VANDAWALKER, JOHN LEONARD. - Among the younger business men of Springfield is John Leonard Van Da Walker, formerly of the Hummer Manufacturing Company, but now holding a responsible position with the Illinois Watch Company, having sold his business in January, 1912. He is an expert mechanic, who has always had a natural taste for mechanics and inventions. The firm with which he was recently connected had been in existence since April, 1910, and had established a good trade and reputation. Mr. Van Da Walker was born in Springfield July 6, 1875, son of Charles H. and Anna Barbara (Dentel) Van Da Walker, the former born in Utica, N.Y., and the latter in Saxe-Coburg, Germany. The father is a retired locomotive engineer and lives at No. 1121 South Eighth Street, Springfield. He and his wife were married at Lulu, Mich., June 12, 1859, and came direct to Springfield, where they remained three years, and there had one son born. They then lived about five years in Ida, Mich., where they became parents of two daughters, then returned to Springfield and settled at their present home, where in June, 1909, they celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary. On his return to Springfield Mr. Van Da Walker began working for the Wabash Railroad Company, and reached the position of engineer, in which he spent twenty-five years, then retired from active live. He and his wife had three sons and six daughters. Two sons and a daughter are deceased and others are married and have families.
The Van Da Walkers originally came from Holland and settled in New York, becoming identified with its early history. Many of them still reside in that State. The Dentel family came from thrifty and prosperous German farmer stock. The parents of Mrs. Van Da Walker came to America in a sailing vessel, spending fourteen weeks on the voyage, the boat being overtaken by heavy storms. They lost their course and did not expect to be able to reach land before they perished, but finally drifted safely to harbor.
John Leonard Van Da Walker graduated from the common schools of Springfield and spent one year in the high school, attending the latter at night. He completed a course in mechanical drawing and nearly finished one in mechanical engineering through the International Correspondence School, of Scranton, Pa. He made rapid progress in these studies and was also proficient in music. Upon leaving school, he became an apprentice in the machine shops of the Wabash Railroad Company and remained in their employ nine and one-half years, then worked eight and one-half years as tool, die and model maker, for the Illinois Watch Company. In October, 1905, he moved to Denver, Colo., to become partner in the Thompson Balance Company, but three years later returned to Springfield, on account of his wife's health, and again began working for the Illinois Watch Company, which he continued until identifying himself with the Hummer Manufacturing Company, later becoming sole proprietor. The firm was manufacturing small, high class machinery and tools, such as dies, models, etc. Mr. Van Da Walker is a man of excellent habits, has never been addicted to the use of tobacco, alcoholic beverages or drugs of any kind, and in his daily life endeavors to live up to the ideal man and be true to his Maker. He is honest and reliable in his dealings with his fellow men, and his relations with his associates are mutually pleasant and agreeable.
Mr. Van Da Walker was married in Springfield, August 25, 1897, to Martha Jane Rankin, who was born October 9, 1875, daughter of John H. and Adelaide (Smith) Rankin, her father a native of Piqua, O., and her mother of Bainbridge, N.Y. Mrs. Van Da Walker graduated from high school in Springfield in 1894, after which she worked three years as expert bookkeeper. Her father was an army photographer during the Civil War and took pictures of Generals Grant, Logan, Lee and other leading officers who participated in the war, besides many scenes of warfare. Two children have blessed the union of Mr. Van Da Walker and wife, namely: Adelaide Anna, born October 11, 1906, and John L., Jr., December 22, 1909.
Both Mr. Van Da Walker and his wife are now members of the United Brethren Church. He entered the Sunday School of the old First Methodist episcopal Church at Monroe and Fifth Streets, which was located on the present site of the Franklin Life Building, and helped in a small way, as he felt able, toward the building of the new edifice at Fifth and Capitol Avenue, remaining a member until removing to Denver in 1905. In Denver, he and his wife attended the Third Congregational Church. In national politics, he is generally an adherent of the Republican party, but is always opposed to the saloon and is the friend of good government, using his influence to promote the best interests of the people. In fraternal circles he is well known, being affiliated with Capital Tent No. 1, Knights of the Maccabees of the World, to which he has belonged fifteen years; for six years has been a member of Springfield Tent No. 222 Royal League, and has held all the offices therein. He was a member of the Smith's Springfield Zouaves, a local organization, now disbanded.