20 March 2016

Sunday’s Obituary: Colonel Van Horn dies at age of 91 years

I came across the obituary for a Colonel Van Horn last week while researching my uncle Benjamin Van Horn. On 3 January 1916, the Oakland Trubune printed his obituary in form of an article on page nine. I skimmed over it, not really expecting a connection until I read one line. One little line that said, “Colonel Van Horn was the son of a Pennsylvania farmer of Dutch and Scotch-Irish ancestry.” Who was his father?

His obituary reads:
Kansas City, Mo., Jan. 3. – Colonel Robert Thompson Van Horn, founder of the Kansas City Journal and pioneer journalist and statesman of the Middle west, died at his home here today. He was ninety-one years old. Death was due to the infirmities of age.

Colonel Van Horn founded the Journal and was for forty-one years editor of that paper, becoming a widely known figure in American Journalism. Kansas City was a village whose inhabitants numbered only 478 when the young Van Horn wnt there and bought the Weekly Enterprise for $500, in 1855, and changed the name to the Journal. With the rapid growth of the place the Journal became one of the flourishing daily newspapers of the west. When Colonel Van Horn retired from control of the paper, in 1896, he was seventy-two years old. He was born May 19, 1824.

Son of Farmer
Colonel Van Horn was the son of a Pennsylvania farmer of Dutch and Scotch-Irish ancestry. His education was largely of his own endeavor, with occasional terms at a subscription school. At fifteen he became apprenticed in the printing trade and worked at it for ten years in Pennsylvania, Indiana, Ohio and New York, finally drifting to Kansas City to invest what little he had in the newspaper business for himself. As an editor he made himself known as a fighter for the progress of Kansas City and Missouri and his whole career was interwoven with the history of that remarkable progress.

Colonel Van Horn served in the public not only as an editor, but as a soldier, as mayor of Kansas City many years ago, a member of the State legislature and for four terms as the representative of his people in Congress.

His military service was with the Union Army, although in the political prologue to the Civil War he had been a pro-slavery Democrat. Secession made a Union man and a Republican of him. He headed a Missouri regiment which served with distinction, participating in the battles of Shiloh, Corinth, and Westport. While in the field with his regiment he was called to take a seat in the Missouri Senate and shortly after the war he was sent to Congress. He introduced there a bill for the organization of Oklahoma territory in 1868, and although the territory was not established until twenty-five years later. It was Colonel Van Horn who, for the first time, had introduced Congress to the now familiar name of Oklahoma.

He disavowed credit for having coined the name, but said that E. C. Boudinot, a Cherokee Indian, had told him it was the Creek word meaning Redman’s land.

National Delegate
For many years Colonel Van Horn was a delegate to Republican national conventions and was extremely proud of the fact that he was one of “the immortal 306,” who stood for the third term nomination of General Grant in the Chicago convention of 1880.

One of Colonel Van Horn’s newspaper reminiscences included the fact that his Journal on August 26, 1858, printed the first article announcing the discovery of gold in Colorado. He also recalled the days when the first telegraph news was received from St. Louis over a wire completed as far as Boonville, from which the news was forwarded by express.

In 1864 Colonel Van Horn married Miss Adela H Cooley of Meige county, Ohio. Four children were born to them, of whom Richard Van Horn, manager of the Van Horn estate and a former newspaper man, is the only survivor. Mrs. Van Horn died in July 1910. Since her death, Colonel Van Horn had spent most of his time at Honeywood, on the outskirts of Kansas City.

His obituary ran in the Oakland Tribune.

Oakland Tribune. (Oakland, CA), 3 January 1916.

Sunday’s Obituary is a genealogical prompt of GeneaBloggers.

© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2016
Locations listed are located in Pennsylvania (USA), unless otherwise noted in post.