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Van Camp Lost And Found


Pictured here is Dr. Jack Furbee, author and retired Professor.

Jack Furbee (biography below) gave Living permission to reproduce in full his Van Camp Lost and Found Story. A full PDF of this story, in its original presentation and format is available here.

In 2012 Dr. Furbee wrote a book entitled Growing Up Appalachian published by McClain Publishing in Parsons, West Virginia. It is temporarily out of print. He is now compiling a book of short stories, Just One More Time.

As the staff of Living Appalachian receive details about the new book, we will make them available here.

In the meantime, please enjoy the Van Camp Lost and Found story as we did!


During pre-historic times an ancient stream cut its way from today’s Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Cairo, Illinois, and thence to the Gulf of Mexico by way of the Mississippi River unmanaged by man and controlled only by the natural inclination of water to seek a lower level. Its water became a route into the ominous terrain of western Virginia.

Hundreds of settlements of early energetic, adventurous men and women dotted the landscape of northwestern Virginia; citizens of the new United States of America found their destiny farther west across the Alleghenies. Through rough, wagon rutted mountain passes and down streams of unpredictable seasonal openness newcomers sought freedom to live as they chose. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries the leaders of our country encouraged settlement of the Ohio Valley through liberal land grant arrangements. George Washington, the father of our country, traveled up and down the winding Ohio River from its beginning at the convergence of Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers near a fort city called Pittsburgh south to the Kanawha River. Impressed by the potential of pristine northwestern Virginia, he encouraged the country’s western development into the Ohio Valley. Our early leaders wanted to occupy the area since French competition lay to the west, Spanish to the south, and English loyalists to the north.

Many settlers came to the Ohio Valley traveling through the roughness of western Pennsylvania to Fort Pitt and then south via the Ohio River to claim their land grants often surveyed from the river east into the hills of Virginia. Burgeoning small settlements developed to accommodate the needs of frontier communities.

One such settlement had its origin with the first generation, Steven (1763-1829) and Rachael (1770-1855) Van Camp, having settled temporarily in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Oxen on Van Camp Farm

Shortly after their marriage in 1792, hearing of land opportunities along the Ohio River, they obtained rights to one thousand acres of land about two miles south of Fishing Creek where there was a settlement later to be called Martinsville in 1838 named after its founder Presley Martin.

Approximate one hundred and forty years later a part of the original Van Camp claim was my ancestral birthplace and home from 1934 to 1958. During this time I attentively listened to my elders who had been born and reared on Van Camp property. The stories were so commonly told that their truth and veracity were never doubted. From Steven and Rachael Van Camp I was the sixth generation of Van Camps and one of the last to grow up in Pleasant Valley along Point Pleasant Creek so named from the Van Camps’ attraction, love, and appreciation for the area. The valley and its accompanying stream were in Virginia about two miles east and parallel to the Ohio River into which its waters eventually emptied at St Marys about twenty-five miles south.

As with most pioneers, Van Camp families were large beginning with the eleven children of Steven and Rachael. Within a few generations scores of Van Camp families populated Pleasant Valley resulting in the community, Van Camp. The original Van Camp claim was divided among members of the large families; some acreage was deeded to other settler families through payment for work such as clearing land. One of the many second generation Van Camps was John Squire (1793-1873), my great, great grandfather who married Margaret Martin from Tyler County. They developed a large homestead along Point Pleasant Creek including many barns for raising sheep. John Squire’s many siblings received acreages of land deeded from the original Steven and Rachael claim. Many female siblings married thus changing their name, but with their husbands they inherited Van Camp land nonetheless.

Well before the Civil War a post office was established to serve the Van Camp part of Tyler County (1814), Virginia. As was usually true, a general store was attached to the post office. A church began in homes of early Van Camps. Influenced by the religious awakenings of the early eighteenth and late nineteenth century, the religious group became the Van Camp Methodist Episcopal Church whose records are part of the United Methodist Church archives in Buckhannon, West Virginia. The Van Camp Cemetery above the church had its origin some decades before the church.

Van Camp Church (center), school (left), and cemetery (right)

Early Van Camps joined efforts to establish a school to which my maternal forebearers including my grandmother and mother were educated to the eighth grade. These three buildings serving the Van Camp community were built within a mile of one another in Pleasant Valley on the banks of Point Pleasant Creek. Although an independent post office, Van Camp identified with the rapidly growing Martinsville (1838) about two miles to the north on the banks of the Ohio River which became incorporated as well as the county seat of a new county, Wetzel, formed from Tyler County in 1848.

