Some ramblings of a writer/genealogist/former snowbird who's in love with the American West (past and present). Exploring the past via my own families is my pastime and passion.
By Myra Vanderpool Gormley℠
Certified Genealogist by the Board for Certification of Genealogists, 1987-2012, retired 2012.
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15 January 2014
52 Ancestors #4 John Anthony Vanderpool
52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Challenge #4 John Anthony Vanderpool
Probably every family has a scoundrel or two — if you dig
deeply enough. However, my family seemingly has far more than its share, but they
vivify my family tree with their adventures and misdeeds.
John Anthony Vanderpool must have been a handsome dude — with
black hair and gray eyes — and at 6-foot-2 he would have towered above his
Union army compatriots who on the average were only 5-foot-8½. He probably was
a charmer, too, perhaps even a silver-tongued devil as after the war he “took
up preaching” and wandered around the hills and hollers of Arkansas and Indian
Territory. He never owned any property or worked at anything that required hard
manual labor. There’s no doubt that he was a ladies’ man as evidenced by the
fact that at least five women married him.
His enormous Civil War pension files disclose several wives
and relationships. In researching the man the government labeled a “bigamist,” I
discovered his neighbors were more than willing to share what they knew about
him and his women and that information has enriched, enhanced and confirmed his
·“I know John A. Vanderpool and his brother,
Capt. James Vanderpool . . . they lived in Newton County and were Union men.
They married sisters — the Henderson girls. I know nothing about John A.’s subsequent
·“His first wife, Docia, died at Springfield,
Missouri on or about August or September 1862.”
·“After the war I saw him over in his home over
between Cove and Big Creek near Lick Springs . . . he was apparently married — living
with a woman who as a girl was Martha Pruitt . . . know that soldier and she
quarreled and got along unsatisfactory. He told me he was going to quit her and
I think he did.”
·“Informed that he was living with a woman named
Huggins whom he had married at the time of his death . . . He died in the Indian
Territory and I think Huggins and Martha Pruitt [his second wife] are related.”
·“Jane Huggins is my sister’s daughter and
therefore my niece . . . I did hear that he married Moriah Huggins, a sister of
Jane, and lived with her in Indian Territory.” I do not know whether there was
any truth in the rumor of their marriage or not.”
·“It does not appear from the records of this
office that there was ever papers filed or a divorce granted between John A.
Vanderpool and Sarah A. Vanderpool.”
·“I was not present at his death but I saw him
shortly thereafter and helped to bury him. He died about 1888 near Webbers
Falls in the Indian Territory.”
The claimant to the Civil War pension, which she never
obtained though she tried for nearly five years, was his fourth wife. In one of
her depositions Sarah said that she “didn’t
know how many times John A. Vanderpool had been married as he was always
rambling from place to place, but that hers was only marriage license and that
he had told her he had not married again since death of first wife.”
The government rejected her claim “on grounds that the claimant
was not the soldier’s lawful wife since he was still legally married to Martha
(wife No. 2) when he married her (wife No. 4)".
For decades several cousins and I have researched the
Vanderpool family. We have never heard from any of John Anthony’s progeny,
although we believe he had at least five daughters. Imagine my surprise when
recently I found a picture of one of them posted on the Web – evidently by a
relative. Now I have a dilemma – did his children and grandchildren know what a
scoundrel he was? Do I keep the skeleton closet shut or throw the door wide
open – if his descendants ask.