Van Ness, BiographyPorter County biographical sketches . . . .

Transcribed biography of Van Ness


To record a history of the Van Ness family in Valparaiso, one must start with grandparents John D. and Nancy Brown Wilson, both born in Pennsylvania, moved to Lake County, Indiana, and were married there in 1855. They came to Valparaiso to live where Mr. Wilson engaged in construction. Five sturdy brick homes on North Franklin Street attest his ability; also the basic structure of the courthouse which suffered a fire in 1926. Their daughter, Rachel Elizabeth, married Elliott F. Van Ness, a native of Michigan who came as a student to Valparaiso University. Mr. Van Ness with men in the Wilson family, John D. and sons, Edmund and Hylan, with John Cameron established the first light plant in 1892. Later this was destroyed by fire.

In 1900 E. F. Van Ness started an electrical merchandising and wiring business; this had several locations and in 1914 his son, John W. Van Ness, became a partner. This business remained In the family until 1963. John went into Naval service in 1917. His father, with the aid of his mother, Rachel Van Ness, kept the business going to the extent of working all night to make light cords for the military unit established at Valparaiso University. John, upon discharge in 1919, resumed duties in the electrical firm.

At the same time, Mrs. E. F. Van Ness was in charge of the Red Cross yarn distribution. After the war, Mrs. Van Ness resumed activity in church work, locally and in the district. She was active in the Federated Womans' Club; she established a free clothing dispensary for those in desperate need. She assisted in establishing the Presbyterian Resale Shop. The crystal fixtures in the Clubhouse were installed in honor of Mrs. Van Ness. As Rachel Wilson, she was in the first graduating class in the Valparaiso High School in 1878.

John Van Ness served in many civic capacities and in 1939 as state senator began a twenty year period of service in state government; later he served as parliamentarian in the state senate. The last six years of activity, he spent as assistant to the president of Midwest Steel, established in Porter County.

John Van Ness had one sister, Mrs. L. E. Collins (1892-1969), of Detroit, Michigan. John's marriage to Harriet F. Benjamin of Crown Point took place in 1922. Children of this family are Charles E. of Mountain Lake, N. J.; Nancy (Mrs. G. A.) Myers, Valparaiso, and Joe C., of Phoenix, Arizona. Further relatives are eleven grandchildren, seven girls and four boys: Victor and Virginia Myers (Clark), Caryl, Susan, Sara and James, Kathy, Cynthia, David, Robert and Tamara Van Ness.

Submitted by Mrs. J. W. Van Ness

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: 170

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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