Category Archives: Van Meter
This was previously published in the Going In-Depth October issue. You can find the entire issue here.
Has this happened to you? After a little bit of research have you found an ancestor that didn’t quite live up to your expectations? It happened to me. You may have heard my story before but let me give you a little background. Like any self respecting family historian or genealogist I spend a good deal of time in cemeteries. I’m really fortunate enough to live in the same area my ancestors lived. I’m the seventh generation in one line of my family tree to live in this area so that translates into many ancestors buried close enough for me to visit. My sister and I joke about one small cemetery, Rockport Methodist in Allen County Ohio, where we believe we’re related to at least half the people buried there.
It was on one of my excursions to Rockport a couple years back that I came across a Civil War soldier with the same surname as my 2x great grandmother. He was barely 21 years old when he died during the war. I hated to think that he probably didn’t leave a wife or children and that without descendants his memory was lost soon after his death. I knew he was a collateral ancestor but that didn’t matter. I was going to research James R Vanmeter and tell his story. He didn’t serve his country at its most crucial time to be lost to history. Right? So I took up the task of remembering James R. Vanmeter.
As I began my research I was sure James had succumbed to wounds while in battle. He died during the war on February 18, 1864. I was swept away by my own thoughts of his youthful courage and patriotism. I diligently searched the Soldiers and Sailors database, Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org. I soon found he served with Co. F 4th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry (OVC). I found a couple amazing books outlining the history of the 4th OVC. The first was The Invincibles – The Story of the Fourth Ohio Veteran Volunteer Cavalry 1861 – 1865 by Nancy Pape-Findley. The other I found online in Google Books. It was while reading the The Story of the 4th Regiment Ohio Veteran Volunteer Cavalry by Lucien Wulsin I had my first inkling James wasn’t who I’d built him up to be in my mind.
I found the 4th OVC was on furlough when James died. He had reenlisted in January 1864 and was able to go home with a return date of March 7, 1864 to Camp Dennison. Okay so he didn’t die on a battle field riddled with bullets. He died at home. Still his death had to be valiant, right? Due to some kind of injury due to enemy fire.
I took a shot and researched James in the Civil War veteran’s pensions. I didn’t expect a thing since he was not married yet found a card on him. Rachel Milliken had filed for a pension on James’ service. His mom’s first name was Rachel but last name was Vanmeter not Milliken or so I thought.
This tidbit that some person had filed for a pension on James’ military service led me to request his pension file from the National Archives. I waited anxiously. What was I thinking? I still wasn’t exactly sure how James and I were related. Shouldn’t I be spending money on my own direct ancestors instead of chasing someone else’s?
When all 64 pages of James Vanmeter’s pension file came I couldn’t wait to get into it and what I read made it worth every cent I spent. It contained blockbuster information. Drunkenness, divorce, illness, death. Lots and lots of letters from James’ mom to the pension board as she pled her case for a pension, even two letters she had received written by James while with the 4th! I was ecstatic!
It’s back to school week here at Genealogy Circle. The mother is very happy, the student – well not so much! So with the first day of school at hand I can’t help but say those oft repeated words, “Where the heck did summer go?”
Ours was filled with fun events like vacation, family gatherings, and a couple day trips. One of the best occurred just this last weekend. I co-hosted the 8th annual 4th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry (OVC) Descendants Association Reunion. (Whew! That’s a mouthful!)
Two of my collateral ancestors belonged to Co. F 4th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry. Being a part of this group honors their memory, their Civil War service and keeps alive their significant participation in our nation’s history. It’s also fun to get together with like minded folks, have some laughs and share a meal!
Our reunion was a three day event here in Allen County, Ohio. The location chosen since a large portion of Co. F of the 4th OVC was raised in this area. We toured Memorial Hall which was built for the 1908 Dept. GAR encampment, we traveled to three cemeteries placing flags on the graves of men of the 4th OVC, toured a couple other historic locations and had a super time with lots of fun over meals.
Sounds like a good time – right? But why am I telling you all this?
Here’s the conclusion of yesterday’s post Checking a Goal Off the To-Do List.
