'I' - Biographies from Miller County People

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By Wilma Lawson Link, 1981

Many "get rich quick" stories were drifting from the western part of the country to the eastern states during the eighteen hundreds. Such stories as the discovery of gold, locating rich hunting grounds, and seeing fertile farming lands, created an air of excitement in people in many eastern states such as Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Tennessee and others. As a result, many families began moving west. They came any way available, such as oxen or horse pulled wagons, horseback, by river traffic and, possibly, by foot.

This story concerns the William Laird Irwin family who came to Iberia, Richwoods Township, in 1859. They came from Union County, Pennsylvania, and a small town named Mifflinburg. The likely water route they took to Missouri would probably be: Williamsport, down the Susquehanna River (west branch); portaged to the Allegheny River; to Pittsburgh, the Ohio River to the Mississippi River to St. Louis; up the Missouri River to the Osage to Tuscumbia, Missouri, where they unloaded their belongings; thus by wagon to Iberia, Missouri.

William Laird Irwin and wife, Sarah Livingston Irwin, arrived with their children, George, Mary, James William, Laura and John. Later, in Missouri, Sally, Holmes, Charles and Alfred were born.

According to the 1860 Census, other Pennsylvania families came to Missouri. Some of these families include the Groffs, Ludwig, Brown, Benage, Tallman, Moore, Noyes and others.

This story includes only the descendants of the William Laird Irwin family.


George and Mary were the two oldest children of the William Laird Irwin family. They moved away so have no descendants here. John Irwin married Nancy Ann Hopkins and their life time was spent in Iberia. Their four children were Myrtle, Earl, Jessie and Sedden. Sedden, the youngest, passed away in 1978 and his wife, Clara Bort, in 1980. They had one son, Kenneth, who lives in Texas. Earl and wife Eva Casey, lived in Iberia. They had no children.

Myrtle married Professor John Tripp, who was Superintendent of Schools at Richland and Crocker for years. Their daughter, Helen Ball, lives in Michigan. She has recently completed a book on the William Laird Irwin family which should be of interest to the descendants of the family.

Jessie Irwin married Clay Perkins, who was part owner of the former Irwin and Perkins Garage in Iberia. They had one son, Robert, who is married to Norma Rehm, and lives in Iberia. Robert operates the former Irwin and Perkins Garage and farms. Norma is a teacher in the Iberia School System.

Robert and Norma have four children, Dennis, Steven, Susan and Patricia. Dennis and Steven live in Iberia and Help in the operation of the family business. Both wives are employed by the Iberia School System, and both have one child each. Patricia is teaching in another Missouri School system, but probably calls Iberia her home.

Susan is married and lives out of state.


James Irwin, one of the older children of William Laird Irwin, was born in Pennsylvania but died at an early age in Missouri. Another son, Alfred, passed away at an early age. Neither have descendants.

Sally or Sarah Irwin, daughter of William Laird Irwin, married Charles Farnham of Iberia. Their children were Laura, Frank, Maude, Holmes, Stanley, and Bertha.

Bertha married Walter Short; Maude married Otis Wright; and Laura married Fred Williams. It is doubtful if they have descendants living in Miller County.

Holmes married Ava Hendricks and Stanley married Lena West. Neither son had children. Frank Farnham married Rosa Alma Adams. There were two girls, Evelyn and Edna. Evelyn married Jessie Bond and they had one daughter, Geraldine, who now lives in Jefferson City, Missouri.

Edna married Emil Pemberton, who lives west of Iberia, Missouri. Their five children are: Kenneth, Robert, Alice, Charles and Ronald. Only Charles remains in Miller County. HE is married to Rosalee Thornsberry and they have three children.

Holmes Irwin married Ida Dickerson. Their children were Beulah Irwin Skaggs, Ralph, Bessie Irwin Bond, and Curtis. Curtis is the other surviving grandchild of William Laird Irwin, the other one being Dr. Ray W. Irwin.

Curtis lives one mile east of Iberia on the Holmes Irwin farm. He married Charlotte (Lottie) Burks. He had a number of children, most of whom live out of the county or state. One son, Ronald, lives near Iberia.

