CHARLES E. VAN METER. There are many reasons why Charles E. Van Meter is one of the most widely known men of Stanton County. He was an early settler there, but many other elements have entered into his life experience. He has been a farmer, a school teacher, a soldier of the United States Regular Army, a minister of the Gospel, a newspaper editor and publisher, a merchant and public official, and has turned his abilities into many avenues of usefulness to himself and service to mankind.
Such an active life deserves a record in consecutive detail. Mr. Van Meter was born in Springfield, Ohio, November 2, 1853. His grandfather, Joel Van Meter, was a pioneer near Springfield, Ohio, established a tan yard and made leather, was a man of education, possessed a good home library for those early years in the West, and took a leading part in church affairs, helping establish the Presbyterian Church at Clifton, Ohio. Joel Van Meter came west from New Jersey and was of the Dutch stock that peopled the Atlantic coast. He was born February 14, 1778, while the Revolution was still in progress. His first wife was Sarah Alderman, who was born October 26, 1779. His second wife was Elizabeth Ramsey, born October 22, 1782. By the first wife the children to grow up were Lemuel Watson, who died at Springfield, Ohio; William, who died in Iowa; Rebecca, died as a young woman; and Phoebe died in the State of Washington. The only child of the second marriage was John L. Van Meter.
John L. Van Meter was born near Springfield, Ohio, October 31, 1820. He acquired a fair education and most of his life was spent as a farmer. He married Martha Ann Engle, whose father was a paper-mill man near Clifton, Ohio. She was born April 19, 1824, and died in 1860. Her children wore: Alvin C., who served throughout the Civil war as a Union soldier and is now a resident of Lantana, Florida; Flora, who married James A. Kirkton and lives in Canyon City, Colorado; and Charles E. For his second wife John L. Van Meter married Amanda E. Cline, and their children wore: Clarence, living in Iowa; Chauncey, a steamboat owner and engineer of Lakeside, Washington; Bert, a resident of Washington; and William, also of that state and a carpenter by trade. John L. Van Meter died at Lakeside, Washington, in April, 1908.
When Charles E. Van Meter was about a year old, early in 1855, his parents moved to near Yellow Springs, Ohio, to the old parental home, and in 1866 the family went to the far northwest, to Rochester, Minnesota, but the following year moved to Jackson County, Missouri, where the father followed farming until June, 1903, when he moved out to Lakeside, Washington.
Charles E. Van Meter got his education in the public schools of several different states. He followed farming during his youth, and in 1874, at the age of twenty-one, enlisted at Newport, Kentucky, in the Third United States Infantry, under Col. Delancy F. Jones. He was a member of Company D under Capt. James H. Gageby. He joined his regiment at Now Orleans and was stationed at St. Martinsville, Louisiana, for three years. With a portion of his regiment he went to Mt. Vernon barracks in Alabama and from there was rushed to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, to protect that city from the strikers of 1877. The troops arrived on the scene after considerable railroad property had been destroyed by fire. The troops next went to the coal regions at Wilkesbarre, guarding the mines for a month from strikers, and were then hurried out to Montana to put down the Nez Perces Indians who had broken out of their reservation and gone on the war path. Mr. Van Meter completed his military service in the northwest and was discharged at Fort Missoula, Montana, in 1879, of which port he was then acting sergeant major. He has always looked upon his army service as of great value to him, since it familiarized him with men and took him to many parts of the country, and all in all a soldier's training is a splendid thing for any young man.
After leaving the army Mr. Van Meter joined his parents at Lee Summit, Missouri, and it was from that point that he came to Kansas. He was a man of liberal education when he came to this state, having attended, after leaving the army, Lincoln College at Greenwood, Missouri, and for two years was a student in a noted educational institution along the Missouri River, old Park College. Mr. Van Meter united with the Presbyterian Church at the age of sixteen, but after leaving the army joined the Methodist denomination. During his college career he became interested in gospel work, and became a colporteur for the American Bible Society and traveled in that capacity until in 1884 he located at Valley Falls in Jefferson County, Kansas. For a few months he was a newspaper man there, and then removed to Nortonville, Kansas, where he edited and published the first paper of that town, the Nortonville News. This was owned by his cousin, R. E. Van Meter, and he helped edit it for three months. In the fall of 1885 Mr. Van Meter moved to Hodgeman County, entering a homestead twenty-eight miles north of Dodge City. During the next fall and winter he worked on the weekly paper at Cimarron, the "Sod House." His next experience was to enter a pre-emption in the southwest part of Gray County, where he remained a year and proved it up. Besides looking after his claim he engaged in ministerial duties in that section. He joined the Methodist Conference, and was stationed at Hartland as pastor of the Hartland Church and circuit.
