Van Gundy Family Tree

Notes for Andrew MCILVAIN

Andrew was a pioneer in KY, OH, IN, and IL and was a very colorful character.

He was said to be tall, extremely dignified, with jet black hair which became snow white with age. He was a stately looking gentleman, always neatly dressed, never without a silk tie, always well brushed, "with ruffled shirt common to those who had seen city life." "There was an air of importance and superiority permeating every fibre of Andy's nature."

He acquired considerable wealth but also lost a great part of it to politics and speculation.

He and Jane had a total of 12 children.

Residences & events in his life:

1797 KY. Andrew accompanied his father and a surveying party to OH and he recorded the experience: "We were with the surveying party headed by Lucas Sullivant from Kentucky, and went up along the Scioto Rivver as far north as the Forks where the Whetstone joins - then called the Forks of the Scioto. The party returned to Chillicothe late in the fall. When we (the whole family) returned next spring we found a white family, Joseph Dixon's."

1805 Chillicothe, Ross Co, OH. At age 13 he became a mail carrier and described the job: "A weekly mail left Franklinton each Friday, stayed over night at Markly's Mill on Darby Creek, next day made Chillicothe and returned to Thompson's on Deer Creek, thence home on Sunday. There was no postoffice between Columbus and Chillicothe. I was the first mail carrier and did carry the first mail to Franklinton and was employed in that business about one year, during the winter and spring, having twice to swim the Darby and Deer Creeks carrying
the small mail bag on my shoulders. There was not a house but William Brown's between Franklinton and Darby and but a cabin at Westfall and Deer Creek to Chillicothe. I commenced carrying the mail at 13 years old. It was a rather lonesome route for a boy."

At 19 he was a trumpeter in Jacob Raub's company of "Rifles" in the War of 1812 and promoted until he reached Capt.

He and his brothers, along with the Sells brothers, were co-builders of a dam on the Scioto River, OH. He bought the Swan Tavern, was the postmaster, and built a flour mill.

Columbus, Franklin Co, OH. He was described as a prominent resident of the county.

"The story goes that he was expecting a visit from his cousin, the late Bishop McIlvaine, and that he had to go to New York on business. While away he left his inscription for the sign painter and owing to the fact that he had a sort of legal scrawl and that his capital 'I's looked like 'E's, and that the 'e' at the end of the name was always strung out so far that it was not recognizable, the sign painter put in 'McElvain.' The paper states that the Colonel swore roundly and made such a commotion that the people along the street came out to see what was the matter, and finally a young fellow named Martin, a favorite nephew, came over and put the Colonel in a good humor. This start was seconded by a friend across the street who admired the sign very much and said that it was a credit to Columbus, so that owing to the fact that it could not be changed in time for the Bishop's visit it was allowed to remain so. The rest of the family, feeling great respect for the Colonel's ability, and recognizing the fact that the new style was easier, at once adopted it, except two or three of the family who still cling to the 'I', although nearly all of them have discarded the 'a' in the prefix."

1819 Near Clinton, IN. His wife, Martha, died enroute to Vincennes, IN, as the family was moving. He was so grieved that he returned to Columbus with their two sons while the rest of the family trudged on.

Columbus, OH. There he married Martha's cousin, Jane, and stayed awhile longer.

1832 Near Ft Hamilton, WI. Lured by lead and zinc mining, he and brother, James, went north. Andrew was one of the lucky ones to escape the Indian raid which resulted in James' death.

1832-1837 Franklin Co, OH. Back home on safer ground, he became the sheriff.

1840 Mifflin twp, Franklin Co, OH was his residence at census time. Listed under A McElvain, his family consisted of: 1 male under 5, 2 were 5-10, 2 at 10-15, 1 was 15-20, Andrew was 40-50, 1 female under 5, and 1 at 30-40. Next door was a V or N McElvain.

1842-1844 He served as one of the directors of the Ohio penitentiary.

