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VAN WORMER Family History, Part I

November 2015

Our Van Wormer (or Van Wermer) roots are still very disjointed but seem to trace back to New York which reflect their Dutch origins in 17th Century New Netherlands. The name perhaps relates to the town of Wormer, about 10 kilometers up the Zaan river, north of Amsterdam, in the province of North Holland.

Based on and entry in "The Biographical History of Pottawattamie County, Iowa," 1891, our Erastus Converse married Elizabeth Van Wermer and had six children. Unfortunately, this is the only "firm" record of Elizabeth's maiden name to date. This page attempts to piece together the fragments and chase down a few possible leads on her origins.

Elizabeth (VAN WERMER) CONVERSE2 (1811-1899)Top

Elizabeth (VAN WERMER) CONVERSE 1. Elizabeth Van Wermer2 was born about December 14, 1811, probably in Ohio*. She met Erastus Converse (Sr.), a Vermont native, and married in Pennsylvania where they started a family of five sons, and a daughter who died in infancy:

11. John Converse3 14 Oct 1829 16 Mar 1909 (79)
12. William Converse 20 Oct 1832 13 May 1916 (83)
13. Henry B. Converse (1835-1836) 25 Jul 1862 (27)
14. George W. Converse (1842-1843) 29 Jul 1864 (22)
15. Erastus Taylor Converse (1845) --  -- 
16. Daughter (1837-1847) Infancy -- 
Elizabeth's Birth Place
Documentation of Elizabeth's birth place range from Ohio to Pennsylvania and Connecticut, but most locations listed while she was alive state Ohio.

In 1829, their first son, John, was born in Pennsylvania. Their next two sons, William and Henry, were also born in Pennsylvania, in Rockdale, Crawford County.


Coincidentally, according to the 1830 census of Randolph, Crawford County, Pennsylvania, which lies 12 miles south of Rockdale, the families of Henry Van Wormer and John Van Wormer are enumerated:

  • The Henry Van Wormer family shows Henry to be between the age of 50 and 60 and 3 teen-aged boys and a boy and girl between the ages of 5 and 10. A female between the ages of 60 and 70 is also listed.
  • The younger John Van Wormer family, shows John between the ages of 30 and 40, as well as a female (wife) of the same age range, and two boys and a girl.

A survey of the 1880 Ohio census show Van Wormer families across northern Ohio in Cuyahoga, Lorain, and Lucas counties dating back as early as 1840. Most show heads-of-families originating in New York between 1806 and 1858, reflecting the Dutch roots of New York (17th Century New Netherland), while Lorain County's Jerome Van Wormer family dates back as early as around 1811 in Massachusetts.

The Converses settled in Crawford County until they moved to Greene Township, Iowa County, Iowa Territory in 1842, four years prior to Iowa statehood. Greene Township, in the southeast corner of Iowa County, lies about 20 miles southwest of Iowa City which was then the territorial capital.

Erastus died about 1847 after a 70-mile horse ride to fetch a doctor for a sick son. He is said to have been 43 years old.

Jane Loveland

Jane Loveland's Connection

Jane Loveland's age, about 37 years older than Erastus and 44 years older than Elizabeth, suggests she may be either Elizabeth's mother, mother-in-law, or perhaps even a grandmother.

A survey of the 1880 Connecticut census show concentrations of Connecticut Lovelands going back as far as 1802 while Rootsweb shows Lovelands arriving in Connecticut as early as the mid-17th Century.

Elizabeth carried on with four boys ranging from about the age of 2 to 17. In the 1850 census they were enumerated with William Convers, likely Erastus' elder brother, and Jane Loveland (also seen spelled as "Lovelin"), perhaps Erastus' mother or Elizabeth's mother.

Jane Loveland died on August 8, 1860, at the age of 93. She is buried at Bethel Cemetery in neighboring Washington Township, Johnson County, Iowa, about 5 miles east of Holbrook.

Land Transactions

Elizabeth deeded three plots that lie on either side of Old Man Creek in northern Greene Township to Thomas Grady on April 5, 1856.[Deed 1856]

In the Fall of that same year, Elizabeth acquired six plots in the same general area, five from Polly Polly Stewart and Mariah Van Camp, and the sixth from Samuel Baker.[Deed 1856]

Between 1857 and 1860, plots in Section 2 and adjacent plots were noted passing from "J.K. Converse" (perhaps her eldest son, John3) to George Stewart (1857), then from Stewart to her son Henry (1857), and then from George Converse (her brother-in-law?) to Henry (1860). In 1865, Elizabeth filed deeds made out to her by "G & M Converse" (brother-in-law?) in 1860:

Sons' Civil War Service

The Converse family paid a heavy price during the Civil War -- Elizabeth's three youngest sons went off to war but only one came home.