The Conference next directed him to Johnson in Stanton County, where he arrived July 17, 1887, as assistant pastor of the church and circuit. He continued this work until the spring of 1888, when he was sent to Englewood, Clark County, and preached to the people of that locality a year. The Conference then returned him to Johnson City, and he was placed in charge of the local work of the Methodist Church there.
While thus employed he bought an interest in the Stanton County Telegram, which had been established by W. J. Cross, and soon became its sole proprietor and conducted the paper a year, being connected with its publication until 1891. At that time he entered his homestead just east of Johnson, the northeast quarter of section 33, township 28, range 40. After occupying it he was connected again with newspaper work on the old Johnson City Journal, established by George J. Meckler. This paper was eventually moved to Syracuse and took the name Syracuse News. In 1898 Mr. Van Meter established the Stanton County Journal, and continued its publication until some time in 1905, when he sold his interests. This paper is now the Pioneer Journal, the only surviving newspaper of the county. Thus for a number of years Mr. Van Meter had an important part in the history of the local press and did more than any other individual to sustain a live local newspaper. He has not been actively identified with journalism for the past twelve years.
Many other experiences and activities have intervened. From 1898 to 1905 he was a merchant at Johnson, and for a number of years served as a county official. His first important public office was that of probate judge. He was then elected county clerk and at the same time served as deputy district clerk. In 1905 he returned to his homestead, and has since given his chief time and attention to farming and stock raising.
For his pioneer home on this place Mr. Van Meter moved a shanty 12 by 14 feet out from Johnson, and for a few years this humble abode served to accommodate his family of four. Later, more substantial improvements were constructed, and recently he completed his final home, a two story modern residence of nine rooms and basement, and a forest of trees from his planting has grown to shelter and shade his premises. Gradually his holdings have increased until they now comprise a ranch of five quarter sections. Of all his agricultural efforts broom corn has yielded the best profit, but his main reliance has been in livestock. Mr. Van Meter favors the White Face cattle and has developed a herd containing a good grade of this famous stock. In his experience he has seen cattle sell in Stanton County for one-fifth the price the same grade of stock now commands. He has known a quarter section of land to sell for $25 and the same class of property would now be worth $1,000.
As a man of education and a natural leader Mr. Van Meter did his part as a teacher in some of the early schools of Western Kansas. While proving up his pre-emption he taught a school in Gray County and for one term was in charge of the school in district No. 28 of Stanton County. For that work he was paid $25 a month, then the ruling wage of a teacher in the country.
In politics Mr. Van Meter is a republican, and cast his first presidential vote for Mr. Garfield. He was chairman of the Stanton county committee which arranged for the right of way for the extension of the Santa Fe Railway through this county. For the past two years he has had an interesting occupation as United States weather observer for this county.
On March 12, 1888, in Stanton County, Mr. Van Meter married Laura E. Knapp. They were united in marriage by Rev. Sprague Davis. Mrs. Van Meter was born at Saybrook, Illinois, October 25, 1863, daughter of Charles W. and Rebecca Mary (Peabody) Knapp. Her father was a lawyer, and came out to Johnson, Kansas, in 1886, and was one of the first members of the bar there. He died at Rocky Ford, Colorado, and his wife at Waukegan, Illinois. Mr. Knapp was born near Utica, New York, and his wife near Cincinnati, Ohio. Their children were: Mrs. Van Meter; Hattie, Mrs. Hiram E. Ellingwood, of Collinsville, Oklahoma; Olive Adelia, wife of Otis Riley, living in Ohio; Mrs. Sarah J. Hines, of Waukegan, Illinois; Mrs. Frances E. Masters, of Durango, Colorado; Mrs. Bertha Belle Wallis, of LaJunta, Colorado; Charles W., of Garden City, Kansas; and George Guy, of Chicago.
Mr. and Mrs. Van Meter have an interesting family of children, and two of the sons are now doing their part as soldiers in the great war. The oldest, Carrie K., was born at Englewood, Kansas, February 2, 1889, and is now Mrs. Clifford Crooke, of Great Bend, Kansas. Charles Harvey, born at Johnson June 6, 1891, is now a non-commissioned officer of the United States Marine Corps at Paris Island in South Carolina. Russell E., who was born on the old Stanton County homestead August 16, 1893, is in the signal service of the National Army. Flora V. was born December 6, 1896; Glenn I. was born at Johnson November 16, 1900, and Lyle P. was born at Johnson June 13, 1905.
Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p.,  leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.
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