11/5/1846 Upper Sandusky, Wyandot Co, OH. Andrew purchased 3 plots of land that date, all cash entries. It is unknown if he already lived in the county at the time. Two plots were unspecified as to acreage and were located at 1 19 1ST PPM No 2 S 14 E, 1 191 1ST PPM No 2 S 14 E, the third was 42.29 acres at 1 SWNW 1ST PPM Yes 2 S 14 E 3. Also on that same date were several entries for brothers, Joseph and Purdy McElvaine.

1846 "Having suffered some severe pecuniary losses in trade, and having incurred some debts, thereby boldly started for California ...for the purpose of retrieving his fortunes and of paying his just debts."

From the History of Wyandot Co, OH is an account of that trip:


In 1848, the news came from the newly discovered El Dorado, that mountains of silver and valleys of gold were lying around loose, and that anybody with a mule and cart and a barrel of whisky could become a millionaire in a few days. All he had to do was to treat the natives, and haul away the metal. A few nuggets of gold were shown to our citizens by a fellow who strutted our Streets with a watch chain made of grizzly teeth, and that settled it. Bill Giles offered to sell or give a no printing office; old Andy McIlvain pulled down the blinds of the only aristocratic hotel we had; and other of our people refused their usual meals and tossed their better halves out of bed in wrestling with nightmares that were dropping down upon them whole tons of precious gold. They had it bad, and soon a party was formed to cross the plains. Bill Giles loaned the Pioneer office to his brother, Lige and Josiah Smith, and donned the dress and accouterments of a fighting guerrilla. He had Deacon McGill forge him three or four bowie knives out of rat-tail files, and with a revolutionary musket and a pocket cannon he announced his readiness to drive an ox-team or do the cooking on buffalo chips. Old Andy McIlvain wrapped himself in a blanket and said he was ready to ride in that ox. team and demolish the provender. Also waiting to join the caravan were Col. Aaron Lyle, William McIlvain, Swayne McIlvain and several others whose names we cannot call to mind, including a sprightly nigger, named Buck, who had been raised by the Garrets. This Buck, with the strength of Hercules, was active as a cat, and as saucy as he was active. A short distance out on the plains Buck a found with a hole through his head, and consequently it was supposed that he died suddenly for want of breath, but as it was only one nigger less for grizzly feed, the party moved on. Before the plains were overcome, poor Bill McIlvain, and that large generous hearted fellow, Col. Lyle, who was seeking health instead of gold, surrendered to the pale horse and his rider, and left their bones on the desert wastes of the Great West.

Bill McIlvain was a promising young man, about to enter the law, but blighted love for one who also felt the bitterness of the shock, made him less to do and dare, and his sad fate was more the result of piercing heart-throbs than the wreck of health from exposure.

Col. Lyle was a brilliant young lawyer, who came here from Lancaster, Ohio, with the Beerys; his long and severe application while a student had impaired his health, and the hectic flush that mingled with his smiles and good humor, was a warning which thrilled his friends with the gravest apprehensions. It was death to remain; an overland trip might revive a shattered constitution, and still make life the dream of his ambition; but hope in its struggle with disease soon ended in the death of that grand, good fellow, who was loved and esteemed by all our citizens.

Swayne McIlvain, after an experience of several weeks on the plains, got scared at a moccasin track, and took the first balloon for Sandusky. He denied the soft impeachment, giving as a reason for his sudden reappearance, "that father thought he had better go home and prepare a cave or two for the nuggets."

Of the party, Bill Giles and old Andy McIlvain drove their ox-team in sight of the Pacific, and ordered the natives to bring out their gold dust if they wanted it panned out

Mcllvain, who had never done anything -in his life but bow to fellow-citizens from a hotel door, commencing at the American in Columbus, and ending with a house at Upper Sandusky, didn't believe in exercising the pick and shovel; but he would go into a hay speculation with Bill Giles, and he did. Andy got the profits, and Bill got the hay. Bill has still some of that crop on hand, and will get up on a fence and swear till the sulphur oozes down into his boots every time he passes a hay stack. After Bill had killed his Ingin, fought a grizzly, and started and published two papers in California, he returned to Upper Sandusky and resumed publication of the Pioneer.

