Franklin B. Van Valkenburgh


(Written In 1910)

Franklin Butler Van Valkenburgh was born at Prattsburg, Steuben county, N.Y. , Feb. 21, 1835. His father, Judge Jacob Van Valkenburgh, who was born In Kinderhook, N.Y., was Judge of the court of common pleas, a member of the constitutional convention of New York in 1845, and a member of the legislature the same year. In 1847 he removed to Michigan and was there a member of two constitutional conventions, and later the Judge of the probate court in Oakland county. In the War of 1812 he enlisted, but peace was soon afterward declared and he saw no active service. He died at Jacksonville, Fla., In 1879. Jacob's great-grandfather, Jacob Van Valkenburgh, came to America from Valkenburgh, Holland, in 1746, settled in New York and was a farmer by vocation. His son, Bartholomew Jacob, great-grandfather of the subject of this sketch, born in 1753, was "Leftenant" in Col. Goose Van Schaack's regiment in the first battalion of the New York forces during the Revolutionary war, and was personally acquainted with Washington and Layfayette. Franklin Buttler Van Valkenburgh was one of nine children. The eldest son, Robert Bruce Van Valkenburgh, born in 1821, was a private soldier in 1835 at Buffalo, N.Y. , and brevet major-general in the volunteer service during the Civil War. He was elected to Congress from New York, but resigned at the request of President Lincoln to recruit a regiment, and was in command of a brigade at the battle of Antietam. After resigning as brevet brigadier-general he was re-elected to Congress, in 1868 was appointed minister-plenipotentiary to Japan, and he was complimented by Congress for valuable services there. Afterward he removed to Florida, where he was elected justice of the supreme court of the state, which position he held at the time of his death in August, 1888. David Higgins Van Valkenburgh, born in 1823, was sheriff of Manitowoc county at one time, was major of the First New York artillery in the Civil war, and at the battle of Fair Oaks, in 1862, after both his superior officers had been killed, he took command and was shot and instantly killed. Bartholomew Jacob, born on April 23, 1831, enlisted in the Twenty-first Wisconsin infantry, was captain and quartermaster throughout the war, and was promoted to the rank of major by General Grant, for bravery at the battle of Perryville. He died on Nov. 22, 1896. Gerrit Smith and Franklin Butler Van Valkenburgh, twins, were named after Gerret Smith, the noted philanthropist and abolitionist, and Benjamin Franklin Butler, at one time attorney-general of the United States, and a prominent politician, both of whom, together with Martin Van Buren, were schoolmates and lifelong friends of their father. Gerrit Smith Van Valkenburgh, who lived in Arkansas, was a captain in the Confederate army. Edward Porter Van Valkenburgh, born on April 14, 1837, enlisted in a Michigan regiment, but resigned on his appointment to the position of lieutenant in the One Hundred and Seventh New York Infantry, and was afterward promoted to the rank of captain. Subsequently he removed to Austin, Minn., where he was elected mayor of the city, and he is now a resident of Minneapolis. Of these brothers, Bartholomew J., Edward P. , Gerrit S. , and Franklin B. , have all at one time lived in Milwaukee. Of the sisters, Gertrude married Otis H. Waldo, who for many years was prominent at the bar and In the politics of Wisconsin. He was a candidate for United States Senator against Matthew Carpenter, when the latter was elected the first time. Catherine married Charles D. Haven, for many years an engineer and employed In the construction of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul railroad. She died at Racine. Mary Higgins married Harrison Voorhees, who lived in Michigan, and she has also passed away. The mother of thia family, born Mary B. Higgins, was a native of Lyme, Conn. , and was a direct descendant of Matthew Gilbert, one of the original company of the New Haven Colony. He is buried in the New Haven cemetery, and his grave is one of the three which were left in the old church-yard, while all others were removed when the statehouse was built there. The stone marking his resting place is still in good preservation. The three remaining stones are marked with initials only, and are shown as marking the graves of the three regicides; * but the one marked "M. G. " and supposed to mark the resting place of Michael Goff, has been shown to be over the grave of Matthew Gilbert, sometime deputy governor of the province. On Oct. 8, 1860, Mr. Van Valkenburgh, of this sketch, was united in marriage to Emellne Wells Pratt, daughter of Jotham and Hannah A. (Wells) Pratt, of Maine. The latter was a sister of Daniel Wells, Jr. , and Charles K. Wells, of Milwaukee. Three children were born of the marriage, Frank Pratt, Helen who died when she was eight years old, and Faith. The former married Jane 1. Swoope, and was a practicing attorney in Milwaukee, at one time city attorney, and also assistant United States district-attorney for the Eastern district of Wisconsin. He died on Aug. 13, 1900, leaving three children: Helen, now at the University of Chicago, taking a post-graduate course; Franklin, midshipman in his fourth year at the Naval Academy at Annapolis; and Alice, a student at the Milwaukee high school. Faith married Charles A. Vilas, son of Edward P. Vilas and nephew of the late Col. William F. Vilas, of Madison. They have two sons: Franklin Edward and Charles Harrison. Franklin Butler Van Valkenburgh is an Independent Republican, but not a politician, and has devoted his energies to his profession of the law. With the exception of the Old Settler's Club he belongs to no societies. His early education was acquired in the public schools, which he left at the age of twenty-one, and had charge of the business of the firm of Waldo & Ody until Jan. 1, 1859, when he became a member of the firm, which continued until dissolved by the death of Mr. Ody in 1870, the firm then consisting of the other two members. This was dissolved by the death of Mr. Waldo in 1874, since which time Mr. Van Valkenburgh has practiced without a partner. He has been Interested as party or counsel in many actions which have been useful in interpreting the laws of the state, and some of which show the peculiarities of the law and the manner in which facts strike different minds. In the case of Van Valkenburgh vs. the City of Milwaukee, in which the city took from him four lots for Juneau Park, the property was assessed by the Board of Public Works at $419, and after fifteen years of litigation the assessment was raised to $20,000. In the course of the litigation the supreme court decided that "the testimony falls entirely to show that the strip of land known as Lake street is a public street, and therefore there must be a new trial." (30 Wis. 334). But in the case of Kneeland vs. Van Valkenburgh, which was an action in ejectment for the identical strip of land above mentioned, the court said: "For the purpose of this appeal we must assume that Lake street Is a public highway and our Judgment is based upon that hypothesis. " (46 Wis. 438). So It appears that the first case was won for the reason that the strip of land known as Lake street was not a street, and the second for the reason that the strip of land was a street, and Mr. Van Valkenburgh, who won both cases, Is sure that both decisions are correct.

*ED. NOTE: The headstone marked "M. G. " attributed to Mathew Gilbert is also attributed to Michael Goffe. The Sexton of Center Church, New Haven, will show the visitor a spot in the Coal Bin under the church said to be the site of Mathew Gilbert's Grave. This cript under Center Church is worth a visit even though our ancestor seems to be relegated to the coal bin.

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