Van Sandt Family

family researcher Teddy –


Mrs N.L. Van Sandt Talks of Early Days in This Locality.

Written for the Page County Historical Society by Mabel H. Kenea.


One of Clarinda’s pioneer women who came here within a few years after the town had been laid out, is Mrs N.L. Van Sandt, who now makes her home with her son, A.S. Van Sandt and Mrs Van Sandt, on West Washington street. In the year 1858 the subject of this sketch, together with her husband, Dr N.L. Van Sandt, the son previously mentioned, who was then a very small boy, and her mother, Mrs Mary Heald, came to Clarinda from Troy, Miami county, O. They came by water from Cincinnati, O., to St Joseph, Mo., bringing with them on the steamboat their hose and buggy. The year 1858 has gone down in history as the “wet year,” and will be remembered as such by many who were living at that time. The Ohio river was so swollen by the rains that the steamboat on which the Van Sandt family were immigrating to Iowa was grounded a number of times during the first few nights of the trip, so the captain of the boat decided to run only in the day time, with the result that the boat was three weeks making the trip from Cincinnati to St Joseph. The Ohio, Mississippi and Missouri rivers were all out of their banks and were spread over a vast amount of territory. Mrs Van Sandt remembers seeing many huge trees that were standing in the water fall along the way because their roots had become loosened by the flood around them. Upon arriving at St Joseph the travelers started with the horse and buggy for Clarinda, but the roads were almost impassable from the excessive rains, and the task of making the overland trip was an arduous one. At one point on the road the buggy had to be pried out of the mire with fence rails. The party came by the way of “Old Memory” and Hawleyville. It seems that the former village was appropriately named as little more than the memory of it now remains.

A brother of Mrs Van Sandt, Dr Albert Heald, with his wife and child, also his sister, Joanna Heald, had settled in Nebraska township in 1857, on what is known now as the Charles McDowell farm, Dr Heald having bought the land of George Baker. It was to this farm that the Van Sandts came in June of 1858, remaining with the Heald family until September of that year, when their household goods arrived from St Joseph. The wet year had delayed the arrival of the goods, and when word was finally received that they were in St Joseph, two teams and wagons were sent to bring the good, which under ordinary circumstances could have been brought in one laod. The family had four rocking chairs, however, for when the wagons passed the home of Mr and Mrs Lewis H. Wilder, [Mr Wilder was one of the early clerks of the --- ---- [paper missing] Page county) Mrs Wilder [missing] afterward confessed to Mrs [missing] told her husband to go out and take some of those rocking chairs from the load—those were more rocking chairs than any one family in Clarinda had.

The Wilder family lived at that time in a house south of where the Page County State bank is now located. After the Van Sandt family had been here a short time Mrs Wilder invited them to her home to take tea. The house contained only two rooms—the kitchen and the sitting room, which was also used as a bed room. The kitchen was small and would not hold the household provisions and supplies, but with the true spirit of adaptability of the pioneer woman a place was found for them, under the bed, as Mrs Wilder laughingly explained when she lifted the “valance” and drew the articles forth.

Mrs Van Sandt wished to settle in Hawleyville, for, as she expressed it, “Hawleyville was a nicer town than Clarinda. The people there had nice blue grass lawns, while here there was nothing but prairie grass.” Very soon the Van Sandats became acquainted with some of the leading people of Hawleyville, some of the names of whom are identified with the early history of that town. There were the J.M. Hawley family, and Ed Curtis, who married a daughter of the Hawley’s, the C.G. Hinman family, and that of Charles Hinman and his wife, Mrs Charles Hinman being a resident of Clarinda today. Mr and Mrs J.M. Hawley, as Clarinda people know, were the grandparents of A.J. Hawley of this city. However, Dr Van Sandt saw possibilities in the town of Clarinda, so it was here that he and his family located.

The Van Sandts did a great deal of house hunting before finding a place to live. There were very few houses in Clarinda, and these were greatly in demand. The first house they lived in belonged to a Mr Perkins, and was located on Chestnut street on the lot which is across the street west of the present site of the St Johns’ Evangelical Lutheran church. The house, or at any rate a portion of it; is still standing. The house at that time was not plastered, and across the rafters in lieu of a ceiling, were laid animal hides. Mrs Van Sandt asked Mr Perkins if he expected anyone to move into a place like that with hides on the rafters. He said he couldn’t move the hides, and that she could tack up sheets for a ceiling to cover them, and hang up quilts for partitions, which she did, and the family moved into the house. Mrs Van Sandt speaks of the scarcity of wells in the town. One was considered fortunate if there was a well in the same block, some of the families having to carry water from a still greater distance. Of course where all the water used for family washing, cooking and household purposes had to be carried this way it was a great hardship. At this time there was not a foot of sidewalk in town.

There were three general stores here when the Van Sandts came. Those of Jacob Powers and J.H. Polsley were on the west side of the square, and that of Judge Snyder on the north side. Mrs Van Sandt thinks that the amount of dry goods in any one of the stores could have been tied up in an ordinary sheet.