12/19/1850 Franklin, Franklin Co, OH. That year the census recorded Andrew at age 58, Jane at 50. Andrew was a farmer with property worth $4000. The family consisted of John, 25, his wife Margt, 20, a Newton Ayres, 14, Swayne R, 18, Chas H, 16, Jane, 14, Richard H, 12, Matilda, 10, and Andrew M, 5. A 21 year old Rbt P McIlvain lived next door with the Bunbecker (sp?) family as a laborer. Who was he?

2/7/1853 Logan Co, IL. Moving west again, he bought 80 acres for an unspecified amount at E2SW S28 T20N R03W. His place of residence at the time was unknown so he was not living in the county yet.

1859 West Point Grove, near Postville/Lincoln, IL. His daughter, Matilda, said that when their wagons arrived, "Colonel McElvain drove up to the old tavern, only recently demolished and inquired the direction to the section on which laid the farm he had purchase. A tall, bony man gave him the directions-that man was Abraham Lincoln, a traveling lawyer from Springfield, Ill, and a member of the legistlature of Illinois, destined to be great friends and cronies with Col. McElvain, in spite of their political differences. Col. McElvain always argued that if the slaves were a political subject there would be war between the North and the Sounth but he did not live to see it. Mr. McElvain and Mr. Lincoln never got beyond the Mr. in their conversation, but with another grandfather, who also was a friend and fellow Whig with Lincoln, it was always 'Abe' and 'Jake.'"

7/3/1860 Logan Co, IL. At census time Andrew was a 68 year old farmer whose property totaled $4000/1000. Jane R was 59 and the children still at home included: John, 35, Jane, 23, Richard, 21, Matilda, 19, and Andrew M, 13. Living with the family was future son-in-law James Bell, 25, farmer with $200 in personal property.

One descendant has 9/8/1791 as his birth date.

Andrew died of accidental injuries.

The newspaper carried the story:

"DIED - On Thursday evening last, the 9th inst., Andrew McElvain
Esq., of West Point Grove in the county, of this county and recently
of this city, aged 69 years.
Obituary - The somewhat sudden and unexpected death of this
worthy citizen and good man spead a deep gloom on the whole community
and was felt as an irreparable loss by all who knew him. He had gone
out in apparently robust health on Thursday morning with his sons for
the purpose of yoking some oxen on this farm. During the process one
of the cattle which was a little unruly, made a pass at Colonel
McElvain, who was standing at his head and who, in order to save
himself sprang hastily backward. In the sudden effort he must have
ruptured a blood vessel internally as in a brief space he became
insensible and expired the same night about 12 o'clock."

And another:

"....he settled in this state and county on a farm he purchased
on Sugar Creek, which he managed with great success and which he
tended until quite recently, when he sold the farm and retired to his
property in this town, to spend the remainder of his days in the bosom
of this family. But it pleased God that this enjoyment should be of
brief duration and he was transferred to a more permanent home.
The present writer became acquainted with Mr. McElvain soon after
his arrival in this town and has since had frequent opportunities of
enjoying his society and becoming acquainted with the sterling
qualities of his character. He was in all respects a good citizen, a
high minded gentleman and an example eminently worthy of emulation in
all the relations of life; training up his children in the practice of
the best moral and religious principles and though not professing the
peculiar creed of any religious sect or denomination, he was a true
christian, in the highest and noblest acceptance of that term.
His remains were attended to their final resting place on
Saturday by a large and most respectful concourse of his fellow
citizens, without distinction of creed or party, who testified their
respect for the virtues of the deceased and their sympathy for the
bereaved family by those marks of genuine sorrow and feeling which is
more easy to feel than to describe.
Such is the end of a good man, and well may we all join in the
common prayer.
Oh let me die the death of the righteous and
Let my last words be like His,
For it is by their fruits alone, that ye shall know them!"

Copyright 2010 by BJ Van Gundy

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