003-008 Biographical data on Joseph Ireland Irwin (annotated)


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003-008 Biographical data on Joseph Ireland Irwin (annotated)


A typewritten timeline of Joseph I. Irwin's life and the history of Irwin's Bank from 1846 to the 1950s. Pencil annotations add information and correct typos.





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301 Washington Street (Columbus, Ind.)

Is Part Of

Cline Keller Library General File Collection, Irwin-Union, Bartholomew County Historical Society, Columbus, IN; 301 Washington Street: Cornerstone of Columbus, Indiana (digital collection).

Bibliographic Citation

Biographical data on Joseph Ireland Irwin (annotated), 1962, Irwin-Union, Cline Keller Library General File Collection, Bartholomew County Historical Society, Columbus, IN.


Bartholomew County Historical Society


Bartholomew County Public Library

Text Item Type Metadata


Six-page typewritten document
Typewritten text (sheet 1):
1846 - June -- Mr. Joseph I. Irwin came to Columbus from his farm home in Johnson with, so the story goes, fifty cents in his pocket. He went to work for a dry goods store owned by Snyder and Alden which was located xxxxxxxxx on the east side of Washington Street, and south of the Fourth Street intersection. He worked for this firm xxxx for about three and one-half years. During this time he had saved $150.00 which he thought was sufficent to open his own store.
1850 - On January 1st, Mr. Irwin opened his own store at the southwest corner of Fourth and Washington (then Walnut ) XXXXXX Street, and continued in merchandising until 1891 when he sold his store to two employees and devoted all of his time to banking.
1850 - August 15th, Joseph I. Irwin was married to Harriet C. Glanton
1849 - Francis J. Crump, a sucessful carpenter and builder, had accumulated enough funds to advertise he would purchase notes for cash –
1851 - He, together with two other men, added the first addition to the town of Columbus and it was known as Irwin, Jones, and Mounts Addition. The story about the narrowness of Sixth Street is that Mr. Irwin and the landowner on the north, agreed each to give half of the street width. The other owner refused, so Sixth Street is Mr. Irwin's half only.
In the meantime - Mr. Irwin had the only safe in town and acted as a depository for funds of the townspeople and farmers. He told Clessie L, Cummins, the inventor of the Cummins Diesel Engine, that the first time he realized he was in the banking business was when a farmer from west of town presented him with a note written on sycamore bark saying, "Mr. Irwin, please pay to ________ $5.00 from my poke in your safe". Members of the Irwin family say he was in the "banking business” before the Civil War. He was also appointed as a government representative during the Civil War to buy pork and grain to feed the Union Army. He was so successful in this undertaking that these activities were called to the attention of the "Knights of the Golden Circle" who had an organization in Columbus, and they drew lots to see who would assinate Mr. Irwin. The lot was drawn by a man who had a gun shop on Washington Street. He knew Mr. Irwin's punctual habits and that he passed his store at the same time each day. He did carry out the plan to shoot Mr. Irwin (not because he wanted to, but because it washis lot to do so) and apparently the window glass of his store window deflected the bullet enough that it went through Mr. Irwin's hat and missed head.
Typewritten text (sheet 2):
1853 - B. F. Jones & Co., organized a bank and it later became McEwen & Sons. This bank failed in 1871.
1862 - Joseph I. Irwin platted his own first addition to the City of Columbus.
to 1 864- Hezekiah and Randolph Griffith had a private bank, known as Griffith Brother's Bank. Mr. Randolph Griffith was the first president of the First National Rank, organized
1865 - March 23 - their private bank, being the nucleous for the National Bank.
1863 - BANKING ACT????
Between 1850
and 1862, we know Joseph I. Irwin continued in his general store business in various locations. It has been said that his store was next to the Kitzinger Bakery when the bakery was established and this wasin 1862. Mr. Wm. G. Irwin had said that his father and mother lived over their store which was next to the Kitzinger Bakery and Mr. and Mrs. Kitzinger lived over the bakery.
1864 - Joseph I. Irwin built his first house at the corner of Fifth (Harrison) and Mechanic ? (Lafayette Avenue) Streets. It was rebuilt in 1880 and remodeled early in 1900.
1864 - Columbus was chartered as a city.
1866 - Mr. Irwin added his second and third Additions to the city.
1871 - The McEwen Bank failed and Mr. Joseph Irwin received a charter as a private bank called IRWIN'S BANK.
1876 - Mr. Irwin still did not consider himself as a banker primarily, as he was listed as a merchant in the State Atlas dated 1876.
His store was, at this time, on the east side of Washington Street, between Third and Fourth, north of the alley, apparently about ___ Washington Street.
He had an ad in The Daily Evening Republican on Saturday, November 17, 1877:
Is now doing a regular Banking Business at his store
94 Washington Street
Exchange on the principal cities bought and sold at reasonable rates.
Business Solicited.
In the early childhood of Margaret Perkinson Schwartzkopf, who was born in 1868, She remembers going with her mother into Mr. Irwin's store which was at the location "on the east side of Washington Street, between Third and Fourth, north of the alley, about half-way" . She said she was always fascinated by the large blacksafe he
Typewritten text (sheet 3):
had in his "bank“‘. About halfway back in the store, on the north side, there was a section set off by a railing or cage-type of construction, and this was furnished with a desk and this black safe. This was, probably, the safe Mr. Irwin acquired from the McEwen bank when it failed. It was still in the Irwin's Bank when they merged in 1928.
