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Posted By: County Coordinator (email)
Date: 6/20/2021 at 09:04:54

HON. JOHN VAN VALKENBURG, senior member of the law firm of Van Valkenburg & Hamilton, of Ft. Madison, Iowa, is a gentleman in the prime of life, and a Canadian by birth. He was born at St. George, Ontario, April 16, 1832, and located at Ft. Madison in 1853. When our subject was but a lad his parents removed from his native Canada to the United States, crossing the Father of Waters and locating in Iowa in 1816, the same year in which it was admitted into the Union as a State. The prairies of this now rich and powerful commonwealth at that time were almost without habitation. These pioneers were not burdened with means, but they had a rich fund of determination, and were industrious by habit and principle. In the course of time they were enabled to acquire a small tract of land, upon which they erected an humble home, where they reared their family as best they could with the limited educational facilities at hand, public schools at that time not being numerous or easily accessible.

Each evening within that humble home upon the broad prairie might have been seen young Van Valkenburg, after the day's labor had been performed, in front of a log fireplace, struggling with the elementary branches of education. He pursued his course of study almost unaided for several years, in the meantime assisting his father upon the farm, and from his small earnings saved whatever he could, until by the severest toil and closest economy he had accumulated sufficient funds with which to enter upon a collegiate course.

At the age of seventeen years our subject entered the preparatory school of Prof. Howe, of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, and pursued a course of study there for the following three years. He then spent one year at Oberlin College, Ohio, then went to Galesburg, Ill., and completed his education in Knox College. At the expiration of this time he was elected Principal of the State Normal School of Iowa, in which position he served one year, but declined the appointment for the succeeding term, as his training and tastes inclined him to the profession of the law. He now proceeded to Chicago, Ill., and engaged in the study of law in the office of Goudy, Waite & Jamieson, the leading attorneys of the Northwest, where he remained for one year, thence returned to his home in his adopted State, and completed his professional studies with the distinguished firm of Miller & Beck, of Ft. Madison. He was soon afterward admitted to the bar. His natural endowments, literary culture and thorough knowledge of the law, soon procured for him a profitable and extensive practice in the State and Federal courts, which he retains to this day. He has always been interested in political matters, and casts his vote uniformly with the Republican party. He was a Congressional elector and Presidential elector at large, in 1876 and 1880. He was candidate for Congress in 1874, and after 147 ballots was defeated by only one vote, George W. McCrary being the successful candidate. Mr. Van Valkenburg was never an office-seeker, but has many times been honored with important positions of trust, and has been especially noted as being free from acrimony and partisan bitterness.

Mr. Van Valkenburg has been a very prominent member of the I. O. O. F. in the West. He was initiated into the mysteries Jan. 22, 1868, in Ft. Madison Lodge No. 157, of which he is still a member. In 1880 he was elected Grand Master of the order in Iowa, and in June following was elected Grand Representative to the Sovereign Grand Lodge, taking his seat in September, 1883, in the S. G. L. at Providence, R. I. He was re-elected Grand Representative without opposition, by the Odd Fellows of Iowa in June, 1884. Preceding this he had been knighted as a charter member of Gem City Lodge No. 21, of Ft. Madison, and was its first Vice Chancellor. He was elected Grand Chancellor from the floor in 1875, and re-elected two years later. He has been an influential and efficient member of the Supreme Lodge of the World for seven consecutive sessions, having first taken his seat at the memorable session in 1876, at Independence Hall, Philadelphia.

Mr. Van Valkenburg is an ardent advocate of the principles, practices and usages of Pythianism, and by his consistent life and writings, and eloquent tongue, has been instrumental in working up a strong and powerful organization in his State, which to-day carries the banner as the most prosperous jurisdiction in the Union. His speeches and essays are embellished with poetic eloquence, and he is regarded as one of the leading orators of his State. His prolific and versatile pen has been the means of adding many folios to Pythian literature, being the author of "The Knights of Pythias Complete Manual and Text Book," "Jewels of Pythian Knighthood," "Official Digest of the Laws, Decisions and Proceedings of the Grand Lodge, K. of P., of Iowa," besides numerous lectures and essays. He has been welcomed not only by the press, but by eminent scholars, as a writer of acknowledged ability. As a lawyer Mr. Van Valkenburg is a strong advocate, possessed of sound judgement and peculiar argumentative powers. As a citizen he is liberal and enterprising, making the interests of his community those of his own, and assisting, both by his influence and more substantial means, every worthy public enterprise, moral, religious or educational.

Hon. John Van Valkenburg and Miss Mary J. Douglass were married July 3, 1861, in Ft. Madison, Iowa. Mrs. Van V. is a native of this city, born in 1838, on the same block where she now lives. Of this union there have been born three children - Edwin D., Clement L. and Joel W.

The career of Mr. Van Valkenburg is a striking example of what determination and perseverance may accomplish in the midst of difficulties. The character and disposition of the studious boy pursuing his studies by the winter firelight in the lonely cabin of the prairie, almost unmistakably foretold his future career, and well fitted him for those duties in later life which he could not well have assumed under any other circumstances. He has nobly worked his way from obscurity to prominence, and receives ample reward in the esteem of his fellow-citizens. The family occupy a fine dwelling, surrounded by all the evidences of cultivated tastes and ample means, and the homestead is one of the handsomest spots in the city of Ft. Madison.

Transcription typed/proofed as article was originally published in 1887


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