JOHN PATTERSON VANDIKE is a name which inspires a good deal of esteem, respect and liking in that section where it is oftenest heard, and where its bearer, one of the substantial citizens of Benton county, has so long made his home. As his name indicates Mr. Vandike is of Dutch origin, the family having been founded in America by one Andrew Vandike, who was born in Holland, January 11, 1744, and died September 3, 1814. At some time in his life, the date not being known, he decided to leave his native "land of pluck" and emigrate to a country richer in resources, settling as did so many of his compatriots in the city which some time before had appropriately been known as New Amsterdam.
Henry Vandike, the grandfather of John P. Vandike, died in April, 1796, his age not being known. The father, John Vandike, was born in Salem county, New Jersey, April 28, 1793. As his father died when he was only about three years of age, the family were in very straitened circumstances and young John remained for the next eight years at his grandfather's home on Tinicum Island, where the family had been visiting at the time of Henry Vandike's death. John Vandike was bound out as soon as he became old enough for his services to be of any use, to one Andrew Poulson. Free again upon the attainment of his majority in the fall of 1814 he moved to Fulton county, Pennsylvania. In 1815 he volunteered at McConnellstown, Pennsylvania, to go to the relief of Baltimore, which at that time was invaded by the British, but before reaching Baltimore the British were defeated, and the volunteer troops disbanded. The first turnpike in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, was built by him in the summer of 1816 and the next fifteen years of his life were devoted to teaching school, principally in Virginia. He was married to his first wife, whose maiden name was Elizabeth Walker, April 17, 1828, and she died in less than a year. His second union took place April 29, 1830, in the state of Pennsylvania and shortly thereafter he came to Delaware county, Ohio, settling on land nearby and hewing a home by mighty effort out of the forest primeval. He assisted greatly in the construction of the first buildings of the Ohio Wesleyan College at Delaware. Although he went to school but three weeks, he gave himself a good education, and even taught school for many years, following the double calling of pedagogue and farmer. As a Bible student he enjoyed more than local fame and when his children were growing up he recited the whole historical part of "the good book" to them on long winter evenings. He was exceptionally well-versed in astronomy and in ancient and modern history. Of his family of four sons and three daughters, all taught school with the exception of him whose name initiates this sketch.
For over sixty years John Vandike, Sr., was an unswerving member of the Methodist Episcopal church. He voted the Democratic ticket and was honored by his neighbors and fellow citizens with the gift of several public offices of importance, among these being the offices of justice of the peace, county judge and postmaster. The latter position he held at Redman, Benton county, Iowa, whence he removed in 1861, also pursuing the calling of a farmer in the new location. In the year 1868 he returned to the place of his birth after an absence of fifty-four years and met for the first time his half brother, Samuel Rain, a man more than half century old. During the year 1875 John Vandike's eyesight failed him so that he could not read. This was a great affliction as reading was one of his chief enjoyments, and having read and studied a great deal during the course of a long life he was, perhaps, the best historian in the county. The death of this estimable gentleman occurred December 24, 1880.
John Patterson Vandike, the subject of this biography, was born in Delaware county, Ohio, on March 15, 1839. Mr. Vandike's mother's name before her marriage was Elizabeth Aultman, her birth having occurred in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, October 25, 1804, and her parents having been of the stock popularly known as "Pennsylvania Dutch." He received a common school education and early began his battle with the world, in the early sixties driving a breaking team with seven yoke of oxen and a thirty inch plow, especially intended for dealing with the sod of the unbroken prairie. Power horses were hard to get in those days and it was a matter of pride with him that on one red letter day he ran a threshing machine drawn by eight horses and one yoke of oxen. When he moved to the prairie there was not a tree in sight closer than twelve miles and the wheat was taken to a grist mill on Salt Creek to be ground. Mr. Vandike's pioneer reminiscences are interesting and among them he recounts this:
"My wife and I and two little children once went to Vinton, the county seat, to do some trading. It was a mild morning when we started out, the sun shining brightly. However, when we left for home it commenced to snow and soon turned into a blizzard. We were forced to stop with a farmer on the way and we had to stay two nights and a day before we dared to start for home, and, oh, the snow drifts we had to go through! In those days when we went to a party we hitched up a big sled or wagon and gathered up all the young folks along the way, sometimes carrying as many as seventeen in one load."