This desk and safe and Joseph I.Irwin was IRWIN'S BANK, until 1881.
1874 - A Farmer's Bank was organized but it failed in 1876.
1876 - Records of business show a bank listed as Conant and Whitney. ????
1881 - Mr. Joseph I. Irwin built the building at 301 Washington Street and moved his store and bank. The bank occupied a small room in the northwest corner of the store building. It had a separate entrance on Washington Street - a real bank! Another door at the rear connected it with the store. Joseph I. Irwin and his assistnat, Finney Alden, "ran" the bank. Later a clerk, Vida Buxton Hughes was added. Margaret Perkinson Schwartzkopf clerked in the store in 1888 and 1889 and Mr. Irwin had a bell signal to call her into the bank room to help when needed.
Mr. Wm. E. Marsha a veteran newspaper reporter, says in his book about Columbus, that Mr. Irwin had a sign posted by the door in his bank which is typical, "This is a Private Bank and I own it. Joseph I. Irwin". Mr. Irwin had his own ideas of thrift and money management, the success of which no one can deny. Many stories of his early banking days show his method. One man told he was asked to be in Mr. Irwin's office at 1:30. He was a merchant and could not leave his store in time to keep the appointment. He was 30 minutes late and never did he learn what Mr. Irwin wanted. Another incident related was that of a man coming into Mr. Irwin's office smoking a cigar. He wanted to borrow money and Mr. Irwin informed him that since he had money to burn, he had none to loan him. These are incidents characteristic of Joseph I. Irwin, but more important is the fact that he xxxxxxxxx contributed more to the /early building of Columbus than any other person. He loaned money to the men in whom he had confidence and in so doing he helped to build the businesses of Columbus and Bartholomew County. Up and down Main Street his money went to work and all about town factories sprang up to give people work. Many of these businesses, xxx or their successors, are in existence today in Columbus. In making money for himself he always contributed to the well-being of his neighbors. xxxxxxxx At the same time, his private funds were being used to build roads and electric lines to add to the existing railroads. It is said he assisted in constructing 40 miles of turnpike roads in Bartholomew County.
Typewritten text (sheet 4):
1889- William Glanton Irwin, son of Joseph I. Irwin, became bank cashier.
1891 - Mr. Joseph I. Irwin sold his store to two clerks - Oscar Fiegenbaum and Fred J. Meyer, who operated it for about two years and then moved into other quarters.
19__ - The bank building was remodeled for full occupancy as a bank. Fixtures were purchased from the Indiana National Bank who were remodeling at that time. George Vorwald went to Indianapolis with Mr. William G. Irwin to purchase them.
1910 - August 13, Mr. Joseph I. Irwin died and his son, William G. Irwin, succeeded him as president of Irwin's Bank. William G. Irwin became national ly known as a financier, industrialist, and philanthropist. He carried on the traditions and ideas in banking and building the town of Columbus that his father had. xxxxxxxx He was, as his father before him, "Mr. Banker" to the people of Columbus. At his death, December 14, 1943, he was, among many other things, president of the IndianaNationalBank and his many abilities were widely acclaimed in the nation's newspapers.
Typewritten text (sheet 5):
1871 Irwin's Bank - Chartered -97 Washington Street
1881 Moved to Third and Washington Street Building
1903 - April 1, People's Savings and Trust Company organized, M. O. Reeves, President and L. K. Ong, Cashier - S. W. Corner 4th and Washington Streets
1916 June Farmer's Trust Company organized. John M. Thompson, President, CharlesM. Setser, Cashier. N/S of alley between Sth and 4th Streets.
1922 - June 5, People's Savings and Trust Company and Farmer's Trust Company merged to make UNION TRUST COMPANY, using Farmer's building, M. O. Reeves was president, and Charles M. Setser, Cashier. The Union Trust Company moved to their new building at the S.W. Corner of 5th and Washington Streets on Feb. 2, 1924.
1928 - April 1st, Irwin's Bank and Union Trust Company merged to make Irwin-Union Trust Company, using the building of the Union Trust Company. Xxxxxxxx
Xxxx President was William G. Irwin, son of the founder of Irwin's Bank. Vice Presidents were chosen from both banks and included Hugh Th. Miller, husband of Joseph I. Irwin's granddaughter, Nettie Sweeney Miller; xxx John W.Suverkrup, W. E. Parker, and Frank P. Brockman. Mr. C. M. Setser/, was cashier. The secretary, Mr. W. H. Scott,was originally with the People's Savings and Trust Company, so officers represented members of all the bank's in the various mergers.
1954 Thename of the bank was changed to Irwin Union Bank and Trust Company and the bank moved into their new and very modern building on the northwest corner of Fifth and Washington, on March 1, 1954.
Since the merger, the bank has had but four presidents: William G. Irwin, who died in December, 1943; his nephew, Hugh Th. Miller, and Joseph Irwin Miller, great grandson of Joseph I. Irwin who was made Chairman of the Board of Directors
Typewritten text (sheet 6):
in 1953. Mr. S. Edgar Lauther was made president at that time and continues in that capacity.
The present officers of Irwin Union Bank and Trust Company are

In 1871 Irwin's bank was a one man bank. In 1962 Irwin Union Bank and Trust Company has ______ employees. There are three offices in addition to the main office downtown. All offices have fine, modern buildings and are equipped to handle all banking business.

Extracts from statement ???????


Unknown, “003-008 Biographical data on Joseph Ireland Irwin (annotated),” BCPL Archives, accessed June 20, 2024, https://bcplarchives.omeka.net/items/show/157.