As one year merged into the next, James was aware of the country’s changing political climate. Abolition, electing a new president, threats of southern secession. James had finally found peace and contentment in life on his uncle’s farm but if that life was challenged by war he would fight if and when needed.
The opportunity to fight came much sooner than anyone imagined. April 1861 brought the firing on Ft. Sumter, state after southern state seceded and then the president’s call came for recruits.
In the little village of Rockport, in Allen County Ohio, young men were stirred to fight for the Union. They would preserve this country and the freedoms their forefathers had fought for, they would answer President Lincoln’s call for volunteers. As recruiters came to the tiny town looking for men to join the 4th OVC, 18 year old James Vanmeter(1) and his 21 year old brother George eagerly enlisted. Mustering in Sept. 6, 1861, both in Company F, the boys joined their regiment two months later on November 12 at Camp Dennison.
In researching my family’s history I often find myself in a cemetery. All genealogists and historians love a good cemetery! It was during one of these visits that I found a “stray” soldier who fought in the Civil War. At first I gave him just a casual glance but then I caught his name. It was the same surname as one of my family lines. I knew he wasn’t a direct ancestor but could he be related? He had to be. In reading his tombstone I learned a little something about his life. Here was a 21 year old soldier who died in the war.
You know what really struck me though? The thought that he probably never married. He probably died without children and although his siblings may have remembered him to their children, I’ll bet his memory was never passed on after that. This young man, a soldier who fought to hold his country together during our nation’s darkest hour had probably been forgotten a few short years after his death. My heart went out to this guy. I wanted to learn about him. Tell his story. I didn’t want history or the country he died for to pass him by. So I jotted his name and the dates from his headstone on a piece of paper. My research on a long forgotten soldier, James R. Vanmeter, was about to begin.
I began like any genealogist and looked for James on Ancestry.com but found little. His parents and siblings were listed but not much more than that. I tried a couple of other websites and did find James served with Co. F 4th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry (OVC), but a man who barely spends 21 years on this earth doesn’t leave much of a paper trail, especially in the 1860′s. With such little information I renewed my mission to find all I could about this young military man who gave his last full measure for his country.
Through trial and error and I have to say “dogged-research” I finally found that there was a pension file opened for James. I thought that odd since he was without dependents but there was a pension file all the same. It was his mother, Rachel Millikin who applied for the pension. Now this was something to investigate. His mother had a different last name. She filed for a stipend from the government on James’ military service with the 4th OVC. What’s the story here?
I requested a copy of James R. Van Meter’s Civil War pension file from the National Archives. I worried I might be chasing shadows and would receive nothing valuable in the file yet a few short weeks later the 70+ pages I received were worth every cent I spent.
James R. Van Meter was the middle of five children. He was born in 1843 in Putnam County, Ohio to John and Rachel Stephenson Van Meter. Both families were from the area so they had extensive extended families. Yet these Van Meter’s moved to Lucas County, Ohio before 1850. They stayed in northwest Ohio until the unthinkable happened. John, this little family’s patriarch passed away in 1851. It was a shattering event for Rachel. How would she ever feed and raise her five children? Her circumstances were overwhelming. When Rachel brought her husband’s body back to his family to be buried alongside his parents she stayed. She moved her little brood back to the area where she had grown up. Surely with the help of the Van Meter’s and Stephenson’s she would be able to raise her children. Still it was hard. The older boys worked to bring the family some money. It was difficult to feed and clothe them all, to maintain a home, to keep them together as a family. Rachel was heartbroken. How would she manage? She responded with the only answer she could come up with. She’d marry again.
Rachel married Daniel Millikin in 1859. Daniel was a widower with young children of his own. Their union met their mutual needs. Or so Rachel thought but after a few short months the hell Rachel lived through without John was nothing to the hell of living with Daniel. Her new husband was a drunk. He tended to react violently to her children and with drinking, worked sporadically. It didn’t take many episodes of Daniel’s offensive behavior for Rachel to farm her children out to extended family. Each one went to live with a different relative.
