E. H. SHIRK (deceased). Elbert Hamilton Shirk was born in Franklin County, Indiana, February 14, 1818. He was the second son of Samuel and Elizabeth (Stout) Shirk, natives of Georgia and Kentucky, respectively. His boyhood was spent on his father's farm, where he enjoyed the limited advantages afforded by the public schools during the winter months On arriving at manhood, he attended college two years in Miami University, at Oxford, Ohio, where he studied Latin, French and Mathematics. After leaving the University he was employed as teacher in the County Seminary, at Rushville, Indiana, for two years, and immediately thereafter located in Peru, arriving here in the summer of 1844 and forming a partnership with the late John Harlan in the mercantile business. June 18, 1845, he was married to Mary Wright, of Franklin County, a lady of English descent, who returned with her young husband to the new and strange home in Peru. They came the old-fashioned way, bringing all of their goods in a two-horse wagon. A year later the firm of Harlan & Shirk was dissolved and Mr. Shirk continued the business alone. He was very successful as a merchant and accumulated wealth very rapidly. From 1850 to 1855 he invested largely in Mexican war land warrants, which he laid judiciously in Iowa and other western States, which in turn were exchanged for improved farms in Miami County. This was the beginning of operations in real estate which laid the foundation for a colossal fortune, equal in magrfitude to that amassed in his commercial pursuits. The most profitable of these deals was the purchase of a large number of lots in Evansville and lands in southwestern counties of the State, in 1862, that had been forfeited as donations to a railroad company; the purchase of large tracts in Kansas in 1868, and in Michigan in 1867; and the securing of equities in unencumbered Chicago real estate in 1874-75. In 1857 he established a private bank and received deposits from farmers and others who had a surplus. In 1860 he resumed mercantile business, which he had dropped for a few years previous. Under the national banking act Mr. Shirk procured a charter and proceeded to organize the First National Bank of Peru, taking for himself one-half the stock, and subsequently, by purchase, acquiring over nine-tenths. He was elected president of the bank and was re-elected annually from that time until his death. This bank has been a remarkable financial success, having already invested three hundred thousand dollars of its surplus earnings in government bonds, and having accumulated an additional surplus of two hundred thousand. At the beginning of 1867 the firm of Kilgore & Shirk, in general merchandise, was formed, to which George C. Miller was admitted as partner, some years later, and from which Mr. Kilgore withdrew in 1880, leaving the firm Shirk & Miller, as it stands to-day. In politics, Mr. Shirk had strong convictions on which he always acted, first as a Whig and afterwards as a Republican, though he never took a prominent part in partisan contests. In early manhood he professed Christianity and united with the Baptist church before locating in Peru. He was one of the eleven original members of the Baptist church of this city in 1867, and continued one of its devoted members till his death, contributing liberally of his means towards its support. Mr. Shirk was of medium height, erect and quite slender. His life was clean and free from vicious habits, which weaken and destroy the physical system. He was therefore clear headed: able to utilize all his tremendous energy, and accomplished the purpose of his will, even though it required long continued, unremitting effort. The probity of his character was the foundation of persistent honestv and commercial integrity that stood unimpeached and unchallenged through a business life of "more than forty years in this community. This was the inspiration of that universal confidence which selected him as the reliable custodian of the accumulations of others, a confidence which insured his success as a banker. Measured by the most practical standard known—the results accomplished—Mr. Shirk's life was a most conspicuous success. He was a financier of transcendant ability, endowed with wise foresight, intuitive perceptions, broad comprehension, accurate judgment, and his death left a vacuum in commercial affairs, felt as a personal bereavement by a large number of persons in the community with whom he had relations of a business character. He was a conspicuous example of the successful self-made man, and the acquisition of his immense fortune, by honest business methods in an agricultural community, was something akin to the marvelous. He owned at the time of his death valuable property in various cities of Indiana, Illinois, and other States, immense tracts of real estate and fine farms in various States, the larger share of stock in the banks at Monticello, Delphi and Tipton, and was in fact the wealthiest man in northern Indiana, and one of the wealthiest in the State. He died at his home in Peru on the 8th day of April, 1886. Mr. and Mrs. Shirk have had four children, three of whom (two sons and one daughter) are at this time living; Milton, the eldest, is President of the First National Bank of Peru; Elbert W. Vice President of the same; and Alice, wife of Richard A. Edwards, Cashier of the bank. - [Source: "History of Miami County, Indiana: From the earliest time to the present ... By Brant & Fuller, Chicago, pub. 1887 - BZ - Sub by FoFG]
Colonel Charles Kilgore Smith
Among those who remained in the army after the close of the war was Colonel Charles Kilgore Smith, the second son of Charles K. Smith, of Hamilton, for a long time one of the leading citizens of this county, and the first secretary of the Territory of Minnesota. He was born in Hamilton on the 22d of October, 1834, and was carefully instructed in all the usual branches of education, receiving in addition a course of training at the military academy at West Point, to which he was appointed in 1850. The rigorous requirements of the place enfeebled his naturally weak constitution, and the idea of a military life was abandoned, he thought, forever; but at the beginning of the civil war, prompted by duty and patriotism, be entered a company, and, as first lieutenant, aided in drilling and disciplining the troops, accompanied them to Columbus, and when this company finally crystallized into one of those forming the Twenty-sixth Regiment, he was made quartermaster. He accompanied it to Louisville, its first trip, and was, in conjunction with Colonel E. P. Fyffe, who commanded, highly complimented by the press for the able manner in which his duties were discharged. His efficiency and eminent abilities soon attracted attention, and he was promoted to a captaincy, acting as chief assistant in the quartermaster's department at Chattanooga before, during, and subsequent to the Atlanta campaign. General Rousseau, an excellent judge of men, placed him upon his staff", and evinced by his conduct that he regarded him as one of the most efficient and trustworthy officers in the service. He followed the army in its vicissitudes and perils during its four years of trials and changes, winning each year higher and higher positions, rising from chief assistant in the quartermaster's department to that of chief quartermaster of the department of Georgia, with the grade of colonel. At this, time he was on the staff of Major-general Steadman, who was in command of that department. He was commissioned major by brevet, March 13, 1865, "for gallant and meritorious services during the war." He did not receive his appointment as major until he had been commissioned a colonel, the appointment of major having been knocked about in the mails for nearly a year before it reached him, owing to the uncertainties of war.
While still very young he joined the Free Masons, in Washington Lodge, Hamilton, of which, his father had so long been an ornament, and carried into his everyday life those principles of honor, good faith, and charity there inculcated. He was naturally a Mason. In the army he aided in establishing military lodges, and through his instrumentality in this respect much suffering was alleviated.
He was in public life a model of integrity and industry, but it was in private life that he was justly to be estimated. He was most kind and affectionate. In his deportment to his parents he was respectful, dutiful, and warmly affectionate; to his brothers and sisters he was considerate, loving, generous, and just, and to his friends constant and true. He could be depended upon in all the relations of life to do that which was right and becoming, neither turning away from the weak and afflicted because they were under a cloud, nor courting the society of those favored with this world's goods because their influence might be valuable to him.
His death, from hemorrhage of the lungs, occurred in Columbia, South Carolina, December 30, 1870, when he had barely entered his thirty-seventh year. It cast a deep shade of sorrow over a large circle of friends, and occasioned the deepest anguish in his family circle. His noble deeds and self-sacrificing devotion have placed his name on the pages of his country's history. [Source: "A History and Biographical Cyclopaedia of Butler County, Ohio", Evansville, Ind. 1882 - KT - Sub by FoFG]
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