The second house the Van Sandt family lived in was a block north of the first one, on Lincoln avenue. It had been built by a Mr Wallace and Frank LaPorte. These men had a saw mill here in the early days, and after a time decided to move it northeast of town, up the Nodaway river, to the place afterwards known as LaPorte’s bridge, at which place there was a little settlement at one time. The house vacated by them in Clarinda was consequently occupied by the Van Sandts, and Mrs Van Sandt says they thought it was a palace, because it was plastered and finished.

Later Dr Van Sandt bought the entire block, numbered 23 in Frazer’s addition to Clarinda. It lies between Washington and Chestnut streets, running east and west, and Tenth and Eleventh streets, running north and south. Here Dr Van Sandt planted many of the shade trees, some of which are standing today. At a still later period he owned land, upon which the family moved, north of town. He bought the land of David Stouder.  Part of this land is now cnclosed within the limits of the Clarinda cemetery. the cemetery in the early days being a small plot of ground which was unfenced.

An amusing incident which comes to Mrs Van Sandt’s mind occurred early one Monday morning when she was hanging out the washing. It was at the time she was living in the Wallace and LaPorte house. This was the “wet year,” and suddenly she heard a great splashing of mud and water in the street, and the “gee and haw” of someone driving oxen. Coming around the corner, headed in the direction of the square were two calves, not more than 2-year-olds, pulling a wooden cart. The animals were being driven by a man who was walking at the side of them in the street, while in the cart were two very elegantly dressed ladies. They had on beautiful velvet cloaks and fine headgear. In fact they were the finest dressed ladies that Mrs Van Sandt had seen since she left the East. She afterward found that they were the iwfe and daughter of a former merchant of Philadelphia, who, having failed in business, had brought his family here and had bought a piece of land up the river three or four miles and was trying to farm it. The former merchant was a Mr Lovell, a brother-in-law of Lewis H. Wilder, the clerk of the court previously mentioned.

The country in the old days presented a beautiful aspect. Mrs Van Sandt remembers the prairie grass when it was a high as the hoses’ backs. The prairie fires in the fall of the year were a grand, though a terrifying sight. At this season the settlers did not dare leave their homes for fear they might be destroyed in their absence, and the homes were burned some times in spite of their efforts. In the spring the country was covered with a wild flower—the pink phlox. Then there were two kinds of baptisia—one variety growing about a foot high and bearing straw colored blossoms in clusters about ten or twelve inches long. The other kind grew to a heighth of about two feet and bore blue blossoms. Wild plums and grapes were in abundance. There were six or eight varieties of the plums, one kind of yellow plum with red specks on the sunny side of the fruit was particularly delicious. One year Mrs Van Sandt had three bushels of the wild plums for winter use, the measure having been taken after they were dried.

Incident to the “wet year,” when “it rained from April to April” Mrs Van Sandt remembers the appearance of the wheat shocks that season. Between rains the farmers managed to get some of the wheat cut and shocked. In a short time the wheat grew so that the shocks were mounds of green. Then between rains they opened the shocks, took out that which was grown to feed the hogs, and shocked the remainder. In a short time the shocks grew again until they were as green as before. The wheat flour was so black that year that it could not be used for bread, and corn was eaten instead.

Mrs Van Sandt has a wealth of interesting reminiscences stored away in her memory and her clear, vivid manner of relating them gives pleasure to those who are privileged to converse with her.

The Clarinda Journal, Clarinda, Iowa, Jan 18, 1917


Mrs E.H. Van Sandt left Monday evening for a visit to her girlhood home in Troy, Ohio. Stanley Van Sandt accompanied his mother, and also for the pleasure of a trip to his former home. With the weather as cold as it is, it was quite an undertaking for Mrs Van Sandt at her advanced age, to make the trip east, but she insisted on going at this time, having been born and raised in Troy, until coming here with her family in 1858. She has not been back to the old home for about ten years.

Clarinda Herald, Clarinda, Iowa, Dec 13, 1917


Obituary - Dr N.L. Van Sandt died at his home in south Clarinda Tuesday morning, Jan 6, 1903, aged 77 years, 6 months and 29 days. About a year ago he suffered a stroke of paralysis and had been partially helpless since. Mr Van Sandt was born in Brown county, Ohio, May 7, 1825. His father was a native of Kentucky and during the heated anti-slavery days in Ohio from 1835 and for years following was an active worker in the “Under Ground Railway” scheme to free negroes from bondage, and became the original [sic] of one of the characters of Mrs Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” His son N.L. Van Sandt took up the study of medicine and graduated in 1850. In Nov 7th of the same year he was married to Miss Eliza Heald, and about ten years after they came to this county, which has since been their home. The Doctor has always enjoyed a successful practice, and was foremost in advancing the interest of our embryo city. He filled many official positions, and was a member of the 10th state general assembly. A good man has gone. He leaves a devoted wife, and one son, Stanley, to mourn his death. The funeral was held from the home at 2 o’clock yesterday, conducted by his pastor, Rev Maclean.

Page County Democrat, Clarinda, Iowa, Jan 8, 1903