In later years Mr. Vandike secured an interest in a general store at Belle Plaine, but was burned out and the business was discontinued. He thereupon took up the feeding of cattle for a number of years and shipped the most of them to Chicago. Pie now owns three hundred and twenty acres of prairie land and forty acres of timber land in Kane township, and one hundred and twenty acres in Nebraska and is accounted one of the prosperous men of the locality.
Mr. Vandike was married December 7, 1862, at Redman, Tama county, Iowa, to Nancy Jane Drake, daughter of Kelley and Sarah (Ashby) Drake, her family being of agricultural stock. Kelley Drake built the first house in Kane township, Benton county, in 1853. Sir Francis Drake, the English naval hero of the sixteenth century, was one of Mrs. Vandike's ancestors. Mr. Vandike believes that to his marriage he owes the greater share of his success, his wife having been an ideal helpmeet for nearly fifty years. He is very loyal to her and declares that his union with a woman of such strength of character and unselfishness was the greatest and most important event of his life.
As mentioned before Mr. Vandike has a fund of interesting pioneer anecdotes at his command. When he removed from Ohio to Iowa he made the journey by team and was about six weeks on the road, arriving at Redman, Iowa, November 22, 1861. He secured quarters with a family that winter which were by no means distinguished for their comfortableness. His room was upstairs and many a morning he would have to shake a thick crust of snow off the bedclothes before emerging and would leave deep tracks behind him all the way down stairs. After his marriage he and his wife moved out upon the prairie to a farm which Mr. Vandike had bought on time and which was two miles from any neighbor. He set to work dauntlessly to break the prairie and to build a home. As there were no railroads nearby he hauled his first crops thirty-five miles to Cedar Rapids. Upon one occasion he became lost in a snow storm when in reality within a mile of home. After wandering around for what seemed an interminable period Mr. Vandike unhitched his team, mounted one of his horses and left the solution of the problem to him. Although he started out in what seemed to Mr. Vandike the wrong direction, it proved to be the right one and he was soon by his own fireside.
In the matter of politics Mr. Vandike was for many years a Democrat, but he has latterly voted where he believed his vote would do the greatest amount of good, studying public questions upon his own account and not blindly following party leadership. He has been a Free Mason since 1873 and enjoys good standing in that august body. He is present school treasurer, an office he has held for many years. For twenty-four years he was trustee of Kane township and among his many good works was contribution to the Addison Institute at Irving, Tama county, Iowa. As Mr. Vandike expresses it, he belongs to the "Big Church," and he is unostentatious in his benevolences, his right hand not knowing what his left hand doeth.
To Mr. and Mrs. Vandike have been born a number of children. James A. Vandike was born May 25, 1864, in Kane township, Benton county, Iowa. He was graduated from the high school and has followed successfully the work of a farmer and school teacher. On November 9, 1887, he was married to Etta Byam, but she died in 1907 and on June 2, 1909, he took as his second wife, Mary M. Quigley. They reside in Kane township. Almeda was born August 30, 1866, attended the local high school and married Daniel Rockwell, a horse shipper and large landowner in Custer county, Nebraska. Emmett M. pursued the calling of a railroad carpenter until last year, but now he devotes his energies to the cultivation of a farm in Kane township. He was born September 15, 1869, and September 23, 1894, laid the foundation of a household by his marriage to Gertie Bair. Clarence, deceased, was born November 18, 1874. Charles Henry was born September 18. 1876, attended the high school, adopted the farmer's vocation and was married to Mary M. LeQuatte, August 20, 1900. Frank A., who also follows the vocation for which the family seems to have a decided penchant, received his education, in the common schools and was united in marriage to Clara Tarvasted, May 2, 1901. He was born July 22, 1879. James A., Almeda, and Charles H. were all teachers in the public schools of Benton county, Iowa.