Grand Army of the Republic
Robert McKee Rownd, served as Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic in 1938 and 1947 and as New York Department Commander, 1934. The following is his obituary.
Robert McKee Rownd, 104 year old former national Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, died about 2:30 o'clock this morning (May 17, 1949) in his Ripley home. He had been ill since last June, when a hear attack prevented him from attending the last encampment of the New York State GAR in Rochester.
The Civil War veteran's physician said the aged man died in his sleep. He had been under the constant care of nurses for months at this home at 99 1/2 West Main St.
Mr. Rownd was born October 22, 1844, in East Noble County Ohio, 25 miles from Marietta. He was 17 when he volunteered for service in the Union Army. He was accepted as a drummer in the 25th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.
However, his parents objected because of this extreme youth and obtained his release. Thereupon, he ran away from home and traveled 377 miles by rail, boat and foot in an attempt to join the 30th Ohio Volunteers at Beckley, West Virigina. The officers of the Regiment rejected his pleas when they learned his age and he went back home.
In April 1862, Mr. Rownd registered at Allegheny College, Meadville, Pennsylvania. One of his fellow students was future president, William McKinley. Still intent upon military service, Mr. Rownd left college after his 18th birthday and was accepted as a bugler in the 9th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry.
His Regiment fought in 64 battle and skirmishes, suffering great losses, but the young bugler came through unscathed. He took part in Sherman's historic march through Georgia. Soldiers were forbidden to enter private home and if any it was dealt with sternly, he recalled many years later.
Mr. Rownd was mustered out of service October 25, 1865. He returned to Ohio and got a job as drygoods clerk at $25 a month. He married shortly after his discharge. He wife died in 1940 while they were planning their diamond anniversary.
Mr. Rownd's first business venture of his won was a wholesale grocery and drug sundries firm in Columbus. Later, he entered politics. President McKinley appointed him postmaster at Columbus. He subsequently managed the Ohio State Prison and for six years he was president of the Ohio Canal and Land Commission.
In 1903 he moved to Buffalo and became secretary and treasurer of the Buffalo Fertilizer Company. He later became president of the old Third National Bank of Buffalo. He was 65 when he founded a bank at Milton-on-Hudson. He headed the institution for 14 years until moving to Ripley.
The death of his youngest son, Robert M. Rownd, Jr., caused cancellation of a community celebration planned for his 100th birthday, October 22, 1944. However, he held open house and hundreds of Ripley townspeople and members of his widely scattered family paid their respects.
On the morning of this 100th birthday, he attended services at the Methodist Church, to which he belonged and dropped 100 pennies into the birthday bank, a fund for church repairs. Mr. Rownd had been active in the Methodist Church since his youth. He was a member of he Grange. He served as Department Commander of the GAR in 1936 and two years later was elected Commander-in-Chief. He belonged to Ripley's Excelsior Lodge, IOOF and was a life member of Magnolia Lodge, F&AM, Columbus.
Eighty-five years after he left college to serve his country, Mr. Rownd received his degree. Allegheny College awarded a diploma to him in June 1947.
Mr. Rownd's first presidential vote was cast for Abraham Lincoln. He did not miss a presidential election until illness last November prevented him from voting for Governor Dewey. He was a life long Republican.
Mr. Rownd attributed his long life to his abstinence from liquor and tobacco and to his Christian beliefs. He gave up smoking upon his discharge from the military service.
His two other sons, Harry L., Youngstown, Ohio, and William E., Wheeling, West Virginia, died in recent years. Survivors include two daughters-in-law, Mrs. W.E. Rownd, Wheeling, and Mrs. Robert M. Rownd, Jr., Ripley; eight grandchildren, 17 great grandchildren, and four great great grandchildren.
Funeral services were held at 2:30 Thursday in Ripley Methodist Church. The local American Legion Post held a military rite at the Ripley Cemetery.
Sources: Final Journal of the GAR, 1957 and Buffalo News, May 17, 1949.
Information submitted by Jerome Orton
Photograph submitted by George G. Kane