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VanOlst, John, 1872-1934


Posted By: Lydia Lucas, volunteer (email)
Date: 1/18/2013 at 20:27:25

John Van Olst

The subject of this sketch is John Van Olst of Leota Minnesota--the first child born in Orange City. He was born in Orange City at about nine o'clock on the morning of January twentyseventh 1872. At the time of his birth the town consisted of the boarding house of old Mother Mouw, the shoe store and residence of Joseph Vos, the hardware store and residence of A. Lenderink, the store and residence of A. Heimstra, the store of Hon. Henry Hospers and his residence and the blacksmith shop and twelve by twelve dwelling room where the child was born. There was no doctor or midwife in the town and the midwife who was called in was Mrs. Bennink living half way between the town and what is now the town of Alton.

In the whole town was only one horse--the property of Ben Mouw, then a poor laboring man and at present one of the largest land owners near Sioux Center Iowa. This horse was old and blind but its services were called upon to bring the midwife. It was during the night that Mr. Mouw drove out. The moon was shining and it was bright as day. The morning sun arose in a cloudless winter sky. But at about nine o'clock a dark bank of clouds arose in the northwest that soon covered the whole sky. Then very large snow flakes began to fall. There was no wind but the snowfall became more and more dense. In about ten minutes a wind that seemed to come in puffs and small whirlwinds began to blow. The puffs became fiercer and whirlwinds more rapid and one could judge that the general blow was from the northwest. Soon all was a fierce whirling mass of damp falling snow and the whew-whew-whew of the fiercest blizzard the ever struck Sioux county was upon it. The gyrating motion of the snow and wind--seemingly coming from every direction at once--took away one's breath and muddled one's senses and made him unable to know any direction. One could not see eight feet before him and a wall of whirling snow and howling tempest seemed to surround him. To go from a house to a barn meant becoming bewildered and losing ones way to wander on the trackless prairies. Thus amid the battle of the elements was the first boy born to the county seat of Sioux county.

At present Van Olst is a blacksmith at Leota Minnesota and is highly respected by all who know him. His father--the old smith so well known to all the old settlers--was the first blacksmith in this part of the county and Nic Koob and Pete Wagner and the Pfeffers and Kellen boys and many more around Alton remember the time when they came from ten to fifteen miles with their plowshares to get the old blacksmith to sharpen them. They also remember that they always met with a warm welcome and a bite to eat to start them on their way home again. The old smith died a few years ago leaving three sons and three daughters to mourn his loss.

Source: Alton Democrat, September 30, 1905.
The story includes a photograph of Van Olst.

The Minnesota Death Certificates Index has Van Olst, John (date and place of birth not given), died 23 April 1934, Murray County, certificate ID# 1934-MN-009338.


Sioux Biographies maintained by Linda Ziemann.
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