John Oliphant VanGilder, son of Jacob VanGilder and Sarah R. McElroy, was born in Monongalia County, (West) Virginia on February 22, 1829. John was only a teenager when his father died and rather than working on the family farm he went to Morgantown and learned the trade of wheel-wright. As a young man of twenty-one, he worked with Edward Hatfield as a chair maker in Morgantown. On July 14, 1853, John married Mary Louise Hill, daughter of Joseph Davidson Hill and Sarah Houston in Monongalia County, (West) Virginia. Reverend Ben Ison performed the ceremony.
By the late 1850’s, John owned his own chair making shop in Morgantown which was located on Front Street (today University Avenue). For twenty years, John was employed in the furniture business. First, he was self employed as a chair maker and later he worked for the Hennen Furniture Factory located in Morgantown. By 1870, John had turned to farming on a full time basis and had a 75 acre piece of property on the Stewartstown Pike outside Morgantown.
John O. VanGilder served with Company 4, 76 Regiment of the Virginia Militia, which became the West Virginia Militia during the early years of the Civil War. He was elected to the post of Captain of the Company on December 7, 1861 and served until after September 22, 1862. From the homepage of the West Virginia Union Militia, "Many soldiers started out in the original Virginia State Militia units, which had been functioning since the colonial period. While most secessionists joined regular Confederate regiments, many Union men stayed with the county militia regiments, which were then dubbed 'Home Guards' or "Scouts'. These men were useful in guarding rail lines and as local forces fighting Confederate guerillas."
The VanGilder’s raised a family of eleven children. From 1883-1885, John served as a member of the Morgan District Board of Education and in 1883 he was elected its president. Education held a place of great importance in the VanGilder family. Three of John and Mary’s children became teachers, George, Emma, and Lida. Lida VanGilder presented a paper at the Teacher’s Institute at Easton, West Virginia on January 17, 1902 entitled, “The Country School.” Four of their daughters were graduated from West Virginia University, and one was the first woman admitted to the school.
John was a member of the Presbyterian Church and Mary belonged to the local Methodish Church. John was a forty year member of the Monongalia Lodge Number 10, Independent Order of Odd Fellows.
On December 17, 1902 the VanGilder farmhouse, valued at $3000, was severly damaged by a fire that broke out in the gas pipes in the kitchen. The house was an old landmark, built on property originally owned by Mary's father. It was a log house with a new frame structure on the front. (I believe from various newspaper articles, that the VanGilder farmhouse was originally the home of Joseph Davidson and Sarah Houston Hill, Mary's parents). John had suffered a stroke in July, 1902 and was carried out of the house on a cot. In January, 1904 he had a second stroke and died at the age of seventy-four on February 14, 1904. The obituary in The Morgantown Weekly Post mentions that, “No man was more highly respected by his fellow men; he was honorable and upright in all of his dealings, industrious and a good citizen and his death was learned with great regret.”
From the obituary, it seems that the VanGilder home was not totally destroyed as Mary died in the house from a stroke at the age of seventy-two on January 14, 1908. The obituary also mentions that Mary was born and reared in the house where she died. Both John and Mary, and a number of their children, are buried in Mt. Union Cemetery, north of Morgantown. To commemorate the VanGilder family, there is a street off the Stewartstown Pike, near the old VanGilder farm, called VanGilder Street.
Children of John Oliphant VanGilder and Mary Louise Hill:
A blog about the tombstones of John Oliphant and Mary Louise Hill VanGilder.
Unlockthe VanGilder Treasure Chest!
CIVIL WAR SERVICE RECORDS for John O. VanGilder
CHECK IT OUT!!!! George Ethelbert VanGilder's Autograph Album from 1888! The oldest VanGilder document still around that we have found to date. His siblings, cousins, mom, and aunt all signed it!
Contents of the 1888-1889 Autograph Album of George Ethelbert VanGilder submitted to the West Virginia USGenWeb Archives. The original is in the possession of his great granddaughter, Karen Roolf Schaller.
Family research is not always done alone. I would like to thank my family--parents, aunts, cousins, cousins once removed--who have given support, stories, and old photos.
Updated: October, 2009
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