CHARLES VAN GORDER.
We of a later generation who are enjoying the comforts and even the luxuries of this modern-day civilization owe much to the earlier pioneers; in fact, it is difficult to place a proper estimate upon their services for the benefit of the generations who follow after them. They blazed the trails and bore the brunt of the first hard and difficult battle in the redemption of a wilderness. Their foresight and optimism enabled them to see into the distant future and vision the productive and fertile farms, the beautiful towns and cities, the grid-ironing the country with the steam railroads; all of which were to transform the wide stretches of prairie lands and the rolling hills into a veritable storehouse of wealth which would afford sustenance for innumerable thousands. It was the pioneer who transported his family and meager possessions by horse-wagon or slow-moving ox-team from the haunts of civilization across the lonely stretches to the far-distant uninhabited country and there erected his cabin on the spot of his choice. He came, he saw, he conquered, despite the vicissitudes and hardships which of necessity were the lot of him and his family. He likewise reaped his reward in the inevitable prosperity which followed in the wake of the settlement of the new country. This was no more than his just desert. A high type of the pioneer is found in the person of the man whose name heads this review, Capt. Charles Van Gorder, one of the pioneer settlers and bankers of Audubon county, who has resided in this county for fifty-four years.|
During his long residence in Audubon county Captain Van Gorder has seen the land transformed from grass and flower-covered prairie and hill lands into a smiling landscape of fertile farms and thriving towns. He has seen the trail succeeded by the old stagecoach; in turn he has seen the stagecoach supplanted by the steam railway and the automobile coming as a more modern means of conveyance, and very properly is one of the most highly honored and respected citizens in the county.
Charles Van Gorder, vice-president of the First National Bank of Audubon, this county, was born in Delaware county, New York, on January 23, 1837, the direct descendant of an old Holland family which figured in the colonial life of the Empire state. He is the son of Simon Van Gorder, whose grandfather, John Van Gorder, was born in the Dutch settlement of Delaware county, New York, in the ancestral home of the family. John Van Gorder was the father of William, John, Abram, Isaac, Lawrence, Albert and Manuel Van Gorder. Lawrence Van Gorder, the father of Simon Van Gorder, resided in Orange and Ulster counties of New York. His other sons were Hiram, Charles, John, Lawrence and Calvin, all of whom lived to be over ninety years of age. Four of the sons of John Van Gorder settled in the Lake county of New York state.
Simon Van Gorder, upon attaining his majority, moved to Delaware county, New York, and thence, in 1843, to Bradford county, Pennsylvania, where he died in October, 1890. His wife was Jane Fish, a native of New York, daughter of Isaac Fish, a native of Connecticut, who settled in Delaware county, New York, early in the nineteenth century. To Simon and Jane (Fish) Van Gorder were born in the following children: Maria Antoinette, deceased; Mrs. Lorane Hodge, deceased; Billings, of Chemung county, New York; Charles, of whom this chronicle treats; John, deceased; R. B., a resident of Chemung county, New York; Mrs. Sarah J. Kirkpatrick, residing in Bradford county, Pennsylvania; and H. Wallace, a citizen of Chemung county, New York.
Charles Van Gorder was reared on a wilderness farm, he having been but six years of age when his father removed to the wilds of Bradford county, Pennsylvania, and entered on the task of carving a farm from the dense forests. There were no school facilities in this primitive country and Charles did not attend school until he had attained the age of seventeen years. This schooling was very limited, however, and he did not succeed in securing the education which his ambition craved. It is a fact that he did not finish his education until after he came to the West, and he attended school for two years after he had attained the age of thirty years. When he was nineteen years of age, Charles Van Gorder left home with the parental blessing and little else to fortify himself with, and migrated to Henry county, Illinois. In the spring of 1857 he made the long overland journey to Kansas. Kansas, at this period of her history, was earning the sobriquet of "bleeding Kansas" and was the fighting ground of the Abolitionist and slaveholding advocate. The young adventurer saw troublous timesduring his stay in that territory, and after traveling over the western country for some time he settled in Bates county, Missouri. He resided in Missouri for three years, or until 1860, in which year he came to Iowa, choosing Audubon county as his place of residence, and settled in the town of Exira. During his long residence in Audubon county, Mr. Van Gorder has made three trips across the plains to Pike's Peak and return.
