Department of New York

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The
Grand Army
of the Republic

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Robert McKee Rownd
Commander
Department of New York
1935


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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 heart 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, WV. 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, Pa. 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 bought 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 looting occurred, it was dealt with
sternly," he recalled may 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 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 Co.

He later became president of the 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 State Department Commander of the GAR in 1935 and two years later was elected
National Commander. 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 Gov. 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; 8 grandchildren, 17 great grandchildren, and 4 great great
grandchildren.

Sources: Final Journal of the GAR, 1957 and Buffalo News, May 17, 1949.
Submitted by Jerome Orton

 

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