JOHN WESLEY (J W)
Davenport Daily Gazette, May 14, 1884, page 2.
On Thursday last the
steamer St. Paul landed at the boat yard about 20,000 feet of
oak lumber for the boat being built by Van Sant & Edwards.
The lumber came from Indiana and is as fine a lot as has ever
been seen in this vicinity.
Davenport Democrat and Leader, Monday, November 11, 1912, page
Among the early
industries was the LeClaire boatyard and ways, built and first
owned by Peter King, then J. W. Van Sant, father of
Ex-Governor S. R. Van Sant, enlarged and owned same while in
operation, interest retained by heirs. Many packets and
rafters were built, repaired and docked here and furnished
work for many. Among the boats mentioned a few were the
Stillwater, LeClaire Belle, Volunteer, Eclipse, Rambo, Pilot
and many others. The late F. J. Thompson was last foreman.
Davenport Times, Tuesday, February 25, 1902, page 1
HIS DEATH IS
Capt. J. W. Van
Sant of LeClaire Passes Away
FELL DEAD AT
HE HAD BEEN
HEARTY UP TO WITHIN THE PAST FEW DAYS
He Was the
Father of Governor Van Sant of Minnesota
with Whom He
Controlled a Large Fleet of Rafting Boats.
(Special to the Times.)
Feb. 25.--Captain John Wesley Van Sant, father of Governor S. R. Van
Sant of Minnesota, died last evening, falling dead at 7:30 o’clock
while eating his supper. He had been considered a vigorous old man
for his age, but during the last few weeks dropsy set in and it was
this disease which was his immediate cause of his death. Captain
Van Sant is well known up and down the length of the river where his
steamers have piled, in Rock Island and Milan where he lived and in
the latter place having taught school at an early age, and in
Davenport, where he was known to nearly all the businessmen.
arrangements have not yet been made as the family is waiting for the
governor and other members of the family, who have not yet arrived.
Story of His
Van Sant was one of the oldest residents in Eastern Iowa and he
traced his lineage back to the old world. The Van Sant stock,
however, has been American since the founding of the Republic. The
Van Sants took a prominent part in the war of the Revolution. The
names, which have been variously spelled Van Sant, Vansandt and Van
Zandt, had its origin in Holland. The family traces the exact
spelling of their name back at least to 1706, where in Richmond
County, N. Y., where the names of Stoffel and Rachael Vansant
appears. There is also somewhere some Spanish blood in the family,
a thing which the present generation in the light of the last war,
are not laying much emphasis on, preferring to show that as a result
of life in Holland the ancestors acquired the honorary title of Von
Mr. Van Sant’s
parents’ names were Nicholas and Mercy Van Sant. He was born
November 9, 1788, and his wife was born a little more than a year
later. They were married December 23, 1853(?), and the marriage
resulted in their happy union for more than 70 years. They were
both devout Christians and much of their training has descended to
their son whose anniversary was celebrated today. When Nichols Van
Sant was about two years old his parents moved to Bass River, now
Gretna, Burlington County, N. J. There later he farmed and
supported his parents. His father had built ships and had sailed
the world over with them. It was not long till the son took up the
craft of shipbuilding. At the age of 26 Nicholas took up arms with
the people against Great Britain. Later he took up his father’s
business as a shipwright. He continued at this business for more
than 50 years. It is said that he built the first built boat ever
constructed at Newport News: there cutting the timber from the
forest and rigging out a sea-going vessel.
The Van Sant
Van Sant was the oldest of a family of nine children, two of whom
died in infancy. The other children are Joel, who died in 1895.
James, a minister, Rebecca, Samuel, Nicholas, Nathaniel D., and Mary
Ann. The young man soon came to be recognized not only as the
eldest but the best one of the family. The story is told of his
early youth, that he had an Irish friend named David Patterson, who
had been a wild fellow good for nothing till he met young Van Sant,
and came under his influence. Young Van Sant was always (?) a very
religious turn of mind and he was at once a student as well as a
It was but a
short time till all the members of the family became interested and
organized a home school of etudes in grammar, orthography,
pronunciation and the general use of words. As an illustration of
his early earnestness in religious affairs. It may be stated that
he and his friend Rollin Ashley used often to hold private prayer
meetings in the church at Bass River after the congregation had
dispersed. He was early appointed a class leader in the Methodist
Episcopal Church and was afterwards licensed as an exhorter. In
1831 at the age of 21 he was married to Miss Lydia Anderson and not
long after that he moved to the “far west” as the state of Ohio,
Illinois and adjacent states was then called. After some delay he
settled in Rock Island, Ill., where he established a successful
business in steamboat building and repairing.
The Mary Blaine
After he had
been at Rock Island but a short time he went to Burlington and there
built his first boat in the west. It was called the “Mary Blaine”
and many there are who remember this steamer and say that it was one
of the prettiest that the waves of the Mississippi ever floated.
