John M. Oldham, BiographyPorter County biographical sketches . . . .

Transcribed biography of John M. Oldham


Canadian by birth, John M. Oldham came to Valparaiso in 1912 and spent the remaining 33 years of his life enriching the civic, business, and cultural life of the city.

Coming from Duluth, Minn., with his wife, Vina Hood Oldham, John purchased the large home of Mr. and Mrs. Orville H. Powers at 415 Madison, along with 25 acres of surrounding land. The house is now the residence of Dr. Robert M. Stoltz.

Keeping a spacious sloping lawn, an orchard, and a rose garden around the main house, Oldham developed the remaining acreage into a comfortable residential area of one-family homes and tree-lined streets.

Oldham was a member of the first Valparaiso Zoning Commission and served as its chairman until a few years before his death Feb. 11, 1945.

During both the First and Second World Wars he headed the Porter County unit of the American Red Cross.

Shortly after coming to Valparaiso, Oldham joined the Saturday Evening Club, a group of distinguished men in the city who held semi-weekly meetings featuring presentation of a serious paper followed by spirited discussion. Oldham served as president of the club during the last nine years of his life. Oldham joined the Mathesis Club, a discussion group of men and women, in 1914 and was its president from 1924 until his death. Both organizations still function.

A few days after Oldham's death, the late Lee Ragsdale wrote a memorial editorial in The Vidette-Messenger in which he said, 'To those who knew him in public gathering, in club, in church or home, his quick and kindly humor was an enjoyable attribute. In repartee he had a ready tongue. His mind was stored with experience and anecdote, and in any group he was the saving spark against a dull time.

"He was profoundly moved by music and in his home he delighted to preside at the piano while friends joined him in song. He was a lover of literature and the variety of his quotations proved the range of his reading tastes. He was a keen student of current events and was ever able to take effective part in discussions of public affairs . . . "

Both Oldham and his wife were busy members of the First Presbyterian Church and he sang in the choir until his death. The Vina Hood Oldham Guild is still active in the church. Mrs. Oldham was also a Woman's Club member until her death Dec. 21, 1932.

John M. and Vina Hood Oldham were the parents of two sons, Howard and Kenneth, both of whom were reared and educated in Valparaiso. Howard now lives in Austin, Tex., while Kenneth and his wife, the former Dorothy Green of Washington Township, live in Cortez, Fla.

Kenneth's eldest daughter, Mrs. Janet Oldham Hanrahan, is still a Valparaiso resident as are her children, Patricia and William Hanrahan. Another daughter, Mrs. Judy Oldham Rittenhouse, lives in Ann Arbor, Mich. Both women grew up in Valparaiso.

In 1914, the Oldhams added another branch of their family to the history of Valparaiso when they brought John's sister, Jessie Oldham McCallum, and her ten-year-old son, Woodburn A. McCallum to the city after the death of Jessie's husband, Duncan McCollum, in Saskatoon, Sask., Canada.

For many years an employee of Specht-Finney Company, Jessie was known for her talents as a pianist and vocalist. She died shortly after her brother -- May 1, 1945.

Woodburn was graduated from the Valparaiso University School of Law in 1929 and entered private law practice briefly before becoming the Porter and LaPorte County representative for the Federal Land Bank of Louisville in 1933. He held that position until his retirement in 1964.

Like his uncle, Woodburn was a member of the Saturday Evening Club and on the First Presbyterian Church. He was also president of the Valparaiso Kiwanis Club in the late 1930s.

Woodburn married Katherine Alpen of Valparaiso, Nov. 11, 1931. He died April 6, 1968, but she is still a resident of the city (among her many activities is the Vina Hood Oldham Guild of which she is a charter member), as is their daughter, Mrs. Karl D. Henrichs (Mary McCallum). Another daughter, Mrs. Gene R. Duffin (Margaret McCallum), and a grandson, Ryan G. Duffin, live in Goshen, Ind. Mary and Margaret were both born and reared in Valparaiso.

Source: American Revolution Bicentennial Committee of Porter County. 1976. A Biographical History of Porter County, Indiana. Valparaiso, Indiana: American Revolution Bicentennial Committee of Porter County, Inc. 180 p.
Page(s) in Source: 141-142

This biography has been transcribed exactly as it was originally published in the source. Please note that we do not provide photocopies or digital scans of biographies appearing on this website.

Biography transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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