The Vandegrifts of Mower County

Major Figures
Early Vandergrift/Vandegrift History
John Miller, His Children, Their Spouses & Children
John Miller Vandegrift
John Miller Vandegrift Jr.
Thomas Hart Benton Vandegrift
Jacob Vandegrift Jr.
Fanny Vandegrift Stevenson
About the Author
Areas Needing Further Work

Copyright 2008-2009 by Robert E. Bicking

Austin, Mower, Mn. in 1870


Tracing a Vandegrift line from Holland to Southern Minnesota



After reading several books on genealogy in early 2007 I began to do some research on the Internet. I found that my wife’s paternal ancestors had been in the USA almost since the pilgrims came here. There are a large number of descendants, unless one restricts the genealogy to a single line, which is what I've done. I also found that her Great-Great-Great Grandfather John Miller had served in the Revolutionary War. 


Elizabeth Miller was John Miller's daughter by his second wife, Mary Eaton. Elizabeth married Jacob Vandegrift at the age of 15 in 1807. Jacob Vandegrift died in 1821 when he was only 36. They had 7 children, including Elizabeth, who was born 3 months after Jacob's death. John Miller Vandegrift was the oldest child. Jacob’s widow, Elizabeth, remarried around 1827 to George Bisbing & had several additional children. According to the book about Fannie Vandegrift Stevenson (Sanchez, p. 5), George was not very nice to his stepchildren & several of them ran away. One ended up in Kentucky. John Miller Vandegrift was old enough to be on his own & isn’t mentioned in the book.

John Miller Vandegrift married Mary Worn in 1831. Genealogy books state that the 1840's were a time of movement across the USA & John Miller Vandegrift typified this since his second child, William, was born in New York in 1836, while Amanda (1832), Elizabeth (1838), Thomas H. B. (1840) & Mary (1842) were born in Pennsylvania. Charles (1847) & John Miller Vandegrift Jr. (1849) were born in Wilmington, Delaware. Virginia (1853) & Clara (1855) were born in Indianapolis. Phillip was born in Minnesota around 1856 but died in infancy. John Miller Vandegrift & family probably stayed with his brother Jacob in Indianapolis while saving for his move to Minnesota. Jacob was the father of Fannie Vandegrift who married Robert Louis Stevenson, the famous writer. John Miller Vandegrift moved to Red Rock Township, Mower County, Minnesota in 1856 & farmed there until he died in 1875.

When the Civil War began, John Miller Vandegrift’s son Thomas joined the Union army in 1862 & was in several battles before being captured. He was fortunate to survive his 6-month imprisonment at Andersonville, where half the prisoners died. According to Thomas (p. 61), John Miller Vandegrift was given the sword of John Miller, & he gave it to Thomas Vandegrift after his return from the Civil War. Thomas later gave it to his adopted son, William.

John Miller Vandegrift Jr. took over the family farm after his father’s death & expanded it. He didn’t marry until he was in his 40’s but made up for lost time by fathering 9 children in the next 20 years. His life spanned encountering wild animals & Indians as a child to the big changes that accompanied inventions like the telephone, radio, automobiles & airplanes. His eldest sons, John Miller III & Thomas, served in the army during WWI. His youngest son, Sumner, served in WWII.

Chris Howard Vandegrift, my wife’s father, told a lot of stories about the old days when he was growing up. His father had an icehouse & cut ice from the Cedar River. Howard said that they had ice for most of he summer & were able to make ice cream, etc. Howard had four daughters. Elaine, my wife, remembers a lot of stories that her father told about growing up in the early 1900’s. She asked how they got around in the winter when snow covered the road & Howard said that they just had the horses ride in the ditches.

Elaine is a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Elder William Brewster Chapter, Freeport, IL.


Robert E. Bicking



Click on the links below to jump to that page.

Major Figures

Early Vandegrift History

John Miller Family

John M. Vandegrift

John M. Vandegrift Jr.

T. H. B. Vandegrift

Jacob Vandegrift Jr.

Fanny Vandegrift Stevenson


About the Author

Areas Needing Further Work

Click here to e-mail the author


John Miller's Sword