Monday, July 09, 2018

PROFILE: Captain John A. Vanstrum

I present to you, one of St. Vincent's early pioneers - John A. Vanstrum. A veteran of the Civil War, he became very civic-minded, serving the town and later Kittson County, in many positions. One of his longest-held was as Sheriff.  Serving at roughly the same time, he was Sheriff Charley Brown's counterpart across the river!

Captain John A. Vanstrum, register of deeds for Kittson county for the past decade, a pioneer citizen of the great northwest and a valiant soldier of the Civil War, is now a resident of Hallock, Minnesota, where he enjoys the esteem and confidence of a wide circle of friends and admirers. His portrait [seen here on right], will be appreciated by his host of friends. Captain Vanstrum was born in the province Gustaf and Elizabeth Vanstrum. The parents died in Sweden, their native land. Captain Vanstrum received but a limited education in his boyhood, having to assist his father in a paper mill from his tenth to his sixteenth year. On June 22, 1855, in company with about two hundred emigrants, he left his native land, sailing from Gutenberg on the vessel Ann Washburn, commanded by Captain Winchell. The vessel was heavily laden with Swedish iron for Boston merchants. He arrived in Boston harbor August 6, 1855, and proceeded to Chicago, thence to Batavia, Illinois, where he spent the winter of 1855-6, working for his board and attending school. In September, 1856, he went to Minnesota, via Dunleith, now East Dubuque, Illinois, thence up the Mississippi river, and located at Redwing. Minnesota, where he engaged as clerk in a store.

At the breaking out of the Civil war Captain Vanstrum was residing at Redwing, Minnesota. He immediately offered his services and assisted the late Colonel H. Mattson in recruiting Company D, Third Minnesota Volunteer Infantry, and was mustered into service in October, 1861 at Fort Snelling. The Captain went to Chisago county, Minnesota. where he raised some thirty volunteers (Swedish) for Company D. These men he transported in wagons all the way from what was then known as Center City via Taylor's Falls, Marine Mills and Stillwater, through St. Paul to Fort Snelling, where they arrived October 18, 1861, and on the following day were mustered into service. Captain Vanstrum was appointed sergeant of Company D in October 1861, was promoted to second lieutenant March 30, 1862, first lieutenant May 30. 1862, and Captain of Company D August 2. 1862. He re-enlisted with the same company as a veteran, under the veteran enlistment act, at Little Rock, Arkansas, early in January, 1864. He was honorably discharged with his regiment at Fort Snelling September 17, 1865. His record in war, as it has continued to be, is that of a brave and fearless defender of the Union and the old flag. In 1879 Captain Vanstrum went to Kittson county, Minnesota, and located at St. Vincent, where he was postmaster from 1879 until 1885. In the latter year he resigned his office and during that period the post office at St. Vincent was of more than ordinary importance. It was the international exchange office for all registered mail matter passing between the United States and the northwest Canadian provinces. All registered letters are re-registered at the St. Vincent office. From 1879 to 1885 this office ranked third in volume of registered mail from Minnesota.

Captain Vanstrum was sheriff of Kittson county from the date of its organization, April 8, 1879, to January, 1889, and is at present register of deeds of said county, having held that position continuously since the fall of 1891. Politically the Captain is an uncompromising Republican. He is a member of the I.O.O.F., and is one of the representative men and pioneers of the northwest. (International Order of Odd Fellows)

Source:  Collections of the State Historical Society of North Dakota, Vol. IV (1913)

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