In 1865 the
family moved from Rock Island to LeClaire. These two charming old
people have lived there since that time. Mr. Van Sant continued to
manage his boatyard up to 10 or 12 years ago. He built the steamer
“Volunteer” after he was 80 years of age. He owned large property
interests at LeClaire and had an interest in the log towing fleet of
steamers among which are the boats named after himself and wife, the
“J. W. Van Sant” and the bowboat “Lydia Van Sant.” The governor of
Minnesota, S. R. Van Sant, has looked after the business end of the
raft fleet for years.
Mrs. Van Sant
Van Sant was born at Toms River, N.J., May 5, 1812. Her maiden name
was Anderson. Her father traced the family history back though many
generations to proud English families. There was blue blood in his
veins. The family crest was a familiar sight to Mrs. Van Sant in
her youth. But she was a devout Christian woman and was always to
be found in her place at the church at Toms River. The story is
told that Mr. Van Sant went over to Toms River one day with the
itinerate preacher. It was Saturday. They were invited to the
Anderson home and there remained until the close of the services on
When he left
that Sunday evening he was invited to return again, an invitation
which he was not the least bit loath to accept. Two years after
this accidental meeting they were married and she, weighed down with
the burden of her years survive him. Besides his aged wife the
following sons and daughters survive: A. C. Van Sant, Nicholas G.
Van Sant, Hon. Sam R. Van Sant, Mrs. Lester Harris and Mrs. Nellie
The Sons and
A. C. Van
Sant married Ella Chamberlin of Princeton and they now live in
Omaha. They have four children, John Clark of Omaha; Frank, a
farmer in Kansas; Wilbur W., of Chicago, and Elizabeth at home, in
Van Sant married T. C. Harris at Rock Island. Mr. Harris is now
dead. Their children are Mrs. Francis A. Burton of Los Angeles,
Cal., Mrs. Mary Louise Holden of Hampton, Ill.; John W. Harris, M.
D. of Morris, Minn.; George W. Harris, R.D.S., of Fergus Falls,
Minn., and Miss Ella L. Russell of Los Angeles.
Samuel R. van Sant was married to Miss Ruth Hall at LeClaire. He
has one son, Grant Van Sant.
Nicholas G. Van
Sant married Miss Ella Golder of Sterling, Ill., and has no
children. He is a traveler and has journeyed around the world
several times. His lectures on his travels are in demand.
Sant died three years ago and his death was the first which had
occurred in the family for 55 years.
Van Sant was married to S. B. Taylor. Their home is in Princeton.
Mr. Taylor has extensive interests in rice lands in Louisiana.
Their children are Olive Taylor, who teaches in Minneapolis; Ralph
Taylor at the rice plantations in the south; Blain Taylor, a student
at Cornell College at Mt. Vernon, Ia.; and Nanny Taylor, who is at
There are six
grandchildren of the deceased now living.
seventieth anniversary of the wedding of Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Van Sant
was celebrated at their modest home in LeClaire last October and it
called together a reunion of the entire Van Sant family. Governor
Shaw was one of the guests of the occasion. The event was noted by
the press of the country generally at the time. The venerable
father of the family attended the meeting held in the town hall in
the evening of the festal day, and while he sat on the stage, he
listened to the address of his son, the governor of Minnesota, with
an intensity of interest that impressed the large audience. The
death of the venerable pioneer will be read with deep regret by
hundreds in all parts of the country and wherever he was known.
The Van Sant Family
Lydia & John W. Van Sant
Front row, seated left to right:
Clarke, John W., Lydia, Elias, Nellie
Back row, standing left to right:
Hester, Samuel, Nicholas
Democrat, February 26, 1902, page 7.
J. W. VAN SANT
Boat-builder Dies Suddenly at His Home at LeClaire.
until his 93rd year, John Wesley Van Sant died suddenly
at his home in LeClaire Monday evening. While sitting at the supper
table, enjoying his evening meal, he sank back in his chair and
breathed his last.
was the venerable father of Captain Sam Van Sant, governor of
Minnesota, was in his time the most prominent boat builder on the
upper Mississippi, and last October with his wife enjoyed the
unusual felicity of celebrating their 70th wedding
Mr. Van Sant was a
native of New Jersey, born there in 1810. He came of a long-lived
family, his father living to be 91, and his grandfather to 94, the
three generations reaching back to 50 years before the Revolutionary
to Rock Island six years after their marriage, Mr. Van Sant counted
65 years residence in this vicinity, and was thus one of the
pioneers of Illinois. After removing from Rock Island to LeClaire,
Mr. Van Sant was the head of the big shipbuilding business of Van
Sant & Zebley, which built many of the most noted old rafters on the
Mississippi river. He was noted as the best boat designer and most
skillful ship’s carpenter on the river. The brother Jonathan, the
LeClaire Belle, the D. A. McDonald, the Silver Wave, the Stillwater,
Rambo, Pilot, Musser, J. W. Van Sant and others whose names spring
readily to the lips of every old steamboat man, all attested to his
fame. He never really retired, for up to recent days the care and
repair of the boats of the Van Sant & Musser Transportation Company,
in which he had retained an interest, occupied much of his attention
and time during the winter months.
