. Mr. Tirrill was born in Stewartstown, New Hampshire, December 22, 1835, being one of a family of nine children born to Timothy and Mary (Drew) Tirrill, both likewise natives of the Granite state. Four of the children survive. Timothy Tirrill was a farmer and was also a man of more than ordinary literary education. In addition to being one of the best linguists in his native state, he was a legal advisor of no mean ability, possessed fine talents for administration and a sound sense of justice and equity. He became by common consent the "people's chancellor" and was not more admired for his knowledge than he was respected for the just and generous use he made of it. In 1850 he removed from New Hampshire to Lodi, Wisconsin, where both he and his wife passed away, Mrs. Tirrill in 1866, at the age of fifty-six, and Mr. Tirrill in 1880, at the age of seventy-five.

     Rodney W. Tirrill was reared to agriculture pursuits and early learned the habit of industry, thrift and self-reliance characteristics that have been dominating influences in laying the foundation for his business success. He

received a good education in the public schools of Colebrook, New Hampshire, until the age of fifteen years, when he came west with his parents and attended the State University, at Madison, Wisconsin. He had previously begun to read law under his father, and, continuing his studies, completed all the books necessary to secure admission to the bar. He would have been admitted but for the fact that he desired to take a course in a law school and had just prepared to enter the Albany Law School of Albany, New York, when the Civil war broke out and he tendered his services for the defense of the Union. He had, however, taught school for a number of years, beginning when quite young, and was an instructor in Lodi Academy, Lodi, Wisconsin. He arrived in Delaware county in November, 1856, at which time Manchester had a population of about five hundred, and since that time he has been a resident of the town.

      His enlistment for services in the Civil war was in October, 1861, in Company F, Twelfth Iowa Volunteer Infantry, as a private, but he was soon promoted to sergeant. At the battle of Shiloh, April 6, 1862, he was shot in the left thigh and was not found and cared for until Tuesday morning, although he was wounded Sunday evening. He partially recovered after a time and was discharged January 1863, after which he returned to this county.

In 1864 Mr. Tirrill was elected county superintendent of schools and served acceptably in that office for four years. He established a war claim business in Manchester and continued to conduct the same for twenty years in connection with his other business activities. He has an almost unerring judgment in financial matters and has accumulated much more than a competence. The counsel and advice of his worthy companion, with whom he has lived for a period of fifty-four years, has been the inspiration to help him in his life worl. His business acumen and integrity have gained him the respect of those who come in contact with him and as a citizen none stands higher. In 1893 both he and his wife attended the State University at Iowa City, he taking a law course and she studing English literature, French, and German. They were the two oldest students enrolled in any institution of the state at the time. In 1894 he was admitted to the bar and has found his legal knowledge of great value in his business. He has taken a keen interest in public affairs and in 1879 was nominated by acclamation, and without solicitation on his part, as candidate fot state senator, a compliment never before tendered in Delaware county. He was elected by a handsome majority and served in that body for four years. He was active both upon the floor and in committee rooms and among other services that he preformed in the interest of the state he drafted the first oleomargarine bill passed by the legislature and the first passed in the United States, and supported many other progressive and important measures.

     On the 30th of December, 1860, Mr. Tirrill was united in marriage with Miss Eliza Jane Weeks, who was born in Massachusetts on the 6th of October, 1836, a daughter of Samuel Weeks, Jr., and his wife, who was in her maidenhood Miss Ruamy Hall Tinker. Both of Mrs. Tirrill's parents were natives of Massachusetts and her paternal grandfather was a soldier in the Revolutionary war. Mrs. Tirrill remembers her grandfather well and recalls his amusing her as a child. Her father removed to Clayton county, Iowa and settled upon a farm, becoming one of the pioneer residents of the locality. His first home there was a log house, but although the room availability for the entertainment of guests was very limited, the spirit of hospitality of the frontier welcomed all who needed shelter. Samuel Weeks, Jr., died upon the farm in Clayton county in 1880 and his wife in 1890. Mrs. Tirrill is a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. To Mr. and Mrs. Tirrill two children were born: L. Claire, who died at the age of eleven years; and John R. W., who died when a child of seven.

     Senator Tirrill is a republican and has served upon the school board in Manchester for twenty-one years. Fraternally he is a thirty-second degree Mason and has held most of the chairs in the various branches of the order to which he belongs. He is a member of W. A. Morse Post, G. A. R., and in 1908 was department commander of the state of Iowa.

     Mr. and Mrs. Tirrill have made two trips to Europe, crossing the Atlantic the first time in 1900 and the second time in 1904.  Mapped out in their itinerary were the Nile and Holy Land, which they visited and as the sailed from San Francisco they almost circled the globe before returning home.

     No citizen of Manchester has done more for the public good than Senator Tirrill. The many deeds of private charity preformed by the Tirrills probably will never reach the surface; their benefactions known to the public were divulged only by recipients themselves. Of their public beneficences the details will be found in the first volume of this history. Suffice it to say here that the presentation to the people of Manchester of a beautiful tract of land for park purposes is the cap sheaf of all the good deeds of Mr. and Mrs. Tirrill; it is the culminating evidence of good citizenship. Both have always held the esteem and admiration of the entire community, a full realization of which is to them a boon greater than the attainment of riches, and for that reason dearly and sincerely cherished.       


~ source: History of Delaware County, Iowa and its People, Illustrated, Volume II.

The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1914, Chicago. Page 58 - 62.

               Call Number 977.7385 H2m; LDS microfilm #934937.