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Rodney Warren Tirrill

(Rodney –> Timothy –> William –> William –> Gideon –> William –> William)

From: Iowa Progressive Men pgs. 226 - 227

Tirrill, Hon. Rodney W. department commander of Iowa, G. A. R., is a native of New Hampshire. His father, Timothy Tirrill, and his mother, whose maiden name was Mary Drew, were born in the same state, where they grew up and were married. In 1850 they removed to Wisconsin, locating first at Prairie Du Sac, and later at Lodi, where the mother died in 1866 and the father in 1880.

They were plain, substantial people, whose lives were passed in the peaceful avocation of agriculture. He was a man of considerable public note, however, and conspicuous for his acquaintance with the great men of his day, as well as his work for the abolition of slavery. As an illustration of the interest he took in the promulgation of anti-slavery doctrine the instance may be related where he drove forty miles to see Fred Douglass and prevail upon that gentleman to return with him and deliver a lecture in the community where Mr. Tirrill resided. This was shortly after Douglass was freed, and so strong was the sentiment or prejudice against the negro, that no church or public building could be obtained in which to hold the speaking. But Mr. Tirrill was not to be outdone. He threw open the doors of his own home and the lecture was delivered. To the subject of this sketch the distinguished freedman some years ago said, with considerable emotion: “Timothy Tirrill was one of my first benefactors and as good a friend to the colored race as has ever lived.”

Hon. Rodney W. Tirrill is the third child of a family of nine. He was born December 22, 1835, in Colebrook, N. H., where he lived until 15 years of age, removing to Wisconsin with his parents at that time. To a common school education was added a scientific and literary course in the Wisconsin State university, and then, under the direction of his father, be began the study of law. When he was on the point of being admitted to the bar the war broke out and, for the time, changed all his plans for the future. He enlisted in October, 1861, in Company F, Twelfth Iowa infantry, and going immediately to the front, saw his first active service at Ft. Donelson, which was followed by the more serious engagement at Shiloh. He was wounded in the last named battle while his brigade was being taken prisoners. This was about 6 o'clock in the afternoon of the first day, Sunday, and he was left on the battle field until the next Tuesday morning at 3 o'clock, before being removed to the hospital boat. He was then sent to the Mound City, Ill., hospital, where he remained for six weeks, and as the wound in his thigh proved stubborn, because of neglect when first inflicted, he was given a furlough. The injury proved more serious than was first supposed, and he was accordingly discharged January 3, 1863.

In 1863 Mr. Tirrill was elected superintendent of schools of Delaware county, at which time he settled permanently in Manchester, and, in addition to his duties as superintendent, turned his attention to real estate, insurance, loans and the securing of pensions for soldiers and their heirs. The official position he held for four years, declining a re-election in 1867, and the other lines he still follows.

It has been one of the settled rules of Mr. Tirrill, not to sacrifice the fruits of his labors for the uncertainty of political honors, yet it could hardly happen that a man of his talents should not have been called on to fill some positions of public trust. He was a member of the school board of Manchester for twenty-one years, refusing further election, and has in no small measure contributed to the educational interests of the county. While county [p.227] superintendent, he introduced the first map drawings, and in many other ways rendered signal service.

In the fall of 1879, without solicitation on his part, Mr. Tirrill was nominated by acclamation for the state senate, was elected and served for four years. He declined a re-nomination. Representing a district where the dairying interests had reached considerable proportions, his mind was early drawn to the necessity for the passage of certain measures for the protection of that industry, and one of his first acts was the drafting of a bill requiring that all packages of oleomargarine in the state be branded as such; and he succeeded by his personal efforts and influence in having it enacted into a law, which from all information he has been able to obtain was the first law of the kind ever enacted in any state of the nation. He served on the committees on schools, congressional districts, insurance, suppression of intemperance, fish and game, the relocation of the girls' department of the state reform school, penitentiary and boys' reform school.

He was married December 30, 1860, to Miss Eliza J. Weeks, then of Delaware County, this state, but a native of Massachusetts. She is a lady of fine literary attainments, having matriculated for a two-years' course in the State university at the same time her husband entered upon a course of similar length in the law department of that institution. While he was securing the degree of B. L. she was earning honors in German, French and English literature. Two children were born to them, a son and daughter, L. Claire and John R. W., but both were taken by death in 1878.

Mr. Tirrill is a thirty-second degree Mason, an Odd Fellow and a member of the G. A. R. He was elected department commander for Iowa G. A. R. in 1898.

Additional information from: Members of the Grand Army – Iowa

Commanders of the Iowa Department of the Grand Army of the Republic: Rodney W. Tirrill

June 1898 to June 1899

"One of the best known and most highly esteemed citizens of Delaware County" for many years was Rodney W. Tirrill of Manchester, pioneer, veteran, legislator, and philanthropist. Mr. Tirrill was born in New Hampshire, on December 22, 1835. He resided for a time in Wisconsin, attended college and taught school there, and in 1856 came to Iowa, locating at Manchester. At the outbreak of the Civil War he enlisted as a private in Company F, Twelfth Iowa Volunteers, and was soon promoted to the rank of sergeant. At the battle of Shiloh he was severely wounded and left on the field of battle for a day and two nights. From this he only partially recovered and was later honorably discharged from service because of wounds. After he returned to his home, he was elected county superintendent of schools. Later he entered business in Manchester. He had a keen interest in public affairs and in 1879 was elected to the State Senate, where he served for four years. He was for many years an active member of the Grand Army of the Republic, with membership in W. A. Morse Post. At the Twenty-fourth Annual State Encampment at Sioux City in 1898, Comrade Tirrill was elected to the State Senate, where he served for four years. He was for many years an active member of the Grand Army of the Republic, with membership in W. A. Morse Post. At the Twenty-fourth Annual State Encampment at Sioux City in 1898, Comrade Tirrill was elected Department Commander - an office that he filled with honor to himself and to the Department. In later years he traveled extensively, gave liberally to local enterprises, and was widely known for his philanthropic spirit.

American Civil War Soldiers

Rodney W Tirrill

Born on 22 December 1835.

Residence: Clayton County, Iowa

Service Record:

  • Enlisted as a Sergeant on 15 October 1861 at the age of 26.
  • Enlisted in Company F, 12th Infantry Regiment Iowa on 02 November 1861.
  • Wounded on 15 February 1862 at Fort Donelson, Tennessee.
  • Wounded on 06 April 1862 at Shiloh, Tennessee.
  • Discharged Company F, 12th Infantry Regiment Iowa on 05 January 1863
  • Rodney and his wife, Eliza Jane Weeks Tirrill are buried in the Oakland Cemetery in Manchester, Delaware, Iowa.

    Many thanks to Judy Copp for finding much of this information and for providing the photos

    Lee Drew --- 25 Oct 2003