Tama County Iowa Biographies

A Narrative History of The People of Iowa

by EDGAR RUBEY HARLAN, LL. B., A. M. Curator of the Historical, Memorial and Art Department of Iowa Volume IV


EDGAR KIRKLAND DUN VAN, M. D., is one of the leading physicians and surgeons of Tama County, as well as one of the leading citizens of his home community of Chelsea, where he has ministered to the needs of his fellow men for more than twenty years.

Doctor Dun Van was born in Brooklyn, New York, March 16, 1872, in the house that had served as the ancestral home for several generations. He is of Scotch ancestry and he come of a family that was founded in New York State at an early date. He is a son of Henry and Jennie Dun Van, who passed their entire lives in the State of New York, the father having been a lawyer by profession. Both parents died while he was still an infant, and from that time until he was ten years of age he was reared in the New York State Orphanage at Albany.

Edgar Dun Van then spent his eleventh and twelfth years in the family circle of Silas Holmes, in Connecticut. At twelve years of age he began to shift for himself, beginning as an office boy in the office of a Wall Street lawyer.

Later he spent four years as a student in Wyoming Seminary at Kingston, Pennsylvania, an institution maintained by the Methodist Episcopal Church. While at this school he worked to support himself at whatever jobs he could find, such as snow shoveling, operating a stationary engine and operating the pumps at a camp ground, etc. After leaving this school he worked in a drug store at Oswego, New York, where he also worked an additional two hours a day as a piano tuner in a local music store.

This experience in piano tuning came in mighty handy when he came out to Iowa to attend the medical school at the State University of Iowa, where it enabled him to finance his way through the college. He graduated from the University of Iowa with the M. D. degree in 1897 and then spent a year as an interne in the City Hospital of Rochester, New York. For the next twelve years Doctor Dun Van served as camp physician and surgeon with railroad construction camps in Wyoming. Montana and California, which experience has proven highly valuable to him in the practice of his profession since.

About 1910 Doctor Dun Van established his residence at Chelsea, Iowa, where he has continued in the practice of his profession since. He is serving as local surgeon for the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad and is the health officer of Chelsea, in addition to his large general practice.

He has membership in the Tama County Medical Society, the Iowa State Medical Society and the American Medical Association. During the World war he was a member of the Medical Reserve Corps of the United States army and was active in the advancement of local patriotic measures and movements. He is affiliated with the Masonic fraternity and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.

It will be soon from the above record that Doctor Dun Van has been required by the exigencies of life to develop self-reliance, resourcefulness, initiative and hardihood from an early age and has had to depend upon his own efforts to carve out for himself a noteworthy career, which is the more noteworthy because of that fact. In this battle with life he has been fortunate in possessing a buoyant, optimistic spirit to help carry him over the rough spots. His chief satisfaction in life is the one that distinguishes his profession above all others, namely the satisfaction of genuine service to his fellow men.

While in the State of Wyoming on duty as railroad camp physician he met Miss Hazel Hamlin, who was born and reared in that state. They were married in California, in 1910. They have five children: Agnes, who married Edward Tesar and resides at Chelsea; Jennie, who will graduate from Chelsea High School in 1932; Eric, who is in the class of 1933 at Chelsea High School; and Douglas and Wilford, who are in the grade school.

Debbie Clough Gerischer
Iowa History Site

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