James Renwick was born on June 30, 1842, in Scotland, the son of Scots John Renwick (1806-1891) and Janet Henderson (1812-1895).
John and Janet were married on November 27, 1835, in Hobkirk, Roxburgh, Scotland. James came to the United States with his family, possibly aboard the Niberma arriving in New York City in July of 1853, eventually settling in Geneva, Ontario County, New York. By 1855 James was living with his family in Seneca, Ontario County, New York. The family eventually moved westward, and settled first in Bedford, Calhoun County, Michigan but in 1858 moved to Keene in Ionia County. By 1860 John and Janet were living in Keene with three of their young children.
James stood 5’8” with blue eyes, light hair and a light complexion and was a 20-year-old farmer probably living in Ionia County when he enlisted in Company D, probably with his cousin (?) William, on February 11, 1862, at Saranac, Ionia County for 3 years, crediting Saranac, and was mustered the same day -- Company D was composed in large part of men who came from western Ionia County and Eaton County. (He and William were probably related to John Foulks, whose mother was Jane Renwick; Foulks also enlisted in Company D and was also from Keene.)
James was wounded in the left hip on August 29, 1862, at Second Bull Run, and hospitalized in 3rd Corps hospital at Alexandria, Virginia on September 1, 1862. By the second week of September he was a patient in Washington Street hospital in Alexandria reportedly “doing well.” James was discharged on March 2, 1863, at Alexandria, Virginia for partial anchylosis of the left hip, and listed Saranac as his mailing address on his discharge paper.
After he was discharged from the army James eventually returned to Ionia County. By the summer of 1863 when he registered for the draft he was single and working as a farmer in Keene, Ionia County.
On April 9, 1879, he married Canadian Ellen Renwick (1852-1926), in Keene, and they had one child, an adopted daughter, Miss Olive Arnold (b. 1885).
By 1880 James was working as a farmer and living with his wife in Keene; also living with them was one Thomas Blythe, a servant and farm laborer. He may have been living in Ovid, Clinton County in 1883 but by 1888 he was living in Ionia. In 1890 he was residing in Easton, Ionia County, in Keene, Ionia County in 1894 and in Saranac from 1894-95 and 1906-10 and on R. R. no. 12 in 1911. (His home was near a place called Potter’s Corners. William Renwick also lived on R.R. no. 12.) In 1910 he was farming in Keene and living with his wife Ellen and adopted daughter Olive; also living with them was a boarder Homer Osgood. By 1920 James was living in Keene, Ionia County along with his wife and his daughter Olive. By 1922 he was living on R.R. no. 12 in Saranac in 1925 and probably also in 1927.
James was a member of the Old 3rd Michigan Infantry Association, and on June 15, 1925, he responded to an invitation for the upcoming Association reunion by saying that while he would like to attend “my condition does not permit me to take the journey to Grand Rapids. If any of you could come to my home I would surely enjoy a visit with you as my head is alright.” He added that “What the coming year may hold we can none of foresee, but standing on the threshold let me send good wishes for the year to be.” Toward the end of his life, one observer noted that “Though unable to get around without aid, Mr. Renwick was always cheerful, and retained a keen intellect.”
James became a member of the Masonic Order on March 27, 1865. In 1866 he applied for and received a pension (no. 67,727), drawing $2.00 by 1883.
James was a widower when he died of pneumonia at his home in Keene, at about 1:30 Saturday morning, May 14, 1927. Funeral services were conducted under the auspices of the Masonic Lodge on Tuesday afternoon at 2:00 at the home, and pallbearers were chosen from the American Legion chapter. Mrs. Gleason Gamsby furnished music and the Rev. Regan of Saranac officiated. James was buried in Saranac cemetery: lot 347.