David Irwin, was born 9 May 1851. He was the earliest settler now living in Byron township. His father came here in 1844, and bought the farm where the stone house is, and where he lived when David, Jr., was born. He helped his father build the stone house.
On this farm the first schoolhouse in Byron township was built. Afterward a new log one was erected on the McKenney’s Corners. His first teacher was Jane Lovejoy, later she married Alonzo Green. David was then only three years old and he remembers how she used to curl his hair, and make a bed on the seats for him.
Lansford Barney, William Fleetwood, Judson and Junius Mc Kenney and Mrs. Lewis Cooper, among others were his school mates.
In his younger days, he built the first regular road, running north and south of Byron Center through the swamps. H. Colwell worked with him on the south road, but the first half mile he built alone.
Mr. Irwin and his brother, Dan, used to go hunting quite a bit for small game, but left the deer hunting to his father who kept the family in venison in the early days.
Mr. Irwin, Sr., fought in the Mexican War in 1847 and enlisted in the Civil War at its beginning, in the 22nd Michigan Cavalry. David, Jr., was then 10 years old.
In 1871, he drove a team from Allegan County to Traverse City through the woods, over what was called the "Old State Road", but not much more than a cow-path. Wolves and other wild animals were plentiful. This was at the time of the Chicago Fire.
His mother died in 1857, and the following summer, he, with his father and brother, Dan, and sisters, traveled by covered wagon to Kansas, where they settled on a homestead. That year the hot winds killed all the crops and they returned to the old home the following autumn. Part of this trip was made by ox teams. Mrs. William, the sister, took her mother’s place on this trip.
The homestead his father settled on in Kansas was on the old Santa Fe Trail where several covered wagons, drawn by three, and as high as five yoke of oxen passed every day; also many home seekers with cows drawing their wagons loaded with their families and furniture. The trail was a dozen tracks wide in some places with ruts a foot deep. While here Mr. Irwin saw herds of buffalo roaming the plains; his father would hunt buffalo.
David Irwin was married to Mary Burdick in 1890. He bought the old homestead and made many improvements. After he built the new barn, he tore down the old one his father had built sixty-three years ago. At this first barn raising, his father barbecued a large deer.
When David, Jr., rebuilt this barn, he killed a fat sheep and invited the old settlers, some who helped to erect his father’s barn. About 130 were present at this barn raising. Tables were made in the yard: for dinner she served mutton, baked beans, doughnuts, ginger bread, pumpkin pie, rolled jelly cake and corn bread. All had a good time even it if was all work.
He lived on this homestead until 1919, when he moved to Byron Center, in the house originally owned by Samuel Tobey. While yet a young man, he helped Mr. Tobey build this house, and at the request of Mrs. Tobey, set out the chestnut and walnut trees, and put a large elm tree, now standing on the corner of the lot which he wheeled there on a wheelbarrow; Jud Skinner assisting him by holding up the top.
Mr. Irwin loved to hunt, fish and traveled a lot, taking his family with him coast to coast and from Canada to beyond the Mexican border.
Mr. and Mrs. Irwin had no children, but took a great niece of Irwin, Rebecca, who took the place of a daughter and she lived with them. She traveled with them where ever they went. He loved adventures and also climbed Mt. Hood, also rode in an airplane.
Mr. Irwin united wit Halcyon Lodge, No. 244, fifty-three years ago, and is the oldest Odd Fellow in the township.
He took great pride in his gardens. To live well, he said one must have many interests. To live long, we believe an intense interest in all growing things, which is life itself, is necessary. It is not vital to travel far in order to discover the mythical Fountain of Youth; you who have followed the lives of these pioneers, know that many like Mr. Irwin, have discovered it right here in the township of Byron.
Created: 7 April 2014