MS 213
Van Zandt Family
Papers, 1838-1990, n.d.

Special Collections Department
403 Parks Library
Iowa State University
Ames, IA 50011-2140

Descriptive summary


Van Zandt Family




1838-1990, n.d.


7.52 linear ft. (13 boxes)

collection number:

MS 213


Special Collections Department, Iowa State University.


Administrative information


Open for research

publication rights:

Consult Head, Special Collections Department

preferred citation:

Van Zandt Family Papers, MS 213, Special Collections Department, Iowa State University Library.


Biographical note


This family started out in North Carolina and had moved to Kentucky and then Tennessee by the time the collection begins.  Jacob and Elizabeth's children were: Henry, William, Andrew, Washington, Samuel, John, James, Jahu, Ermina, Uphamy and Mary. They also raised their son Andrew's children, John and Sarah, after his death.  Henry, his wife Nancy, William, Andrew, and Andrew's family came to Iowa in 1848, and Andrew died soon after.  His wife, Rody, and their children returned to Tennessee.  Jahu, John and James moved to Webster County, Missouri prior to 1856. Jahu moved on to northern Arkansas, where he died of a fever prior to 1863.  John and his wife (also Nancy) moved on to Texas, where he died in 1865.  His wife returned to Tennessee.

The rest of the Vanzants - Jacob and Elizabeth, their daughters Ermina, Uphamy and Mary and grandchildren settled in Northern Arkansas around 1856, where sons Washington, Samuel and John were already located.  Washington was killed during the Civil War by Union soldiers.  Elizabeth died during the war or shortly after.  Uphamy died about 1877, Ermina about 1881.  Mary married Henry Breedwell.  Other family members who lived in Arkansas were Uphamy Bridwell and Andrew Callahan, Sr., who may have been siblings of Elizabeth Vanzant.

Relatives of Nancy McKeown Vanzant (Henry's wife) are also represented in this section.  There are letters from her brothers Thomas and J.S. McKeown, her brother-in-law, Felix Barnhardt, and Martha T. Smith.



James Van Zandt was Henry and Nancy Vanzant's only surviving child.  (They had lost their daughter Mary in infancy and their daughter Mattie at the age of 19).  James married Philoma Lynn, whose family had come to Iowa from Indiana in 1864.  They had three children, Madge, Mattie and Ralph.  Madge married a Methodist minister, Charles Hankins and had two children, Pauline and Robert.  Mattie married Tom Foster and they had a daughter, Martha.  Ralph apparently did not marry - at least we have no evidence in the collection.



Scott and Jessie Weir Foster were the parents of Thomas Weir Foster, who married Mattie Van Zandt.  They had another son, Carroll, and had two daughters who died in childhood, Martha and Angie.  This section also includes materials of Jessie's parents, Andrew R. and Martha Huston Weir.



Tom and Mattie Van Zandt Foster had one daughter, Martha.



Martin and Martha Foster Schmitt had one daughter, Sallie.



The family name is spelled Vanzant or Van Zant throughout the 1800's.  After the turn of the century, the "d" was added.  In the material we have, its first appearance is in Mattie Van Zandt's commencement program in 1906.  James and Philoma Vanzant (Ralph, Mattie and Madge's parents) were still using the original spelling at the beginning of World War I; but by the time Ralph returned, they too had adopted the "d" - but not the space between "n" and "z".  For the sake of simplicity, however, we are listing all of James and Philoma's family as "Van Zandt".  Later notations on pictures have both the "d" and the space.


Collection description

The primary focus of this collection is the correspondence of Henry C. Vanzant, who was born in Rutherford County, North Carolina in 1816.  In 1848, newly married to Nancy McKeown, he came to Agency, Iowa with his wife, brother William, brother Andrew and wife Rody and their children.  Andrew died shortly after their arrival, and Rody and the children returned to Tennessee.  William moved to Kossuth, Iowa shortly after coming to the state.  He lived there until joining the Union Army, August 11, 1861.   Henry remained in Agency until his death in 1905.

Henry Vanzant's letters begin in 1838 and end in 1887.  (There is also some legal correspondence, filed separately).  It is primarily family correspondence, but there are a few letters from friends, and many years of correspondence from George Wilson, Henry's landlord, from whom he rented the 210 acre farm on which he lived from 1850  through at least 1882.  The letters from Wilson are especially interesting.  An intelligent and articulate man, he often comments on national and local events of the day, including the gold rush, emigration to the west, politics and the economy.

Other letters of particular interest are those of William Vanzant, written to Henry and others while he was with the First Iowa Battery during the Civil War.  Of special note are the files 1/53, describing the battle of Pea Ridge and file 1/67 which covers General William T. Sherman's attempt and subsequent retreat at Vicksburg, December 29, 1862-January 1, 1863 and the Battle of Arkansas Post.  Files 1/68 through 1/73 all concern the Vicksburg campaign and more can be found in William's diaries, files 3/31-3/33.  William died of an unspecified disease in the hospital in St. Louis on February 12, 1864.  His brother Henry collected his body, and apparently his effects, for there are letters to William in the collection also, from friends in Agency and Kossuth, as well as his colleagues in the First Iowa Battery.

Another significant portion of the collection is Henry Vanzant's grandson, Ralph Vanzandt's World War I correspondence.  Ralph entered the Army in July of 1918 and went to Camp Pike for training.  He was shipped overseas at the end of September and was wounded slightly by shrapnel on November 5, 1918.  Armistice was signed before he was released from the hospital.  His unit remained in Europe through the winter, and he was in the hospital again, with pleurisy, in March 1919.  He was sent back to the states in May 1919.  The letters from Ralph are written to his sisters, Mattie Foster and Madge Hankins, and his parents, James and Philoma Van Zandt.  The letters to Ralph appear to be ones he never received while in the Army - their envelopes are covered with forwarding addresses, all finishing with James Van Zandt's address in Agency.

Additional materials in the collection come from the family of Mattie Van Zandt's husband, Tom Foster. 


Container list

Full finding aid (pdf format) with container list.


Descriptive summary   |  Administrative information  |  Biographical/Historical note
Collection description  |  Description of series/container list

Iowa State University Library, Ames, IA 50011