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Vurnum Saunders Calhoun


Posted By: Fran Hunt, Volunteer
Date: 10/5/2001 at 18:54:35

From the Portrait and Biographical Album of Jefferson and Van Buren Counties – 1890
Vurnum Saunders Calhoun, one of the early settlers of Van Buren County, engaged in farming on Section 21 Union Township was born in Holmes County Ohio, July 5, 1838, his parents being Newton and Esther Saunders Calhoun. His grandfather, David Calhoun, a gentleman of Scotch-Irish descent, emigrated from Beaver County Pennsylvania to Holmes County Ohio about 1816, but further that this little is known concerning the early history of the family. At the time of the removal, Newton Calhoun, who was born May 19, 1809, was in his eighth year. He was reared among the wild scenes of that heavily timbered country and in his youth was inured to hardships, while into his mind, was instilled lessons of industry. His scholastic training was very limited indeed. Before attaining his majority, he was married April 8, 1830 to Matilda Saunders, who was born October 16, 1811, and by whom he had three children, on of whom died in infancy, while George and Thomas are farmers of Scotland County Missouri. His wife died February 12, 1836, and on October 18, of the same year he wedded Esther Saunders, sister of his first wife, who was a native of New York State, but when two years of age removed with her parents to Holmes County Ohio. She was born April 5, 1815. Her father followed the sea for some years and several of his brothers were either owners or masters of vessels.
Newton Calhoun cleared a farm in Ohio. He was a man of great pluck and energy as is shown by the fact that when about twenty-six years of age a tree fell up him, injuring him severely, but upon his knees he cleared several acres of land. He was a man of powerful physique and after he was seventy-five years of age he drove a sled three miles cut two cords of wood, leaving the butts for rails, and hauled one cord home at night.
Thinking to better his financial condition by a removal further westward, with a four-horse team he brought his family to Van Buren County, arriving in the month of May of 1839. On Section 17, Union Township, he located land, paying $1,000 for a three hundred and twenty acre claim, which he then had to enter but not an improvement had been made thereon. He cut logs, piled them one upon another in the form of a house, secured clapboards from which he formed the roof and the same day moved into his cabin. He was an enterprising man and soon built a brick house, one of the best in the country. He was not a marked success as a financier, but he reared a family who became useful citizens and by his own efforts did not a little to advance the interests of the community. His second wife died September 17, 1878. Nine children were born of that union, six of whom are living—Vurnum of this sketch; Newton L., a resident farmer of Van Buren County; Ross who is engaged in the mercantile and real estate business in Ness City Kansas; John C. who was killed by lightening when sixteen years of age; James T., proprietor of a hotel in Ness City Kansas; Orange S. who died at the age of ten years; Smith P. who died when four years of age; Nathan S., County Clerk of Ness County Kansas; and Mrs. R. M. Bonnette. Mr. Calhoun was a third time married in 1881, the lady of his choice being Belle Barker. Unto them was born a daughter, Mary. Mr. Calhoun has been a life-long Methodist, served as Class-Leader for many years, has given liberally in support of the Gospel and has lived a consistent Christian life. The mother of our subject was also a member of that church, and was a lady of more than ordinary ability, being well informed on political questions and other subjects of interest. Believing the abolition principles to be of the utmost importance she influenced not a few to her way of thinking. The home of Mr. and Mrs. Calhoun was a station on the Underground Railway and when the Republican Party was formed to prevent the further extension of slavery, he was one of the first to espouse its cause. He is now an old man who at farthest can live but a few years longer, but his life has been well spent in the service of him whom he recognized as Master and an influence for good will remain long after he has passed away.
Our subject is the eldest of the family of nine children and therefore much of the labor of the farm devolved upon him. He remained at home until the spring of 1862, when he went to California by way of New York and the Isthmus of Panama, where he prospected a little but mostly worked on ranches. The following year he returned by way of the Isthmus, being the first to reestablish the line broken by the bandit Walker. Previous to this time he had operated a threshing machine and his services were in great demand, having in fact to refuse many who would have employed him had he the opportunity to perform their work. Oh his return from California, he again resumed this business, which he followed successfully for some twelve years, after which for some three years, he was employed by the Government to bale hay.
V.S. Calhoun and Miss Nancy Spraker, a native of Indiana, were united in marriage November 3, 1870. She was eight years of age when she came to this county and after five years of happy wedded life she died September 20 1875, in the faith of the Methodist Church, of which she was a consistent member. On February 17, Mr. Calhoun wedded Emma E. Fleming, who was born in Brown County Ohio, February 10, 1852, but was reared in Pennsylvania until fourteen years of age, when in 1866 she came to Iowa. They have two children, son, Vurnum S. and John N.
Mr. Calhoun devotes his time and attention to the operation of his excellent farm of two hundred and fifty acres, and to the raising and shipping of stock. He keeps on hand only the best grades and these he has in considerable numbers. Twice, has he led the Chicago market with stock of his own feeding. In politics he is a Republican and cast his first vote for President Lincoln. For more than half a century he has lived in this county and has witnessed its growth and progress and aided in its development. Through the greater part of that time he has been identified with its agricultural interests and in the promotion of its enterprises he has borne his share. He is accounted a good citizen and ranks among the well-to-do farmers of Union Township.
I am not related, and am only copying this for the information of those who might find this person in their family.


Van Buren Biographies maintained by Rich Lowe.
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