Mr. Van Sant was the son of a
Methodist minister, was a good lay preacher in his youth, and a
devout worshipper all his life, a chair having been reserved for him
on the platform of the Methodist Church at LeClaire for years, in
order that falling hearing might not deprive him of any portion of
the pastor’s sermon.
family consists of the wife and A. C. Van Sant of Omaha, Neb., Mrs.
T. C. Harris of LeClaire; Governor Sam Van Sant of Minnesota; N. G.
Van Sant of Sterling, Ill., and Mrs. T. B. Taylor of Hampton, Ia.
Grand children and great grandchildren increase the number of their
descendants to half a hundred.
Sant and his son Grant arrived at LeClaire last night, and Nicholas
Van Sant of Sterling, Ill., who has been in Florida, telegraphed
that he would reach the old home tonight.
will take place at 2 o’clock tomorrow afternoon, with services in
the Methodist Church in LeClaire.
Republican, Wednesday, February 26, 1902, page 6.
SUDDENLY AT SUPPER TABLE.
He was 92 years
of Age and One of the Earliest Pioneers in This Part of the Country
-- Came of
Long-lived, Seafaring and Patriotic Stock
-- Father of
The death of
Captain John Wesley Van Sant took place at his home in LeClaire
Monday evening at 7:30. He fell dead while he was engaged in eating
his supper. Dropsy, which had developed rapidly within the past few
weeks, is regarded as the immediate occasion of the end of the life
of one of the oldest and best-known settlers and river men in this
part of the country.
John Wesley Van
Sant was born in New Jersey in 1810, consequently was in his 93rd
year. His wife, Lydia Anderson, was born in the same state in 1812,
and is now in her 91st year.
couple were early pioneers in Illinois, going to that state in 1837,
landing at Rock Island--at that time called Stephenson. They
settled on a piece of land on Rock River, nearby, Mr. Van Sant and
his young family suffered all the privations of early pioneer life.
He soon abandoned his farm on Rock River. (It overflowed every
spring.) During winter, he taught school, worked at carpenter work
or did odd jobs in order to make a living for his family. He moved
to Rock Island and worked in the boat yard, and soon after became
its foreman. Later he bought the boat yard and had ever since been
engaged in the building, repairing and running of steamers on the
Mississippi River. He had learned the trade of shipbuilder prior to
coming west. His ancestors before him were sea-faring men and
vessel builders, and it was said of his grandfather that he could
build and rig a vessel and sail her to any part of the world. He
was in the navel service of the government during the revolutionary
war. It is fortunate that the cause of the Patriots succeeded;
else, the founder of this family might have been hanged as a
pirate. His father was a soldier in the war of 1812, and while the
subject of our sketch was too old to go to war for the Union, his
two young sons, Samuel and Nicholas, did. Thus, it will be seen
that this family was always patriotic.
Van Sant had been a member of the Methodist Church since childhood.
The father of Van Sant was a Methodist preacher, a great admirer of
John Wesley, and he named his first born after that distinguished
father died at the age of 91, and his grandfather at the age of 94,
so that these three men reach back to the year 1726 -- the year of
the birth of Johannes Van Sant, the founder of this family-- or 50
years before the Revolutionary War. A wonderful record for three
Lydia Van Sant
(nee Anderson) also comes from a long-lived family. Her father was
a Revolutionary soldier, and it was very rarely that a son or
daughter of the American Revolution is found living. She is the
daughter of Elias Anderson, a Revolutionary soldier.
scarcely realize the vast improvements since the old couple came
west. Within a radius of 20 miles of the old farm on Rock River
are found three populous cities, Davenport, Rock Island and Moline,
and within the same radius more than 100,000 happy and contented
people live. J. W. and Lydia Van Sant had eight children born to
them, five of whom are still living: Prof. A. C. Van Sant of Omaha,
Neb., Mrs. T. C. Harris, who is at present living with and taking
care of the old people: S. R. Van Sant, present Governor of
Minnesota: N. G. Van Sant of Sterling, Ill., and Mrs. T. B. Taylor
of Hampton, Ia. One son, E. A. Van Sant, died in 1896 at Peoria,
Ill., aged 60. The other two children died in infancy. There are
some 50 children, grandchildren and great grandchildren living in
different parts of the country.
moved to LeClaire in 1864, and two or three years later, with his
son, Samuel, formed a partnership, since which time they have been
building and operating steamboats on the Mississippi River. He was
at his death owner with his son, of several steamboats plying the
Mississippi River. In fact, they built the first boat with large
power purposely for the rafting industry.
announcement will be made later.
Times, Wednesday, February 26, 1902, page 5.
J. V. VAN SANT
It Will be Held
Thursday Afternoon from the Old Home in LeClaire
Gov. Sam R. Van Sant has
arrived from Minnesota and the other members of his father’s
family who have not arrived will be here tonight, to attend
the funeral of the late J. W. Van Sant, which will be held
from the old home in LeClaire, Thursday afternoon at 3
o’clock, with services in the Methodist Church of that place,
of which the deceased had been a member for so many years.
The obsequies will be largely attended by many of the old-time
residents of the country. The internment will be in the
John W. Van Sant
Jan 8, 1810
Feb 24, 1902
Lydia (Anderson) Van Sant