ISAAC VAN VOORHIS, one of the most prominent agriculturists and stockmen of Washington county, is a son of Daniel Van Voorhis, whose father was also named Daniel. The grandfather was born and reared in Holland, choosing from early boyhood " a life on the ocean wave." He was a sailor for twenty-four years, being captain of an Atlantic vessel during the latter part of that time. Finally tiring of the sea, he located in Long Island, N. Y., purposing to there make a permanent home; but his roving disposition led him farther west, and he finally located in Washington county, Penn., on the tract of land in Carroll township where Monongahela now stands, and here passed the best of his life.
Daniel Van Voorhis, father of subject, was born and reared on the farm in Carroll township, this county. Here he erected a gristmill, still-house and sawmill, and employed a large number of bands. After the death of his father he took charge of the business, which had rapidly increased, virtually being the foundation of Mongahela City. In early life Daniel Van Voorhis was married to Mary, daughter of Henry Fry, who had married Miss Spears, a sister of the well-known divine, Henry Spears. To Daniel and Mary (Fry) Van Voorhis the following children were born: Newton (deceased); L. G., a resident of Morgantown, Penn.; Abraham (deceased); John (living in Kansas); Isaac (of whom further mention is made); Daniel (deceased); Jerome (living in Iowa); Harvey (residing in Spearville, Kans.); Sarah (Mrs. Cooper, living in Nottingham township, this county); Christina (Mrs. Fry, living in Finleyville, Penn.), and Mary (married to Frank Bentley, of Monongahela, Penn.). The mother died at the patriarchal age of ninety-five years, and when the father passed away he left 1,000 acres of land, which in his active years he had cleared, cultivated and planted to corn.
Isaac Van Voorhis was born March 27, 1823, in Carroll township, this county, near the headwaters of Pigeon creek. He attended the common school until about sixteen years of age, when be was given entire charge of the stock on his father's immense farm. Before assuming the duties of this position, he started on a trip to Kentucky,. intending to purchase cattle, but finding nothing to suit bid in the "Blue-Grass region " he journeyed northwest to Ohio, and there purchased 150 head of stock. On his return home, when about half way, the boy was met by his father and brother Jerome, who took charge of the herd, giving our young "cow boy" instructions to "face about" and purchase another lot. Accordingly he made a second successful trip, to the satisfaction and delight of the family, who had been half doubtful of the result of the experiment. The youthful drover afterward made frequent western trips, soon accumulating a snug sum of money He was the first to drive cattle to the East, seventy five miles below St. Louis. He would start on. horseback from the " Big Muddy," swimming the rivers, and on one occasion, on crossing the Muskingum, which was full of floating ice, his cattle sank in a quick sand, and he himself had a narrow escape from drowning. In 1846 be left the paternal roof, and began business for himself by investing in land in Somerset township, this county. About this time be received $3,000 as his portion of his father's estate, and then began a career almost unparalleled for unfailing business successes. His life has been devoted to -rearing, fattening and dealing in stock. In boyhood be earned the first horse he ever owned by splitting rails for 50 cents a hundred. It is needless to add that since the proud day when be received the deserved reward for blistered hands and aching limbs, Isaac Van Voorhis has never been without a good horse. He has reared and broken many of high breed and speed, that have since made good record, one of the most valuable being "Gray Hawk," which he sold for $3,000 to his brother Harvey, a resident of Kansas. His real estate now consists of 800 acres of very valuable land, upon which is erected one of the finest houses in Washington county. It is a matter of special interest that this home is situated on the highest point between the Allegheny Mountains and the Rocky Mountains. Mr. Van Voorhis also owns a large farm near Chicago, Ill., which he stocks with western cattle. The path to success is never easy, although it may seem so to the admiring or envious on-looker; and, in the case of Mr. Van Voorhis, many hardships were endured which space forbids us to here enumerate, and many obstacles overcome, ere he reached the pinnacle which he now occupies. He has visited nearly every State in the Union, and in his travels has swam every river between the Alleghenies and the Mississippi river.
On August 26, 1846, our subject was married to Elmira, daughter of Thomas Hopkins, whose ancestors were an old and prominent family of Scotland. Mr. and Mrs. Van Voorhis have been blessed with the following children: Samuel (deceased); Thomas and Frank (twins), Frank (deceased); Thomas (living); Van Emer (living at home); Selina (wife of Henry Huffman, a resident of West Bethlehem township); Lizzie (Mrs. Grootman, living in Pittsburgh, Penn., where her husband is engaged in the oil and soap business); and Charlie (yet living at home).
In addition to what has been previously stated in regard to the reputation of Mr. Van Voorhis as a stockman, he also enjoys the enviable distinction of having taken a greater number of prizes for stock at the county fair than any other farmer of Washington county. He breeds Hambletonian horses, short-horn cattle and Poland China pigs. Politically be votes the Republican ticket, but is averse to holding office, although he was induced to serve as school director for twelve years. His wife is a member of the Baptist Church. Among the celebrated men who have visited at his home were Gen. Grant and James G. Blaine.
Text taken from page 633 of:
Beers, J. H. and Co., Commemorative Biographical Record of Washington County, Pennsylvania (Chicago: J. H. Beers & Co., 1893).
Transcribed March 1997 by Theresa Hallam of Akron, OH as part of the Beers Project.
Published March 1997 on the Washington County, PA USGenWeb pages at http://www.chartiers.com/.
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