RUFUS L. KIRK

Source: Album of Genealogy and Biography, Cook County, Illinois with Portraits 3rd ed. revised and extended (Chicago: Calumet Book & Engraving Co., 1895), pp. 85-86

RUFUS LORD KIRK, a well-known citizen of Wilmette, was born at Youngstown, Ohio, December 15, 1850.  He is a son of John and Susan (Bingham) Kirk. The father, who was prominent in business in Chicago for a number of years, was a son of Andrew Kirkpatrick, the name having been curtailed in later years to Kirk.

Andrew Kirkpatrick was born in New Jersey. His father was a native of Scotland, and his mother of Ireland.  They came to America in early life, and settled first in New Jersey, removing later to Washington County, Pennsylvania.  Three sons were born to them, namely: John, Thomas and Andrew.  The last-named was a blacksmith by trade, and followed that vocation for many years at Coitsville, near Youngstown, Ohio.  His mechanical skill caused him to be drafted into the United States army during the War of 1812, and he spent considerable time in that service, during which his family suffered many privations in their frontier home at Coitsville.   His wife, Elizabeth, was a daughter of Caleb Baldwin, a veteran of the Revolutionary War, and a pioneer of Youngstown. Mr. Baldwin’s wife, whose maiden name was Pitney, was born in Morris County, New Jersey.  This state was also the birthplace of Mrs. Elizabeth Kirkpatrick, who was married at the age of thirteen years, and became the mother of thirteen children, ten of whom reached maturity.

John Kirk was a native of Youngstown, Ohio.   He was a precocious youth, and began teaching school at the age of fourteen years.  At seventeen he embarked in a mercantile business at Youngstown, Ohio.  After continuing this enterprise for some years, he became connected with the firm of Jones & Laughlin, well-known iron founders of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  He traveled extensively through the West, in the interest of this concern, covering most of the territory east of the Mississippi River, which was then the western boundary of civilization.   In 1857 he came to Chicago and established a warehouse for the firm in this city.  This he conducted five years, laying the foundation for the extensive trade which the establishment has ever since retained.

At the end of that period he severed his connection with that corporation, and removed to Mercer County, Pennsylvania, where he was engaged in agriculture.  In 1864 he again became a resident of Chicago, and resumed business as a commercial traveler in the interest of eastern iron manufacturers.  Having accumulated a competence, in 1874 he retired from business, spending the balance of his days at Jacksonville, Illinois, where his death occurred January 27, 1891, at the age of nearly eighty-six years. He was at that time a member of the Christian Church at Jacksonville, and while living in Chicago had been a communicant of the Episcopal Church.  While still a young man, he established a school for the instruction of poor children at Youngstown, and throughout his life was a contributor to charitable and philanthropic works.  He was a man of able judgment, and held decided views on questions of public import.  He was the first man in Youngstown to wear a long beard, and the narrow and radical views retained by the people of that day were shown by the fact that for this offense he was churched by his brethren.  At an early date he became interested in the Abolition movement, and his house at Youngstown was an important station of the “underground railroad.”  He sometimes gave shelter to as many as twenty or thirty negroes in his cellar at one time.  The conspicuous part which he took in this work gave him a rather unsavory reputation in the South, and made it necessary for him to conceal his identity when traveling in that section.   He was an ardent supporter of the Republican party from the beginning of its existence, and gave the Government his hearty support during the great Rebellion.  When the Emancipation Proclamation was first proposed, he predicted that its promulgation would be the turning-point of the war, a fact which is everywhere recognized at the present day, although its outcome was involved in considerable doubt at the time.  Mrs. Susan Kirk was born on a farm in Connecticut.  She was a daughter of Asa Bingham, and removed with her parents during her childhood to Ellsworth, Ohio.  She died in Chicago in 1872, at the age of sixty-four years.

Rufus L. Kirk was the youngest of thirteen children born to his parents. He was seven years old when the family removed to Chicago, where he was educated in the public schools.  At the age of twenty years he graduated from the Chicago High School, and soon afterward became a bookkeeper for the firm of Kirk, Coleman & Company, dealers in iron and heavy hardware, his brother, Thomas J. Kirk, being the senior partner of the firm.   The style of this firm became successively Thomas J. Kirk & Company, Kirk & Barker, The Kirk Iron and Hardware Company, and The Wick & Bonnell Company.  He continued his connection with the business during these several changes, acquiring a reputation as an able accountant, which caused his services to be frequently sought by other firms.   In 1882, when this corporation ceased to exist, he became a bookkeeper for the well-known house of S. D. Kimbark, in whose employ he has regularly continued since.  In the spring of 1877 he took up his residence at Wilmette, where he has recently erected a beautiful home on Forest Avenue.

In 1874 Mr. Kirk was married to Miss Julia H. Egan, daughter of Thomas and Sarah Egan, of Chicago.  Mrs. Kirk was born at Auburn, New York, and has become the mother of seven children, two of whom, Robert Roy and Edwin, departed this life in early childhood.  The names of the survivors are, Eugene E., Hattie J., Myron F., Rufus L. and Jessie M.  The family is connected with the First Congregational Church of Wilmette.  In national affairs Mr. Kirk supports the candidates of the Republican party.  He is now serving as a member of the Village Board, the members of which are chosen without regard to political affiliations.  His well-known business ability and his general probity of character cause him to be an acknowledged acquisition to the population of that thriving suburb.

                                -- Submitted on 11/23/99 by Sherri Hessick ( slhessick@crosswinds.net )