So in 1860 James was living with his Uncle Jim and Aunt Mariah Van Meter. Uncle Jim was his dad’s brother (and my 3x great-grandfather). James was fond of Uncle Jim. He was named after him and he knew Uncle Jim felt the same way. Jim and Mariah Van Meter had a houseful of kids themselves, six in all but opened their door to young James. He worked hard on the farm with his cousins. He missed his brothers and sisters, seeing them occasionally. He tried to see his mama when he could. James saw her a few minutes here or there whenever he could manage it. Yet James was thankful for his life at his uncle’s home. It was quiet and steady not filled with daily worry as life had been when his father passed but unfortunately this peacefulness wouldn’t last. April 12, 1861 brought a lasting change to the country and the Vanmeter’s life.**
**The conclusion to James Vanmeter’s story tomorrow!
After a wonderful holiday weekend I’m back to transcribing a local GAR Roster from 1908. I found the Roster in the papers of the Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War 1861-1865, Lizabeth A. Turner, Tent 23. I’m a member and have access to this fabulous genealogical info! The GAR held their encampment in Lima, Ohio in 1908. So that’s probably the reason for printing this roster.
Mart Armstrong is the name of the GAR Post and it was No. 202.
So today we’re getting the veteran’s names and regiments as listed on page 2 of the roster:
Conner, George – Co. D 54 OVI
Custar, Jacob – Co. A 151 OVI
Carr, Solomon – Co. E 180 OVI
Clausing, Theodore – Co. K 56 OVI
Clutter, D. W. – Co. G 71 OVI
Clark, Alva – Co. A 49 OVI
Carter, Wm – Co. K 99 OVI
Crum, Henry G. – Co. G 87 OVI
Copeland, George H. – Co. I 34 OVI
Charters, John – Co. F 43 OVI
Conrath, Israel – Co. F 206 Pa Inf
Craig, Jordan S. – Co. E 81 OVI
Dobbins, T. W. – Co. E 180 OVI
Davis, E. F. – Co. F 118 OVI
Davis, J. G. – Co. B 99 OVI
Dilley, Henry – Co. D 52 OVI
Donze, C. F. – Co. A 38 OVI
Davis, Samuel – Co. E 13 OVI
Dunifon, Peter – Co. K 46 OVI
Decker, Francis M. – Co. C 17 OVI
Dickason, John – Co. F 9 O V Cav
Downing, S. D. – Co. L 50 N.Y.V.I.
Dukeman, A – Co. F 125 OVI
Daniels, R. F. – Co. M 10 OVI
Drew, Solomon – Co B 118 OVI
Douglas, Wm – Co. D 180 OVI
Evans, S. D. – Co. F 20 OVI
Edman, Elijah – Co. B 151 OVI
Elliott, Wm. V – Co. K 15 OVI
Francis, Owen – Co. H 57 OVI
Flath, Philip – Co. F 37 OVI
Frushey, Calvin – Co. K 66 ILL.V.I.
Foster, T. E. – Co. C 151 OVI
Fletcher, Samuel M – Co. D 136 Pa. V. I.
Fisher, A. Lewis – Co. E 101 OVI
Furguson, Samuel – Co. F 4 O. V. Cal
Fisher, Chas – Co. I 46 OVI
Faurot, Wm. N. – Co. C 129 OVI
Feeman, Robert – Co. C 102 OVI
Goldsmith, Joseph – Co. A 15 OVI
Garner, Wm. V. – Co. E 81 OVI
Now something cool for me in doing the transcribing is the side notes I scribble down to eventually follow up on. Faurot is a well-known surname of one of this city’s prominent citizens of the late 19th century. So, was William Faurot a brother to Benjamin Faurot? I’ll have to check it out!
I recognize the name John Charter from my work with the 4th OVC. but this John Charters was a veteran of the 43 OVI. I want to do some research and see if he reenlisted with another regiment.
Finally one of my Van Meter’s, George S. was killed during the war serving with the 9th OVC. Could John Dickason, Co. F 9th OVC help me out with my research on George S. Van Meter?
It’s pretty neat how I’m benefiting with new research ideas from doing some transcribing that I hoped would eventually help someone else in their family history research!