Thomas C. Kirkland is one of the most enterprising citizens of Litchfield, having been engaged in active business here for many years, and he has taken an active and interested part in the maintenance of the intellectual and moral as well as the material development of the city. He has fostered numerous local industries and has contributed of his means and influence to various undertakings calculated to benefit the people of Montgomery county. He is now practically living retired, but his invested interests return to him a handsome income.

Mr. Kirkland was born in St. Louis county, Missouri, July 26, 1823. His father, Isaac Kirkland, was a native of Kentucky, and was descended from Virginian ancestry, although the family was established in the Blue Grass state at an early epoch in its improvement. Isaac Kirkland removed to St. Louis, Missouri, about the time the state was admitted into the Union. He was a pioneer, and followed his trade in that city and at Clayton for a long period, but later engaged in agricultural pursuits. In 1835 he came to Illinois, settling on a farm near Jerseyville, all of which was then largely wild prairie, but several years prior to his death he put aside active business cares and located in Litchfield, where he spent his remaining days with his children. He died in 1881 in his eighty-fifth year and thus terminated an honorable and upright life, which had been in consistent harmony with his professions as a member of the Methodist Episcopal church. When in the prime of manhood he took a very active part in church work. His political support was given to the Whig party until its dissolution, and he subsequently joined the ranks of the new Republican party, but never sought or desired public office. He had an elder brother, Joseph Kirkland, who was a soldier of the war of 1812 and died of yellow fever contracted while serving under General Jackson at New Orleans.

The mother of Thomas C. Kirkland bore the maiden name of Mary Malinda Mann. She was born in Kentucky in 1779 and died in 1858. Her parents were Beverly and Mary Mann, the former a farmer by occupation. His death occurred in Kentucky. Unto Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Kirkland were born nine children, namely: James and Mary, now deceased; Thomas C.; Mrs. Cynthia Ann Irwin, who has passed away; Lucinda, the wife of Chauncey Davis, of Litchfield; John B., a resident of Litchfield; and Eliza Jane, William A. and Fletcher, all three deceased.

Thomas C. Kirkland acquired his early education in an old log schoolhouse in Jersey county, Illinois. The path of learning was not a very flowery one for him. Indeed, his school privileges were quite limited, but he made good use of the few opportunities he had and through reading and observation greatly broadened his knowledge. In his youth he assisted in the operation of the home farm, and after attaining his majority began farming on his own account in Jersey county. The year 1849 witnessed his arrival in Montgomery county, where he located a land warrant, but as he had no means with which to carry on the work of improvement there he returned to Jersey county, and it was not until 1851 that he began the cultivation of his farm in Walshville township, though as a township Walshville was not then organized. He moved his family to this place, the first home being a mere "shell," the lumber of which was hauled from Alton in 1851. Mr. Kirkland hewed the house sills and other trimmings from the adjacent woods. They resided upon his first farm until 1865, when he purchased another tract of land nearby and for twenty years made it his place of residence. He then came to Litchfield township in 1885, but he still has extensive landed possessions, owning four hundred and forty-one acres in Walshville township and four hundred acres in Pitman and Zanesville townships.

On removing to this city Mr. Kirkland became a very active and influential factor in its public and business life. In connection with S. M. Grubbs and others he organized the first National Bank and has since been its vice president. He was one of the organizers of the Litchfield Water Supply Company, and its first president and is now one of its directors. He was also one of the organizers of the Litchfield Marble & Granite Company and from the beginning has been its president. He owns stock in both of the banks at Hillsboro, is one of the largest stockholders in the First National Bank of Litchfield and likewise has stock in the Mount Vernon Car Manufacturing Company. His realty possessions, including a comfortable home in Litchfield, have been won entirely through his own efforts. He has been administrator of as many estates as any man in the county and has been guardian for many children.

On the 18th of February, 1847, in Jersey county, Mr. Kirkland was married to Miss Edith Irwin, a daughter of Abijah Irwin. She was born in North Carolina and died in 1878 at the age of fifty-six years. By their marriage there were eight children, three of whom died in infancy. The others are: Matilda Ellen, the deceased wife of William F. Davis; Sarah E., the wife of R. W. Ripley, of Waggoner; Ann E., the wife of G. W. Flint, of Raymond; John Hardin, a manufacturer of Decatur; and Mary, the widow of E. W. Dresser, of Greenville, Illinois. Mrs. Kirkland, the mother of these children, died in the faith of the Methodist Episcopal church, of which she was long a member. In August, 1885, Mr. Kirkland was again married, his second union being with Louisa J. Peal, the widow of Robert Peal, and the daughter of James Eddings, who was a farmer and came to Montgomery county in 1850, locating in North Litchfield township.

Both Mr. and Mrs. Kirkland are identified through membership relations with the Methodist Episcopal church and from his boyhood he has been active in church work, serving as steward and trustee for many years and doing all in his power to promote the various church activities. Fraternally he is associated with the Masons and politically with the Republican party. He has never sought public office yet served as supervisor from Walshville township and also from North Litchfield township. He is a man greatly beloved in the county because of his kindly spirit and many excellent traits of character and greatly esteemed for his probity. His life has been a busy and successful one, not, however, given up to self-aggrandizement, but ever dominated by the noble desire to aid and uplift his fellow men. A man sincere, upright and conscientious in word and deed he is truly one of the best citizens of Litchfield.

Extracted 11 Apr 2020 by Norma Hass from 1904 Past and Present of Montgomery County, Illinois, by Jacob L. Traylor, pages 20-23.

Templates in Time