Shelby  County,  Indiana
Biographies

John  Wesley  Vanarsdall


          John W. Vanarsdall, a prominent farmer of Brandywine Township, was born in Mercer County, Ky., March 10, 1848.  He was the eighth of ten children five sons and five daughters born to  John and  Catharine Vanarsdall, both of whom were also natives of Mercer County, Ky., of German descent.  His paternal grandfather was  Stephen Vanarsdall.  His four brothers were:  Stephen,  Abram B.,  Elijah  and  James,  all of whom are living except Abram, who died at the age of forty-one.  His five sisters were:  Mary,  Cyntha,  America,  Eliza  and  Cora, of whom Cyntha and Eliza are deceased.  When he was a lad eight years of age he accompanied his parents to this State and located with them near Franklin, Johnson County, where he worked upon a farm until he reached the age of sixteen, when he came to this county and for a period of three and one-half years worked upon a farm by the month.  At the age of nineteen he took up the vocation of a farmer for himself, in which pursuit he has ever since continued.    John W. Vanarsdall
He began farming in Brandywine Township and there continued until February, 1880, when he removed to a farm in Addison Township.  In February, 1884, he returned to Brandywine Township, and settled upon the farm he now occupies.  His first marriage occurred March 1, 1877, when  Maria B. Thayer  became his wife.  She was born in Brandywine Township, this county, March 31, 1857.  She was the daughter of  Sidney and  Frances (Bass) Thayer, both natives of this county, the birth of the former occurring May 3, 1827, and of the latter June 21, 1832.  Mrs. Maria Vanarsdall died June 13, 1884, and October 30, 1885, Mr. Vanarsdall was married to  Annie J. Murphy,  who was born in Hendricks Township, this county, September, 4, 1853.  She was the daughter of  Samuel and  Emeline (Vaughn) Murphy, the former a native of Pennsylvania, and the latter a native of England.  The second wife of our subject died within a year after their marriage the date being October 4, 1886.  

Clara Allen Vanarsdall
  His first marriage resulted in the birth of one child, Sherman, born May 10, 1881, died when three weeks old.  His second marriage also resulted in the birth of one child, Orpha, born October 4, 1886, who is still living.  Mr. Vanarsdall is a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and a Republican in politics.  He owns a fine farm, where he resides, of 280 acres, about 240 of which are in an excellent state of cultivation.  His farm is fitted up with a handsome brick residence and a fine barn which, with other substantial improvements, make it one of the most desirable locations in the county.  Besides this he is the owner of two other good farms one of 160 acres in Brandy wine Township, and one of eighty acres in Hendricks Township.  He is an industrious and successful farmer and is deservedly recognized as one of the substantial and influential citizens of Shelby County.
History of Shelby County, Indiana, Chicago: Brant & Fuller, 1887, "Brandywine Sketches", pages 628-629.
Photos above are from Boetker's Picturesque Shelbyville, c 1909.  There is a picture of John Wesley Vanarsdall on page 728 of  Brant & Fuller.
Contributed by Phyllis Miller Fleming

Vanarsdall  Feud

            Mr. Vanarsdall and  Annie J. Murphy, daughter of  Samuel,  were in love.  She wouldn't marry him because he was "just a farm hand."  I believe he worked for either her father or uncle.
            He left - primising to come back rich and asking her to wait.  He went to work for an old maid in the Fairland area.  When she died and "left him everything" he came back to Annie and they were married.  This odyssey took seven years.  Annie died within a year leaving one child, Orpha.  She married a  Fleming  and had one son,  John [Wesley Fleming].  He bears a strong resemblance to the photo of his grandfather Vanarsdall.  John Fleming married my classmate, Elizabeth [French] Barnard.  They have one son  John Kemper's age  [John Wesley Fleming II, born March 10, 1948, exactly 100 years after his great-grandfather, John Wesley Vanarsdall].
            I remember going with my parents to call on Orpha.  She was confined to a wheelchair for many years (crippling arthritis?).  She was a beautiful woman, meticulous and tasteful in her grooming.  She was poised, gracious, accepted her illness without becoming embittered.  I have heard several people remark that she was a lovely person - "not like her father."
            When Annie's sister, Mattie, died, her will left nothing to Annie's heir because Mattie felt Annie had already had her share (in what way I never heard).  John Wesley Vanarsdall contested the will.  At the trial the judge was shown Mattie's Bible with marked passages and marginal notes.  The judge ruled that Mattie showed such discrimination and understanding in her Bible reading -- she could not have been of unsound mind as Mr. Vanarsdall charged.
            Annie's brother,  John T. Murphy (my grandfather), gave his mother [Sophia Emeline Vaugn Murphy] a set of dishes as a Christmas gift.  [After Sophia died]  He sent his wife to the estate sale to buy back the dishes.  Mr. Vanarsdall ran up the bid to $300.00 (an astronomical sum for the time).  She came home, afraid of the consequences.  He  [John T. Murphy] is supposed to have said, "If you hadn't bought them, I would have beaten you to death."
            There is supposed to be one piece of this set of dishes extant.  It is a tureen and was in the possession of  Claire Strickler Hession  (daughter of  Hazel Murphy,  daughter of  George,  son of   Samuel  ([George is] brother of John T.).
            The china was plain white with a wide gold border.
            After Annie's death, Mr. Vanarsdall married a widow named  Allen  with a child named  Glen.  I'm not sure but believe Glen to have been a girl.  Orpha and Glen often spent their vacations visiting her uncle George Murphy.
            The VanArsdale's lived in the large brick house at the west end of Franklin Street that later became Horde's Sanetarium.  Orpha was married from this house.  Her country relatives drove in for the wedding - bringing their wedding finery in boxes so they would be unmussed for the wedding.
            Orpha's father supported his stepchild but for Orpha he collected from her inheritance from her mother -- even for room and board.  After she became of age, her Uncle George considered going to court to have this money restored to her but did not.
            During bicentennial 1976, John Fleming received a certificate for holding land that had been in family 100 years or more.  He said land had been purchased (I would have thought inherited by Sophia Vaughn Murphy) in 1855 thence to his grandmother Annie Murphy Vanarsdal to Orpha VanArsdall Fleming to John.
            Dad said that after his wife Annie died, and preparing for the sale, Mr. V. burned many family things like portraits, books, other pictures.  Dad said Mr. V. claimed her family had not treated Annie right.
Contributed by a family member

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