Charles A., Elizabeth, and Charles E. Kading Papers, 1893-1976

Biography/History

The Irwin Family originated in Ireland. Robert Irwin Sr. was brought to the United States in 1776 as a six-month-old child. His father fought in the Revolutionary War. After the family had settled in Pennsylvania, Robert Irwin Sr. grew to be a skilled carpenter. He married Catherine Singer. They had seven children, six of whom reached adulthood.

Their oldest son, Robert Jr., came to what is now Green Bay in 1817, soon after the establishment of the Fort Howard garrison. He kept a store and traded with the Indians. Later he served as Justice of the Peace, Clerk of the Circuit Court, and Postmaster. He was the first member elected from the west side of Lake Michigan to the Michigan Territorial Legislature.

The rest of the Irwin Family--Robert Sr., Catherine, and the other five children, came to Green Bay between 1820 and 1823. One of the children, Alexander J. Irwin; his wife, Frances Smith Irwin; and their son, Robert A. Irwin, account for most of the correspondence in the Irwin Family Papers.

Alexander J. Irwin was born in Greensburg, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, March 1, 1799, the second son of Robert Irwin Sr. and Catherine Singer Irwin.

Alexander came to Green Bay in 1823 to join his brother, Robert Irwin Jr., in operating a store. On December 2, 1826, Alexander married Frances Pamelia Smith.

Alexander Irwin served as deputy clerk of the U.S. District Court in Green Bay, beginning in 1823. In 1832 he served as quartermaster for the force sent from Green Bay to pursue Black Hawk and the Sauks. This force consisted of about nine white men and upwards of three hundred Menominee Indians.

Irwin was a member of the House of Representatives for Wisconsin's first Legislative Assembly, which convened at Belmont on October 25, 1836. He replaced Joseph Dickinson in the first Legislative Assembly's second session (1837-1838) as a member of the Legislative Council, and remained as a member of the Council through the first and second sessions (1838-1839) of the Second Legislative Assembly. (The Territorial Legislative Assembly corresponds to our Legislature, with the Legislative Council comparing to our Senate, and the House of Representatives to our Assembly.)

From 1837 through 1843, Irwin sat on the Green Bay City Council. On October 24, 1842, he was appointed Receiver for the Bank of Wisconsin, after the bank's charter had been annulled. As Receiver, Irwin took charge of the bank's property, collected its debts, and paid its creditors the proportions due them.

Irwin served as Green Bay Postmaster from 1843 through 1845, when he became Receiver of the Public Moneys for land sales for the Green Bay area. Because there were no banks in Green Bay, Irwin had to arrange for carrying, or carry himself, money from land sales to banks in Detroit, and later, St. Louis.

On one of the trips to St. Louis, Irwin may have developed the infection which resulted in his death, June 14, 1847.

Frances Pamelia Smith was born in Balston Springs, Saratoga County, New York, November 8, 1809, the fifth child of Reuben Smith and Cynthia Rowe Smith.

In 1826, she accompanied her cousin, Henry Smith, and his new wife, Elvira Foster, to Green Bay, where Henry Smith served in the garrison. On December 2 of that year, she married Alexander J. Irwin.

Between 1828 and 1847, Frances and Alexander had seven children. When Alexander died in 1847, their six surviving children ranged in age from an infant to eighteen-year-old Maria Jane. Their only son, Robert, was thirteen. Frances continued raising her children alone.

Frances Irwin died in Kenosha, Wisconsin, January 11, 1880.

Robert A. Irwin was born in Green Bay, Wisconsin, February 15, 1834, son of Alexander J. Irwin and Frances Smith Irwin.

He was educated at an academy for boys in Lockport, New York. After working in Chicago, he went to Belle Plaine, Minnesota, in the spring of 1855.

Irwin proved up a homestead there. He also served, starting in 1856, as Clerk of the Territorial District Court for his County.

In 1856, Robert married Celia A. Chatfield. They had four sons and a daughter. One son became mayor of Belle Plaine.

Robert Irwin died October 17, 1891.

Children of *Robert Irwin Sr. (November 15, 1775-July 19, 1852) and Catherine Singer Irwin (September 5, 1781-April 19, 1843)

Child's Name Date of Birth Name of Spouse Date of Death
Robert Irwin Jr. December 24, 1797 Hannah Reese July 9, 1833
Alexander J. Irwin March 1, 1799 Frances P. Smith June 14, 1847
James Irwin Died in infancy
**Samuel Irwin March 17, 1803 February 14, 1845
Mary Irwin June 29, 1805 John Burnham
Elizabeth Irwin September 3, 1807 William Dickinson February 20, 1891
Jane Irwin December 4, 1810 **John Suydam October 2, 1894
Catherine Irwin October 18, 1817 Emmons Follett October 14, 1894

Alexander J. Irwin is a principal correspondent in the collection.
*Robert Irwin Sr. is also a correspondent in the collection.
**Samuel Irwin and **John Suydam are mentioned in the correspondence.

Children of *Reuben Smith (January 1, 1777- ) and *Cynthia Rowe Smith (September 12, 1777 [1778?]-August 5, 1842)
Child's Name Date of Birth Name of Spouse Date of Death
Norman Smith December 14, 1801 October 3, 1804
*Horace Smith October 24, 1803 January 8, 1828
*Cynthia Maria Smith December 12, 1805 **Ezra Cruttenden 1862
Frances Pamelia Smith I October 11, 1807 August 17, 1808
Francis Pamelia Smith II November 8, 1809 Alexander J. Irwin January 11, 1880
Joseph Warren Smith April 13, 1817 June 24, 1823
*MaryAnn Smith February 16, 1822 [1823?] February 15, 1908

Frances Pamelia Smith is a principal correspondent in the collection.
*Reuben Smith, *Cynthia Rowe Smith, *Horace Smith, *Cynthia Maria Smith, and *MaryAnn Smith are also correspondents in the collection.
**Ezra Cruttenden is mentioned in the correspondence.

Children of Alexander J. Irwin (March 1, 1799-June 14, 1847) and Frances Pamelia Smith (November 8, 1809-January 11, 1880)
Child's Name Date of Birth Name of Spouse Date of Death
*Maria Jane Irwin September 23, 1828 Charles Wheelock May 6, 1912
**Elizabeth Frances Irwin November 9, 1830 Joshua Whitney March 18, 1909
Robert Alexander Irwin February 14, 1834 *Celia Chatfield October 17, 1891
Cynthia Elvira Irwin March 31, 1836 Henry Furber October 7, 1912
**Harriette Brown Irwin February 8, 1839 1928
**Horace Smith Irwin July 18, 1842 (?) November 18, 1844 (?)
**Emilie Virginia Irwin 1847 1919

Alexander J. Irwin , Frances Pamelia Smith , and Robert Alexander Irwin are principal correspondents in the collection.
*Maria Jane Irwin and *Celia Chatfield are also correspondents in the collection.
**Elizabeth Frances Irwin, **Harriette Brown Irwin, **Horace Smith Irwin, and **Emilie Virginia Irwin are mentioned in the correspondence.