Although part of Virginia, a southern state, several Van Camp cousins of the third generations from Steven and Rachael became Civil War soldiers in the Grand Army of the Republic enlisting through Wheeling, Virginia, one of the largest cities in northwestern Virginia. John Marshall (1837-1919), grandson of the original Van Camp in the area as well as my maternal great grandfather, enlisted in the Union Army September 8, 1862. He fought in the Gettysburg campaign. Near Casinova, Virginia, he was seriously wounded and hospitalized. On May 3, 1865, he mustered out at York, Pennsylvania. John and his wife Margaret Ann Martin Van Camp (1849-1927) raised a large family on the original Van Camp homestead of whom my maternal grandmother was one.

Author near recently installed Civil War Veteran marker

Resting in the Van Camp Cemetery are four Civil War veterans with two having been wounded and one imprisoned. One of the soldiers died shortly after the war. Each of these young men entered the service from the Old Dominion State, Virginia. They returned as veterans to a new state, West Virginia, formed by President Lincoln June 20, 1863. My ancestral connection to Van Camp inspired me to apply for Civil War veteran markers for the graves of these valiant patriots who left their small community of Van Camp to serve in a great and noble cause. As of this writing, I have erected two markers on the graves of the soldiers, one having been wounded and the other having been both wounded and imprisoned. It is my honor to continue my labor of love until all four graves have been marked by beautiful granite military monuments.

In 1998, I began my research to rediscover the Van Camp community since current residents seemed unaware that such a place existed. Maps no longer listed the community. Stopping at scores of modern homes built on Van Camp farmland, I asked the owners if they knew of Van Camp: the post office, store, church, and school. Disappointed at the negative response except for the cemetery, I began my unmitigated effort to find Van Camp again.



Author near recently installed Civil War Veteran marker

On July 28, 2001, a faithful Van Camp group gathered in Pleasant Valley on the banks of Point Pleasant Creek just below the cemetery and church location along present day Route 180. After extensive research on my part the State of West Virginia had erected one of their spectacularly beautiful historical markers. Upon removing the temporary covering, we stood in awe. Van Camp was back! After a short dedication ceremony, we spent time in the cemetery overlooking modern homes where once a post office-store, church, and school had served a successful pioneer community. We could almost hear the cheers of our forebearers as we entered our cars to return to our homes in various parts of the country. Van Camp was lost but now it is found.

This work is copyright protected: Reproduction of original texts, photographs, maps, charts or other illustrations by any means including photographic, electronic, digital or any other reproduction method is prohibited without permission of: Jack W. Furbee, Ed.D


Jack Wayne Furbee received his elementary and secondary education in Wetzel County Schools in Paden City and New Martinsville, West Virginia, from 1940-1952. After having been graduated from West Liberty State College in 1955, he taught English in Paden City High School from 1955-1957. At New Cumberland, West Virginia, in Hancock County he taught English and speech from 1957-1959. From 1959-62 in Lorain High School, Lorain, Ohio, he taught English and dramatic arts along with counseling. He became principal of La Grange High School in La Grange, Ohio, during 1962-1963 after which he returned to counseling in Lorain, Ohio from 1964-1967. He married Donna Jean Huffman in 1960 in Elyria, Ohio. From 1961 through 1965 they had four children, Jacqueline, Jennifer, Amy, and Andrew. His West Virginia University doctoral program began in the fall of 1967. For the school year of 1968-1969 he was a counselor at Meadowlawn Junior High School in St Petersburg, Florida. He returned to finish his doctorate at West Virginia University in the summer of 1969. After completing his degree in January 1970 he became Professor of Education at Olivet Nazarene College (now Olivet Nazarene University) in Bourbonnais, Illinois, where he remained until retirement. In 1998 he and Donna moved to the Cincinnati area living in Milford, Ohio. Having celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary in November 2010, they moved to Hillsboro, Ohio, where Jack maintained four acres by mowing and gardening. He is an avid scroll saw hobbyist. In February 2013 Jack and Donna moved back to Bourbonnais, Illinois where they live near the beautiful campus of an outstanding Christian university, Olivet Nazarene University. Here he and Donna raise a large garden every year and preserve much of their produce.

In 2012 Jack published Growing Up Appalachian in the Van Camp Community of Wetzel County West Virginia. The printer was McClain Printing of Parsons, West Virginia. Hopefully it will soon be in its third printing. Presently Dr. Furbee is busy writing short stories about life in rural Appalachia on a hillside farm of his maternal grandparents near present day Route 180 between New Martinsville and Paden City, West Virginia.