Henry was the first to go at the end of the summer when the war broke out, 1861. He died the following July after suffering for nearly 3 months of chronic dysentery and an attack of typhoid fever in Corinth, Mississippi. Barely a month later, her next youngest, George, enlisted and a month after that her youngest, Erastus, enlisted.

With one son dead and George on his way south in General Grant's Vicksburg Campaign, Elizabeth petitioned the State of Iowa to discharge Erastus in May 1863, citing that he was underage when he enlisted without her consent and had no one to support her, a widow of about 50 years of and in very feeble health. Her plea was passed to Washington, D.C., but apparently failed.

Petition for Erastus' Discharge
The State of Iowa
County of Johnson

I Elizabeth Converse of Iowa County [and] State aforesaid being first duly sworn on my oath [dipar? [and] say that that I am the mother of Erastus Converse now a private in Company I, Captain Wolf [sic] of Iowa Volunteers under Col. Willson [sic] in Sixth Iowa Cavalry now at Sioux City. I further state that I am a widow of about fifty years old ?that my three sons who comp[rise] the whole of my family have volunteered [and] I am left without any one to support me [and] am of very feeble health ?that the said son Erastus is only seventeen years of age [and] volunteered without my consent [and] that I much need him at home to take care of [and] support me; that I am unable to proceed by the usual writ of Habeas Corpus to get my son out of the service for want of means to pay the expense. I ask therefore that he be discharged [and] sent home upon this proof [and] application.

Elizabeth Convers[sic]

Two months later George fell ill with chronic diarrhea following the successful siege of Vicksburg and died a year later, July 29, 1864, and was buried at the Jefferson Barracks Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri. She signed for his personal effects, which included a cap, two flannel shirts, a pair of boots, a woolen blanket, a pocket book, and $9.50. Later in 1880 she filed for his pension.

Erastus was spared the horrors of battle and disease in the South and served with the cavalry along the northwestern frontier where the Union Army contended with hosilities with the Sioux Indians. Erastus and his cavalry unit mustered out in October 1865.

Son William sold off his plot in the Southeast quarter of Section 35 to William H. Manley in 1864 and Elizabeth followed by selling off plots in the same quarter to Manley and Austin Corbin in 1865 and 1867:[Deed 1865,1867]

Western, Linn County, Iowa
An 1866 tax assessment for an Erastus Convers, a livery stable keeper in Western (perhaps Western, Linn County) is found, perhaps suggesting that Elizabeth may have lived with Erastus for a time after the war, and after selling off her property in 1865 and 1867.

Move to Pottawattamie County

In 1871, son William moved across state to Valley Township in Pottawattamie County. Elizabeth is presumed to have moved to Valley Township with William in 1871, however in 1880 she is noted living alone in Western, College Township, Linn County, Iowa[Cen 1880].

Valley Township
Valley Township lies about 3 miles southeast of Hancock, and judging from online maps, lies along County Highway M37.

By 1885 she had moved in with William's family east of Hancock in Valley Township.[Cen 1885]

Elizabeth (VAN WERMER) CONVERSE, 1811-1899

Elizabeth (Van Wermer) Converse died on October 30, 1899, in Pottawattamie County, Iowa, at the age of 87. She is buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Valley Township along side her grandson John. She was later joined by son and daughter-in-law, William and Jane.

  • Cen 1830: 1830 Census, Rockdale, Crawford County, Pennsylvania
  • Cen 1850: 23 Aug 1850 Census, Green Township, Iowa County, Iowa
  • Cen 1856: 1856 Census, Green Township, Iowa County, Iowa
  • Deed 1856: 5 Apr 1856, Township 78 & 79 North, Range 9 West, Iowa County, Iowa
  • Cen 1860: 4 Jun 1860 Census, Greene Township, Iowa County, Iowa
  • Cen 1880: 1 Jun 1880 Census, Village of Western, College Township, Linn County, Iowa
  • Cen 1885: 1885 Census, Valley Township, Pottawattamie County, Iowa
  • Cen 1895: 1895 Census, Valley, Pottawattamie County, Iowa