JOHN DIRREEN, ex-Sheriff of Cass county, was born in Virginia precinct, Cass county, Illinois, July 29, 1840. He is one of the representative men of his county, and as such merits biographical mention in this work. Briefly given, a review of his life is as follows:
While tradition says that the Dirreen family originated in France, their ancestry is traced back only to the grandfather of John Dirreen, who was born in Ireland. Three of his children came from the Emerald Isle to America, and located as follows: John settled in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he was a customhouse official upwards of forty years, at the end of that time retiring on half-pay. He died there, aged ninety-three years. Michael bought a farm in New York State, and still resides on it. Edward Dirreen was born in county Callan, Ireland, and was there reared. He came to America when a young man and settled in Philadelphia, where he married. He subsequently moved to St. Louis, and from there came to Cass county, Illinois, about 1835, settling in Virginia precinct. Here he entered a tract of Government land, four miles from the site of the present courthouse, and built the log cabin in which the subject of our sketch was born. At that time the country was thinly settled and deer and wild turkey were plenty in this region. The whistle of the locomotive had not sounded here, and Beardstown was the market seat for the surrounding country. In 1855 he sold his farm and bought another in the same locality, where he resided until his death. His widow, whose maiden name was Jane Henphey, still resides on the old homestead. They were the parents of seven children: Catherine, Eliza, Alice, John, Richard, Edward and Michael. Eliza and Richard are deceased.
John Dirreen received his education in the primitive log schoolhouses of his native county. As soon as he was old enough he assisted his father on the farm, remaining under the parental roof until he was twenty-one. He was then employed for three years by others, at the end of which time he engaged in farming on his own account. In the fall of 1877, on account of the ill health of his wife, he went to Texas, remaining there till January, 1878, when he returned to Illinois. That spring he was made a Deputy Sheriff, and has been connected with the office of Sheriff continuously since. In 1886 he was elected Sheriff, and served one term, which is the limit prescribed by law. At the expiration of his term he was again appointed deputy, which position he still holds.
Mr. Dirreen was married in 1871, to Mary Cunningham, a native of Kentucky, and a daughter of George and Maria (Lindsey) Cunningham, natives of Scotland and Kentucky respectively. Mrs. Dirreen died in February, 1878, and in November, 1886, he married Alice burrows. By his first wife he has one daughter, Josephine, and by the second a son, Edward.
Mr. Dirreen is a member of Virginia Lodge, A.O.U.W.