• Carla S.

A Providential Find: Captain James R. VanZandt

Updated: May 23

Captain VanZandt was a colorful character to say the least. He was my 4th great-grandfather, a veteran of two wars (The Mexican War and The Civil War) and from a sturdier stock of human than we see today; a true early American. When I found the account of his interview, well I should say it found me... it was indeed a boon.

Capt. James R. VanZandt (1824-1920)

I was pursuing online books about Missouri, her pioneers and their stories. Lo and behold, the first book I click on opens with an interview with my 4th great-grandfather Captain VanZandt.

What luck!

You can't imagine how many pages of census records I checked to make sure it is the same person. I nearly convinced myself it just couldn't be that easy. Hahaha!

But sometimes you DO stumble onto incredible finds that glue together the seams of other documented evidence... but I never dreamed of such a clear illustration of his personality.

Published in 1915, only a handful of years before Captain VanZandt dies in 1920, a Mr. Eli Hoenshel decides to gather stories of and from the area's oldest citizens to write a sort of personal account of Missouri history for future communities. He felt compelled to record the stories of these early American pioneers, and I for one, am so thankful he did.

These stories and interviews were published in the White River Leader, a local newspaper that later merged with other papers in the area. It is reported that there are more such stories in the White River Leader (which I'm happy to help you research, click here for a list of services).

The interview opens with "Howdy do, howdy do; Will you light and come on in?" For all I know he is asking the interviewer to light a pipe, to brighten his attitude, or be quick as he is invited into the house. Such an odd expression that we don't hear today, but it demonstrates an open friendliness in the Captain's character that often cannot be captured by the written word.

Captain VanZandt speaks about his history, his family and where he is from. I'm surprised by the information packed into this interview.

"I was born in Tennessee, six miles east of Chattanooga, with Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge only fives miles away," said Capt. VanZandt.

"Yes, I came to Missouri from Tennessee in '53," he said.

So. Much. Information. It's genealogists boon.I hope you enjoy the Captain's jovial interview as much as I did. It is truly an experience relived in the telling.

Interview with Captain VanZandt

"Veteran of Mexican War"

Tip: Zoom in for better reading or click here to view in your internet browser.


Hoenshel, E. J. and Hoenshel, L. S., Stories of the Pioneers : incidents, adventures and reminiscences as told by some of the old settlers of Taney County, Missouri, 1915 (Reprinted by Mr. Ben A. Parnell, Chairman of the Board of the Peoples Bank and Trust Company of Branson, Missouri: The School of the Ozarks Press, 1975), 72 p. [mch000083]. Digitized by Missouri State Library in 2008 at (accessed on 4/27/2018). ComContact Missouri State Library at (573) 751-3615 or



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