Eli VanValkenburg - Civil War Veteran

Eli VanValkenburg married Jane Blackmar in New York State in 1854. They moved to Hillsdale soon after to help manage her father’s extensive land holdings in the area. Jane’s father was Esbon Blackmar, who donated the twenty-five acres for Hillsdale College. As a wedding present, Blackmar had a substantial brick home built for the couple on College Hill. This home would later become known as Ambler House and be owned by the school.

During the war, Eli served as the paymaster of the Michigan Volunteers. When he returned home, he first sold shoes, later becoming Secretary/Treasurer of the soon defunct Detroit, Hillsdale and Ypsilanti Railroad. In 1874, Eli was appointed Hillsdale Postmaster, a position he would hold for the next eleven years.

The VanValkenburg name became well known locally during the success of the “Four Oarsmen,” of which Eli’s son Esbon (named after his grandfather, although he went by E.B.) held the “stroke” position. Mrs. VanValkenberg died at age 47, the year following the win of the National Amateur Rowing contest in Saratoga, N.Y. by E.B. and his friends.

Father Eli, although a social person with a keen sense of humor, also enjoyed nature, walking for hours through the countryside, with his gun over his shoulder and his dog at his side. He passed suddenly, in his house on the hill, in January of 1902.


Carol A. Lackey and JoAnne P. Miller