Biography - Samuel A. VanKirk

SAMUEL A. VAN KIRK. The citizens of any community are generally very quick to recognize a man's worth and abilities, especially if he is in the field of law, and do not require any great length of time to demonstrate their appreciation of his good qualities by election to positions of honor and trust, and one in whom this confidence has been placed on more than one occasion is Samuel A. Van Kirk, a leading member of the Johnson county legal profession. Mr. Van Kirk was born on a farm near Newville, Cumberland county, Pennsylvania, July 3, 1858, and is a son of Daniel P. and Anne (Carl) Van Kirk, and a grandson of John Van Kirk.

The Van Kirk family, which originated in Holland, was founded in the United States more than two and one-half centuries ago, when the first of the name located in New Jersey. His descendants participated to a great extent in the early struggles of the New Jersey and Pennsylvania colonists, his sons fought valiantly in the American Revolution, and members of the family have been prominent in all walks of life, although they have mainly been identified with agricultural work. Daniel P. Van Kirk was engaged in farming throughout his active career, and at the time of his retirement moved to the village of Mechanicsburg, where his death occurred in 1889, his widow surviving until 1905. They had a family of children, of whom four survived them: Eber J., who was a soldier during the Spanish- American war, of whom all trace has been lost; John A.; Mrs. Margaret Pence; Mrs. Jane Hart, and Mrs. Laura A. Lengiser, all living in Pennsylvania; and Samuel A.

Samuel A. Van Kirk received his preliminary education in Pennsylvania and completed his academic studies in Cumberland Valley Institute, after which he taught two terms of school in his native state. When he was only eighteen years of age he came westward, locating in Newton, Kansas, and taught three years in Harvey county, that state. In the meantime he had been pursuing his law studies diligently, and on March 23, 1880, he was admitted to the bar. He practiced law in Harper and Comanche counties for nine years, served as county superintendent of Harper county one term, and in 1889 joined the rush to Oklahoma, but only remained one year, for in 1890 he came to Johnson county, Illinois, and was here admitted to practice in 1891. Since the spring of 1892 he has resided in Vienna; where he has been connected with some large movements and important legal action. He has served three terms as city attorney of Vienna and two terms as master in chancery and is now acting as attorney for the Cache River Irrigation District Project, covering Johnson, Massac, Pulaski, Union and Pope counties, and involving the drainage of 67,000 acres. This is the largest project in Southern Illinois at the present time, work having been started January 1, 1911, since which time the preliminary work has been completed and calls for an original expenditure of $200,000, although when completed it will represent a total value of $1,000,000, which covers the expense of main canals, laterals, etc. Mr. Van Kirk has built up a large and lucrative private practice, and is considered one of Johnson county's brightest legal lights. He is a Republican in his political views and has been an active worker in the ranks of his party, and fraternally is connected with the Knights of Pythias. He and Mrs. Van Kirk are connected with the Methodist Episcopal church.

In 1892 Mr. Van Kirk was married to Miss Mattie M. Shoemaker, who was born and reared in Johnson county, Illinois, daughter of John and Elizabeth (Larison) Shoemaker, natives of Tennessee, who came to Johnson county prior to the outbreak of the Civil war. Mrs. Van Kirk's maternal grandfather, Richard Larison, served in both the Black Hawk and Mexican wars, as captain, and his wife's father, a Billingsly, was a Revolutionary soldier. Mr. and Mrs. Van Kirk have three children, namely: Agnes W., Ethel M. and Samuel A., Jr. As a citizen who has identified himself with all movements for the betterment of the community, as a public official whose career is without blemish, and as a man whose friendships are many and enmities few, Mr. Van Kirk, stands as one of his community's representative residents, and as such has the confidence and esteem of those who have had dealings with him in any way.

Extracted 14 Jan 2018 by Norma Hass from 1912 A History of Southern Illinois, volume 2, pages 671-672.

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