"THE VAN ARSDALES SETTLE IN A FREE STATE" is a chapter in the family my great aunt Margeret Chadwick wrote called "The Lee Family of Spanish Fork Utah". The section of her book that about the Van Arsdale line sparked my interest and provided clues that have led to many exciting discoveries.
Just a few years after the birth of Edward Lee in America, our earliest known ancestor of English descent , came a young weaver from Holland to tryout his fortune in the New World. This was Simon Jansen Van Arsdale of an old Helvetian family.
imov Van Arsdale's signatureClaus
By this union Simon and Peternelle transplanted to new and fertile soil two old Dutch families which flourished remarkably in their new environment.
flat Lands as it would have appeared to SImon as arrived in the New World in 1653
Their descendants helped to establish various Dutch settlements in the different states; most of those in this country bearing the name Van Arsdale or its modifications sprang from this marriage.
The Wycoff home of Simon's father-in-law Pietere Wycoff
One of these descendants, Peter Van Arsdale, was born in Pennsylvania in 1787. When he was four years old his parents decided to move from Pennsylvania to Kentucky and join a large and influential Dutch Colony that had recently settled there. His father had been a Major General in the Revolutionary War, and after this experience did not seem to be able to settle down to the business of farming. He was much more interested in breeding fine horses than in cultivating his Kentucky acres and as a result, left his widow and nine children practically penniless. The older children had been pretty well educated for that day but Peter, now fourteen, had not been in school very long. Therefore the court apprenticed him to a blacksmith who was to teach him the trade and give him some schooling at the same time
Flatlands NY in 1666
And at the time of expiration he was to receive from this employer one hundred dollars, a suit of clothing, and a horse with saddle and bridle. But the man became demented, and Peter had a difficult time. He did not get his schooling, and only with great difficulty did he get one hundred dollars and his horse after putting in seven years of hard work.
Typical blacksmith cabin from the early 1800s such as Peter may have built
Thus equipped he was ready in December of 1808 to begin life for himself. His first move was to go to school. He had an intense love of reading and a clear logical mind that made him in great demand later on as legal advisor to his neighbors. During the winter that he attended school he made an agreement with his older brother to lease some land for six years. This property was just out of Harrodsburg, Kentucky - I wonder if he knew Nancy Hanks! - I'm sure his sympathies were with her if he did.
inside an 1800s blaksmith shop
In three months time, with a borrowed axe as his only tool, he had a shop built in which he was already doing business, and a cabin prepared for Charity Demaree whom he married immediately thus diluting the Dutch strain a little by introducing some French blood
Maggie Van Arsdale, Peter's daughter, who married William Lee
In four years he had considerable property of his own, employed two men in his shop, and had loaned out $260.00. He says naively in his diary: "I thought that if only I had what was necessary to keep house with convenience I would not want to own land. But I have long since found that I was mistaken for I was no nigher being satisfied when I owned near five hundred acres of land and lived in a good brick house."
Typical blacksmith shop fro the early 1800s
Having borrowed many of the books he read from a Presbyterian clergyman, Peter's reading took him often into realms of church history, church doctrines, and church organization. He became more and more impressed with the moderate Calvinistic Faith.
He noted that its adherents numbered among the most intelligent and independent groups in America. He further studied its organization and saw that the government of the nation was practically the same as that of the church. A strong supporter of schools himself, he noted that the Presbyterian Church was establishing many parish schools, so advancing the cause of education. And about the same time, 1814, Dr. Clelland, a famous preacher of that day, came to New Providence and preached some sermons much to Peter's liking. From all his reading and church attendance he came to the conclusion that the Calvinistic Faith was nearest to his interpretation of the Scriptures and most congenial to his ideas. Accordingly he and Charity and four of the older children joined the church. This he felt to be one of the most important incidents of his life
John Brown (May 9, 1800 – December 2, 1859) was an American abolitionist, and folk hero who advocated and practiced armed insurrection as a means to end all slavery.
Peter's family increased and multiplied. In rapid succession came along four daughters, one son and then another four daughters. Two of these daughters died in infancy. He was most desirous that his children be reared in a "Good State of Society" and live near a school and a church. Accordingly he bought 197 acres of rocky farm land in New Providence, Kentucky. This place had been nick-named "Rocky Battle." Before long a lively business was going on in his blacksmith shops and the family was comfortable in trim log cabins until he could build a frame, and later, a good brick house. Peter prospered and was held in high regard in the community and in the church.
In 1833, James Birney read a paper signed by several Christian organizations that repudiated the tenets of the American Colonization Society and, instead, called for the immediate abolition of slavery. This, along with life experience and education, brought Birney to the realization that slavery must be abolished once and for all. Inspired by the Lane Seminary debates, he freed his remaining slaves and declared himself an abolitionist in 1834.
John Brown Fort stood on a bluff overlooking the Shenandoah River. In this photograph taken on July 14, 1896, members of a pilgrim party from the National League of Colored Women pose in front of the fort
But about this time the subject of slavery was agitating North and South. Peter listened to many stirring debates on the subject, and read and thought a great deal about it. While sentiment was growing against slavery there were still many in his church and community who upheld it stoutly, so that Peter determined to move his family to a free state. He had formed a close friendship with James Birney, the great abolitionist, and also while attending a Synod Meeting as delegate from his church, he met John Brown and was greatly attracted to him. He planned with John Brown to take some drastic measures against the slave holders.
The county courthouse in Carrolton(the Greene County seat) was built in 1832, four years before Peter moved the family to Illinois. It was considered the finest courthouse in the state. The town was known for having a newspaper and being the home of Abe Lincoln's best friend. Carrollton had a stove factory, three cigar factories and a vegetable canning factory. One flour mill ran day and night. A machine shop and foundry made farm tools. A poultry packing business shipped to New York and Boston. Woman entrepeneur, Angeline Varble Underwood, invented the innerspring mattress, and made it in the Underwood Spring Bed Factory in Carrollton.
Perhaps his later move to Illinois prevented him from participating in the Harper's Ferry Episode
Many trips were made with neighbors of like conviction into Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri to prospect for a new home. On one of these Charity accompanied him carrying a six months old baby on horseback! Finally, in 1836 he sold his Kentucky property and moved his family to Carrolton, Illinois, making the difficult journey by wagon in three week
They camped over the Sabbath, Peter holding services and all observing the Sabbath by resting. In Illinois, he went into partnership with David Pierson in the dry goods business. It was a year of great financial depression and the business did not prosper, nor did the farm to which he moved at the edge of town.
Brighton (Jersey County, Illinois) is a small agricultural community (Population: 2,270) that dates back to the early 19th century when settlers began the transformation of the Illinois prairie into productive farmland. A post office was opened in 1837, and the town was incorporated in 1869. Today, Brighton continues the agricultural traditions of the early settlers.
After thirteen years in Carrolton he moved to Brighton where he spent the remainder of his life in a comfortable home and among congenial friends and neighbors. The Peter Van Arsdale home in Brighton would have been in what is today called the "Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Byway Area", where the Mississippi, Missouri, and Illinois Rivers meet. Here you'll find magnificent limestone bluffs, forested parks and wildlife areas, real river towns, ferries that ply the rivers, and friendly and gracious people