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Van Eaton, Gilbert L.


Posted By: Roseanna Zehner
Date: 7/25/2006 at 20:17:36


Gilbert L. Van Eaton, the mayor of Little Rock, and the leading lumber dealer of the place, is a man who is gifted with the ability to disregard hard knocks. By virtue of his push and perseverance he has attained a position of considerable prominence in the village where he has resided for the past eighteen years. A very common everyday sort of man to meet, a man "educated in the rough school of life," "Van," as he is familiarly called, has a wonderful faculty for formulating schemes and carrying them through with a rush that has always been a surprise to his friends.

Mr. Van Eaton was born October 14, 1843, a Hoosier, and the eighth of nine children born to James and Gulie (Brown) Van Eaton, a good old Holland name. The mother died when he was three years old, and soon after her loss the family settled in Winnebago County, Wisconsin, where he was reared to farm life, and becoming a farm hand when only fourteen years old, and from that time on he made his own living. At the second call for troops in 1861 the young man hastened to don the Union blue, and became a member of Company A. Sixteenth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. This regiment was sent immediately south and attached to the Army of the Tennessee. It very soon smelt powder at Shiloh, and participated in battles at Iuka, Corinth, and the siege of Vicksburg, where his company was in summer quarters at Lake Providence. Mr. Van Eaton reenlisted before the expiration of his three years, and became part of the great body that under General Sherman swept from Atlanta to the sea. After the grand review at Washington the regiment was mustered out of service, and Mr. Van Eaton received an honorable discharge, a token of an order of merit of which he is justly proud.

After the war Mr. Van Eaton was again engaged in farming in Wisconsin, spent some two years in Minnesota, went back to Wisconsin, and in the spring of 1872 voyaged by "prairie schooner" to Osceola County, Iowa, where he homesteaded a quarter section of land, his resources at that time being three horses, a wagon and $45 in money, but he was young and full of energy. His wife joined him in the summer, and life was begun on the prairies.

Until 1883 Mr. Van Eaton conducted his farming with much profit, but for the sake of schooling for the children he rented his farm that year and removed to Sibley, where for two years he sold farm implements. Two years later he came to Little Rock, and became the junior member of the firm of Shell & Van Eaton, dealers in grain lumber and coal. The business thus established is still in existence, and he has become an old and honored resident of Little Rock. Active in public affairs he is now serving his third term as mayor. In political matters he is a Republican, and claims that "he votes as straight as he shot." He is chairman of the township Republican committee, a position he has filled for many years.

In 1865 Mr. Van Eaton and Miss Elizabeth Fridd, a native of Wisconsin, were married, and to their union were born two children, Jennie, now the wife of A.Z. Minton, a hardware merchant of Little Rock; and Myrtie, the wife of Daniel Dean, railroad agent at Sheldon. It is the ambition of Mr. Van Eaton to spend the rest of his active life on the farm, and it is his intention to very soon make the change.

Source: Compendium of History Reminiscence and Biography of Lyon County, Iowa. Published under the Auspices of the Pioneer Association of Lyon County. Geo. Monlun, Pres.; Hon. E. C. Roach Sec’y; and Col. F. M. Thompson, Historian. Geo. A. Ogle & CO., Published, Engravers and Book Manufacturers. Chicago, 1904-1905

Transcribed by Roseanna Zehner, Darlene Jacoby and Diane Johnson


Lyon Biographies maintained by Cindy Booth Maher.
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