Thomas R. Van Deventer
THOMAS R. VAN DEVENTER, a prosperous farmer and stock-raiser and esteemed citizen of Brown county, Illinois, for the past fifty-five years a resident of section 15, Versailles township, was born in Fayette county, Ohio, in 1819.
His parents were Jacob and Jane (Rogers) Van Deventer, the former a native of old Virginia, and the latter of Paris, Kentucky. His father's parents were Jacob and Mary (Slater) Van Deventer, the former born in Holland in 1743, and the latter a native of Glasgow, Scotland. The young Hollander was a powder-maker by trade, and came to America In early manhood. He was married in New Jersey, on the Delaware river, and soon after went to Virginia, where he and his young wife located on a farm, which was situated on the south branch of the Potomac river. He engaged in farming, and having an excellent water-power in the river, also manufactured gunpowder. It was in the latter capacity that he rendered signal service to the patriots at the time of the Revolutionary war, providing them with powder with which to blaze their way into independence. He served for a short time in the regular army in that memorable conflict, and participated in the battles of Yorktown and Valley Forge. He was also a member of the Home Guards, although he did not take part in the engagement in which they distinguished themselves for bravery and efficiency. This worthy patriot and his wife were the parents of eight children, five sons and three daughters: William; Isaac; Jacob; Peter; Cornelius; Sarah, who married Jacob Judy; Mary, wife of George Timmons; and Peggy, wife of Daniel Timmons brother of George. The mother of this family died, aged eighty years, while the father expired four years later. They had met with many financial losses, and left only a small estate in worldly goods, although a rich heritage of honor and good deeds followed and influenced their children through life. Some of this family were of small stature, like the gentleman whose name heads this notice, but the majority of them, both men and woman, were large, erect and finely formed. Sarah was six feet tall, while Jacob, the father of the subject of this sketch, was a veritable giant, standing six feet six inches in his socks and weighing 240 pounds, Although possessing great strength and undaunted courage, he was most peaceable and kind. He was twice married. His first wife was Magdalene Buffenbarger, a member of a wealthy Ohio family. She died early, leaving two children--a son, Jethero, and a daughter, Elizabeth. The former now lives in Versailles, Illinois; and the latter resides in Indiana. Late in the fall of 1815 the father remarried, his second wife being the mother of the subject of this biography. A short time afterward, he and his brother, with their families, six persons in each household, came from Fayette county, Ohio, to Schuyler, now Brown county, Illinois. This journey of more than 400 miles was made in three weeks, with two large covered wagons and eight horses, four animals under saddle. The father of our subject brought some means with him, realized from the sale of his farm in Ohio. He first settled in Schuyler, now Brown county.
Eight years earlier Cornelius Van Deventer visited the Illinois bottoms. where he secured a claim. Five acres of this he fenced and planted to corn and pumpkins, and after completing their cultivation returned to his family. On his return in the fall, great was his surprise to find his crop intact, not an ear of corn or a pumpkin being missing.
The stalwart and much beloved pioneer, Jacob Van Deventer, died in 1833, aged fifty-three years, leaving a bereaved family and many sorrowing friends. His worthy wife survived him nine years, dying aged about forty-eight years. They were the parents of six boys and two girls, to-wit: T. R., J. F., H. D., and B. B., boys; girls, Caroline and Duan; one child, Pembrook Berbeck Van Deventer, died when small; the others were the subject of this notice, J. F., H. D. and B. B. In 1838, she bought fifty-three acres of heavily timbered land, which had a small enclosure cleared, in the center of which was a hewed-log house, for which she paid $600. This forms part of the present large farm of the subject of this sketch. He and his brothers formerly owned this farm of 800 acres in partnership, but J. F. Van Deventer, of Mount Sterling, now owns another farm of 2,200 acres near by, which he is farming on a large scale. Their specialty is stock-raising, including horses, cattle and hogs. On the land cultivated by our subject and his other brother, there is now a substantial farm residence, which they erected in 1866, besides which there are large barns and an excellent granary, which they built in 1880, all of which are models of their kind. They breed and raise from fifty to sixty head of dehorned short horn cattle annually, and have fed each year, for some thirty-five years, about 250 head, which they ship to market, together with many which they buy to sell. They now own ninety bead of horses, and breed and raise ten to twelve head a year, most of which are draft horses, but some are for the saddle. They send to market from 200 to 300 hogs a year, beside shipping of their own stock from eight to ten car loads annually. Thus will be seen what a prominent part they take in the development of this country, which results in their own prosperity and provides work for numerous attendants.
In politics, Mr. Van Deventer affiliates with the Republican party, the principles of which he has endorsed for many years.
Notwithstanding his marvelous achievements in life, we have yet to chronicle the most wonderful feat of his existence, namely, his abstaining from matrimony. How he has escaped the wiles of the fair sex is truly phenomenal, unless we revert to his other superior accomplishments. However, we will not congratulate him yet, remembering he will not be free from danger until he has left this mundane sphere.
His early educational opportunities were limited, but he inherited a clear and strong intellect, as well as superior physical strength, and, by much reading and reflection, has over come these early disadvantages. Besides being one of the most successful of men financially, he enjoys, by reason of his integrity of character and uniform courtesy, the universal friendship of his fellow men.
Biographical Review of Cass, Schuyler and Brown Counties, Illinois, Biographical Review Publishing Co., Chicago, 1892, pages 285-287.
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