Biography of George W. Derry
Marion County, IA Biographies





George W. Derry, residing in the village of Columbia, has been a witness of the growth and development of Marion county for many years and can relate many an interesting tale concerning events which figure prominently in the history of this section of the state. He is a native of Ohio, his birth having occurred in that state January 23, 1843. His parents were Jacob and Eliza (Wilson) Derry, who were also natives of the Buckeye state and were there reared and married, while the mother died in Ohio. The Derry family was represented in that state from early pioneer times. The great grandfather of our subject was greatly incensed at the Indians because of a massacre of his friends and relatives and swore eternal vengeance on every redskin who crossed his path. He resolved that other white people should not suffer as his friends and relatives had done if he could prevent it, and thus it was that he used every opportunity to exterminate the red men or drive them to districts further west.

In the family of Jacob Derry and his wife were nine children, of whom two died in early life, while two are yet living: George W., of this review; and Mrs. William Swing. The father came to the west in 1868 and settled in Marion county, where his remaining days were passed, his death occurring in Knoxville about 1898. After losing his first wife he married Anna Ogden and unto them were born nine children, so that altogether he had eighteen children. His widow survives and now lives in Knoxville. Mr. Derry was a democrat in politics but never held office nor desired political advancement of any kind. For many years he followed farming in Knoxville township, contributing much toward making it the rich agricultural district which it is today. In his later years he retired and took up his residence in Knoxville, where he remained until called to the home beyond.

George W. Derry was educated in the schools of Ohio, in which state the first seventeen years of his life were passed. He came to Marion county in 1860 and at once started out to earn his own living. He worked as a farm hand for a brief time but watched with interest the progress of events which marked the beginning of the Civil war, and when it was seen that the two sides were very evenly matched and that the question was not to be settled in a short time, he offered his services to the government, enlisting in Company G, Fifteenth Iowa Volunteer Infantry, on the 24th of October, 1861, although a youth of only eighteen years. He was mustered in on the 21st of November for three years' service and on the 29th of January, 1864, he reenlisted for the remainder of the war. He was promoted to sixth corporal in May, 1864; to fourth corporal on the 1st of August, 1864; and to second corporal on the 1st of January, 1865. On the 24th of July, 1865, he was mustered out at Louisville, having made a most creditable military record through the almost four years of his active service. He participated in the battle of Shiloh, in the siege and battle of Corinth, the hotly contested siege of Vicksburg, the hard fought battle of Atlanta on the 21st and 22d of July and was again on duty at Atlanta on the 28th of July and through the siege. He was frequently in the thickest of the fight and he never faltered whatever the duty assigned to him.

When the war was over Mr. Derry returned to Marion county and has since followed farming. For seventeen years he carried on general agricultural pursuits in Washington township and for five years he has lived in the village of Columbia. At different times he has lived in various parts of the county but has always depended upon farming as a means of livelihood and of supporting his family comfortably.

On the 13th of August, 1866, Mr. Derry was united in marriage to Miss Mary Allen, a daughter of George and Elizabeth Allen, and to them five children were born, as follows: Katie, the deceased wife of Don Smith; Norah, who gave her hand in marriage to James Myers; Austin and Oscar, twins, the former deceased; and Stella, who is the wife of Frank Harkins. The wife and mother passed away January 30, 1914, leaving a husband and three children to mourn her loss, and her remains were interred in Columbia cemetery.

Mr. Derry is independent in politics but maintains a general interest in public affairs and gives his cooperation to plans and movements for the welfare of his community. Five years ago he retired from active business life and took up his abode in Columbia, where he is now residing, enjoying well merited rest that has come to him as the direct reward of persistent, earnest labor intelligently directed. He has lived in the county continuously for fifty four years and many are the changes which have occurred during this period, changes which have placed Marion county on a par with the older counties of the state in all that makes for civilization and improvement.

From:
History of Marion County, Iowa
And its People
John W. Wright, Supervising Editor
W. A. Young, Associate
Vol II
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co.
Chiago 1915


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