15 January 2014

52 Ancestors #4 John Anthony Vanderpool

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks:  Challenge #4
John Anthony Vanderpool


Handsome Skeleton Dancing in the Family Closet

   By Myra Vanderpool Gormley ©2014

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 genealogical data.

·       “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 marriages.  

·       “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.






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