The story of the Irwin family is a little different from many other families who came to this area in the eighteen hundreds. They all had their hardships and rewards, and they, too, have made their contribution to Miller County's population and prosperity.


William Stearns Irwin of Iberia, Missouri, married Lauretta Watkins Irwin. Four children were born and Dr. Ray W. Irwin, who was born on December 28, 1896, is the only one surviving. He is married to Edna Mary Williams, and is today one of Miller County's oldest living citizens.

His early school years were spent at the Allen School and the Iberia Academy. Having graduated from the Academy, he went on to further his education at Drury College, but World War II disrupted the work there. For two years he served in the Untied States Marine Corps, but by 1920 graduated from Drury with an A.B. in English.

The next year he returned to Iberia to teach one year at the Iberia Academy. Apparently, his ambition was not fulfilled here so he moved on to Chicago University where he received an A.M. Degree in History in 1922


In the fall of 1925 an invitation was received from New York University to teach in that school. It was there that he completed his PhD in History in 1929. Then, step by step, he rose from Instructor to Assistant Professor, to Associate Professor, to Professor, and finally with retirement in 1962 became Emeritus Professor, a title which he still holds.

  • During these years many articles and books have been published by Dr. Irwin, which include:
  • Diplomatic Relations of the U.S. With the Barbary Powers
  • "A Columbian College Student in the Eighteenth Century"
  • Daniel D. Thompkins, Governor of N.Y. and Vice-President of United States
  • "Governor Tompkins and Embargo 1807-1809"
  • "The Mountain Meadows Massacre"
  • "The Stocking, Hood and Moccasin Society of N.Y. 1814-1815"
  • After retirement from New York University in 1962, the next 5 years were spent as Visiting Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas. At the present time (1981), Dr. Irwin and wife, Edna Mary, enjoy retirement on their farm just off Highway 42 in Miller County. One of their most recent projects was promoting the organization of the Miller County Historical Society and Museum at Tuscumbia.

     Dr. Ray Irwin
    Dr. Ray Irwin, 1979
     Edna Williams Irwin
    Edna Williams Irwin

    NOTE: Ray Watkins Irwin died 6 Jan 1985 and his wife, Edna Williams Irwin, died 25 Nov. 1991. Both are buried in the Iberia Cemetery.

    Dr. Irwin's siblings were Ethel Irwin who married Isaac L. Lawson. They had two children, Wilma Lawson Link and Winston Lawson. Winston resides in an adjoining county and Wilma Link resides part time in Miller County and Jefferson City.

    Laura Jane Irwin married George Johnston and lived in Iberia for years. Their six children were: Zella, David, Williams, Victor, Sallie and Anna. Of this family, two of the nearest descendants living in Miller County are Raymond Johnston and Bluford von Gremp. Bluford is the son of Anna and Dr. William von Gremp, who was a doctor at Iberia for years. Bluford's sister, Vivian, lives in Waynesville, and brother, James lives in Camdenton.

    Raymond Johnson is the son of Victor and Anna Groff Johnston. Anna, at the present time, lives at the Miller County Nursing Home near Tuscumbia, and Raymond and wife, Evelyn Williams Johnston, live near Iberia.

    Charles Irwin married Polly Pankey in 1889. The children in their family were: Esther, Roy, Stella, Mable, Otto, Opal, Donald and Blanche. Mrs. Charles Irwin was fatally injured in a run-away horse and buggy accident in 1916. Both she and a small daughter of I. Mitch Phillips of the Johnston neighborhood were killed.

    Two family members remain in Miller County today; a daughter of Roy, Mrs. Lawrence Rehagen (Capitola) of St. Elizabeth, Missouri and their daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Jerome Kliethermes of Eldon, Missouri. These articles were written by Wilma Lawson Link in 1981. Wilma died June 16, 2005 and her brother Winston died December 19, 1997. Both are buried in the Iberia Cemetery.

    © 2007 - Miller County Historical Society
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