Remember “Where’s Waldo”? John VanGilder, son of Jacob VanGilder and Anna Margaret Gibler or Kibler has become an equally illusive character. In most of the VanGilder family research pieces that have come across my desk, John “went west”. No further research was ever done as to just where in the west he went.
There is a letter dated 1925 written by Ezra Morgan,1 a great grandson of Jacob and Anna Margaret. Ezra writes about his recollections of the VanGilder ancestry. In the letter he tells of John VanGilder who went to the state of Iowa, married and had a son, also named John. Ezra remembers that in 1862, John VanGilder, the son, visited the family in West Virginia. The letter can be used for clues and as a springboard for further research as there are many inaccuracies in the names, dates and places. Ezra was 79 years old when he wrote the letter.
The only John VanGilder that I was able to locate in early census reports was one who lived in Cape Girardeau County, Missouri. Adding to the interest in this John VanGilder is that Cape Girardeau County is located on the Mississippi River. A story passed down through the generations in the VanGilder family was the tragedy of James VanGilder who drowned in the Mississippi River following a visit with his brother, John.2 The accident occurred after 1840 and before 1850.
The John VanGilder in my family tree was born about 1789 in Maryland, the first known son of Jacob and Anna Margaret VanGilder. Determined from birth records of the next three children, the VanGilder’s decided to join the pioneer movement west after 1797. They left Frederick County, Maryland and traveled on dirt trails and paths over the Allegheny Mountains (probably partially following what was to become the National Road or Cumberland Road) to Monongalia County (West) Virginia, settling in the area of present day Morgantown.
The earliest documentation for the family is a Monongalia County Court record dated 1800--Jacob Van Gilder was ordered to work on the road from Morgantown by Robert Hill's house into the Uniontown Road. Jacob was to be the surveyor.3
Another court record reads, 1804 appearance by Jacob Vangilder who wanted his stolen dog "Scent" returned. Other family members called to testify were son, John and daughter Mary.4 Jacob did not get his dog back!
In a property tax record for 1806 there are two males over 18 years of age listed for Jacob VanGilder.5 One would be Jacob and the other must be his son, John. The tax record for 1810 only lists one male over age 18.6 Has son John VanGilder gone west?
The next piece of interesting information is in the book, “The History of Southeast Missouri”. On page 413 there is a petition dated in the summer of 1808 requesting the court to appoint commissioners for the town of Cape Girardeau.7 One of the petitioners is John VanGilder and listed directly above him is Frederick Gibler.
Back to Morgantown. “The Monongalia Story: II The Pioneers” by Earl L. Core shows an early map of the town of Morgantown, (West) Virginia. Frederick Gibler owned Lot 125 along the Monongahela River. Frederick, a tanner, was the first owner of the lot and could have been in Morgan’s Town after 1785.8 There is a Monongalia tax record for Frederick Gibler in 1805, which lists that there are two males over age 18in the home.9 Is Frederick Gibler a relation of Anna Margaret Gibler/Kibler VanGilder? If so, could he be John Van Gilder’s grandfather or more likely his uncle.
Did Frederick leave Morgantown first, removing to Cape Girardeau County, Missouri and John followed a year or two later or did they travel together? On page 411 in the “History of Southeast Missouri,” Frederick Gibler is listed as an early resident, but not John.10 Was it Frederick Gibler, the tanner, who removed to Missouri or could he have had a son, also named Frederick, who would have been about John’s age according to the Monongalia tax records, that is the Missouri early settler? Were the Frederick Gibler and John VanGilder in Cape Girardeau cousins?
I will mention here that Jacob and Anna Margaret VanGilder did name their second son, Frederick….perhaps for Frederick Gibler. I also want to make note that Anna Margaret’s maiden name is in question. On the pension file papers for Jacob VanGilder it appears that her name was listed as Kibler and someone printed a letter “G” over the “K”.11
Over the years I have been contacted by numerous descendants of John VanGilder from Cape Girardeau County, Missouri. To date they have not been able to make a documented connection to the West Virginia VanGilder roots that stem from Jacob and Anna Margaret. This is one of my genealogy conundrums that will take much more research and perhaps will never been resolved.
I am generally not a betting person; however, I am placing my money on the Cape Girardeau County, John VanGilder, as belonging to my VanGilder line.
1. Ezra Morgan letter dated December 18, 1925
2. Marion County, Historical Society, Inc., A History of Marion County West Virginia 1985, Walsworth Publishing Company, Inc., 1986, page 323
3. Melba Pender Zinn, “Monongalia County, (West) Virginia Records of the District and County Courts, Volume 4 1800-1802, 1810,” Heritage Books, June 1800 Court
4. Melba Pender Zinn, “Monongalia County, (West) Virginia Records of the District, Superior and County Courts, Volume 5, 1802-1805,” Heritage Books, 132a.
5. Monongalia County Records of District and County Courts, Monongalia County (West) Virginia Personal Property Taxes, 1806.
6. Monongalia County Records of District and County Courts, Monongalia County (West) Virginia Personal Property Taxes, 1810.
7. Robert Sidney Douglass, “History of Southeast Missouri: A Narrative Account of its Historical Progress, It's People and It's Principal Interests,” Volume 1, The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, Illinois, 1912, page 413.
8. Earl L. Core, “The Monongalia Story A Bicentennial History: II The Pioneers,” McClain Printing Company, Parsons, West Virginia, 1976, pages 126, 195, 206.
9. Melba Pender Zinn, “Monongalia County, (West) Virginia Records of the District, Superior and County Courts, Volume 2 1800-1803,” Heritage Books, 2007, pages 62, 87, 119, and 142.
10. History of Southeast Missouri, p 411.
11. Revolutionary War Pension File, Jacob VanGilder, R 10868.