In 1861 Charles Van Gorder engaged in the manufacture of bricks in Exira and was doing a thriving business in the sale and manufacture of his product to the incoming settlers and homesteaders, when the President called for troops, with which to quell the rebellion in the Southern states. Mr. Van Gorder, in whose veins flowed the blood of a long line of sturdy American ancestors and lovers of the Union, was one of the brave sons of Iowa to respond in 1862. He enlisted on August 22, 1862, in Company B., Thirty-ninth Regiment, Iowa Volunteer Infantry, and served for two years and ten months. His field service was with his regiment in Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. The principal engagements in which he fought were at Parker's Cross Roads, Tennessee; Cherokee Station, Alabama; Resaca, Georgia, and Altona Pass. During the latter engagement he was wounded in the left foot and invalided for six months. Entering the service as a private, he presently was promoted to the position of a corporal and rapidly rose to be a sergeant, then a lieutenant and finally a captain, which was his rankwhen he was mustered out with Sherman's army at Washington, D. C., following the grand review. Captain Van Gorder was paid off and received his final discharge at Clinton, Iowa.
After the war Captain Van Gorder resumed the manufacture of bricks in Exira, varying the time with a trip across the plains to Pike's Peak in 1867. He also for a time clerked in a general store in Exira. In the year 1869 he was elected to the office of county treasurer and served for two terms of two years each. From 1874 to 1876 he was engaged in the real estate business. In the year 1876 his banking career began and he started the Audubon County Bank at Exira. In 1878 when Audubon was laid out and building had commenced in the new county-seat town, he decided that it would prove to be a better location for his banking business. Consequently the business was moved to the new city. Captain Van Gorder erected a building in Audubon and conducted a private bank until 1893, when the First National Bank succeeded the Audubon County Bank. Captain Van Gorder also is interested in the Exchange Bank at Exira, and for some time he has occupied the post of vice-president of the institution of which he is the founder. He has large land buildings in Iowa, the Dakotas, Canada, and Texas.
On November 28, 1869, Charles Van Gorder was married to Laura J. Delahoyde, daughter of an early settler in Audubon county, and to this union have been born four children, three of whom are yet living, namely: Edwin S., president of the First National Bank of Audubon, this county; Sydney S., also of Audubon, and Lowene J. Kirk, the wife of Willing D. Kirk, of the great soap manufacturing company of the same name, and a resident of Glencoe, near Chicago. Robert Bruce Van Gorder, the deceased son, diedin Audubon in 1907.
Politically, Capt. Charles Van Gorder, estimable gentleman and pioneer settler, has always been allied with the Republican party, and takes a keen interest in political affairs, though never having been a seeker after public office, except on the occasion of his election to the office of county treasurer. He is a member of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, in which order he has attained to the chapter and the commandery, and takes a just pride in his membership in Allison Post, Grand Army of the Republic, of Audubon.
All honor is due this citizen who assisted in settling up the county in the pioneer days and was one of the few men to enlist in the service of the Union during the days of the civil conflict. The volume would certainly be imcomplete were not the foregoing tribute and review inserted in its pages. The biographies of such men as Charles Van Gorder, pioneer settler and banker Union veteran and public-spirited citizen, but enhance the value of a work of this character and serve and as inspiration to encourage the young men of the present and coming generations.
Transcribed from History of Audubon County, Iowa Its People, Industries and Institutions With Biographical Sketches of Representative Citizens and Genealogical Records of Many of the Old Families, by H. F. Andrews, editor, Indianapolis: B. F. Bowen & Company, 1915, pp. 304-308.
Note: Original biography included a photograph/portrait which will be scanned and added in the future.