Biographical Sketches of Leading Citizens
Lawrence County Pennsylvania 1897


[p. 487] is not only a prominent and well-to-do farmer of Perry township, Lawrence Co., Pa., but he is also a grandson of one of the men who, with brawny arm, ready axe and fixed resolve, came into the wilderness that once existed, where there are prosperous and productive farms to-day, to build homes and to found families. Mr. Van Gorder was born on the farm of his present residence, March 27, 1839. He was a son of Jacob and Nancy (Elliott) Van Gorder. The grandfather referred to above was the old and well-known pioneer, Jacob Van Gorder, Sr., who was born in the State of New Jersey, but at an early age came west and made his first stand in Washington County. About 1800, he removed into Perry township, and bought a small tract of land which his grandson, Alvah, owns to-day. On it he erected a small log cabin which he replaced later on with a larger house. Jacob Van Gorder, Sr., departed this life at the age of seventy-seven.

Jacob Van Gorder, the younger, and father of Alvah, our subject, first opened his eyes in the year 1805 on the home place in Perry township. Attaining early manhood, he assisted his father in clearing the land, and in 1839 was able to buy an adjoining farm, which had been settled by Mr. Allen. The same year he built a stone house, the material used being quarried and cut to size by a Mr. Manlin. Mr. Van Gorder finished clearing his farm, and had a fine orchard set out and bearing luxuriantly before much time had elapsed. In 1844, he threw a dam across the Slippery Rock Creek and put up a saw-mill. Here he manufactured lumber for the rapidly-growing country, and did a general custom work during the remainder of his active days. A grist-mill was also built by. Mr. Van Gorder in 1859, and from then on he conducted a heavy flouring business. These various enterprises, backed up by his sterling business attributes, and managed with skillful care, soon made Mr. Van Gorder a wealthy man and gave him a standing in the community second to none. He lived out a long and useful life, dying in 1887 at the age of eighty-two. Mr. Van Gorder was, up to the Civil War, a Whig, and since that event was ever a Republican of the soundest type. His religious views were those entertained by the members of the Presbyterian Church. His wife Nancy was a daughter of Andrew Elliott of Perry township, and her life extended into the year 1884, when she passed away at the age of seventy-four. They were the parents of nine children, whose names were: Andrew E.; Israel; Margaret; Louisa; Elmira; Alvah S., our subject; James; Nancy Belle; and Robert S.

Alvah S. Van Gorder grew up to manhood assisting his father on the farm and in the mills. He inherited a part of the old place and bought an adjoining piece of property, so that to-day he owns a tract of 122 acres, all improved land in most excellent condition. He still keeps the old stone house in repair, and makes good use of it, although in 1870 he built an attractive dwelling-house. He also erected some new barns a few years ago. Mr. Van Gorder follows general farming, and has always maintained a small but choice dairy. The mills in which he holds a third interest have also taken up much of his time with handsome profits as the result. His wife, Rebecca, is from one of the old pioneer families, a daughter of Joseph Marshall. Six children have blessed their union, all of whom are living at this writing. They are: Lilah Belle, the wife of William Hazen, now living with her husband, on the old homestead; Nannie, who married R. W. McElwaine, and has become the mother of three children—Roy A., Samuel E., and Mary E.; Joseph A., a student; Jacob E., who is living at home; S. Jennie; and Bardella.

Mr. Van Gorder has always been a follower of the political destiny of the Republican party. He has been too busy a man to ever aspire to any official position, but has devoted some time to the minor positions of usefulness which his fellow-townsmen have almost forced upon him. He is a gentleman of intense patriotism, and loves well the land of his fathers. He appreciates to the full his duties as a citizen and as a native-born American. In business, he is shrewd, upright and exact. His social relations are of the pleasantest nature, and few men stand higher in the estimation of his fellow-townsmen than does he. Surrounded by those elements that make life worth the living, he finds with each succeeding day matters of live interest into which he throws the same energy and activity which has been of such valued service to him these many years.

Biographical Sketches of Leading Citizens Lawrence County Pennsylvania
Biographical Publishing Company, Buffalo, N.Y., 1897

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